Rhône and Southern France 2018 Harvest Report

We will soon be introducing our Rhône and Southern France 2018 En Primeur offer. Managing Director, John Townend, has put together the 2018 vintage reports ahead of it's release. 

Image: Domaine Combier

Regional France Harvest Report 2018

The South of France is the source of some fantastic, individual, single and mixed varietal wines, produced by innovative and passionate winemakers, who exploit the individual terroirs of the many regions from Perpignan in the west to St Tropez in the east.

In recent years climate change has been no more evident than in the wine growing regions of Southern France, and 2018 was no exception, proving to be another very challenging vintage. Adaptation to climatic variations is now becoming the norm, a far cry from the consistent weather patterns of a bygone age.

As with the Rhône Valley, the vineyards of the south were badly affected by downy mildew due to the very wet and humid Spring, something of an anomaly in southern France. Those who practise organic viticulture were badly affected and quantities were drastically reduced by 60-70%.

The summer was extremely hot and the vines suffered and had to work very hard. The heavy rains between March and May had replenished the water table and the roots were able to dig deep for refreshment and nutrients. The weather remained fine and hot well into September, with the cool nights preserving the acidities well, and the harvest was trouble free with excellent fruit, be it in smaller quantities.

The resulting wines are quite excellent, possessing a beautiful texture, finely balanced and full of harmony and will provide very enjoyable drinking.


Northern Rhône Harvest Report 2018

2018 was a nice turn around compared with 2017 as well. 2017 is known for its burning sun and super-dry conditions, though vintners are very happy! Higher yields were reported for the Northern Rhône compared to the Southern Rhône, were yield were well down.

The winter in the Northern Rhône was very wet, a relief for the growers after the drought of 2017, and the soils gratefully soaked up the plentiful rain water.

The weather continued to be fine as Spring arrived and the budbreak and flowering were successful.

The season had started abnormally early in the Northern Rhône, about 10 days earlier than usual, even before the Southern Rhône. Expectations of a good crop were high, and although some rain in June caused some outbreaks of mildew it was easily treated, the North escaped the rampant mildew suffered in the South of the Rhône Valley. Summer was hot and dry and continued until harvest time, which arrived early with the grapes clean, ripe with good acidity levels, not dissimilar to 2016.

The wines are beautifully balanced with a greater potential longevity to those of 2017, which were super ripe but relatively low in acidity. That said, the wines will also be approachable when young – succulent ripe and juicy.


Southern Rhône Harvest Report 2018

The winter of 2017 was very mild and wet with 250ml of rain falling in November alone. After such a dry year the soils were grateful to be replenished in preparation of the vintage ahead.

The mild weather continued into Spring and the vegetative cycle sprang into action and the successful flowering suggested that an abundant crop was on the way.

However, May and June were not only warm but also wet, which promoted the onset and rapid development of mildew. Unlike normal years, the Mistral wind that blows north-westerly from southern France into the Gulf of Lion, drying the vines and ensuring the grapes are clean and healthy, did not arrive and was replaced by the so-called Mistral Noir which blow hot and damp air up from the Azores. The result was catastrophic with the likes of Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe losing 30% of its crop, with the famous Piedlong Cuvée devoted to old vine Grenache from the stony plateau not produced at all. This thin skinned varietal suffered terribly in 2018.

Thankfully the remainder of the growing season was blessed with perfect weather. The small crop was harvested completely ripe and in perfect sanitary condition.

The resulting wines are very aromatic, complex with beautiful balance. Not an easy vintage, 2018 was a severe test of viticulture, and although volumes are much reduced, the quality is outstanding.

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