August 23, 2021

Harvest Report 2021

Frost, drought and cool weather is not the summary of a perfect growing season, then throw in a few wildfires and other natural surprises and this completes a challenging year. The latter were not at Unang but close enough to be atmospheric. And yet, the resulting wines are full of promise, I shall try to explain how.

Frost was the big story, it hit in early April with all major wine regions in France, and Spain and Italy impacted too. It is extremely rare to have such a widespread weather event. As a result, Europe was forecast to have its smallest grape harvest since the war (for the second time in the past 5 years). The night of the frost there was a large fire (c.100 acres) higher up the Nesque Valley, I wonder if the smoke from this gave us any protection. Certainly, plenty of fusty, old bales were burnt that night to try and keep the frost at bay but the cold (-5°/-6°C) was too marked for that to have much impact. Pruning late is what saved us.

We had a cool spring and a dry but not hot summer – with temperatures in the high 20s rather than mid-30s. Actually; rather nice for northern Europeans. Typically, when we do get really hot weather the vines, the Syrah in particular, just shut down to conserve their water resources and don’t ripen, so this yearoffered them an uninterrupted run. The six months before harvest (March to August inclusive) gave us 218mm of rain. Following a dry-ish winter. In September and October we had 190mm. At Lunel, by Nimes, they had 240mm of rain in three hours on September 15th, those are crazy stats even as the whole region was buffeted by storms, including hail, that week. This was one of three storm systems to pass through the southern Rhone during mid-September to early October. The unlucky domaines had +450mm of rainfall in this period. These ever more extreme weather events make the farmer’s life trickier.

At Unang, we had our only proper storm in early October (bringing 90mm of rain), followed by the Mistral (the strong, cold, dry wind from the north) which dried everything out, and then three fine weeks of beautiful autumnal weather. Prior to the storm we took excess leaves off the vines so that the fruit was well aired to help it dry out and avoid rot setting in. The nights went down to 4°C which brought on any ripening still required. This makes me feel the year favoured those in cooler spots who did not rush to bring in the crop. We finished picking on 14th October, so a little later than usual.

Our figs were three weeks late (early September at Unang), the latest cherries were picked in the second half of July rather than the end of June (second half of May at Unang), with much local comment that the growing season was returning to the norms of the 1980s. Many producers lacked both fruits due to the frost – a good case can be made for the old-style farming practices in the region where a broad selection of crops were produced on each farm rather than the current specialization and perceived efficiency of one main crop. Eggs and baskets come to mind…

I believe that we are well placed in our cooler site generally, and this year is no different. We normally harvest well into October, and so in later years will be pushed to the second or third week in the month. It is difficult to be much later than this as nature sends out all its signals that this is the end of the season, and night temperatures often drop towards zero. This is giving the vines a clear message that the growing season is coming to an end and to finish ripening. If you are normally picking in early September, and in a late year pick two-weeks later, the vines are still not getting the same strength of signal from nature that it’s time to wrap things up.

The impact of all of this on the wines seems to be lower yields (we are about 25% down, with many domaines 50% down), lower alcohol levels and slightly higher acidity. The levels of concentration also seem a touch up on last year. So, at this early stage, we are feeling pretty upbeat. The last of the sugars have now turned to alcohol, and the first of the secondary (malo-lactic) fermentations are under way, so the wines are progressing nicely.

We have started some work on our carbon footprint (in hand with AOC Ventoux who are impressively putting climate at the centre of their activities) and there is much more to be done. The initial results have thrown up surprises, such as the production of our glass bottles accounting for 30% of our total energy consumption and 40% of our greenhouse gas emissions (rising to almost 50% when all packaging is considered).

We are fortunate to have 50 hectares of forest surrounding the vineyard which offsets much of our footprint (and may make us carbon neutral), but this first appraisal has identified where to focus on reducing that footprint, such as letting more grass grow between the rows of vines. More to come on this.

One nearby producer extended the list of challenges this year by reporting that he turned up to pick his grapes – old vine Carignan – to find that someone had already picked them. Such stolen grapes are (rare, and) perhaps a sign of widespread low yields, and so limited supply in 2021.

Wolf update – we had two sheep taken by wolves on the estate, both within 100m of the chateau, during the winter. Any sheep that gets separated from the herd, and the protection of the shepherd and his ever-bigger dogs, is living dangerously. Irritatingly, a heron ate the fish in our pond – I had never seen one here before, so the biodiversity situation remains dynamic.

James King
Château Unang, Ventoux, Rhone
November 9, 2021

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Our Champagne is doing well; it is changing colors. The harvest is now over, and the wines are following their vinification. In the end, we harvested the fixed quantities (10,000 kg/ha). It seems that the Côte des Blancs was somewhat spared by the complicated 2021 climatic conditions, unlike certain regions where the sanitary situation was more difficult like the Marne Valley.

We took our time to harvest the grapes, so the harvest lasted 14 days. Indeed, we stopped the harvest twice in order to make the most of the sun’s rays and to allow the north faces of Cramant (Fromattes, Les Porgeons) a greater enrichment of sugar. The result is conclusive–the wines appear to be promising as they are vinifying.

The total acidity contents are high, but the malic acid concentration is also high. A malolactic fermentation will be controlled on some of our wines in order to refine them. We will block the malolactic fermentation on other wines in order to keep the expression of the terroir. We will see.

Gilles Lancelot
Champagne Lancelot Pienne, Cramant
November 8, 2021

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Harvest wrapped up last week but vinification is still ongoing. We’re happy with the quality but of course dissatisfied by the yield. So far for the alcoholic fermentation the wines aren’t turning out too strong- back to the 11 – 12.5% standard. Aromas and notes seem to be quite nice but we’ll really be able to tell once the wines are filtered (more specifically the reds).

I believe I mentioned this in another email, but we unfortunately were unable to make blanc sec this year due to just simply not having enough Chenin. All of the Chenin that we were able to produce, have gone straight to one of our Côteaux du Layon cuvées. Overall a bit disheartening, but we are happy with what we do have!

Kimberly Lecointre
Lecointre, Anjou, Loire Valley
October 28, 2021

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Still harvest here… today and tomorrow are the last days. Not easy this year… even my father never experienced such a vintage. We had to sort everywhere, and sometimes in plots where the crop was already very low. Gewurz and PN are ridiculously low, PB and PG are better, Riesling is okay (ouf!).

The level of ripeness is normal, no stress for picking this year. And we were helped by a beautiful indian summer. Juices ferment quickly. They have great (high) acidity, and will need a decent ageing.

Mélanie Pfister
Domaine Mélanie Pfister, Alsace
October 28, 2021

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To watch a montage video of harvest 2021 at Domaine Joseph Voillot click here.

Etienne Chaix
Domaine Joseph Voillot, Côte de Beaune
October 26, 2021

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Elise Villiers' Vézelay in the mistHere things are more quiet after all the work I’ve done during harvest and vinification. As expected the crop is 30% less than 2020. There was a bit of work in the cellar as there were diseases in the grapes but 2021 will be surprising.

Laure Jambon-Mareau
Domaine du Pavillon de Chavannes, Côte de Brouilly, Beaujolais
October 21, 2021

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Elise Villiers' Vézelay in the mistVintage 2021 will be a year to forget: 80% loss in the vines tied to the frost and a rainy summer making the vines susceptible to mildew and oïdium. Pictured is Vézelay emerging from the morning mist, a spectacle that gives heart to the work.

Elise Villiers
Domaine Elise Villiers, Vézelay
October 20, 2021, Burgundy

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Harvest was very cold and cloudy this year, similar to the spring and summer we mainly had…But the quality is good, sanitary state of the vine was good. This year we will have a low alcohol level. Which is not bad news as a lot of people look for low alcohol wines!

Lena Desury
Domaine Estrade, Gascony
October 19, 2021

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We’ve lost around 60%. That’s wine growing… and we knew it, but it’s been worse than we thought. We made a very strong selection but, of course, saving quality we don’t produce as much wine as we want to.

We’ve been lucky… Many others lost 75% and some others close to us lost all and do not harvest at all 😢

Grapes were good and we tried some “new” winemaking tricks this year: a small part of Nebbiolo Sandrin is produced with entire grapes (no destemming /crushing), on Bramaterra we made a “cold maceration” with dry ice of 24 hours before fermentation. Rosé has been divided in two masses and made with separate fermentations.

Anyway, harvest is always a big party and we got lots of guests helping us (there wasn’t so much to pick up so we all drink and eat a lot!). We also have guests from Ireland. One of our agents here is half Irish… Quite peculiar to see Irish people harvesting 😂🍀

Pietro
Cantina Gaggiano, Alto Piemonte, Italy
October 18, 2021

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The vinification is finished, and this week Etienne with the team will take the wines down into barrels in the cellar.

The harvest is really low in volume but the quality will be top. The wines will have a beautiful finesse, a beautiful color and beautiful, very supple tannins. The wines will have to be left to rest for a few weeks before fully appreciating them.

Jean-Pierre Charlot
Domaine Joseph Voillot, Côte de Beaune
October 18, 2021

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Really happy with the fruit we have in the tanks now, far exceeding where I thought we might be – just not that much of it. These past sunny weeks, with lows of 4 or 5° C have brought the maturity together nicely and the cool fruit has made for slower fermentations too. I think the late harvesters have won out this year.

James King
Château Unang, Ventoux
October 15, 2021

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We have just finished harvesting at the estate, and I wanted to inform you of the difficulties encountered. Very severe spring frosts with losses on the branches between 60 and 90%, mildew in July and August… I’ll spare you the details that have punctuated our daily lives since April!

Quantities are ultimately mediocre as we expected, with less than half a harvest. Fortunately the qualities are good, our white juice is between 12 and 12.5° because the plots were in a very high-quality sanitary setting!! The reds have slightly lower degrees, but overall they are very satisfactory in view of the climatic context. All of this is slowly fermenting… and Thierry works every day to ensure that we continue to enjoy this 2021 vintage!

Outlook for 2022: Our stock of whites (all whites combined) will be sufficient to make up for the shortage, and supply you normally throughout 2022. We are still currently on the 2019 vintage in Touraine Sauvignon, which we have blended and refreshed with each bottling since the end of spring to limit its development and keep the fruit fresh. We will most likely switch to the 2020 vintage in November, and we will have to increase our price.

For the reds, it looks more complicated. We have not been able to store as much as we would have liked. We have reduced and redesigned the range, and will tell you more in the coming months about availability.

An increase (between 0.35 and 0.50 cents depending on the vintage) is imperative to enable us to cope with the price increases of our suppliers and our structural costs and to ensure the sustainability of our domaine. It will apply to Sauvignon at the change of vintage, and on January 1 for the rest of the range.

Our Biodynamic trials started in the spring and have fully satisfied us, and perhaps even helped in this difficult context this year. For information, our wines are already vinified in the spirit of the Demeter specifications. We will therefore continue to lead our vineyard in this direction, and are considering Demeter certification for the next vintage.

Sophie Chardon
Domaine de l’Aumonier, Touraine
October 13, 2021

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About vintage 2021: April frost reduced production on the Côtes du Rhone and a little in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. The three big rains in September meant we had to harvest urgently because of moisture.

But the fruits I brought into the cellar were beautiful, and I think it will be a good vintage, not too alcoholic (only +14), but well made.

I finished harvest on 25th of September, a lot of rain on the 27th (more than 120mm on this day), this in addition to 140mm during the two preceding weeks.

Alcoholic fermentation is ended now, the period for maceration has not begun yet.

Jérôme Mathieu
Domaine de Saje, Châteauneuf-du-Pape
October 10, 2021

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As far as the harvest goes, we were able to finish last Friday before the arrival of torrential rain. The volume is slightly better than what we were expecting (70% loss rather than the 75% predicted) and the quality seems to be there.

Baptiste Meyniel
Domaine Claude Branger, Muscadet Sèvre et Maine
October 4, 2021

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At the end of April, we were all in shock from the terrible frost and really scared for the rest of this vintage. We did not take into account the strength of the vines to be able to overcome such a climatic event. Indeed, with the addition of a very complicated, rainy, windy year where the sun had great difficulty coming out, we saw grapes appear where there was little hope of seeing them.

I had to work with even more care than other years, going back and forth in each plot in order to try at all costs to save this child. To say that we have succeeded, despite the pressure of rarely seen disease (mildew, oidium, and finally major rot), we can say: YES!

Where we thought to make 5 hectoliters of wine, we harvested 10, where we thought to do 10, we harvested 20, and so on to arrive at a half-harvest. In other words, we are relieved and almost satisfied, knowing that we will not be doing all our cuvee parcels in Chablis as we feared. Our biggest loss is on the Chablis Premier Cru “Vaucoupin” with a harvest of around -70%!

We are reassured about this vintage which gave us so many fears. The quality should be there, perhaps a little in the style of the 2014 vintage.

Didier & Pascal Picq
Gilbert Picq et ses Fils, Chablis
October 1, 2021

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The quality is looking good, thankfully! Silver lining of frost and less yield means more nutrients are sent to the grapes that are present on the vines, so they’re more concentrated in flavor profile. We didn’t have a hot summer for a change, so potential alcohol is back to normal percentages for our region (11-12% on average as opposed to 13-14% in the last few years). We still have all of the vinification ahead of us, of course! We just pressed the Pineau d’Aunis after its 5 days of carbonic maceration, and our cabernet franc is currently macerating. Unfortunately due to the lower yield, we don’t have enough grapes to make any dry whites this year so our new Chenin project will have to wait until the next vintage. We only have enough Chenin to dedicate to our Coteaux du Layon. The Chenin parcels took the frost pretty hard, I believe loss was the most significant for us for this particular variety.

Kimberly Lecointre
Lecointre, Anjou, Loire Valley
October 1, 2021

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Roblin harvestAt the moment, we have nice weather and it’s fine for the harvest! We hope to finish tomorrow before rain comes back on Saturday and Sunday.

The photo was taken this morning with the sun rising and Sancerre in the background.

Annick Roblin
Matthias et Emile Roblin, Sancerre
September 30, 2021

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Quinta do Tedo harvestWe called harvest on August 31- that’s slightly earlier than usual and nearly a month earlier than 100+ years ago! Back then, producers cherished overripe grapes’ high sugar content and alcohol potential; today, we seek freshness and balance from perfectly ripe grapes.

Harvest was stop-and-go as we waited for the prime time to pick our different vineyard parcels and 18+ native grape varieties between rain and sun over the next two weeks. On September 14th, we celebrated the last pick with our harvest team. 2021’s abundant yields of healthy grapes will make for delicious Ports and Douro DOC wines!

Odile Bouchard
Quinta do Tedo, Douro Valley, Portugal
September 30, 2021

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Tomorrow we will go back to harvesting. Yes, I said ‘go back’ because we decided to stop for a few days for the Chardonnay grapes to really profit from the sun’s rays. The quality of the juice that we have right now is promising: the Chardonnay grapes with an eastern exposure are really healthy without a fault. In the next few days we will harvest the Chardonnay grapes with a northern exposure which are always later…we’ll see.

Gilles Lancelot
Champagne Lancelot Pienne, Cramant
September 26, 2021

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2021 will never be remembered as a great vintage… not because of the quality but because of the quantity. Grapes have been damaged early, in July, and this is “good” because we do not have to face mold problems, saving part of them. Grapes that were never damaged by hail look pretty good, sweet, and big. After all, we expect to make a good harvest in the first 10 days of October even if we lost part of the production.

Pietro
Cantina Gaggiano, Alto Piemonte, Italy
September 26, 2021

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Lilbert's Butte de SarronWe’ve started the harvest. Nice weather for the moment, no problem. Quality harvest I hope. And…not so many people can say that…..good quantity 👍👍👍👍👍👍👍👍 [Pictured is dawn’s moon over the Butte de Sarron, Cramant.]

Bertrand Lilbert
Champagne Lilbert-Fils, Cramant
September 24, 2021

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Chevalerie grapesBeautiful grapes–look at the photo! We will start harvesting at the beginning of October, and we hope the sun will continue shining. We had a mildew attack but we like sorting grapes on the table!

Laurie Caslot
Domaine de la Chevalerie, Bourgueil, Loire Valley
September 22, 2021

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The weather is very humid since Sunday. We will begin to harvest tomorrow, September 22. The sun is supposed to be back then.

Jean-Luc Mouillard
Domaine Jean-Luc Mouillard, Jura
September 21, 2021

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We started harvesting this morning, just the Meuniers in the Vallée de la Marne, a small yield and ripe. We will wait several days to harvest the Chardonnays of the Côte des Blancs and the Coteaux Sud d’Epernay. There’s no urgency–the state of the grapes remains good even if the weather is not really sunny.

Gilles Lancelot
Champagne Lancelot Pienne
September 16, 2021

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Here’s a picture of the grapes in Bramaterra after defoliage. Cleaning the branches around the grapes from leaves is a work I’ve always loved. After months of work the grapes finally appear ready to be picked. We’ll harvest between the end of September (Rosato, Sandrin and Gattinara) and the first 2 weeks of October (Leandro and Bramaterra).

2021– it’s been a hell of a vintage: frost, hail and then drought. But … we’re stubborn, so some way some how we’ll bring home 90/100 quintals of good grapes. 35/40% less than we usually bring home. I talked with Marco and Cristiano: we all agree on producing a very small amount of Bramaterra and Gattinara this year; we’ll focus on Sandrìn, Leandro and Rosato. It’s not the right vintage for long-aged wines. After all, we’re lucky: many other wineries close to us will never pick anything this year.

Pietro
Cantina Gaggiano, Alto Piemonte, Italy
September 15, 2021

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Here everything is good. We have been harvesting for a week, so the days are very busy! The harvest is superb, and I am happy to be harvesting on time which I hope will keep the degree levels reasonable!

Carole Salen
Domaine les Bastides, Côteaux d’Aix-en-Provence
September 15, 2021

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We are in the middle of the harvest and the weather is not very nice (raining since yesterday), but for now the quality is beautiful and (ouf!!) the rosé and the whites are already in.

Françoise Ollier
Domaine Ollier-Taillefer, Faugères, Languedoc
September 15, 2021

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Mouillard harvestWe are waiting for the harvest which is going to be very small this year thanks to the frost and the vagaries of the weather which favored mildew. A very difficult year to manage, especially organically. We expect to start the harvest around September 20th.

Annie & Jean-Luc Mouillard
Domaine Jean-Luc Mouillard, Jura
September 9, 2021

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As far as the 2021 harvest, it is more complex but also more interesting. I made the rounds of the vineyards last week to taste the berries. One can sense already the fruit and the finesse of the Chavannes grapes even if the acidity is still present. We have had a few diseases—mildew and oidium with the rain—but the harvest is now secured. We are luckier than other growers because we avoided all the natural catastrophes this year, frost and hail. The 2021 volume will not be affected. We will begin harvesting about the 24th or 25th of September in Indian summer. They are calling for rain at the end of the week. I am keeping my fingers crossed that there won’t be any thunderstorms.

Laure Jambon-Mareau
Domaine du Pavillon de Chavannes, Côte de Brouilly, Beaujolais
September 6, 2021

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Voillot harvestThe season is over and we are now trying to determine the best date to start our future harvest.
This has been a special year in many ways.

Despite a cold, dry winter, we observed a relatively early break-up following a week of high temperature between 15 and 18°C in early March. The earliest vines were heavily impacted by 3 consecutive days of frost on 5, 6 and 7 April, with temperatures around -7°C and snow on the morning of 6 April.

For our Domaine, the damage is significant mainly on the vines of Meursault with losses approaching 80%, we lost at least 60% on the Volnay 1er cru les Caillerets, 50% in Volnay 1er cru les Champans, Pommard 1er cru les Rugiens, Pézerolles, Epenots, certainly 80% in Beaune 1er cru les Coucherias, and 40% in Volnay 1er les Fremiets.
The vines located in the appellations Burgundy, Volnay and Pommard vieilles vignes have seemed less severely affected because of the mismatch at bud break, and a less sensitivity to negative temperatures.
To cope with the shock, the vines affected by this frost episode vegetated for a long time. We had to wait 10 to 15 days and a more favorable weather before seeing a vegetative restart, while the vines located in the lower ones continued to grow.

June was a very challenging month for teams and organizations. To catch up with the delays, the vine deprived of most of these inflorescences pushed at a very fast and very intense pace, so we had to redouble our effort to contain and try to organize the branches in our training system.

The flowering of the 1er cru took place in mid-June , thanks to a mild weather, which was not the case a week later on the vines located further down the côte where cooler temperatures caused a lot of leakage. This year was also for us and a good part of Eastern France very wet, we recorded an increase of more than 60% in the volume of precipitation compared to an average year.

This moisture has been very favorable to the appearance of diseases, including the return of mildew after several years of absence. The pressure of mildew and powdery mildew was very intense this year. With repetitions of almost daily rains, we had to use strategy to fight against these diseases before they settle down, and slow their development once present.

The mid-veraison stage was observed around 15 August, accompanied by brief but strong heat, causing sunburn damage. We are now at the beginning of September, the veraison ends in the late sectors. The first samples used to monitor maturities are encouraging. The weather of the next few days is pretty good, the sun is back for now, some rains are to be feared but the cumulus announced seems to decrease as the days go on.

Our attention is now focused on the few foci of botrytis that we were able to observe in the vineyard, if the weather remains good, the impact will be limited.

We have not yet defined the exact date of the harvest, we think to start between the 15 and the 18 September. We will try to find the best balance between sugars and acidity, and the best compromised between botrytis and weather.

The game is not yet won, and we really feel like we’re playing the vintage at every moment. If the results meet our expectations, and we cross our fingers, we will have learned a lot from this year, and we will come out of it with great humility. Once again, nature shows us that it is she who decides what happens to us and that we can only try to follow her as best we can.

I will keep you informed of the first pruning shears, accompanied, I hope with beautiful images.

We hope to see you very soon.

Etienne Chaix
Domaine Joseph Voillot, Côte de Beaune
September 3, 2021

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This year will be a bit unprecedented because we will begin the harvest in Languedoc next week, almost two weeks ahead of Burgundy. And this 2021 vintage will be of excellent quality with good volume for Languedoc. Therefore la Closerie des Lys and our Côté Sud have a bright future ahead of them!

Romain Bourgeois
Closerie des Lys, Languedoc
August 31, 2021

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The weather is much better since mid-July but on average colder than the past years so we should not harvest before mid September, which was very common 6 years ago and before. We can make a qualitative vintage and the quantity is good so far thanks to our fights against frost and mildew. Though I don’t like to give any forecast before harvest…

I was in Burgundy last weekend and some winemakers told me they stopped being organic just for this year due to the terrible conditions. At least, our wines are still going to be 100% biodynamic this year 🙂

Alex Gendrier
Domaine des Huards, Cheverny
August 18, 2021

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We are expecting a nice harvest at Mas d’Amile both in quantity and quality, we went through the heavy frost episode of April the 8th with little damages thanks to late pruning (taille tôt ou taille tard, mais taille en mars ;)), and although weather was a pig in July we are also spared by mildew so far. We expect the harvest to be delayed 10 days to 2 weeks compared to 2020, but the last 3 days were extremely hot, dry and windy while the nights were quite cool, so an exact date remains very difficult to forecast.

Amélie d’Hurlaborde
Mas d’Amile, Terrasses du Larzac
August 16, 2021

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We have had the chance in recent years to have very beautiful vintages, all very different, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, with very nice balances but at very different levels, 2017: very attractive, very easy, accessible and immediate, 2018: more flesh, gourmet, explosive, 2019: very silky, elegant, lace, 2020: powerful freshness, very flattering.

The weather has become more lenient and consistent with the season. We had high temperatures this week, up to 32°C, and we started to see some symptoms of burning on clusters exposed to the setting sun.

We expect to start the harvest around the 15th of September, and we hope that botrytis and powdery mildew will not progress too much until then.

I don’t know what will happen in 2021, I know that we will miss volumes in the 1er cru of Meursault, Caillerets, Champans, Rugiens because of the spring freeze. I do not know whether the diseases will progress and whether the burning of last days will be problematic for the future. I do not know whether the hail will allow us to enjoy the remaining harvest, and I do not know whether there is enough water left in the soil for the vines to ripen these fruits in the best possible way. But I know that we did everything we could and used all the means and tools we had at our disposal to ensure that the vintage took place in the best possible conditions for the vine.

Despite the presence of disease, I sometimes find myself smiling when I walk the ranks of certain parcels. The veraison has started well and it seems to me that clusters are more beautiful and more important than last year for the moment. A culture is said to be seen beautiful only once a year, I think it’s time. The road is still long, and I hope to keep smiling as long as possible.

Etienne Chaix
Domaine Joseph Voillot, Côte de Beaune
August 15, 2021