The 2018 harvest has begun in the Rhône and this year, in a rare turn of events, it was the northern appellations that began first.
Picking of white varieties began in the southern Rhône appellations on Monday this week (3 September) but the intense heat of the season had prompted wineries in the northern half of the valley to begin picking their white grapes the week before.
As with much of the rest of France, a long, hot, dry summer has led to an extremely healthy crop.
Françoise Dijon, manager of the vineyard’s Quality Monitoring Centre, said: “The spring weather posed a number of challenges for growers in certain areas, but everything was back on track by the beginning of July. Weather in the first half of August was particularly favourable, with a significant amount of rainfall to refresh the vineyards and help the berries swell.”
Having begun picking the whites in late August, the red harvest is gradually beginning in the northern AOCs, perhaps a week earlier than ‘normal’.
Spring conditions were very warm and followed by a heatwave in June which led to very early ripening but the crop is predicted to be much bigger than 2017.
In the southern AOCs spring was marked by some rainfall and some very localised hailstorms.
A “sizeable portion” of the appellations were hit by downy mildew which has been a minor problem in a few areas this year but prompt treatment and the onset of a dry summer largely controlled the problem and yields are not unduly affected.
Rains in August were a welcome relief for both vines and people following temperatures well above the seasonal norm.