Southwest Vintage Report

Domaine Castera (Jurancon), Franck Lihour

This year, more than others, we stayed focused on what is essential, that which requires us to rise in the mornings, the vines and the wines. In this light, I wanted to, in a few lines, describe this unusual vintage.

After a particularly mild winter, budding came very early, at the end of winter. Then with a very rainy Spring there was an onset of mildew, however, it was soon followed by consistant hot and dry weather, calming its spread. In spite of that, there was a period of drought in our part of the Béarn. Grasses grew more slowly than usual, because there was no more that 150mm of rain from the end of June until August.

These climactic conditions resulted in the earliest harvests known to Man. The first bunches were cut on the 7th of September, during the time that is usually for bottling the previous vintage. Also the time during which our thorough preparation of the cellar for the incoming vintage takes place. This harvest coming 3 weeks in advance did not allow for a tranquil mise en place. We had to do everything at the same time and I can tell you that managing bottling and the pressing of the new harvest together requires a certain calm and an excellent team of collaborators. Now that the 2019 are bottled and the vinifications are (almost) finished, we have made it to future!

During fermentation, the wines were tasting very forward, open, however towards the begining of élevage the wines were tasting much more refined, and with lovely aromatics.

Domaine Philemon (Gaillac), Mathieu Vieules

2020 = “The year of wine”

After a mild winter, the bud break was very early at the beginning of March with numerous flowering clusters, predicting an early and abundant harvest. Despite a very rainy spring with a rather significant threat of mildew, the clay soils accumulated significant water reserves. Fortunately good weather continued during the flowering with the appearance of beautiful bunches. The hot and very dry summer months put a strain on the vines’ vegetative cycle. The harvest began on August 27, the earliest year after 2003 (severe drought). On deep soils, the rooting of the vines made it possible to maintain the water supply to the bunches. The white grape varieties were harvested first in order to maintain the best acidity, the reds as they matured, which was more spread out this year due to the lack of water. The latest red grape varieties were harvested at the last minute before the heavy rains and hailstorms! The year 2020 is one of the best vintages for the past 15 years. The whites are lively and very aromatic, the reds are sanguine…

Chateau La Caminade (Cahors), Dominique Ressès

Here is my first impression of the 2019 millésime.

We’ll say that the vintage, started a bit poorly with a spring frost (May 6th), but finished well, though with a reduced quantity, but superior quality than we estimated.

In addition, a beautiful, hot and dry summer provided conditions for the vines to catch up on the delay caused by the Spring frosts.

Finally, some rains at the end of August and beginning September, followed by nice weather, hot during the day, cool at night, during the whole rest of September, made for a lovely and homogeneous ripening of the fruit.

We started harvesting the 3rd of October and finished the 9th, days were cloudy and cool.

Today we can say that this vintage will be easy to drink, gourmand, with low acidities and high pH (already 3.6/3.7 before malolactic!!!)

Domaine Philemon (Gaillac), Mathieu Vieules

The vintage was quite complicated with incessant rains in Spring, we had to double our organic treatments against mildew (for which we used orange peel oil, which worked against mildew and oidium as well). Then, the opposite situation in August and September during which we had no rain for a period of 70 days. As a result was an exceptional maturity of the grapes for harvest! The hydratic stress had beneficial effects on the quality of the grapes, but was concerning regarding its effect on younger vines, which, with still shallow root systems, are sensitive to drought .

The whites were brought in quickly in order to preserve freshness (acidity) and to limit their alcohol levels. As for the reds, they became concentrated very quickly, and managing overripeness was more difficult because harvesting is by hand and requires more time.

In the cellar, fermentations with indigenous yeasts were thus more difficult as a result of higher sugar levels, notably the reds, but the result is the best of this exceptional vintage.

At the level of tasting, the reds are structured, deeply colored with silken tannins. The whites are mineral and subtle with a beautiful freshness.

In sum : The start of the campaign was difficult in terms of weather but a long dry period before the harvest was very beneficial to the quality of the crop. We thus brought a very lovely harvest to the cellar. It is during winemaking that ripeness levels were more difficult to manage because the indigenous yeasts were fragile and therefore the fermentation periods were longer. In the glass, the 2018 vintage is of high quality and that is what we will remember.

Domaine Philemon (Gaillac), Mathieu Vieules

Regarding the 2016 vintage : a vintage of suspense.

After the very mild 2015-2016 winter, the most optimistic winegrowers predicted a very early harvest, around August 15….

However with the cold spring bringing frosts in late April and early May, we experienced several “nuits blanches” (localized frosts). The heavy rains in May and June engendered a strong attack of mildew, forcing me to treat the vines every week, even every 3 to 4 days ; with the great uncertainty of the effectiveness of organic treatments. Summer weather didn’t arrive until the 15th of August, and lasted through October.

The grapes reached maturity only at the end of September and beginning October, however the harvest was plentiful.

The Reds are fruity with attenuated concentration despite deep color.

The Whites are vivacious, and fresh.