2019 has been a rollercoaster for our some of our favorite producers in France, as Mother Nature has again thrown the proverbial kitchen sink at them this growing season.
This year extreme weather has been the norm. Spring frost has now become an annual danger, hitting once again, though not as severely as years past. Multiple heat spikes in midsummer caused certain areas like Vouvray to suffer grilled grapes (Clos Bretonnière was hit particularly hard, producing little to no fruit in 2019). Lack of rain from the intensely warm and dry summer across much of Europe left some places without a single drop of rainfall for more than three months. The Loire River was down to its lowest recorded level.
Overall it was an immensely challenging season for French Vignerons. The bright side is that most of the great growers were better prepared than almost any other year before, as the practice and lessons learned from years like 2003, 2009, and 2015 have helped them find creative and effective solutions to deal with global warming and its effect on wine growing, harvest, and vinification. The early reports from the growers paint 2019 as year that will unfortunately be small, but very high-quality.
The first grapes have just started coming in, and we have some reflections and photos from across France…
MARC & ALEXANDRE BACHELET
Domaine Frantz Chagnoleau
Tomorrow we are harvesting in the higher altitude sites of Saint Véran, beginning with Chasselas. We are finishing the week in our old Clos Les Raspillères at the very top of Viré.
Domaine Yvon Clerget
Unfortunately, the quantities will be low, the exact numbers varying from vineyard to vineyard, more details on that later… but overall things look beautiful.
Pierre Girardin is planning to start today with his old vines Bâtard, Meursault, and Folatières. Bourgogne Blanc to follow.
Overall, the potential alcohol looks like it will be about 13%. It’s been cooler for the past few weeks and the weather has been good. August was very dry, but we did get 40 millimeters of rain three weeks ago. The best village for red looks to be Pommard, Volnay, and Beaune. For white it looks to be Meursault.
Domaine Remi Jobard
Domaine Jean-Marc Millot
Nuits St. Georges
Domaine Pinson Freres
The old vines are producing extraordinary, balanced, and rich fruit.
Likely start date is tomorrow. We have had virtually zero rain since the beginning of June. At that point, it was 13 millimeters of water, which barely wet the ground.
Old vines doing better, young vines really in bad shape. Certain sectors with grilled grapes from the heat spikes of July. Overall, Domaine de La Butte and Bourgueil are much better off and got some rain….
We feel lucky compared to some of our friends in Vouvray and Montlouis. We’ll keep you posted as the grapes start to come in.
The grapes have an amazing complexity of flavor– however there’s not much juice! This is completely normal based on the complete lack of rain this summer. What is most astonishing is the lovely acidity we’ve kept despite the dry summer.
In the last three months we have had only two small rain showers, barely enough to ensure normal development in the vineyards. Yet the results seen in the grapes are magnificent! Balance and acidity, no problems of any kind related to stress or drought. The peculiarity of this vintage, in the south as in the north, lies in the size of the berries! They are quite small.
In short, we have a vintage that presents very well, except for the small quantities. We have a large ratio of pulp-to-skin (in favor of skin), a nice freshness of structure, and a style that presents as very pure and very straight.