An incredible vintage in many ways

With the winemaking process for the 2018s only just coming to a close, memories of a particularly challenging vintage in terms of vineyard management were still uppermost in our minds, especially due to the unusually high amount of rainfall for the region. October and November, too, were particularly wet with nearly 400 mm, the equivalent of over half our annual rainfall in just two months.

December was mild and experienced normal rainfall for the time of year. In 2019, January, February and March were very dry. Winter continued to be mild, especially February, which explains why budburst was early. Then temperatures plummeted and the start of spring was colder than average, so much so that on April 5 the cooler Gigondas vineyards were almost frosty.

Despite some rain in April, there was a clear water deficit. This cold, dry spell would influence vine growth, which was slow and measured, as if the vines knew they had to save resources when we had no idea of what lay ahead. During flowering, at the beginning of June, we noticed that the head start at budburst had now disappeared. This vital stage for Grenache went extremely well with very little shatter, except for the latest ripening areas.

It was now the end of June. The very high rates of fruit set suggested that the harvest in Gigondas would be good. The trend for the summer was simple and already noticeable in the last week of June – temperatures were sweltering and there was absolutely no rainfall! In neighbouring wine regions, the temperatures were so high that there was visible damage to the canopy and the fruit. The damage was akin to scorching.

The same trend followed through to July and August when 52 out of 62 days were over 30°C. Rainfall came in at just 10 mm on July 27 – so basically, it did not rain all summer. At the end of August, the vineyards of Gigondas looked amazingly well. They showed incredible resistance to extreme weather conditions, in a very restrained way. Very little leaf trimming was required and the berries were small. The cooler areas and old vines with their deep root systems did not even seem to suffer in the slightest. It goes without saying that fruit health was impeccable.

Preliminary ripeness analyses confirmed that the weight of the berries had reached an all-time low. They also revealed that physiological ripeness (sugars and acids) was very far advanced. When the berries were tasted, however, it was obvious that phenolic ripeness was still a long way off. The rosés were quickly harvested but we waited until the red varietals ripened across-the-board.

The first Syrah vines in the early-ripening areas were harvested starting on September 10. The bulk of the fruit was harvested after September 16 and picking ended around October 15. Right through to the last cluster, the grapes were in perfect health.

Once in the winery, against all the odds and despite the size of the berries, juice yields were perfectly respectable.The crop was a decent quantity and quality promised to be remarkable, with good acid balance, aromatic potential in the fresh fruit and, above all, incredible tannin concentration. Like in any other year, it was essential to adapt winemaking procedures – vatting time, extraction and fermentation temperatures – to the fruit.

The 2019 reds are powerful, structured and deeply coloured, yet the tannins are impeccably ripe and impart elegant silkiness to the wines, with no aggressive characters. Most of the 2019s are accessible in their youth and display very respectable ageability.

It is incredible to gauge just how much vines can adapt to extreme weather conditions. The resultant wines are quite simply magnificent. The added freshness stemming from Gigondas’ vineyard sites along with a sizeable proportion of old vines have once again allowed growers to focus on balance and elegance. Everyone agrees that this is one of Gigondas’ finest vintages. Such consistent excellence is understandably a source of pride.

Copyright : Laurent Philis – Philis Œnologie à Gigondas


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