Harvest Report 2014: Maison M. Chapoutier


From the winery:

“When we say that every year is different and that each vintage has its own specificities, nothing can be more true than in 2014 …We now look forward for the results with much curiosity and apprehension. On the first day of the harvest, we already talk about an atypical vintage.”

“January 1st, 2014: In the south, we wished an Happy New Year on the sunny terraces. This already presaged a mild winter. We were not wrong, after 15 days of relative cold mid-December. January and February were soft with mild temperatures. The pruning began on January 18th (at the time of Steinerian crystallization) under a rarely observed sun in our northern sector.
March: As we see the first flowers of apricots blooming along the Rhone a month earlier than usual, we wondered what it would be in the vineyards. First bets went for an early vintage: 2003, anyone? Vines show their first tears. Then budding happens around March 20th, confirming that we were three weeks in advance. From north to south, it was the same. April, May: Let the season starts! Plants grow, flowers appear and despite a small episode of cold temperatures, everything went well; we can even observe that 2014 could bring a great volume of grapes. In Châteauneuf du Pape, we will wait after the fruit set to say Hallelujah! In the South, the grapes looked promising but Grenache is the variety that may be able to deprive us of a large part of its harvest because of coulure… but this time, everything was allright. And the fruit set was going very well. May, June: There is a lack of water, no spring rain, we began to worry about water stress. Vines grow, grapes are developping nicely, it’s hot, dry, it’s paradise …. But we remain vigilant as such tranquility during the vegetative stage is unusual. The vineyard is beautiful, healthy and everything goes well. Too well?

During the month of June, we are concerned: It’s too hot and there is a lack of water. From north to south, from Ampuis to Latour de France in Roussillon, we monitored in order that our vines do not stress. Considering it could be like in 2003, we shifted vacation dates and we asked everyone to be available on August 18th, just in case … For some appellations we wondered if we should not set up an exceptional irrigation plan. At Latour de France, some plots are under water stress, but also young vines are suffering in Châteauneuf. On Mirabel, our wine estate in Ardèche, basalt and limestone reminded us how hard they are with plots showing some symptoms of water stress. We decided not to produce our famous “Coufis”, our “vin de paille” Viognier de l’Ardèche, due to concerns about the stress of the vines. We knew that we had to remain vigilant. Early July, we saw early scalding symptoms on Mirabel, Tain l’Hermitage and Ampuis. Then, we softened the effects of this heat with comfrey, chamomile or yarrow teas. Rains started on July 14th from north to south and it was the beginning of the time for the vintner to accompany his vines. As rains continued alternating with sunny days, we set up a biodynamic treatment planning: rhubarb, buckthorn and clay to dry the vines. On July 25th, part of the team was leaving for vacation. On Saturday, July 26th, we did not even have time to pack our bags that a hailstorm started around 2:00 PM. “Emergency” treatments with clay were immediately used. On Monday morning, we finished all the plots and then followed a week of rain. For August, it was announced that it would rain nearly twice as usual at the same period of time. And it’s true. Grapes grow … and continue to grow. We topped vines. On August 15th, started mildew with a rare energy. We were on high alert. We pruned to clean up the environment. But heat and rain brought our “tiny enemies”. Pressure still went up a notch. So we decided to go for prevention, some grapes were eliminated and consequently we cleaned up the vineyard, thinking that we should continue because we were still far from maturity.

Elders have always said that September “made” the vintage. As an example, August 1989 remains the coldest ever but September made it a legendary vintage. From north to south, we pruned, we removed the leaves. At Latour de France, people looked at us with curiosity: “Are they really removing the leaves?”. Usually dry, sometimes too dry, this season was wet and natives were
unprepared. So, for us, Rhone northerners at heart, we applied in Roussillon the same methods as in Tain l’Hermitage. There was no time to lose: it had to mature, especially since the harvest was promising. On August 25th, the beautiful weather started again. A beautiful and warm sunshine. Early September, 30 degrees during the day. Our prophylaxis work shows results The vineyard is healthy and the grapes ripen at their own pace, with an exceptional sun. We are not anymore ahead of schedule but, on the hill of Hermitage, we can admire the beautiful golden color of the Marsanne grapes and smell the nice aromas of the grapes in our vineyards of Méal and Chante Alouette. In the Clos, at Saint-Joseph, we can imagine the power that will come out of these berries whose skin becomes thinner. We turn, we return, we observe, we monitor and tonight we enjoy a break. We are blessed by this weather and we want it to last because there are still three weeks to go. Tonight, we hope that everything will finish with a happy end. Our vigilance and responsiveness made us getting out of a complex situation. Monday, September 8th, 2014, let’s start! We start this surprising vintage with the grapes of our white Méal, degrees around 14.5 ° are expected. This is the beginning of the last stage, we are ready and serene thanks to the work that we have put in place for obtaining healthy grapes. This vintage 2014 is really surprising!


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