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21 September 2007

2007 vintage looking good in south of France

2007 vintage looking good in south of France

I knocked this techie/weathery report together at the end of August, with updated paragraphs slotted in on 21st September, for a couple of publications. More to follow once I've been out and about further across the region...
In contrast to the doom and gloom and ‘earliest on record’ hyperbole elsewhere in France, it’s business as usual or a reserved rather good even in the south. A mix of cool and hot weather from early to mid August followed by rain then several very hot days towards the end of the month, have turned a slightly late start to picking into normal conditions then could all be over quickly.
In Bandol on the Provence coast, Eric de Saint Victor at Château de Pibarnon described vintage dates as “about the same as last year, ahead of those in the 90s but usual nowadays.” Grenache is “already well in advance showing nice phenolic ripeness” with one batch picked on 28th August. As for Mourvèdre, they were looking to wait “at least another 10 days.” Generally, there was less of a drought problem this year with late spring rain interspersed with hot periods, a regular cooler June and “normal July and August: hot, dry and windy.”
Following a 10mm splash of rain at the end of August, fine weather continued into September prompting a rapid change of tune. The last Mourvèdre came in on 18-19 Sept. at Pibarnon signalling “the earliest finish since we’ve been here, i.e. 30 years,” according to Saint Victor. “Ten to fifteen years ago we’d hardly started picking the Mourvèdre.” He estimated yields will be down 25% due to small berry size with elegant balanced wines: “black-coloured, fine tannins, nice acidity and typical alcohol levels towards 14% for reds and 13.5 for rosé and white.”
This pattern was echoed in the Languedoc and Roussillon. Marc Barriot of Clos de l’Origine in Maury (Roussillon) also didn’t observe any vine stress describing conditions as “normal then looking a little late then speeded up by the heat.” Potential alcohol levels suddenly rose 1 to 1.5° in one day. All his white varieties (Muscat, Grenache Gris and Macabeu) were picked between the middle and end of August, and the reds appear to be “ahead but it depends on the weather.” Like Barriot, Jonathan Hesford of Domaine Treloar in Trouillas remarked on “higher acidity this year,” meaning “picking started a bit later” with Muscat à petits grains on 28th August. He predicted Syrah for the first week of September, Grenache a week later and Mourvèdre “maybe the end of September or early October.” Philippe Gard at Coume del Mas in Banyuls commented: “we started 10 days later but ripening is more even so will finish earlier. Grenache and Syrah are looking very good, but it depends on the grower,” referring to isolated mildew problems.
Favourable conditions continued into September in the Roussillon with some light rain on Friday 14th then a dramatic, half-an-hour hailstorm on the evening of Monday 17th. However, Gard described it as “nothing serious even if spectacular.” He added: “I finished picking for Banyuls on Monday morning, and we’ve managed to make a nice batch of Mourvèdre; just the Carignan and more Mourvèdre to follow, as the skins weren’t ripe. Very low yields exacerbated by the wind.” Barriot also reported everything wrapped up with the last parcel of Syrah and Carignan going into vat on Wednesday 19th. “Plenty of substance, nice acidity and lots of fruit,” he concluded. Hesford confirmed he lost a few bunches from the storm but finished picking most of his Mourvèdre on 21st Sept. (with a little help from yours truly, well a few boxes anyway!): “very healthy grapes and that initial high acidity has almost disappeared.”
In the Languedoc, Richard Lavanoux, production manager at Michel Laroche’s winery near Béziers, agreed about the quality: “I wouldn’t be surprised to see a great vintage, especially for Syrah,” following a ripening period of “rare quality” thanks to more even summer temperatures. Marion Figuette at Château La Roque in Pic St-Loup, eastern Languedoc, reported picking started early: whites were all in last week and reds the first week of September. Over in Corbières, “2007 is slightly ahead of 2006 with Syrah starting this Friday (31 Aug) and the first Grenache and Carignan in the earlier ripening coastal zones on 6 or 7 September,” according to Jean Pierre Thene, head of the AOC Corbières Syndicat. The picture is different inland in the western Aude, where grapes should come in much later than usual thanks to cooler conditions. Thene stressed that the Languedoc-Roussillon “should not be seen as part of this very average vintage elsewhere.”
The Monday night storm also hit the Languedoc, although Figuette at La Roque described the downpour as “perfect for our Mourvèdre! Otherwise everything is over and it’s looking like a very promising vintage.” Lavanoux agreed the storm did more good than harm. In contrast - "unfortunately" according to Jean-Pierre Thene - the Corbières were spared the downpour: "we've seen very little rain since April, which combined with strong northerly winds will mean low yields from berry concentration." However, acidity and high sugar levels are nicely balanced, with Carignan, Grenache and Cinsaut being the best performers; and Syrah and Mourvèdre less adapted to the hot dry summer. Thene believes they may have to rethink the latter varieties in Corbières AOC zones thanks to climate change.
RJ posted 2/9/07 and 21/9/07.

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