Harvest Report 2014 by James

image2014 – We had a good wet winter with 310mm rain for January and February (plus 132mm in December 2013) filling up all the aquifers.
All the wet weather also kept the temperatures relatively mild so vine growth was two weeks ahead in the Spring. But after a dry April/May/June the rain came back with an unusual 53mm in July (up to a whopping 200mm in some villages in the Rhone valley).

This atypical summer weather meant our treatments had to be spot on as there was high disease pressure, particularly from mildiou (reducing leaf surface so hindering ripening and attacking the grapes themselves). We kept up our preventative organic treatments and these saw us through.
We still had to water the new vines 4 times up to the start of August (our biggest planting since 2003 with half a hectare of Grenache and Mourvedre going in).

Hail again showed its head with many villages being affected: Methamis, Mazan near to us, the Rhone valley and Luberon (and amazingly 15,000 ha near Carcassonne). The major grape producing regions were once again hit too in Bordeaux and Burgundy in early summer storms. We were lightly scrafed once (August 8th).

The damp and cooler summer weather meant the grapes lost their advance and at the beginning of August looked to be on an average setting – but with the cooler weather in early August harvest was destined to be late. It rarely got to 30 degrees in July and early August.
There was very little shatter (coulure) on the Grenache so a full amount (unlike 2013 when up to 50% of the grenache flowers failed) was produced.
As it turned out the Grenache was too fully charged as despite the really good weather for the last week in August and first two weeks in September many of the bunches were still rose and even partly green. It was then looking like a late harvest.
Bunches were again dropped if not looking like they would fully ripen.

Then came a very stressful few weeks in mid September with significant storms being forecasted weekly or bi-weekly. Unang was incredibly fortunate to avoid most of these which were very local in nature (with one storm 3mm fell at Unang, 25mm at Blauvac 3km away, and 40mm at Mormoiron 6km away). With each of the storms announced there was the decision to make: whether to pick before or sit it out. We sat it out and ended up with a dry month in the end, with only one storm really hitting us when there was only the Clairette still to pick (which we did on the 20th October – equalling our latest ever finish – with it in good shape at 11.5°). Many places had a very damp September and October, which on the back of the wet July made for mediocre results.

The result at Unang was a late harvest with plenty of sugar (Grenache above 14 and Syrah above 13), strong colour intensity, with higher acidity. Yields were up c. 25% with the Grenache making up for its very weak (in volume terms) showing last year. The sugar and particularly the colour intensity will have benefitted from what was the longest growing season we have seen so far, a rare year with both an early start and late finish.
Even with the tales of woe locally, the Vaucluse in general was lucky as even with the storms that did hit it avoided the serious flooding and misery of the Gard (west of the Rhone) and the Languedoc.
Currently (30.10.14) getting to the end of the fermentations/macerations, there are a few stubborn grammes of sugar still to become alcohol.image


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