Allegrini 2018

France, the grape harvest starts with Champagne: the expectations of the main terroirs

Early harvesting everywhere, but the grapes are healthy and positive feelings, from Burgundy to Bordeaux, from Alsace to Rhone
France towards the grape harvest

In the days when the first bunches of grapes are cut between the Italian rows, the harvest also begins in France, starting with Champagne, where the harvest is particularly early, as Vitalie Taittinger, CEO of the maison, says: “the grapes change day after day, and between tomorrow and the day after tomorrow, in the areas where we are further ahead, such as Aube, we will begin the harvest. In the Marne, on the other hand, it will take a few more days, with considerable differences between the different varieties: the Chardonnay of the Côte des Blancs should be ready around 22 August, and after that we will concentrate on the Pinot Noir of the Reims mountains. It is a hot and dry year, like the ones we experienced recently, in 2018 and 2019, but the conditions have been good, so far, without incident, we do not have to do anything else - concludes Vitalie Taittinger - than wait for the aromatic maturity and harvest the grapes at the right time”. We will wait until “August 24, roughly, to begin the harvest” between the rows of the historic Henri Giraud brand, as explained by chef de cave Sébastien Le Golvet. “While the grapes continue to ripen, we observed a nice acidity, with notes of green apple. There was also a slight burning of the berries, but we should not worry too much. It seems that an extraordinary vintage is taking shape, in line with 2019”.
In another top territory, Burgundy, in the predictions of Frédéric Drouhin, head of the Joseph Drouhin brand, among the twelve historic brands of the Primum Familiae Vini, together with the only two Italian Tenuta San Guido (Sassicaia) and Antinori, “the white grape harvest
will begin in a couple of days, we rely mainly on the appearance of the grapes, but also on chemical analysis of course. We are experiencing a rapid drying of the grapes, especially Pinot Noir, with the weight of the bunches decreasing and the sugar content increasing, while the acidity is constant. If we were to make a comparison, there are some similarities with the 2003 vintage and the 2015 vintage”. And the parallel with 2003 also convinces Eric Germain, head of Domaine Vincent Girardin, 33 hectares of biodynamically managed vineyards throughout Burgundy. “It will be a very early harvest, just like 2003, but in its unique way. As far as quality is concerned, we are optimistic, because the grapes show an excellent balance of acidity and a rather high alcohol content. In terms of phenolic and aromatic structure, the first plots are showing excellent extractability and an important aromatic profile. It can be said that this year is special and unique, and the harvest will be “Alsatian”, which means moments of harvesting and then a stop to give time for the maturation of the plots affected by water stress”.
In Bordeaux, on the other hand, the harvesting of the grapes destined for the production of Crémant has already begun a week ago, as the Conseil Interprofessionnel du Vin de Bordeaux had announced in recent days. The dry climate and the heat peaks of the summer, here too, have anticipated the time by about 12-15 days, so much so that in some Château the harvesting of the whites has already begun. For the reds, therefore, we will have to wait until the 10th of September, roughly: “we expected this precocity, we have seen it for the whole vegetative cycle, from the end of winter. For the wine, however, it is a guarantee of quality. The early vintages are generally quite good, but you have to wait until the harvest and vinification to be sure,” explained Bernard Farges, president of the Conseil Interprofessionnel du Vin de Bordeaux.
A much more complex situation, which does not mean too difficult, in the heart of the Rhône (between Côte Rotie and Crozes Hermitage), between the rows of vines of Maison & Domaine Les Alexandrins, where, as Nicolas Jaboulet explains, “after some difficulties, such as the pressure of mold and powdery mildew, it seems that now the 2020 vintage is taking shape without further problems, if not drought, which unites all our vineyards, which still find refreshment from not so hot nights. The acidity levels of the white grapes are relatively low, so as soon as the sugar levels are as desired, we will start harvesting, presumably from August 24th. For the reds, on the other hand, it will take patience, and every parcel will have to be monitored and, at the right time, harvested on its own, but it is a vintage that I am convinced we will talk about fondly for many years”.
We breathe optimism in Alsace, where Jean Frédéric Hugel, 13th generation of the Famille Hugel, the only Alsatian producer inside Primum Familiae Vini, tells of a region “kissed by luck: Alsace was for once spared by the heat wave that hit the rest of France. The nights have remained cool and so far the veraison has gone well, while the excessively dry climate - which has certainly not been kind to our rivers - has been a panacea for our vines, which coped well with diseases. Except for unforeseen climatic episodes, the vintage promises to be healthy and generous, even beyond expectations, so much so that for the first time in the last 20 years we have harvested green grapes, sacrificing most of our grapes in the most prestigious terroirs. For the harvest, decidedly early, we will have to wait until the first days of September, so it is impossible to give a definitive judgment on the vintage, the next few weeks will be fundamental. We hope that nature, after such a difficult and hard year, will be merciful”.
And it will, in all probability, be a promising harvest also in Provence, where in Château Bonisson, as the owner Victoire Le Dorze explains, “after a dry year and a certain pressure on the health of the plants, the harvest seems to be promising. The harvest will begin at the end of August, with the white grapes, but the harvest will be staggered until September to pick the white and black grapes at their optimal ripeness”.

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