At the end of September in California, I picked up the phone and started dialing our producers abroad to see what information I could gather on the progress of their 2014 harvests. Here is my report.
With all the disturbing news of heavy rain and cool weather in Bordeaux, I was quite concerned about Chateau les Justices and Respide-Medeville. But according to Julie Gonet-Medeville, they harvested superb quality white grapes between September 10 and 17 this year. Picking of the reds started October 3 at Chateau des Eyrins and Respide-Medeville. It has been a long time since their harvest was in October.
That brings us to Champagne, where Julie’s husband, Xavier Gonet, harvested the perfect grapes promising an outstanding vintage in his opinion. The father and son Coquillette are also extremely pleased with quantity and quality. Christian, now 84, is more prudent in his enthusiasm about a great vintage, yet this year is quite happy.
Let’s move to Burgundy. Cyril Audoin, who just inaugurated his brand new winery, started in mid-September under perfect weather conditions and with beautifully ripe grapes. Same goes for Arnaud Mortet in Gevrey-Chambertin as well as Lalou Bize Leroy, who could not contain her enthusiasm. She started harvest on September 10. With her large group of grape pickers, she got all of her grand cru into their respective wooden vats within four days.
Moving into Cote de Beaune where a hail storm destroyed many of the vineyards of Volnay, Andre Porcheret lost half his crop of Meursault Santenots situated on the Volnay side, and a third of his crop in Monthelie and Volnay Champans. He claimed that the acidity is high but I reminded him that for years we had low acidity around 5.5 and everyone complained! It seems that the vines have now come back to normal and the malolactic fermentation will take care of the rest. The premiers crus of Meursault suffered greatly but not the Villages. In Chassagne-Montrachet, Thibault Morey is thrilled with his reds and whites, and relieved to have a normal crop.
In Cote Chalonnaise, Pascal Danjean Berthoux was also quite pleased and while his crop was less than usual, he is waiting for the malolactic before making a final judgment on the quality of the vintage. So far, he says that it shows a lot of fruit and good color.
The Maconnais area had the best weather of all other regions. In spite of the wet weather and overcast skies that lingered until mid-August, warm temperatures in mid-seventies and sunshine took over to accomplish a miracle. The Cornins started harvesting on September 10 and could not be more pleased with this new vintage.
In the Rhone valley, Gilles Robin was harvesting on October 1, sorting out the damaged bunches that had suffered from a very severe hailstorm in July. But again, the good September weather and the mistral winds saved the crop, although down in volume roughly 20 percent. Calling Emmanuel Reynaud on October 1, he was just unloading the first batch of grapes at Chateau de Fonsalette and could not say more than: “beautiful grapes and the mistral is blowing”. This is reassuring! Domaine du Pegau was also in the middle of harvest come this time, taking a day off on Sunday to allow the pickers to rest.
Going across to Cahors, a very pleased Pascal Verhaegue had started his harvest in the last days of September.
In the Loire, Marie Luce Metaireau was desperate with constant rain and cold temperature leading up to harvest. However a blazing sun beginning September 1 enabled her to harvest under good condition September 12. She predicts a very fruity, elegant Muscadet this year.
Going back up to Alsace, a very upset Remy Gresser gave me some disturbing news in the middle of his harvest. Apparently, there is a Japanese pest called Drosophila suzukii that has started causing serious damage to the grapes in northern Germany. As the President of the Alsace wine bureau, Remy had warned the authorities to pay attention and to engage research to find a way to kill the pest that is reproducing every 3 days. Nothing was done and apparently Drosophila suzukii has already been seen in Burgundy and Bordeaux. So far, there is no treatment available. For now, Remy and crew have to scrutinize each bunch in the vineyard.
Following my conversation with Remy, I decided to call two wineries that I could not reach during their harvest:
First, Bruno Clavelier had lost thirty to fifty percent of his crop after the hail storm that devastated Volnay, Beaune, Savigny and went as far as Chambolle-Musigny but stopped at Gevrey-Chambertin. I mentioned Drophyla suzukii. Bruno admitted he had seen the problem, mostly with new clone Pinot Noir grapes, less on older vines. He confirmed that there is no cure so far. His crop has been affected, with quantities ranging between 15 and 35 hectoliters per hectare, depending on the vineyard. However, millerandage was a positive factor as the grapes have a thicker skin to resist the pest. Then if you remove the leaves, it is more difficult for the pest to attack the grapes.
Emmanuel Rouget started his harvest on September 17. His average is between 32 to 35 hectoliters per hectare. On the subject of Drosophila suzukii, he admitted some of his vineyards have been affected. In fact, Drosophila coming from the northern part of France has already affected Marsannay and Gevrey and is working its way south.
But as Bruno Clavelier mentioned, no one wants to talk about it to avoid panic and making it worse than it is at this point. Nevertheless, it has to be addressed so that scientists can activate their research.
Altogether, the 2014 harvest will produce very good wine and now everyone is busy transferring the new wines into barrel. Time will tell!