Vintage 2015 Report by James

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Chateau Unang Harvest Note 2015

Heat was the over-riding element through the 2015 growing season – heat punctuated by significant storms. There was plenty of rain during a mild winter but a cold snap in February seemed to delay the start of the growing season.

There was pressure from powdery mildew from the start, but the disease issue of the year was Black Rot. While we were affected (losing up to 5% of the Roussanne in the valley) other organic producers lost 60 to 70% of their Grenache, typically in lower lying, humid areas. There is no organic treatment for this disease, and a number of organic producers have gone back to conventional farming this year because of these losses. It seems the increasing area of organic vines has given the disease a launch pad and with the right conditions it has really taken hold.

Aside from the storms (three of which brought rain of 80mm+) it was hot and dry (no rain in May or July), something between the heat of 2003 and 2007. The very hot – highs of up to 37°C in the shade – and dry June and early July did not stress the mature vines at Unang as the wet winter and storms gave them enough water. As it’s moisture that brings disease pressure, the heat meant that the grapes were in great shape when they were harvested, with yields not far off those of last year’s bumper crop. However the plantation of Grenache, Mourvedre and Cinsault, planted this winter and last, did require several waterings to keep it alive.

Another pressure was the ever greater wild boar population. We put up more electric fencing to keep them out of the grapes but when the local hunt can shoot 30 in one July weekend that indicates just how many there are at large.

All the warm weather led us to a early harvest, 7 to 10 days ahead of the norm, with a few oddities, like the Clairette being picked in September for the first time more than two weeks ahead of usual (some people harvested their Clairette a full month earlier than normal).
We started picking on September 9th finishing on October 2st (having started on October 3rd in 2013). A whopping 92mm of rain fell in a few hours on the 4th.

All that sunshine has meant that the grapes were bulging with sugar, and in the cave I have cooled down the juice during the fermentations to prevent too explosive a ferment. While the last of the tanks are still fermenting the style of the wines seem to be along the lines of 2009 or 2011 but we shall have a better idea as they reveal more.

At this early stage the whites have exceptional fruit expression, while the reds have maintained a great freshness (our trademark) even with these high summer temperatures. The cooler end of August and September helping both in terms of aromas and acidity.

I am hoping there is time for the malo-lactic fermentations to take place now before the weather cools unlike in the past two years (when we have finished picking on October 19 & 20th and were well into November before reds were pressed).

JK, 9th October, 2015

 

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