Harvesting rosé grapes – the hot and cold of it

No one can doubt the impact of climate on crop production and we are lucky in Provence that, by the standards of many other wine regions, climate variations from year to year are not usually enormous. The combination of low summer rainfalls and the drying effect of Mistral winds that often follow, mean that Provence rarely suffers from many of the classic devastating diseases that can affect grapes, such as rot and mildew.

Yet in the six years we have lived here we have witnessed considerable vintage variation, different harvest timings and two short harvests – due to rainfall and hail during sensitive stages of wine flowering and early grape development.  Harvest in this area usually takes place from the end of August to the end of September, mainly during a 3 week period and it’s beginning is dictated by the relative heat and sun-load of the vintage year.  Last year was a highly atypical late ripening year, where harvesting in most vineyards started only in the second or third week of September and some of our partner vineyards went on well into October.  This year the harvest will start very early, probably during the last few weeks of August if the weather continues to be very hot and dry. In fact most of the grapes this year are likely to be pressed before last year’s harvest had even started.

So far the 2015 vintage looks like high quality and decent yield, which should result in a good year for Provence, with full flavours and balanced ripening due to the sunny and dry weather and a bout of rainfall that came just at the perfect time at the end of June.   The downside of a very hot summer can be higher alcohol and lower levels of acidity, which may require some additional blending and adjusting acidity in the winery to ensure the wines retain their crisp and refreshing undertone.

The 2014 vintage had the problem in reverse, with a good size crop, but late ripening and high acidity levels because we lacked the usual warm weather during July.  We take account of these vintage variations during our blending and ensure that we cancel out some of the more pronounced differences by adjusting our blends and choosing from different parcels or wineries to make a wine that is consistent in quality and style year on year.

We will keep you posted when our partner vineyards get started harvesting their precious crop in the cool of the night to minimize the risk of premature fermentation and to ensure the grapes arrive chilled, ready to be temperature controlled pressed and macerated.

It is certainly an uplifting and exciting sight seeing them all queue up at the winery dropping off their loads in the early hours of the morning, which marks the birth of a new and unique Millésime (vintage).  In the meantime we have to hope that the weather continues to play ball and that our furry friends, the sangliers (wild boar) don’t get to the perfectly ripe grapes before we do.  Cross your fingers and with a bit of luck Mirabeau 2015 should be seriously delicious.

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