Weather conditions from another era for a result that has a great future. A brief description of the very unusual weather conditions. This vintage is characterised by weather conditions that we haven’t seen for a very long time (for the oldest among us). To begin with, the winter was very cold from January onwards, leading to delayed plant growth. March, too, was cool and very wet (approximately 3 times the average rainfall). This was followed by a fairly cool April, while May was the coldest since 1950, leading to a physiological delay of around 2 weeks. Although we enjoyed a hot July and August, this was not enough to make up for the delay. To summarise, the climate record for 2013 was characterised by: - A slight rainfall deficit over the vintage period, but 66 % of the rain was useful as it fell during the plant growth period and thus provided sufficient water reserves for the summer. - Spring temperatures were the coldest overall for 20 years, which explains the delay in plant growth. These weather conditions are worrying for winegrowers, who are always concerned about late-harvested vintages. Fortunately, the summer conditions and a dry, windy September allowed the grapes to ripen in good conditions, with the bonus of cool nights, particularly in September, during the ripening period, which is very favourable to anthocyanin (colour) and aroma synthesis.
The harvest and the wines. Despite the worry about late harvesting, things eventually turned out well for us. Obviously, as far as the late-ripening varieties and terroirs were concerned, the winegrower’s work in aerating the grapes and leaves, along with reasonable yields, was particularly decisive in achieving quality this year. As far as we were concerned, we started the harvest about 10 days later than average. White – The Sauvignon and, this year, a small quantity of Piquepoul – were harvested on 12 and 13 September. The grapes were very attractive – ripe without being golden, which is prejudicial to the aromas – with a good balance between sugar and acidity. All this is promising but, although fermentation has finished, it’s still too soon for a more precise view of the result. The Reds – We began harvesting the Syrah on 30 September (which is unheard-of for us). The grapes were magnificent, with excellent phenolic maturity and good residual acidity. The Grenache, too, were particularly fine but sadly only in small quantity (half the usual harvest) due to a high level of flower abortion (pollination problem during the flowering period). We were very pleasantly surprised by the late-ripening varieties (Carignan and Mourvèdre), about which we were more concerned. We knew that the thinning work we did (sucker removal, trellising and leaf-thinning), which we took to the extreme, would help us to reach maturity. In fact, these varieties were not so late in ripening and we were able to harvest some excellent Carignan and Mourvèdre. This ended on 12 October, so it’s still too early to talk about the wines that we’ve made from them, although we have no real anxieties. The alcoholic fermentation has ended for the Syrah and Grenache, which are showing great promise in our tastings, so much so that one is tempted to drink them now. To summarise, the vintage gave us a hard time in the vineyards in the spring, caused us some sleepless nights and kept us waiting, but the result should help to put all that behind us. We should be even more grateful since others have not been so lucky. The Mediterranean climate has many advantages.
Saint-Chinian, 19 october 2013.