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Rhône harvest earliest ‘for several decades’

According to Inter Rhône, this year’s harvest is the earliest “for several decades” with picking already underway in the Southern Rhône.

AOC Gigondas, (Photo Credit: Christophe Grilhé)

Wine workers started picking the white AOPs in the Southern Rhône Valley on Monday 21 August, whereas last year, harvest began closer to the start of September. In the Northern Rhône, harvest is predicted to start on Monday 4 September, two weeks earlier than in 2016.

The predictions have been made based on “a combination of spring weather conditions and this year’s relatively modest crop load”.

The Southern Rhône experienced a mild, dry winter with unseasonably warm temperatures in February and March, which led to an early bud-break.

The spring frosts and localised hailstorms that swept through much of Northern Europe, did cause some damage in the Southern Rhône, as buds had developed earlier than usual, due to the warm winter and early spring. Rainy conditions in early May did little to mitigate the situation.

Conditions improved in mid-May as the rain passed and temperatures rose well above the seasonal average, causing rapid vine growth. At the beginning of summer, temperatures increased further, with very hot and dry weather speeding up grape ripening.

The Southern Rhône has experienced “extreme heat” in the last few weeks meaning the grapes are approaching optimum ripeness and are in “excellent health”.

“We had been hoping for rain in July,” said Françoise Dijon, manager of the Vineyard Observer, “but it didn’t happen.”

“Nevertheless, our latest findings show that the quality of the harvest is very promising, with plenty of colour and a good ratio of sugar to acidity”.

Vines in the Northern Rhône likewise developed early due to the warm weather. Temperatures fell on two occasions causing a delay to flowering. Rainfall in May increased temperatures and, by the end of the month, temperatures had risen considerably leading the region to declare a heatwave in June. This did, however, lead to localised storms that damaged vines in areas which were struck.

Conditions have now stabilised and Inter Rhône are predicting “an excellent grape harvest”.

The representative body are also forecasting “high quality” and that “yields will not be excessive,” admitting that compared to the rest of France, “the Rhône Valley vineyards have, yet again, emerged relatively unscathed”.

3 million hectolitres were harvested in 2016.



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