by Alain Girard, December 3rd, 2011.Sancerre 2011: The most precocious vintage in many decades.
A mellow end of winter provoked very premature flowering, as early as the first week of April. A very hot and dry Spring accelerated the growth of the vines at an unprecedented pace. In the end, the vines were three weeks in advance, and were fully developed by the last week of May.
Then the climate then began to change, becoming much colder and humid. This was extremely beneficial to the grapes, which were beginning to suffer. Their period of maturation occurred during warm weather punctuated with localized storms. This accelerated the grape's evolution.
The grapes' precocious nature and the healthy sanitary state of the vines were the first strong indicators of real qualitative potential. In spite of this, maturation proved to be rather slow. The grapes are characterized by high sugar levels. Due to the moderate temperature and covered skies of our summer, aromatic freshness was preserved.
We began harvesting on September 6th and ended the 20th under bright skies. The terroirs that were marked by a lack of water in June and July were the first ones we picked.
As far as my impression of the wines, the whites are tender and marked with a strong amount of natural sugar. They are voluminous even though the acidity is not on the forefront of the palette; in such they are fresh and harmonious. I feel that aromatically, they will need a few months of aging to really open up, but are already showing signs of intensity and elegance. You'll get to find out for yourself in a couple of months!
December 12th, 2011.We began our 100% hand harvest on August 29th with our Crémant de Bourgogne parcel in Saint Vérand. We then started picking the Gamay in the following order: JULIENAS « Clos du Fief », « Jeanroux » and SAINT-AMOUR « Les Capitans ». The end of the week was reserved for parcels at a higher altitude (« La Ville », « Les Fouillouses »), which logically had more maturity.
Two mornings were dedicated to harvesting for the Beaujolais-Villages white and Rosé. It was then another trip to higher altitudes to harvest the Beajolais-Villages red from the « La Roche and « Aux Roberts » parcels on the coteaux of Jullie. One day was spent harvesting the Gamay for the sparkling red.
Altogether, we harvested for a consecutive 9 days with a team of 30 to 40 people depending on the day. The weather was quite pleasant (hot and breezy), with the exception of one humid morning (it had rained the night before).
The vinification is adapted to each parcel and their respective cuvée: semi-carbonic, destemmed, pigeage and remontage, long macerations… Selected starter yeasts initiate the alcoholic fermentation, and the grapes's natural yeasts finish the job (which is possible because of the work in the vines). Malolactic fermentation occurred quickly this year for the reds but slowly for the whites and the rosé. After the racking of the lees, the wines rest while waiting for the winter's cold. This process naturally clarifies each different cuvée.
My initial thoughts about the 2011's are that the wines are fruity but not exuberant, quite elegant and round with a subtle, non astringent finish. 2011 was a precocious year, both in the wines' production but also in how you should drink it. It is a wine to drink young and that you should enjoy as soon as they are bottled next spring.
by Jean Paul Labaille, November 26th, 2011.
All year we experienced the opposite climactic conditions of a normal vintage. Spring was very hot and dry, which considerably accelerated the plant's vegetation. They were in full bloom late May, which led us to believe we'd have a very precocious harvest.
Starting mid-July, the weather started getting worst and we got a enormous amount of rain, as well as fairly low temperatures for the season. The pressure of dealing with mildew suddenly became something we were worried about for August.
Our initial plan to harvest exceptionally early (in late August) was therefore thwarted, but we still had to act fast because we didn't want the grapes to rot. In such, we started on September 5th. Our first day was under the rain, but thankfully the sun was out the next day. The harvest was saved and the quality preserved. We continued picking until September 20th under good weather conditions.
The % are good (12.8 for the Authentique), and even a little high for the Mont Damnés (13.3). Areas threatened by rot ended up drying out and the maturities are good. We got there just in time, as the acidities were on the brink of dropping.
2011 is a particular vintage with an atypical vegetive cycle, but has produced balanced wines (stylistically they are somewhere in between 2009 and 2010), and production was normal. The summer rain, while unpleasant, brought the grapes back to life. Otherwise they would have dried out and our harvest would have been catastrophic.
You could say 2011 was saved by the rain…
October 11th, 2011It's Monday, October 3rd, 10:30 am. The last of the grapes were just harvested. It's still cool out (13°C), but the sun is already out and very bright. Another beautiful day in our never ending Indian summer! It was very surprising weather in Bugey this year.
The year started off with a bang: after a mild but long winter, the spring was much warmer than usual. Keeping up with the vines, who were growing at the speed of light, proved quite difficult.
Of course, it just so happened that, after two years of planning, I was ready to plant some new vines this year… Everything was ready: the plants were ordered, the pépiniériste was a call away, the soil had been prepped… I was hoping for 20 liters per m² of rain this year, so I patiently waited… Nothing to do, nature wasn't planning on giving us any rain. We had no choice to proceed, and we'll see what happens!
Once we finished the plantation, we were pleased that the hot, dry weather was keeping illness away from the vines, but it also meant we had to rush right into our springtime work. We tried being everywhere at the same time, and believe it or not, this was impossible!
Most of the work went into making sure the plant's vegetation didn't grow too dense: oidium loves heat, and a little morning humidity is all a leafy vine needs to be colonized by illness.
Flowering occurred under beautiful weather. If one was to follow the old fashioned "you harvest 100 days after flowering", then that meant we'd have to start August 15th! Hard to explain to the family over dinner that our only week of vacation might need to be canceled!!!! I can accept this because it's part of my job, but I get why this would make a few people angry… Fortunately, a little smooth-talking helped me change the reservation for the cottage in Normandy, and no one wanted my head on a silver platter anymore...
June remained very hot, but on July 10th, everything shifted: rain and cool weather almost every day… A heavenly shower! This instantly put me at ease about oidium, mildew or over sized grapes. Now I have to start worrying about rot! Fortunately, our hard work in the spring pays off: the grapes, who have been getting enough air, managed to dry out a little and, for the vast majority, resist rot.
Now I'm wondering what's the harvest is going to look like? All this weather stuff is a bit deceiving, but I guess I'll have do with! This really is a fascinating job, in large part because it reminds you that you need to recognize the power of nature, to stay humble… and to believe.
Otherwise, we'd only be left with rage and folly.
Early August proved to be nicer weather but still not that hot. Our initial plans to harvest the 15th are gone, and we start aiming for early September. Well, this is how I felt in early August, but there was still one surprise waiting for us!
The week of August 15th, temperatures skyrocket: 30-32°C in the shade every afternoon! It's a mini heat wave! The Pinots start taking this nice black and blue color… No, I did not drink too much when I wrote that! This is the most adept definition I can give to their color!!!!
The Chardonnay are getting golden in the sun and they are already at 11%… already more than enough for the grapes destined to go into the Montagnieu pétillant. This time, a decision is made: we begin harvesting on September 29th.
The first few days go off without a hitch under beautiful weather. Most of the work is done in the morning, and the yields are abundant and of high quality. Super!
Then came a big fright: a huge storm coming from Lyon. The thunder crept up on us, then backed off, only to come back twice as strong! This lasted for over an hour. As I sat on my terrace, huge drops of rain started splashing down on the plastic table, and I saw a very large strike of lightning incredibly close to the house. All of a sudden, it started hailing!
I've never seen it hail during a harvest, and only the second time I've seen it happen at night, which is quite rare. It became increasingly harder to admit I couldn't do anything, that I had to sit back and wait it out… I think you'll understand me better now if I tell you a vigneron really puts his "heart" into his wine!
The hail stops, the storm passes… We continue harvesting for the sparkling the next day, and quickly realize that virtually nothing was damaged. Ouf! We then wait a little longer for the "still" Altesse grapes and the Mondeuse. The good weather came back, which was a relief.
The rest of the harvest led us to picking some really nice Altesse and Mondeuse grapes. I wanted to wait even longer before harvesting, but I didn't want to risk losing their acidity so we kept at it.
This year really is too strange: we spent almost the entire harvest with wind coming from the South and good weather. Usually the weather is kind of crummy around these parts in September… So, after a long period of reflection, I decided bring everything into the cellar, save a 1/3 of an hectare of Altesse as an experiment. I think the soil has absorbed too much water to bet on an improbable concentration of the grapes.
So that's my recap of this very special year. I remain confident in the wine, and that we were suitably adapted for Mother Nature's capricious behavior this vintage. If she remembers all that she put me through, I hope she'll find it in her heart to offer us all some nice cuvées!
by Yannick Pelletier, October 16th, 2011After a two year hiatus, 2011 marked the return of the infamous storm of August 15th!
(note: see Yannick's 2010 harvest report for past reference to this storm.)
Precipitations this year were in the norm (600mm) with a particularly marking episode in late March, where we had between 250 and 300 mm in three days! Fortunately, this rain was not violent and penetrated the soil nicely. It was a strike of luck because there had been no water all winter, just like the rest of France who suffered from this dry spell.
There was no further rain until August 15th, which resulted in the landscape staying green much later than it usually does. I am very fortunate for this rain, because I planted some young vines of Grenache Gris and Grenache Blanc this year; this way I didn't have to water them (save at plantation).
On the other hand, temperature wise it was a mess! Flowering began early because temperatures were reaching 29°C in the shade up until April, and the vintage was marked by stretches of intense heat followed by bouts of frigid cold (23° in July mid afternoon!). The consequence of this variation (and this is only my interpretation) was that the vines weren't quite sure what season it was anymore. Everything was about two weeks premature but in the end some late freshness put things back on track and we harvested at almost normal dates.
In the end I think the vines ceased maturation quite early as many of the clusters began to wither. This wasn't a uniform phenomena, but it leads me to believe that some vines were lacking in sap. Regardless, the yields were quite satisfactory (which feels good after the last few years…). There wasn't much concentration so the wine should be quite easy and fresh.
by Matthieu Baudry, November 23rd, 20112011 was a crazy year! Summer in spring, fall in the summer and spring in fall… I wonder if our dear planet's poles decided to inverse themselves this year.
As far as rain goes in 2011, we registered 160mm of water between January 1st and July 15th (a little more than six months), and 170 mm between July 15th and September 15th (2 months)...
In other words, the grapes took in a lot of water in a short period of time, but this was necessary to rehydrate them. Without that rain, we would have harvested little pees with no flesh or juice. Still, it would have been nice if the rain had stopped on the 15 first days of September, because we were worried about rot.
These climactic excesses make us wonder what the future will hold…
The harvest took place from the 15th to the 27th of September, under great weather. The results: perfectly healthy grapes, alcoholic potential between 12 and 13.5 and lower acidities.
The vintage seems to favor the terroirs that hadn't suffered from this year's early heat waves (clay and limestone), where we had high yields. The sandy soils were really lacking water and the vines were a little stressed (small yields and a more heterogeneous maturities). It reminds me of 2003 but with a lot less alcohol.
I'm hearing a lot of people say that 2011 is a "vigneron's vintage". I don't agree; 2011 seems more like a vintage that favored "nice terroirs" that were able to resist the excessive climate.
October 28th, 2011
We finished our harvest almost a month ago. With the weather getting better, we stopped half-way through, and the Gamay and Romorantin ended up getting an unexpected week of "summer".
We therefore harvested the Romorantin the last week of September: small yields, but magnificent grapes with great maturity.
It's now late October and some things are still fermenting. I'm very happy with the Cuvée Renaissance's promising balance of sugar/acidity.
The Sauvignon and Chardonnay are done fermenting, and the wines are drinking nicely. They're a lot of freshness and fruit this year, so we'll keep aging the wine on it's lees for at least three months.
I've attached some photos of the last week, as well as from our PERSIL (big meal on the last day of the harvest).
by Virginie Maignien, November 7th, 2011.
We are at the beginning of November and for the first time at Causse Marines, everything is finished!
We left you before the harvest, which began on September 10th with 16 thirsty pickers from Britanny. First we picked the Mauzac that we use for the bubbles, then the Muscadelles, Ondenc, Loin de l'oeil and finally some more Mauzac. At the cellar, a valiant and crazy team pulled and a few all nighters to keep an eye on the late presses.
Because of good weather, we preferred picking the red grapes right after we were done with the whites. Fortunately, we had another team of fresh, eager pickers (also from Britanny) who had just arrived! No chance to rest or to resist harvesting the Braucol, Duras, Syrah and whatever other strange grapes we grow… All in all, and thanks in part to an amazing masseuse, we were completely done harvesting after two weeks.
There wasn't much time for a breather: as soon as we were done we'd already start racking certain cuvées (very short cuvaisons this year), and once this was done we had to go do the late harvest for sweet wines (including one crazy day where we got 36 liters from 6 pickers after sorting though an entire day's harvest!). The last of the Chenin, Semillon, Muscadelle and Petit Manseng were picked on October 14th (there will be a lot of passerilage this vintage).
The bubbles were bottled October 17th, and all the reds fermented and finished at the exact same time. By late october we were all done!
Strange vintage! You will find enclosed some pictures of this crazy harvest.
October 9th, 2011
It came and went; another harvest. The fastest in our history! All the wines were finished and cleared on September 30th! We've never seen anything like this, not even in 2003.
We started harvesting Chasselas in Saint Julien (for a new pétillant natural) on August 16th, and we finished with the Grenache in Vaison on September 9th.
Abundant yields, grapes of high quality (with striking acidity), a harvest team composed of my sons Martin and Léo and a group of their friends, beautiful weather, sunny but cool: in other words an ideal and very pleasant harvest.
In the cellar we had some very fast and tumultuous fermentations (5 days for the old vine Serines of Brézème to be sugarless!!!). A lot of barrels overflowing and temperatures skyrocketing caused some initial worry but in the end were of no consequence to the very pure fruit of this harvest. It reminds me of 2000 and 2006.
We harvested a lot of young vines this year: 5 ha of Grenache, Cinsault, Clairette and Marsanne in Saint Julien, and as of this vintage our generic Cotes du Rhône red and white will come entirely from Saint Julien en St Alban.
We also harvested some Muscat and and Chasselas in hopes of making a pétillant natural! It's proving to be a lot of fun and is new territory for the whole team….
We started picking for the Opale on August 29th in suffocating heat. We harvest 1 ha of some young vines for the first time this year and in such doubled our production of this wine.
Globally, balance dominates the wines we've obtained this year. Less dense than 2009, but sunnier than 2010, the reds from the Northern Rhône are between 12 and 12.5% with the exception of Vaison at 13.5% (it took a bit longer to mature than usual this year).
The whites have striking acidity and it is quite probable that malo will occur for all the wines.
Unlike the Southern Rhône where rot was quickly spreading in late August, the harvest in Brézème and Saint Julien were very healthy and did not require a pass on the tray table like last year.
All of the wines were vinified without any SO2 during the harvest, or at all for the majority of the reds.
There you go. Now we're on vacation so we can go bother our friends who aren't done harvesting yet!
by Eric Nicolas, October 17thTo summarize this year, it was very bizarre!
At first it seemed like it would be the most precocious in our history.
Spring felt like summer and summer felt like spring, and the plant's vegetation reacted accordingly: the vines started budding very early and growing quite rapidly, an ideal scenario to avoid illness.
This lasted until June when the weather started faltering.
Flowering went pretty well, with the exception of a few problems -even on the younger vines- that are certainly linked to the heat and dryness of the vintage.
Spring's heat was replaced by a cloudy and rainy summer.
It was almost providential in constituting the grape's acidity, which never suffer too heavily from heavy heat.
It was therefore not a 2003 scenario.
The grape's slow progression was beneficial to their quality, but the climate made it quite difficult in struggling with oidium. We were ready though, and we didn't lose much of our harvest.
When the plants started budding we stopped worrying about illness and focused on a strategy for the harvest.
I predicted we'd witness a very fast harvest, and that we'd have to be ready and on the starting block in order to sprint to the finish.
We started September 12th with maturities higher than 14% potential. The grapes picked over the next two and a half weeks showed maturities of great interest due to the sheer variation of their aromatic potential. The wines should average out to 13% potential.
Our hand harvest lead us to rigorously discard all deviations linked to rot in the first three days. This was less intensive in the young vines. Some old vines, particularly the Pineau D'Aunis which we harvested on September 20th, stayed very healthy and sorting was unnecessary. Certain clusters of very ripe grapes won't be de-stemmed this year, which will add a complexity to the rest of the juice.
The old vine whites, which we harvested last this year, will display a lot of richness and will be fermented and aged in larger containers for a slower maturation.
The weather conditions for the harvest were exceptional. It was unbelievable to benefit from such conditions after such a long period of incertitude. There was no need to rush, and we had a great team of pickers focused on sorting the grapes from the get go; by doing so they picked an abundant amount of perfect grapes.
The 2011 harvest was finished on September 28th, even earlier than 2003!
The first wines we've tasted are very fresh, with very ripe fruit. The reds will be fresh, fruity, complex and with ripe tannins.
Now that we're done in the cellar, it's time to put our boots back on and do it all over again!
photos taken by Eben Lillie
October 11th, 2011Many vignerons will tell you that 2011 was an atypical year: a cold winter with snow in November and December then dry and freezing for the rest of the season; a premature spring with dryness and heat stimulating the vines; budding occurring 2 to 3 weeks earlier than the norm... In the end our vines didn't really suffer from the lack of water and the few storms we had seemed quite tame with light and breezy rain.
This was followed by a capricious summer. July was cold and rainy and a very uncertain August had us puzzled and worried about when to start the harvest. Our vacation time was cut short this year!
Harvest started September 6th (the same day school started in Côme) with a team of 30 pickers under a radiant sun! We finished on the 17th.
In total there were 9 days of harvesting, with a few days of rest at the half-way point. The nice weather remained present for the entirety of the harvest.
2011 seems to be a very promising year. Our yields were generous (finally!) and of great quality and I am happy to say we had very good results with the Poulsard this year.
This is also our first year certified organic and the quality of the harvest comforts me in our choice to convert the estate.
It seems that the juice will be producing a very fruity and rich Cerdon this year, with dominating aromas of strawberries, raspberries and of course grapes! It will be a rich, full color. Let's let the wine make itself and we'll check back in few months for some good drinking!
October 17th, 2011
We had a lovely Spring with little rain and bright, sunny weather that reminded me of my brief time in Durham this year. April marked the beginning of vegetal activity which accelerated at the end of the month as the weather got dryer. By early May everything was 3 weeks earlier than usual, almost identical to 2007.
Flowering began around May 12th and ended around the 24th/25th. All this led me to believe we were going to have a precocious vintage. The lack of rain did not affect vegetal maturity though; the roots of my vines are very deep in the soil and in the end I felt it was beneficial because no rain means less treatments and no "bad" grass to deal with.
By late June though I began to notice potassium deficiency in some parcels because of the lack of water, which led me to worry a little. Then -low and behold- "fall" had arrived: rain every day, cool temperatures, cloudy skies... The weather had done a complete 180, and this phenomenon continued through July.
By August the vines were looking like they would in the Spring. The sun came back along with a few rainy days. The maturity levels that began in late July were evolving normally but earlier than usual (the closer we got to harvest time the more we felt like pushing it back…) The second half of August was quite hot and the clusters started plumping up at turning golden. We thought optimal maturity was upon us and it was time to harvest.
We started the 27th but stopped immediately because the % was at 12 (compared to 14 and 15 in 2010 with rot). We reluctantly restarted on the 31st to preserve a minimum of acidity, but there was little evolution in this regard as the grapes were already very healthy and golden.
We had a little bit of dilution due to rains that occurred the day before the harvest. We stopped again on September 8th to let the vines soak up the beautiful weather and were back at it the 17th. We suffered a little rot but the % are right where I want them to be. Maturity levels are quite high and the yields were larger than they have been in the past years.
The wines are honest and clean with maybe less structure than 2010 (well we'll have to wait and see…). Even with the high yields, they are less alcoholic than usual but very balanced with nice acidity, which reminds me of 1999.
Fermentation started rather quickly with the heat but have stabilized which is a good sign. I think this will be a pleasant, easy drinking vintage. We'll see in a few months...
by Gauthier Thévenet. October 7th, 2011Our 2011 harvest was less premature than we were expecting.
Though the grapes' maturity was at a standstill in mid-August, they were so healthy and of high quality that we felt that we could wait a little before picking them.
After some deliberation, we decided to start the harvest for Roally on August 26th. We made a wise decision by waiting: September was beautiful and helped the grapes reach the optimal maturity we were looking for.
For two weeks we harvested beautiful, golden colored grapes. The % fluctuates between 13.4 and 14.4, going as high as 15% for Bongran.
The acidity and PH levels are very satisfying; we did some intensive pruning in the winter which has led to a fine balance in the size of the berries.
For me this was a very successful vintage, probably comparable to 2005.
by Marie-Pierre Iché.
All our efforts throughout the year and the beautiful climate of the last few weeks has led to some pleasant discoveries. We still need to be patient…
We haven't started harvesting yet; the maturities aren't quite where we want them to be. Everyone was predicting a record breaking early harvest that wouldn't start later than August 15th…
We are paying no heed to such claims. A cool July changed everything and the harvest will begin at the same time it always does.
Harvest Report September 26th
We are currently half way through the harvest and have picked all of the white and Syrah. We're well on our way with the Grenache and we're just starting to see some Carignan.
So far the whites have been producing very aromatic and bold juice; the alcohol % is similar to last year's but acidity is up for good brightness and freshness.
For the reds, the major characteristic of this vintage would be the physical maturity of the grapes, which are going to be light in tannin with deep color and .5 less alcohol then our wines tend to average.
The harvest itself was beautiful. The grapes were in great shape, the weather was nice… Everything went off without a hitch!
September 14th, 2011Big news! Didier has decided to make Arpent Rouge in 2011! We harvested the Pineau D'Aunis for the rosé on September 6th and for the A.R on the 12th. We started the Côt as well, but it rained a lot on the 11th so the grapes are a little diluted with 12% and 5g of acidity.
We're letting the Cabernet mature a bit longer for better concentration. If the weather permits Didier hopes to finish by the end of the weel. Things have been taking longer than usual and our team in getting progressively smaller and smaller so…
September 13th, 2011We have been harvesting since September 5. Time is flying this year; a lot of work and it's a real challenge to keep up!
After a rainy summer we pushed back harvesting to the last possible moment. Everything's been going well so far. Today we finished harvesting the Sauvignon Blanc; nice berries, their ripeness and sugar levels are more than satisfactory.
Same for the Chardonnay, so it's looking like a great year for the Cheverny Blanc. However it's important to mention that we harvested about 30% less than last year...
The "ROMO" is quite healthy as well, save for a parcel of young vines that I'll need to keep an eye on.
We're in no rush to wrap up the harvest. The weather seems to be clearing up, so we'll wait and see...
September 16th, 2011The beginning of the year was hotter than usual, with an exceptionally hot April and May full heat, dryness and sun. Unfortunately we had a disappointing summer with a lot of rain so we lost some grapes in the process.
We began harvesting on August 27th with the grapes in good shape. They are of high quality, with a great balance of sugar and acidity; I'm expecting some promising cuvées.
The vines started budding around April 8th, 15 days earlier than usual. They started flowering around May 8th and the grapes turned color on July 4th.
No illnesses to report this year.
The harvest itself went extremely well, with beautiful conditions (under the sun) and a motivated team of youngsters whose enthusiasm was quite refreshing; they gave the entire harvest a great energy and ambiance.
Alcohol varies from 12.5 to 12.7 to 13 and up in some cases. After tasting the wine, I feel the wines closely resemble those of 2009. I will wait for the malolactic fermentation to end before I confirm my hypothesis.
October 1st, 2011
September 20th, 2011We picked the grapes between the 24th and the end of August. Very hot summer and advanced ripening. Although here on the island we and the plants are used to dryness and big sun (The Tropic of Tuscany!), this year we were afraid for the harvest, not having had even a drop of rain since February to the end of July!
Rain around us on the mainland and not even a drop here.
For good luck we had a wonderful gentle and proper 30 hours of rain between the 26th and 27th of July, which entered deep into the soil.
Then again big sun and hot, so that the grapes run to the ripening being glad and healthy....
Good year. A bit less quantity, probably a bit higher alcohol (around 14) and always the best quality the grapes can express.
The wine is now (20th Sept) slowly ending its fermentation and still "singing" in the cellar. Very good smell and flavor, always trembling in our heart, we and the wine, as every year for this magical process!
So let's hope that, as every year, this year will be the best of the last six thousand years!!!
September 26th, 2011
Quite a challenging vintage for us this year. It looked like a good and easy harvest up until those last three weeks of 40+C°in August that made things a little more complicated. We had to rush and start on August 31st, about 10 to 15 days earlier than average and found on young vines a very beautiful sangiovese, with some withered fruit to be left on vines but the rest was balanced with good acidity. In the old vines more diversity with some spots of unripeness and some raisins as well. Alcohol is a little high in the Cabernet, reasonable on the rest of the grapes. Skins did not call for a long maceration and all the tanks were racked within a few days except for the young Sangiovese which took a little bit longer to ferment. Sangiovese in amphora is all dry by now after just a few days of fermentation. Now we need to wait and see which story this vintage will tell us...
by Sylvie de la Vigerie, September 15th and 26th, 2011
We began harvesting on Wednesday under the sun. We started with the Chenin then moved on to the Poplinière. We finished our hand harvest on the 26th. Here are some photos.
September 16th, 2011
We began harvesting on August 30th under the cloudy skies we've grown accustomed to this summer. Spring started out very hot, maybe a little too hot, and the old timers predicted a windy and cloudy summer. They were spot on!
It was real work out there this year! We had to sort a lot of grapes and unfortunately had to dispose of approximately 30% of everything harvested.
We started with "Clos des Allées", our young and old vines, then "Pierres Blanches", followed by the parcel that we make "Excelsior" with, the "L d'Or" and we finished with "Terre de Pierre". The "Butte de la Roche" parcel was a great way to finish the harvest, and a good surprise for the pickers since there wasn't too much sorting!
Next week we'll start picking the Folle Blanche, Gamay, Merlot and Chardonnay.
The harvesters did a great job working under Monique in the vines and in the cellar with Pierre and Pierre-Marie. The clusters they brought back seem like they'll produce some very promising wines! We're excited to discover them with you in the spring!
September 22nd, 2011
We've started harvesting the Chenin, but need to remain patient with the reds. We began September 17th in Clos Jouanne, which was an intimate affair since the parcel is only 75 ares. The skies were cloudy and the temperature was cool (under 20° C in the afternoon). It was tough for some of the less initiated to spot good rot from bad rot, the subtle nuance of nice and golden versus not ripe enough. No worries though as the juice came out delicious; not very concentrated but very flavorful.
And the Cabernet Franc? After a precocious spring (3 weeks earlier than 2010), the summer was quite unstable. July was nice and cool, but August alternated between beautiful and stormy weather.
The drastically different colors of the grapes will force us to separate and break down clusters based on their maturities. The rains of early September made me worry about rot, but this didn't end up being a problem so we will wait a little longer for better maturity. My team of 20 pickers will be ready to start harvesting Monday, the 26th.
September 16th, 2011
September 22nd, 2011
Hot, then snow in the mountains in July, then hot again -- August ended with record temperatures and finally from the middle of September, cool nights and clear Alpine days. It seemed like such drastic changes were a hard test for the vines but in hindsight of it all we see it's just nature's way. If nature is rich in energy, it finds a different solution each time.
We are still harvesting. There's aromas of violets and cyclamen in the cellar. This year we did a shorter maceration and in fact each of those vats is already racked and they will finish the fermentation without the skins. Despite the slightly strange season, the fermentations are very harmonic, more than other years, with temperatures not more than 26/28 degrees celsius without any temperature control. The whole barrels with whole grapes (a cold carbonic for Teroldego which I learned from my visits in Morgon) and amphora are bubbling and there were many women's hands involved at the harvest and helping the fermentations: a great female energy is with us. Today we harvest the Nosiola, then the last vines of Teroldego: we started on the 26th of August with the Manzoni Bianco.
by Sonia Torreta on September 20th, 2011Here we are, more than half way through the picking. This year it started unexpectedly early on August 31, whereas last year and in 2009 we started on Sept 20th, so on average we were 15 days earlier.
The season was quite weird in Piemonte. Wet winter, which is good, cool wet spring, cool early summer and just when we wanted some rain and cool, we had a hot and dry August, thus making the early ripening grapes like dolcetto become almost "passite" in their concentration in some vineyards.
The cortese is coming along very well, with healthy, just ripe grapes and the barbera quite high in acidity and sugars. This years wines will come along nicely as deep-coloured, not too alcoholic and with powerful noses as the cool weather worked in favour of a good concentration of aromas and fruit.
All the dolcettos are now dry as the fermentations are going very well; nice, regular curves, manageable temperatures... I am sleeping very well at night these days.
Today we started picking the barbera. This year we are having thick skins on this grape too, meaning again good concentration in color and poliphenols, which will produce rich and aromatic wines.
I can't wait to taste the finished wines, really!
September 12th, 2011We started harvest August 25th, and are almost finished (this is the first time this has happened in the 25 years of the estate!).
As a result of the heat in the second half of August and first half of September, the grapes had a strong acceleration to maturity. Each of the late varieties suffered the risk of shriveling before they were completely mature; the Merlot and Sangiovese were the vineyards that suffered the most from the heat, but they managed okay thanks to a brief but intense rain at the beginning of September.
This year, we've decided to make The Aleatico Passito directly from grapes on the vine (by the 25th of August they were already a bit dried and we have gone along with the this). The whites on the other hand had a notable resistance and seem very balanced despite the weather, so it promises a great year, if exceptionally early.
September 8th, 2011The harvest has started off great, maybe a little earlier than normal. We have already harvested Merlot (see video) and the Garganega for the Recioto has already been placed on the hangers to dry.
The vines suffered a little from the intense heat and dryness, but we are fully expecting a good year.
by Matthieu Baudry on August 30th, 2011Pressure is mounting and we keep a constant eye on the weather forecast: "Dad, the weather's on, quick come see! ". Even the kids are getting into it...
"Around the 13th...Or maybe the 16th..." The pickers keep calling us for our decision and we keep telling them: "When the grapes are ripe." The grapes decide not us... well almost!
Spring 2011 was the summer, and summer is the spring. The vines have never been so green before harvest yet they where turning yellow at the end of June ...
The grapes held up and withstood the regular rainfall we've had all summer. They have grown quite a bit and we should have very generous yields. The acidity is rather low at the moment but levels are rising slowly. Nothing alarming, and we're remaining optimistic. Even the eternally anxious Bernard doesn't seem too worried.
We've got our fingers crossed and expect a great week of good weather, cool nights and reassuring weather forecasts.
"Dad! The weather's on! "
August 28, 2011We began the harvest on August 16 and so far we've picked the Chardonnay, Muscat, Grenache Blanc and Syrah. This is a first for us and have never harvested any of these so early! The grapes are very beautiful so far let's hope it lasts...
It's been very hot and there is no announced rain so everything is looking good
August 26th, 2011We will probably start harvest around September 12. In the meantime we're removing leaves from the vines. It rained a lot in recent days and there are pockets of rot. In the attached photo you can see some of the damage on the vine to the left of Jo.
September 5th, 2011Because of heavy rainfall, 10 to 30% of our grapes this year are rotten. We've been sorting through bunches, and have been forced to throw away some usuable grapes because large parts of those clusters were too affected by rot.
The yields for the first week were 35 hl/ha. Hopefully we'll get bigger numbers in the following days!
The good news is in the quality of the juice; the years of sorting experience I've instilled in my harvesters has really paid off. It's been more time consuming than I expected, but the effort was well worth it; the juice is clear, with great acidity (5.8 g/l) and the sugar levels are just where I want them to be. The first batch was at 10.5 and we've now reached 11%.
We'll be harvesting the old vines at Briords on Tuesday. We just finished Gras Moutons; less rot and the grapes were very ripe. The Pépière vines are in good shape too, although we've only been there one day so far. It looks like only the Briords were a real problem, and we probably will have very little to bottle this year.
September 1, 2011August was quite gloomy and rainy. In total 100 mm! However the temperatures rose from 20 to over 35 °C on 20 August.
Since then the good weather has continued with high temperatures during the day and cool nights.
Overall, the vines look good, but unfortunately, about an hectare of vines has suffered from rot. We expect to begin harvesting on September 8. The estimates are as of two days ago were 11.5%.
Picture taken August 23rd.
Via chamberstwines.comGras Moutons.
Today was a completely clear day, without any clouds. It was HOT! Every time I looked up and made eye contact with a fellow harvester the word that inevitably came out of both our mouths was "CHAUD!" I now have an official "winemaker's tan." My nose is almost as red as Marc's!
The Gras Moutons site is really beautiful. It's situated on the top of a hill, with plenty of wind and even a view of Nantes in the far distance. There are young and old vines here. In fact there are three different plantings. One that is about 15 years old, another around 30, and then the old vines which are somewhere between 50 and 60 years old. Marc's predictions were right. The old vines had more rot than the young. I asked him why and he mentioned how dense the leaves and the vines are. There were a lot of leaves on the old vines... easily the hardest vines to harvest so far, as the vines are so old and twisted and there are so many leaves in the way.
The weekend is upon us. The harvesters get Saturday and Sunday off but there will be some work to do in the cellar, obviously with today's juice, and in general preparation for next week. Just enjoyed a lovely outdoor dinner at Marc's home, and would have stayed outside all night if it wasn't for the "pique" from the mestique (mosquito).
Via chamberstwines.comWednesday, August 31st: Lots of rot (pourriture) in the vineyards, rain for 3 days last week has caused problems as the grapes bunches are consumed. Marc is worried about yields this year, as we were cutting off most of a bunch just to save 10 or 20 grapes out of what would normally be around 100. Luckily they have some new vineyards this year, one that is through the first year of conversion to organic and has very good soil and a good slope facing the sun, which we were harvesting today, called Les Tigres. We will finish that parcel tomorrow and move on to the young vines at the Briords site. Marc says he can't remember a vintage with this much rot in the vineyard since maybe 1994, and he simply can't remember a year with as much rain as they got in July and August. He's not happy but he says this year will really show the difference between machine harvesting and hand harvesting, and will show that the hard work in the vineyard and the close attention to detail is very important. They are tasting the juice every day, multiple times a day, to see how it is evolving... With the machine harvesting in the area, they usually have to add lots of SO2, then also use coal to absorb flavor from the rotten grapes, then because that isn't enough, cream also, so they end up with a juice that is completely flat, devoid of flavor. and then they add the yeasts.
Thursday, Sept 1st;
Today I spent the morning with Remi, Marc's associate, and the afternoon harvesting in the vines. We took yesterday's press juice (the last, most concentrated juice of the pressing) for filtration, then returned in time to receive the grapes for the first crush of the day. ((Marc and Remi both feel it's important this year to have this pure clean juice (which tastes amazing and is really a dark orange in color) because it has so much flavor and will help to add richness back to the wine)) They're adding a very small amount of SO2 to the cuve this year, because of the rot that they are encountering. Usually it is 1 gram per hectolitre, but it will probably end up being a few grams more this year depending on the significance of the rot. We measured the alcohol level, by measuring the sugar and then using a chart to determine the corresponding potential alcohol level, which was a little low at 10.5 after the first two presses, and we measured the acidity, which was ideal. I don't know what the numbers mean.. but it was 5.8 and somewhere between 5.5 and 5.8 is the aim, so 5.8 is ideal. Usually by the time the wine is wine and is bottled, the level goes down a few points, so it would probably end up at 5.5. This still doesn't explain how much of this acidity is malo, tartric, citric, etc, but it gives a very good idea of what the end result will be. The tank with juice from the first two days (Monday and Tuesday, 8/29 and 8/30) of harvest has just started to ferment, with foam at the top of the tank. The juice is very tasty, with a little tingle of petillance from the gasses that are put out when the sugar converts to alcohol. Conditions were much better in the vines today. The vendangeurs (harvesters) were all at the original Pepiere site, which Marc has owned and tended for a long time. There was a lot less rot in the vineyards and we ended up doing 4 presses by the end of the day. The harvesters are a great bunch of people who are very fun to work with. I will write more about them and include pictures once I reveal to them that I am not just on a "stage" (like an internship) but that I'm also an "embedded reporter!" Today, Marc says he is happier with the harvest. He noticed that at the edge of his vines, where his rows border his neighbors, there was a lot of rot, but in the middle, there were more healthy bunches and a lot less rot. His neighbor uses what Marc calls "food" and what I am quite positive is the French version of MiracleGro, which covers the surface of the vines. These particular vines have much more foliage but the grapes are in worse condition. Marc also smelled acetic acid (which smells like vinegar and is very dangerous in winemaking) towards the end of the harvest today, and was careful to stop the harvesters in these sections. Apparently, if acetic acid gets into the juice, even at low levels, it can affect the entire tank and ruin the juice. I've been sampling some grapes here and there as I pick. The grapes are delicious. The plain old grape juice from the press today was so good, I temporarily regretted it was going to end up as wine... but then my common sense returned. Tomorrow we harvest Gras Moutons, which is a parcel that was given to Remi by his father, who has been making wine in Muscadet for a long time. Marc is optimistic about the young vines, but has some worries about the old vines at Gras Moutons, as they may have suffered from the unsavory weather conditions. On verra!
September 5th, 2011
Pif garding the buckets
After some procrastination Didier finally set the start date of August 26... thanks to him we have to start on Friday and work through the weekend but I guess our work is never done!
In any case we finished harvesting the Sauvignon on the 31st. The maturity ranges from 12.2 to 13.5% and the acidity varies from 5.6G to 4G. It was a very healthy harvest with very little sorting so the harvesters are very happy.
Gamay was picked Friday (the hottest day of the week! The pickers were dropping like flies ....): 11,6 alcohol with 5.9 acidity. There was some sorting; not too much rot, but a few pink clusters. It will be a light and fruity Gamay.
Tomorrow morning we'll start harvesting the Pineau D'Aunis. We plan on making rose with it and Arpent Rouge if the yields are high enough!
Sept 6th, 2011The harvest just around the corner. We will pick the first grapes to make bubbles on Saturday.
For the harvest to come, hard to say. We will have to wait and see what the juice of our first vintage of the decade looks like before we make any predictions. Hopefully it will be so good we'll be able to double our prices .. Bordeaux shouldn't be alone in adopting these marketing techniques!
Alessandra ZantedeschiWe are almost at the harvest, still a few weeks until the the
man-of-the-mountain says it's ready.
There are all the expectations of a great year, even if the this year
the climate was extremely variable: a very hot spring with an early
flowering and fruit set, then hot at end of June and into July, also
with a lot of rain, but cool nights and days full of very bright
sunshine, now ten days of really hot weather that has raised the levels.
We expect to be a full 10 days earlier than average of other years in
that we will start on the 10th with the grapes for drying in boxes for
the Amarone and the Recioto.
It was a splendid year with little infection of downy mildew or oidium,
so there were fewer treatments (5/6 times in total). We will do the new
501 (a biodynamic treatment) until the first days of September for
reinforcing and making the bunches more compact during the rest of the
For fermentations we have a program to collaborate with the University
of Oenolgy in Verona e Vinnatur (an Italian natural wine association) to
analyze the ambient yeast culture that develops in our cellar and to
identify the best plants for some experiments next year.