As we farmers in France say, “Trees never reach the heavens”, and after several incredibly favorable vintages that were easy to vinify, the golden series came to a brutal end.
2021 was a challenge from start to finish. If we came out the other side doing so well, it’s thanks to the tremendous investment and energy of our team members, to whom I’m so very grateful.
In the midst of the COVID pandemic, this entire year was spent under the threat of not having enough people to do the job on time. The difficulty in bringing together enough pruners turned out to be a blessing in disguise, since the vines that were pruned late (too late) had not yet budded on April 8th.
In the early morning hours of that day, with most of the vineyard having well-developed shoots, the thermometer read -3 ° C. The damage to the plots in the plains was terrible — up to 100% of the buds destroyed. Fortunately, the damage was limited or even zero on our sloping hillside vineyards. For the first time since my arrival on the estate (1962), the frost was to have a significant impact on the quantity of harvest. We were unfortunately not alone in this case, the damage was significant across a very large part of France’s vineyards.
A dry spring and summer followed with moderate temperatures, avoiding the parasitic pressure that the vineyards to the north were under, victims of a particularly rainy summer. Given the earlier frost event, the harvest promised to be rather late, but also heterogeneous. After the destruction of the primary buds by frost, the regrowth was bearing grape bunches that were 4 to 5 weeks behind those spared. Determining the “ideal” maturity and therefore the harvest dates was a constant headache.
We started harvesting the whites in the last week of August, noting very low yields but with very good balance, and in particular, acidity well above average. This year, we’re letting some of our white barrels go through malolactic fermentation, and I am convinced that 2021 will be a great year for whites.
We continued in early September with the Syrahs, as well as the Grenaches destined to make rosés. Here again the wines are showing very good acidity and real potential for color. It was practically impossible to make rosé with Syrah as the juices were too colorful on arrival to the winery.
Then on September 14th, we suffered a strong “Cevenol episode”. The phenomenon happens when the warm and humid air from the Mediterranean comes up against the Cevennes, where it mixes with cold air at high altitudes. The clouds are blocked by the mountains. So, storms can last for several hours, causing major damage. In our case, 180 mm of rain in a handful of hours poured down on our vineyards around Caissargues.
The harvest had to be interrupted because the grapes were soaked, access roads to the plots were eroded, and the bearing capacity of the soil was insufficient for our tractors. So once again we had to patiently wait, observe and make tough decisions. While the vineyards and their grapes would dry off with time, the grape clusters’ skins would become more and more fragile. Favoring the integrity of the clusters over absolute maturity, we brought in the grapes at a level of maturity less advanced than usual. Less sugar means less alcohol; thus we have lightened our extraction protocols so as not to overly draw out tannins.
Still under cap, this year’s reds display beautiful dark and intense colors, and very fresh fruit with a lot of finesse. Mastery of blending and aging will be decisive in expressing the quintessence of a vintage which I believe will be greatly appreciated for its accessibility, its moderate levels of alcohol, and its lovely freshness.
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