Philippe Guigal has described this year’s fruit from the northern Rhône as “astonishing” in quality, in sharp contrast to reports of a problematic vintage in the southern part of the valley and elsewhere in France.
When asked about 2013’s harvest in the northern Rhône, where Guigal’s winery and négociant business is based, winemaker for the company Philippe Guigal initially told the drinks business that his views on the vintage were anomalous.
“You will hear an answer from me that he won’t hear from many,” he began, warning that his feedback was very different from others in the region.
He then added, “We are more than very happy, the quality is astonishing from 2013.”
Continuing he said, “But we will have to shout loud, because we are on an island… the southern Rhône is not the same.”
Noting that 2013 was a late vintage in the northern Rhône, he said that there was “no spring and no beginning of summer”, but, thankfully, “then came the heat”.
Due to a poor start to the growing season, which pushed the ripening process as much as one month behind average, Guigal recorded that by late August the potential alcohol in the grapes was a low as 8%. “We were panic stricken,” he said.
But then, “a combination of low yields and a very fine September meant the vintage was saved.”
Indeed, he said that his white grapes from Condrieu and St Joseph were picked with a potential alcohol of 14.5% and 14% respectively, while the reds from the northern Rhône were harvested with over 13%, and he stressed, “with phenolic ripeness”.
Unusually he noted that the grapes from Côte-Rôtie ripened faster than those from Hermitage, when normally “it is the other way round.”
Speaking of the whites, he told db that the wines “will be extremely pure”, with “higher acidity than usual” due to cold nights during September.
As for the reds, he was unable to draw any comparisons with previous vintages, commenting, “they are unlike anything else I’ve vinified myself,” before noting that “the must is black” and the wines are “big”.
Continuing he said, “2013 will be powerful, dense with a good structure”, characters he attributed to the size of the berries, which were “very small” giving a high quantity of solids compared to the amount of juice, and as a consequence yields were as much as 25% lower than average in the northern Rhône.
Also key to the quality recorded by Guigal was lucky timing when it came to harvesting.
“We finished the harvest on Tuesday 15 October and then, on Wednesday, the rain came, and after the rain it would have been far more difficult.”
Considering the vintage in the southern Rhône however, Guigal said it “was not the same”, recording that the Grenache suffered from a lot of coulure (failure to set fruit) and was a “bit diluted” as the grapes were harvested after the rains.
On the other hand the Mouvèdre and Syrah “ripened well”, he said.
Similarly, Maison M Chapoutier wrote in a vintage report that Grenache in the southern Rhône was “heavily affected” by coulure due to unusually cool temperatures during flowering in May, while thundery weather in July and a fairly dry August led to a “slower rate of growth and ripeness”.
The producer also said the wines from Châteauneuf-du-Pape show a “fruity Pinot-type character, typical of the Grenache in a late vintage.”
As for its wines from the Northern Rhône, the red grapes were described as having “excellent health”, and Michel Chapoutier himself said his single-vineyard wines “will reveal great surprises this year”.
As for the whites, he commented that they “almost show a Burgundian balance, which does not bother me at all.”