Harvest Report 2018 by James

Harvest & Season Notes 2018 

“What happens when the Mistral goes AWOL”

During the previous two vintages I have been lamenting the lack of rainfall in the Vaucluse, both all year but in particular during the growing season. This one was different.  It had remained pretty dry to the end of 2017, which was a little worrying, with only 465mm of rain at Unang during the year being a record low for us since we’ve been here (the average being 750mm since 2003). After a reasonably wet start to 2018, when the aquifers had managed to squirrel away some reserves, we ended up with 462mm of rainfall by the end of May – the wet winter gave way to a wet spring.

This made Provence look particularly verdant right up to harvest time. While much the north of Europe looked like Australia with parched ground and crops commonplace. The plants here, and nature more widely, seemed to be enjoying these higher levels of humidity. Insects were more abundant.

But prolonged rain kept the ground temperatures lower and meant fewer sunshine hours, so a slow and uneven start to the growing season, even to flowering. The potential flowers (which then turn to grapes) on the Grenache looked so impressive that I recall thinking: “if we lose a little to shatter (coulure) this year that will be fine as the bunches are massive.”

But humidity brings with it disease pressure, and with the wet April and then May the mildew pressure was ramping up as the temperatures slowly rose. Usually the Mistral wind chases away the clouds and rain on a regular basis, and its presence confirms Carpentras as one of the towns in France with the highest number of sunshine hours. This year it didn’t appear until well into June and it is not clear why that was (suggestions have been that it was disrupted due to the Jetstream being further to the north in 2018). It was much missed.

So wet with warmth during the first half of June (from 28.4.18 to 12.5.18), we had 11 days of rain in 16 days. This rain came in storms (sometimes more than 20mm) and many grape-growing areas suffered with hail, both then and later in the season. Luckily, we took only one glancing blow early on, others faced multiple and devastating falls.

Being organic, we protect our vines by spraying copper on the vines which can be washed off by rain (a contact product). This is only effective as a preventative treatment, and we are limited by the amount we can use per year. Conventional producers don’t have this limit and use “systemic” copper treatments that enter into the plant/fruit itself – so it will not be washed off – and can also work as a curative, treating mildew once already present.

Thus, mildew on the Grenache (and Carignan – which we don’t have) has been the story of the year throughout the southern Rhone. In some places we have lost 80% of the crop in others maybe 60%. The Syrah, Cinsault and Mourvedre were relatively unaffected. Though the Grenache Blanc in the valley was brutalised losing both fruit and leaf to the fungus.

A switch was flicked mid-June and we had summer temperatures, exceeding 40° for extended periods, from then on. Rainfall was limited to occasional storms and the growing season proceeded as normal just without fruit on the Grenache as the damage had already been done.
Harvest loomed with about a 10-day delay compared to the previous (hot, dry) year.

The damp flowering meant irregular fruit set and it was clear that there were big differences in the ripeness of the grapes even on the same vine let alone neighbouring vines or others in the same parcel. This further complicated the key decision of when to pick, as did warm temperatures up to harvest with morning dew triggering rot in some low lying or poorly ventilated areas of other vineyards.

So, what started out as a cold/wet year finished as a hot/dry year. In the tanks, extractions during fermentations and macerations, followed the pattern of the latter with plenty of colour and tannins coming quickly. Acid levels remained healthy for us – as usual – and quality levels look high.

The worst Grenache yields I heard of were 4hl/ha – we were not quite that bad but certainly in single figures (we would normally be 25 to 30hl/ha). Oddly, other places in Ventoux and the Southern Rhone had bumper crops, and with the Indian summer lasting into the first week in October, were harvested in perfect conditions. Some organic producers fared well, some conventional producers lost most of their crop. It was a difficult year to predict with all the climatic conditions being so localised.

With the perfect harvest conditions what little came in should be of good quality. As I have said for each of the past three years, now fingers crossed for a more productive next year.
JK 12.10.18



  1. http://Terje%20Totland says

    What a story. Many challenges, I understand. But I hope for good quality and I do cross fingers for a better next year!
    All the best😊

    • http://joanna says

      thank you Terje for your best wishes and for taking the time to send a note – the quality looks great – and as it pours down with rain here for the third day in a row lets hope the weather normalises a little next year! James and Joanna

  2. http://Nick%20Wright says

    I really appreciate hearing this detail of the meteorological story of your vintage in 2018. A great pity my favourite Grenache was so badly hit.

  3. A fairly dramatic year almost sounds optimistic by James’ standards! We can testament to the rainy May from next door to you for the last week before June. Bon chance for the outcome in the barrel & see you next year for tasting Joanne!

Speak Your Mind


Address Book Address Card adjust align-center align-justify align-left align-right Allergies ambulance American Sign Language Interpreting Anchor Angle Double Down Angle Double Left Angle Double Right Angle Double Up angle-down angle-left angle-right angle-up Archive Alternate Arrow Circle Down Alternate Arrow Circle Left Alternate Arrow Circle Right Alternate Arrow Circle Up Arrow Circle Down Arrow Circle Left Arrow Circle Right Arrow Circle Up arrow-down arrow-left arrow-right arrow-up Alternate Arrows Alternate Arrows Horizontal Alternate Arrows Vertical Assistive Listening Systems asterisk At Audio Description backward Balance Scale ban Band-Aid barcode Bars Baseball Ball Basketball Ball Bath Battery Empty Battery Full Battery 1/2 Full Battery 1/4 Full Battery 3/4 Full Bed beer bell Bell Slash Bicycle Binoculars Birthday Cake Blind bold Lightning Bolt Bomb book bookmark Bowling Ball Box Box Open Boxes Braille Briefcase Medical Briefcase Bug Building bullhorn Bullseye Burn Bus Calculator Calendar Alternate Calendar Calendar Check Calendar Minus Calendar Plus Calendar Times camera Retro Camera Capsules Car Caret Down Caret Left Caret Right Caret Square Down Caret Square Left Caret Square Right Caret Square Up Caret Up Shopping Cart Arrow Down Add to Shopping Cart certificate Area Chart Bar Chart Line Chart Pie Chart Check Check Circle Check Square Chess Chess Bishop Chess Board Chess King Chess Knight Chess Pawn Chess Queen Chess Rook Chevron Circle Down Chevron Circle Left Chevron Circle Right Chevron Circle Up chevron-down chevron-left chevron-right chevron-up Child Circle Circle Notched Clipboard Clipboard Check Clipboard List Clock Clone Closed Captioning Cloud Cloud Download Alternate Cloud Upload Alternate Code Code Branch Coffee cog cogs Columns comment Alternate Comment Comment Dots Comment Slash comments Compass Compress Copy Copyright Couch Credit Card crop Crosshairs Cube Cubes Cut Database Deaf Desktop Diagnoses DNA Dollar Sign Dolly Dolly Flatbed Dot Circle Dove Download Edit eject Horizontal Ellipsis Vertical Ellipsis Envelope Envelope Open Envelope Square eraser Euro Sign Alternate Exchange exclamation Exclamation Circle Exclamation Triangle Expand Alternate Expand Arrows Alternate External Link Alternate External Link Square Eye Eye Dropper Eye Slash fast-backward fast-forward Fax Female fighter-jet File Alternate File Archive File Audio File Code File Excel File Image File Medical File Medical File Alternate PDF File Powerpoint File Video File Word File Film Filter fire fire-extinguisher First Aid flag flag-checkered Flask Folder Folder Open font Font Awesome Full Logo Football Ball forward Frown Futbol Gamepad Gavel Gem Genderless gift Martini Glass Globe Golf Ball Graduation Cap H Square Hand Holding Hand Holding Heart Hand Holding US Dollar Lizard (Hand) Paper (Hand) Peace (Hand) Hand Pointing Down Hand Pointing Left Hand Pointing Right Hand Pointing Up Pointer (Hand) Rock (Hand) Scissors (Hand) Spock (Hand) Hands Helping Hands Handshake Hashtag HDD heading headphones Heart Heartbeat History Hockey Puck home hospital Hospital Alternate Hospital Symbol Hourglass Hourglass End Hourglass Half Hourglass Start I Beam Cursor Identification Badge Identification Card Identification Card Alternate Image Images inbox Indent Industry Info Info Circle italic key Keyboard Language Laptop leaf Lemon Level Down Alternate Level Up Alternate Life Ring Lightbulb Link Turkish Lira Sign List List Alternate list-ol list-ul location-arrow lock Lock Open Alternate Long Arrow Down Alternate Long Arrow Left Alternate Long Arrow Right Alternate Long Arrow Up Low Vision magic magnet Male Map map-marker Map Marker Alternate Map Pin Map Signs Mars Mars Double Mars Stroke Mars Stroke Horizontal Mars Stroke Vertical medkit Meh Mercury Microchip microphone Microphone Slash minus Minus Circle Minus Square Mobile Phone Alternate Mobile Money Bill Alternate Moon Motorcycle Mouse Pointer Music Neuter Newspaper Medical Notes Object Group Object Ungroup Outdent Paint Brush Pallet Paper Plane Paperclip Parachute Box paragraph Paste pause Pause Circle Paw Pen Square Alternate Pencil People Carry Percent Phone Phone Slash Phone Square Phone Volume Piggy Bank Pills plane play Play Circle Plug plus Plus Circle Plus Square Podcast Poo Portrait Pound Sign Power Off Prescription Bottle Alternate Prescription Bottle print Procedures Puzzle Piece qrcode Question Question Circle Quidditch quote-left quote-right random Recycle Redo Alternate Redo Registered Trademark Reply reply-all Retweet Ribbon road rocket rss RSS Square Ruble Sign Indian Rupee Sign Save Search Search Minus Search Plus Seedling Server Share Alternate Share Alternate Share Square Share Square Shekel Sign Alternate Shield Ship Shipping Fast Shopping Bag Shopping Basket shopping-cart Shower Sign Alternate Sign In Sign Language Alternate Sign Out signal Sitemap Horizontal Sliders Smile Smoking Snowflake Sort Sort Alpha Down Sort Alpha Up Sort Amount Down Sort Amount Up Sort Down (Descending) Sort Numeric Down Sort Numeric Up Sort Up (Ascending) Space Shuttle Spinner Square Square Full Star star-half step-backward step-forward Stethoscope Sticky Note stop Stop Circle Stopwatch Street View Strikethrough subscript Subway Suitcase Sun superscript Sync Alternate Sync Syringe table Table Tennis tablet Alternate Tablet Tablets Alternate Tachometer tag tags Tape Tasks Taxi Terminal text-height text-width th th-large th-list Thermometer Thermometer Empty Thermometer Full Thermometer 1/2 Full Thermometer 1/4 Full Thermometer 3/4 Full thumbs-down thumbs-up Thumbtack Alternate Ticket Times Times Circle tint Toggle Off Toggle On Trademark Train Transgender Alternate Transgender Trash Alternate Trash Tree trophy truck Truck Loading Truck Moving TTY Television Umbrella Underline Undo Alternate Undo Universal Access University unlink unlock Alternate Unlock Upload User Alternate User User Alt-slash User Astronaut User Check User Circle User Clock User Cog User Edit User Friends User Graduate User Lock user-md User Minus User Ninja Add User User Secret User Shield User Slash User Tag User Tie Remove User Users Users Cog Utensil Spoon Utensils Venus Venus Double Venus Mars Vial Vials Video Video Slash Volleyball Ball volume-down volume-off volume-up Warehouse Weight Wheelchair WiFi Window Close Window Maximize Window Minimize Window Restore Wine Glass Won Sign Wrench X-Ray Yen Sign