Roussillon, Harvest report 2018

Perfect water balance for an outstanding vintage.

We have been waiting for water’s arrival in the Roussillon region since 2014. It is essential if vines are to develop properly and achieve the perfect balance needed to make the year’s wines. Thus, we’re always delighted when water and rain come to Roussillon, where the onset of summer and heatwaves occurs very early. This year we enjoyed exceptional rainfall… almost double that of recent years (>900mm at the end of October 2018 compared to the 2016 rainfall of 320mm)! So, we started the vintage with almost 300mm of rain prior to budburst, 300mm more prior to flowering, 50mm during the summer, which helped counteract the heat and 50mm during ripening. Therefore, maturation inhibition was avoided, and the harvest was exceptional.

The particularly cold and rainy spring were another unusual feature. They contributed to high contrasts between the vintage’s individual sector maturities. The Lesquerde area, which is a long way inland, flowered particularly late. Late flowering falls off the closer the plots are to the sea. As a result, the harvests extended over a very long period – from 22 August for the white grapes of Collioure until 5 October for the Syrah grapes of Lesquerde. This holds one of the keys to the outstanding character of the 2018 wines. The sea moderates the coastal climate and although maturation was early it was smooth, which preserved the freshness of the grey Chrysopée grenache grapes. Inland, the late growing period postponed maturation until after the end of the heatwave, yielding sophisticated and spicy Syrahs for Lesquerde, which is more typical of areas to the north.

Without the water stocks, the vines would have suffered from the exceptional heatwave from the end of July to the beginning of August. At the Pic du Midi we are accustomed to 40°C. What made this summer different, is that there was no respite at night. For we have never seen night temperatures stay as high as 30°C!

The major technical challenge of this year’s crop was keeping mildew under control. The use of infusions, oak bark decoctions, black alder and many other plants together with boosted preparations enabled us to control it without any damage to the harvest.

The month of September was decisive for this vintage!

In fact, if we had ordered the weather ourselves, we couldn’t have wished for better. The mean temperature was 21°C, with 30°C during the day, cool nights, no tramontane wind but a light sea breeze and light rain when it was needed. Therefore, ripening was gradual and the grapes perfectly sound. The phenolic maturity could hardly be improved with its lower alcohol content, freshness and aromatic complexity worthy of a Great Year in Roussillon.

Les Vignes de Bila-Haut white: beautifully balanced with predominantly floral aromas; a bold attack that lingers on the palate, balanced by nice fleshy fruit, the lemony finish contrasts in this sun-drenched vintage.

Les Vignes de Bila-Haut red: the Carignans finer than usual, combined with strong very spicy Syrah base notes with cinnamon hints that blend brilliantly with the round, fat Grenaches to give a very well-balanced wine.

Occultum Lapidem white: the nose reveals elderberry and litchi notes with a hint of citrus peel. The mouth has a fine fresh attack, with marked minerality. The white Grenache gives this taut wine fine balance. Stone fruit notes contributed by the grey Grenache add fullness to the wine.

Occultum Lapidem red: the suppleness of the schist wines, punctuated by the sophisticated spiciness of the 2018 Syrahs and the high concentration of Grenaches grown in limestone soils, give the wine an exceptional structure!

v.i.t.: powerful on the palate with intense fruitiness and remarkable complexity. Both full-bodied and structured by a taut tannic Grenache-coated structure.

r.i.: very fresh bouquet (mint, eucalyptus) that gives way to blackcurrant and blackberry notes. Then garrigue (thyme) fragrances prevail, taking on spicy notes. The palate is almost Northern on the attack with tight tannins. The wine finishes with great aromatic complexity. It has everything it needs to be a great vintage for laying down.

Chrysopée: exceptional aromatic complexity comes from the floral aromas of the white Grenache enriched by the apricot notes of the grey Grenache. The plot is very close the sea. Its mica schists make the wine highly mineral with salinity and a subtle iodized note that linger on the palate.

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