A wine owes its character to the potential of its soil and how it’s interpreted by the winemaker. I often compare winemaking to music — the results depends both on the musical score and the musician. Reducing the equation to just these two parameters is a simplification that I can easily overlook, but it ignores the parameter that reveals the infinite variety of a wine: the vintage.
When we talk about vintage effect, we place a cuvée in the context in which it was produced, specifying how a year’s worth of weather changes the game. Any of you who have attended a concert in a gymnasium versus a theater knows what I mean.
As a rule of thumb, here in Costières de Nîmes we never have a problem with our grapes reaching maturity and cool years generally give excellent results. Moderate temperatures allow the berries to ripen slowly with fine, silky tannins. So when 2014 started off with an early cool spring, that got wet after flowering, we were feeling pretty good. But it was followed by a mild summer that saw more than its share of humidity. Too much moisture is the greatest danger to a grape vine: it promotes the growth of molds that can be disastrous for the harvest of course, but also for the plant itself.
As often is the case, observation is key and having witnessed the effects of the moist weather conditions on the peach and apple orchards bordering our vineyards, I decided as the summer progressed to carry out the most thorough de-leafing and crop thinning program we’ve ever done.
Why you may ask? Because once a vineyard is affected, it is very difficult to prevent contamination. As a tried and true organic winemaker, I‘ve learned that a preventive approach is always better than a curative approach.
In the fall as the harvest approached, we were blessed with Mediterranean sea breezes that actually minimized the effect of thunderstorms that affected many other vineyards of the Rhône and the south. I also have the distinct impression that over the vintages, the vines that are least pampered eventually become more resistant to disease pressure when properly farmed. All these factors enabled us to literally dodge the rain!
Now with everything in cellar, I can finally say that the 2014 vintage is marvelous. The whites benefited from the cool year and are particularly elegant, especially our incredibly vivacious Roussanne and Viognier thanks to their wonderful acidity. As for the reds, we are particularly pleased with the fresh flavors so typical of our Syrah, a key varietal for Costières de Nîmes. Our Grenache is deep in color, with soft tannins and a velvety mouthfeel.
But it is not possible to take the vineyards for granted. 2015 is already in preparation as we begin the complex task of pruning. Our rehearsals for the next vintage’s concert are already under way!