Here in Costières de Nîmes, we had a late bud break but by bloom the vintage had caught up with a normal year. No significant shattering to report and crop size is looking good. The summer was hot and dry and veraison started late mid-July. Late August produced two storms with, in some cases, significant rain fall. But as it is the case with most storms here, the quantity of rain varied greatly even within a small zone. These rains, when moderate, were good for the vineyards but the more important water spills gave potential sanitary problems to the early ripening varietals.
In anticipation of late season storms, the entire team had done a terrific job with manual leaf removal on the western side of the vineyards (the eastern side was already done in late July) and crop thinning any clusters that were too close together or too compact. This extra effort to assure grape ripeness and health paid off remarkably well. By ensuring the maturity and the health of the berries, we got very colorful juices with relatively low levels of acidity. The juices achieved optimal phenolic maturities without very high levels of alcohol thanks to the reasonable sugar levels.
We started harvest with our white varietals. First, we sorted our Viogners and our younger Roussannes ; the juices were very aromatic with a refreshing hint of acidity. We are very happy with our Roussannes, Clairettes and Grenaches Blanc whereas it was a bit more of a challenge for our Viognier. Their health asked for some serious sorting and an earlier picking than usual.
The rosés (made from our young Syrah, Grenache and Cinsault vineyards), very luscious with a plump mouthfeel, have vivid aromatics of red fruit. The color has toned down a bit and given us beautiful pale roses with blue highlights.
The Syrahs are showing their usual dark color and a surprisingly fresh aromatic considering the heat of this summer. They are aromatically powerful (fresh not cooked) with a dense/creamy core, a solid but ripe tannic and a long finish. This vintage’s equilibrium leans a bit more towards body than acidity.
Grenaches are showing tremendous potential. Aromatically exuberant, they are high octane (alcohol, color and tannins) and show tremendous concentration. For me 2015 is the year of Grenache in our neck of the woods. I suspect they’ll stay on the skins for a long time. Mourvedres are also in and just starting extraction. At this point most of what we can gage is aromatically and what they display is really interesting: classic mint tea and blackberry with unusual bergamot.
Each year at the winery, we set up a couple new experiments. This year, for example, we used indigenous yeast for the first time for our whites. We’ve held back on doing this in the past because whites always need more precision, even though this is a normal process for our reds. The results so far are very promising – The whites that went through an indigenous fermentation appear to have more complex aromas, as well as a lot of character and structure in the mouth. Also for the vinification of our Syrahs, we’ve increased our proportions of Viognier to 10% in some vats, as well as the quantity of whole cluster to as much as 50 percent.
We still have a couple weeks left of vinification, but I think that the 2015 vintage will offer a lot of similarities to the 1998 vintage. It’s still a little too early to have a set vision of the vintage, so let’s keep our fingers crossed until then! Now, it’s time to clean up, service our harvest equipment and put everything in hibernation mode. You’ll find us scrubbing our shears, greasing them and wrapping them in newspaper. The harvest team can now have our weekends back, to spend with family and friends and why not plan a couple of fall outings!
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