Louis Dressner Selections - Wine Importer

2005 Harvest Reports


Surprising Structure in the Mâconnais

from Jean Manciat, in Charnay-les-Mâconnais, November 18th, 2005

It all started with sharps contrasts, especially in March, which swung dramatically from wintry weather with snow and low temperatures in the first two weeks to practically summer weather in the second two weeks. Luckily, because the vines had not yet emerged from their vegetative rest in early March, no damage was done.

This was followed by a rather rainy early spring, particularly in April. Bud burst was on time. May saw the appearance of some mildew which quickly became threatening – hitting a few bunches here and there.

Then we had another a period of going back and forth between cool and warm temperatures leading into the start of flowering in early June. Though flowering started on time, it was very spread out and finished between June 15th and 20th - too long a flowering to end up with homogenous ripening….unless, that is, if we hadn’t gotten the return of extremely high temperatures which, though less intense, reminded us of 2003.

As far as diseases go, the mildew, which had us worried early on, gave way to oidium which kept spreading in July, but thankfully, it never got as bad as it had in 2004.

August came and wiped everything clean with dry, sunny weather, but the lack of water was already having a cruel effect on the more exposed plots (tops of slopes and young vines with shallow roots). Our concerns shifted from worrying about grapes ripening at different times to whether the dryness would prevent the grapes from reaching full ripeness at all.

At last, September came striding in and the ripening process sped up in spite of the significant water deficit. From then on, I knew that I would not reach the minimum yields (60hl), much less the maximum this year of 66 hl. The usual 68 hl had been lowered because of the wine sale crisis…(which set off the attack on and sacking of the INAO office in Mâcon on September 8th, under the auspices of our local syndicate officials. What stupidity! I had been approached to join this protest movement not knowing how it would end up….but luckily I had declined the invitation.)

However, in setting the date of September 1st for the start of harvest in Mâcon and many other appellations, the INAO could have felt safe from these kinds of incidents, but for once the winemakers were in no hurry to rush into their vineyards at that time. I have never seen such large variations in when various vineyards were ready to start harvesting. There were still winemakers (apart from the usual suspects) who on September 15th had hardly begun. People were saying in some cases (especially in the northern areas) that the grapes weren’t ripe yet and in other cases, that the winemakers felt in no hurry because of the dry weather and excellent health of the grapes. It all got picked eventually.

In the cellar, the first surprises showed up in the lab analyses. Of course, given the weather conditions of this year, we found deficits in the levels of nitrogen, but what completely shocked us was that the acidity levels were normal or even a little weak in relation to abnormally low pH levels. It was not unusual to find acidity levels of less than 5 g/l accompanied by pH levels of around 3 with 13 degrees of potential alcohol, whereas normally at these levels of acidity, the pH is closer to 3.15 or indeed even 3.20 or 3.25. This presages excellent balance, I think, particularly since it should put us out of any danger of anything going wrong during vinification aging. The fermentations went well, slowly, and without any particular heating up. Most of the cuvees are finishing now.

On the other hand, if these kinds of pH levels are a sure sign of very good balance, when it comes to starting malo-lactic fermentations, it’s a whole other story. I’m trying hard with my Mâcon cuvée and the others which are in the process of finishing their alcoholic fermentations, notably the Franclieu, in the hope of doing an early spring bottling in March or April.

In terms of quality, as you already know, on the whole it is a good vintage. Will it be an exceptional vintage? It may a little too early to tell, probably for some cuvées.

Right now, you will be happy to hear, the Franclieu and the Cuvée Vieilles Vignes (which still has some sugar left and therefore needs to be watched carefully) look the best. The others look good too but for the time being these two stand out from the crowd. The Franclieu has very good nose and mouth, which is not always the case at this stage at the end of the alcoholic fermentation, strong aromas, very good structure and lots of character in the mouth. Let’s hope that all this lasts and is confirmed with time.

Excellence in Le Loir

Eric Nicolas in Jasnières, Loire on November 1, 2005

Now that our harvesting season is over, we can draw a few first conclusions:

This is an excellent vintage where healthy white grapes kept high acidity levels while reaching an unequaled degree of ripeness. It looks like we are going to have well structured cuvées of off-dry wines meant for the long haul.

The Chenin grapes were slow to botrysize, but in a week and a half of picking we were able to do two passes in the Coteaux-du-Loir and Jasnières, the one in Rasné reaching 19% of potential alcohol, the one in Lhomme 22% (for Elixir de Tuf.) These are the purest musts we have ever obtained after picking in passes.

The red grapes were very ripe and the wines compare with 2003’s, maybe even better thanks to their very fine tannins.

And, finally and as it has become the norm, we picked our Pineau d’Aunis for the Rosé les Giroflées in perfect health at 15% potential. The style and balance is comparable to 2004, and, as it ferments, the must gives off delicate aromas of cherries and raspberries.

Ah, Cerdon!

from Mireille Renardat , Merignat in the Bugey, on November 3rd:

At long last, some news from our 2005 harvest.

After a very hot late spring and early summer, our vines flowered in a much too generous fashion, which led us to manually remove a great number of bunches between July 14th and August 15th. The drought, which lasted until August 15th, kept the vines healthy.
The rain came exactly when it was needed in the middle of August, followed by beautiful weather. This, along with a balanced distribution of bunches on the vines, made for quick ripening. Our harvest was done between September 15th and 25th, under good weather.

The general yield is lower than in 2004, but we are still going to make more wine, thanks to the first harvest in a young plot of Poulsard. The musts after pressing have deep color, what we call “intense pink” for Poulsard as well as Gamay.
After the first partial fermentation in vats, all the wine has been bottled.

Some bottles have started their second fermentation and have bubbles, what we are tasting so far shows rich aromas. The first wines vinified should be ready for release around mid December, after they are disgorged.

Predicting Greatness in the Haut-Mâconnais

from Gautier Thevenet in Montbellet on October 17, 2005

We are coming to end of this harvest with a feeling of great satisfaction. The weather was mild the whole time allowing us to pick the grapes (still by hand) at optimal ripeness.
On average, it looks like the degrees of potential alcohol will be between 13.4 and 14 percent.

The musts are very well structured with complex aromas.

The balance leads us to predict a great vintage along the line of 2000 and 1995, for example.

Right from the start of fermentation, we have been forced to keep the temperatures at between 14 and 16 degrees Celsius in order to conserve all the aromatic finesse that we foresee.

Henri Goyard, on the left, former owner of Domaine de Roally, with Gauthier Thevent, current owner.

News from the front in Bonnezeaux

from Mark Angéli, Domaine de la Sansonnière

Here we had, for the third year in a row, a Mediterranean climate with no rain for five months, trees dying, the river Layon totally dry, the Loire not much better. We have been reassured by being told that everything can be made right … by installing air conditioning to survive these excessive temperatures. (NT: here follows a series of advice on several devices and installations cutting out the consumption of fossil fuel, and nuclear-produced electricity.)

We had decided that within five years the entire estate would be plowed with the horse. It is done as of this year. I don’t have a big stomach any more, and we are looking, in coming years, to devise ways not to enter the vines with the tractor at all. No more noise, gas, soil compaction, only pleasure.

All the vine treatments (we did two this year, for a total of one nettle tea and one kilo and a half of bouillie bordelaise per hectare, save 30 ares that received no treatment whatsoever) will be done on foot and manually, like topping (NT: trimming of top leaves) that is becoming less and less necessary anyway. We’ll have to adapt a grass-cutter to be horse-drawn to clip the grass in the rows.

My Vignes Françaises (NT: ungrafted vines) are suffering from phylloxera. Barring a miracle, 2006 will be my last harvest. The Vignes en Foule (NT: vines planted in a very tight fashion, without rows) look to be, for the time being, untouched.

About Rosés d’un Jour: I am so enraged by my colleagues’ and the administration’s passivity about Rosés d’Anjou, so patently bad, actually vomitive, that I have vowed never more to present my Rosé to receive its appellation of origin (maybe I’ll extend this to all my wines if there is no change coming.) So I could not resist banding together with a few iconoclasts like me, who pick their red grapes over ripe to produce Rosé moëlleux, and use the brand Rosé d’un Jour for all the wines.

The requirements are simple: all varietals are allowed; the one constraint is to submit the wines to a tasting pannel composed of wine retailers, restaurant buyers, private consumers and importers; the panel will accept the wines or reject them; there is no appeal system; the choice should be made according to the emotion that the wine has given the tasters. This would be only a return to the initial system of AOCs tastings, which quickly derailed into automatic acceptance of their own wines by the winemakers themselves, the only tasters allowed to reveal their self-satisfaction. We already have 15 candidates for vintages 2005, all working organically, of course.

A Beautiful Vintage in Cheverny

from François Cazin in Cheverny, October 24, 2005

As we were projecting a month ago, we can confirm that we have a very good vintage in the making, now that all our vines have been harvested.

Our highly concentrated musts are fermenting slowly. The grapes’ health was perfect and will allow us to prolong aging on lees, and thus take advantage of the richness of the vintage. Aromas emanating from the vats where fermentations are further along are already very pleasing.

Our Romorantin vines were harvested during the second week of October. The grapes were very ripe with good acidity, so we have the two essential factors to produce a good wine. As we are prone to do, we’ll be very patient to let this beautiful vintage express its full potential, especially for the Cuvée

from Jean-Marie Le Bihan in the Côtes-du-Duras in France's Southwest, October 24, 2005

We finished our harvest on October 19th, around 10:20am, and by 11:00am, it was raining, and it’s still raining now!

Everything we picked was beautiful and we had superb weather. Last week, we stopped picking because we did not like the last 2 hectares of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cab Franc: the grapes’ skins were very thick and the tannins rustic. Since there was rain in the forecast for the mid week, immediately followed by the return of good weather, we waited it out. This was the right thing to do, the grapes we picked on Monday and Tuesday, after 60mm of rain fell, were perfectly ripe, and the amount of potential alcohol had dropped (from above 14% to less than 14%.)

The first vats we harvested have been pressed for a while already. Because the skins were thick and the ratio of juice to solid matter low, we have enormous fruit and color concentration, but big tannins as well, and we did not want to macerate for too long. We de-vatted before the alcoholic fermentation was complete, and let it finish in the juice, to avoid too severe tannic structures.

Our white grapes were harvested a long time ago, we had decided early on not to produce any sweet wine this year. For once we are going to have a good quantity of dry white wine, and the quality looks to be outstanding. The old vines of Sémillon we took over this season gave very good results, despite suffering from hail damage in August.

from François Pinon near Vouvray, October 24, 2005

It looks like we are going to be done with our 2005 harvest in a few days.

We did two first passes to pick the highly botrycized grapes, with high sugar content.

The third pass was a harvest of normally ripe grapes for the off-dry Cuvée Tradition, and these days we are picking the last grapes, turned golden by the October sun, to make a promising cuvée of Moëlleux.

Less extreme than 2003, with no spring frost and no excessive summer heat, 2005 has offered us an exceptional harvest, close to my ideal vintage.

Finished Through Rainy Weather

from Silvio Messana at Montesecondo in Tuscany

We finished harvest last Friday. I was very uncertain about the results as the weather has been so humid and rainy. We have had to work against rain and incoming rot for the whole time. We left about 20% of the crop on the plants.

Some parts of the vineyard were extremely beautiful others left in their entirety.

After a week of watching the evolution of the vats and tasting them I can say that we could be facing a very, very interesting harvest. There is some great elegance in the fruit, very good color and balanced alcohol.

The cool weather has helped extremely slow and regular fermentations.

This is what I can say as of today, we now have to wait for further evolution.

Rain Ends Great Harvest in Duras

from Catherine and Jean-Mary le Bihan at Domaine Mouthes Le Bihan in Côtes-de-Duras,. October 21st

We finished our harvest on October 19th, around 10:20am, and by 11:00am, it was raining, and it’s still raining now!

Everything we picked was beautiful and we had superb weather. Last week, we stopped picking because we did not like the last 2 hectares of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cab Franc: the grapes’ skins were very thick and the tannins rustic. Since there was rain in the forecast for the mid week, immediately followed by the return of good weather, we waited it out. This was the right thing to do, the grapes we picked on Monday and Tuesday, after 60mm of rain fell, were perfectly ripe, and the amount of potential alcohol had dropped (from above 14% to less than 14%.)

The first vats we harvested have been pressed for a while already. Because the skins were thick and the ratio of juice to solid matter low, we have enormous fruit and color concentration, but big tannins as well, and we did not want to macerate for too long. We de-vatted before the alcoholic fermentation was complete, and let it finish in the juice, to avoid too severe tannic structures.
Our white grapes were harvested a long time ago, we had decided early on not to produce any sweet wine this year. For once we are going to have a good quantity of dry white wine, and the quality looks to be outstanding. The old vines of Sémillon we took over this season gave very good results, despite suffering from hail damage in August.

Low Yields, but Clean Grapes in Fleurie

from Alain Coudert at Clos de la Roilette, October 10th

Vintage 2005: With small to average yields and excellent health conditions of the grapes, vintage 2005 looks very promising. To get to this result, the vines went through a cold winter, and warm and dry spring and early summer, and ended up with the smallest yield in 15 years.

The first three months of the year were very dry (minus 48 mm over averages) and cold (minus 1.3 degrees Celsius.) The second trimester balanced out the lack of rain and the average temperature was 1.5 degrees Celsius higher than normal. But July and August were almost totally dry.

The budburst happened quite late, on April 12th, blossoming took 10 days, starting on June 13th, véraison (moment when the grapes turn color) occurred quite early, on July 27th. At that point, the ripening was 2 days earlier than in 1998, which had the same blossoming date.

Mildew and oïdium gave us some trouble, but we were able to treat on time and so reduce the frequency of treatments. Mildew showed up around May 12th, but the dry weather in July and August prevented any further development, as it did not allow any rot to set in either. About insects and acarians, in 2005 we had confirmation of the quasi disappearance of the lepideptora cochylis, although eudemis (or lobesia botrana) gained ground but few of its caterpillars developed.

The flowers were not very abundant, and some cool days caused millerandage (berries smaller and less tight than is normal), so there was no need to green harvest.

The harvest was done quite quickly, from September 7th to 14th, and was easy because we did not have to sort anything (other than pick out the odd leaf.)

The ripeness was quite homogeneous, around 12.3 degrees of potential alcohol for all the vines, the acidity was good and PH rather low, which could indicate a wine for the long haul.

2005 is a vintage with intense color, way above the usual, with fruit and structure and silky tannins comparable to 1991’s or 1999’s.

A Catherine Feeling Good

from Catherine Roussel at Clos Roche Blanche, October 4th

We are finishing the harvest tomorrow with the Cabernet Franc. The harvest this year was shorter than in 2004, partly because the yields are smaller, roughly between 20 and 25 hl/ha and partly because most of the grapes ripened at the same time. On the whole, it went quite well:

beautiful weather + a nice harvesting team + no rot (therefore no sorting) + Didier’s cast coming off (thus 80% effective) + great quality
= a Catherine feeling good.

Here are the results:

Sauvignon: on average 12.5% potential alcohol and 4.8-5 grams of acidity

Gamay: 13% alcohol and 5.6 grams acidity

Pineau d’Aunis: 11.6% alcohol and 4 grams acidity

Côt: 12.5% alcohol and 5 grams acidity

It finally rained this weekend. I immediately imagined that mushrooms were falling from the sky.

Grrreat! What perfect timing, now I can scour the woods without feeling guilty.

At last, good news from Sancerre

from Jean-Paul Labaille at Domaine Thomas-Labaille in Chavignol, October 3rd

We started our harvest on September 20th with 25 harvesters under wonderful weather and finished the 28th without seeing a drop of rain.

The grapes were perfectly healthy, thanks to the dry weather in August. Yields are average, but the potential degrees of alcohol are very good, between 13 and 13.5 degrees, so that there is no need to chaptalize this vintage.

I think 2005 is going to resemble 2002, with its great balance of sugar and acidity.
Fermentations have started and I await confirmation of an excellent vintage.

The Cru Beaujolais is Very Promising - Harvest in at Juliénas

from Michel Tête at Domaine Clos du Fief in Juliénas, September 28, 2005

Harvest 2005 went from September 10th to September 20th with a staff of around 35 pickers, 4 carriers in the vineyard and 4 people in the cellar.

The weather was beautiful and dry, with big variations in temperature. The grapes were 100% healthy and quantities were on the small side or normal, depending on the parcel. Apart from picking out some dried leaves, no sorting was necessary.

The first pressings have produced deeply colored, well structured and well balanced wines. Even after the malolactic fermentation, acidity levels are good. The fermentations on the skin, even the long ones, proceeded without a hitch.

Vintage 2005 has turned out to be quite promising and, at present, is entirely satisfying.

High Hopes in Vouvray

from François Pinon in Vouvray, September 27, 2005

We started harvesting the Chenin grapes after a year without any major weather concerns (neither hail, nor frost) but with chronic lack of precipitation (very little rain last winter and even less this summer), a cool dry spring and an early flowering.

Cool nights, lots of sunshine and high temperatures in the summer sped up the ripening of the berries (two weeks earlier than usual) while still maintaining good acidity.

Right now, the grapes have a deep golden color, good sugar levels and are in good health. But with the first mists of autumn, some botrytis has begun to appear.

Excellent potential and high hopes for this vintage.

It's Almost Over in Tuscany - Fingers Crossed

from Silvio Messana at Montesecondo, San Casciano Val di Pesa, September 27, 2005

We started harvest on September 17th to pick the few rows of Merlot that we have and then stopped. Summer has been very hot and dry up until the end of July and then the month of August which felt like September, and the first days of September which felt like October with heavy rain, heat and humidity. Then two weeks of dry, windy and hot days with cold nights. Almost perfection ... and I think it saved the harvest.

Today we finished picking those grapes which had no chance to reach perfect maturity but still gave a must with very good taste and a spicy nose. There is a good 80% of the vineyard which looks very, very good. We are going to wait for two more days but rot could set in very quickly this year and I don't think it makes sense to look for overly mature and concentrated grapes. It is not that kind of year here.

It is hard to predict the outcome of this very challenging harvest. It could give us some very nice surprises. Let's hope for the best!

2005 – All is well and good in the Touraine

From François Cazin at Le Petit Chambord, Cheverny, September 27, 2005

A year that has been very good for the vines in the Loire Valley and with very little rain. Our estate was lucky enough to escape the violent hailstorms and with the little bit of rain we did get and working the soil, we were able to conserve enough water and thus reach a very good ripeness around 10 days earlier than usual.

The harvest started on September 19th. The first grapes we brought into the cellar lead us to predict a very high degree of potential alcohol with a very good balance of sugar and acidity, as well as a high concentration of color for the reds.

This week we will pick the Sauvignons, the grapes are in perfect health and we have every reason to hope for an exceptional vintage.

The Romorantin grapes look marvelous, a little bit of patience and I’ll tell you more later.

Unusually Early, but Looks Very Good, in Barolo

from Augusto Cappellano, Serralunga d'Alba on September 27th.

This week we will most likely finish the harvest. We are also picking the Nebbiolo of Barolo, which at first worried us, but the level of sugar and acidity are good and at the moment ripe for picking. The grapes are also quite flavorful! But still it is incredible to pick the Nebbiolo a month early. We are not yet accustomed to this insane climatic change but it goes to show how nature itself is changing…

Gevrey-Chambertin Vintage 2005 – During the Harvest

from Sylvie Esmonin, Gevrey-Chambertin on September 26, 2005

We started harvesting the Côte de Beaune on September 22nd and the Côtes de Nuits on the 23rd.

Right up to today, the weather has been beautiful with no rain.
The grapes are ripe with thick skins and are in perfect health.

My lowest degree of potential alcohol is 12.6 for the Bourgogne Rouge (which will eventually end up as 12.1 for the finished wine. The Bourgogne Blanc will be 12.3 when it is finished. After that, the lowest of the Gevrey-Chambertins is at 12.8 and another at 12.9. The G-C Vieilles Vignes cuvée is at 13.95 and the Volnay at 13.5. We are picking the Clos St. Jacques today. Everything is going very well except that one of our pickers cut her finger instead of a grape….

The end of harvest is scheduled for Friday, September 30th.

More News from Sancerre

from Alain Girard in Verdigny, Sancerre, on September 25, 2005

It’s been a dry summer, the flowering went well and then by chance we were spared the hail which hit the neighboring slopes of Sury-en-Vaux and Saint Gemme on July 28th.

The official start of the harvest in Sancerre was September 17, 2005. The weather conditions this season have been ideal for a good harvest:
- Sugar levels have developed well
- acidity levels have been maintained
- the Sauvignon grapes that we have tasted show good aromas

Vintage 2005 looks like it will be well balanced and should be of great quality.

Sunday in the Beaujolais

Jean-Paul Brun from Terres Dorées Chatting with Joe Dressner by Cell Phone from his Cellar, September 25, 2005

Jean-Paul says they almost feel lazy and guilty. The alcohol degree is good, the acidity is good, there are no problems, all is advancing well, there is fruit and everything is coming together well. There's no stress, no crisis, no craziness, panic or desperation.

Everything is just going well. Jean-Paul says the key decision was to pick later than everyone else. The grapes are mature and ripe, they would have been green if he had started a week earlier.

They still have another week to go here and are taking their time.

Patience is a Virtue in the Collio of Friuli

from Ferdinado Zanusso at I Clivi, Corno di Rosazzo, September 23rd

[A new estate for us, I Clivi makes 2 vineyard specific whites - Galea, from Collio grapes of old-vine Tocai Friulano and Verduzzo and Brazan, from Colli Orientali grapes of old-vine Tocai and Malvasia Istriana - both with long, cool fermentations in stainless steel. They are a benchmark for elegant, age-worthy wines from the region.]

In fact, we have not yet started the picking, as we are not as yet satisfied with the overall maturity of the grapes, which need remain on the vines for some more time as this year has not been all that hot.

Nothing unusual, in 1997 which was an ideal year we picked the whites between 22rd and 29th and the reds on 4th October. The point is that we seek full maturity for the whites and a bit of overmaturity for the reds. That means patience (though almost everybody here has the whites in the fermentation vats) and also risks, especially this year. We can only hope that the weather will not run wild.

2005 pre-harvest report:

This year's climatic conditions in Friuli have been average - save for a snowy March - without excessive heat or drought and rather abundant but not excessive rains.

Late budding but rapidly advancing vegetation afterwards, flowering in favourable conditions, sunny June but dull summer afterwards, September, so far, rather variable with average temperatures, sun and rainfall. The coming days will be decisive, the weather forecast is favourable but we keep our fingers crossed.

The prospects are of an average-sized crop of very good quality especially as the level of acidity is excellent.

Beaucoup Sunshine in Sancerre

from Alain Girard in Verdigny, Sancerre, September 22, 2005

We started harvesting on Monday, September 19, 2005, a glorious sunny day. The grapes are beautiful and of great quality. Today, Thursday, the weather is still magnificent. Let’s hope it stays like this until the end of the harvest.

Chinon looks Splendid

Sylvie de la Vigerie at Domaine Olga Raffault, September 22nd

A heat wave in June resulted in an early blossoming with a good amount of space between the flowers.

That in turn led to an early ripening with nicely spread out bunches.

The lack of rain allowed for small yields and good concentration.

The amount of sunshine and the high temperatures lead us to predict that our 2005 wines will have superb color, beautiful aromas and a good degree of potential alcohol.

Acidity levels look good too – so one could also believe that this vintage will have an exceptional capacity for aging well.

The harvest will start on Monday, September 26th.

Today it’s still really beautiful and dry.

Franck Peillot Reports from the Bugey

from Franck Peillot in Montagnieu, September 20th

Even up to today, the weather in the Bugey has been very changeable in 2005: the temperatures have alternated between hot and cold all year leaving winemakers (and technicians!!) perplexed as to when to harvest, but also as to the potential quality of the musts. The answer has been provided by a warm month of September in Montagnieu.

At any rate, I must mention a very violent hailstorm which hit my plot of Pinot Noir on July 18, 2005, so the yield there is tiny.

After numerous tests, both by taste and by sugar and acidity analysis, I decided to start harvesting on September 10 with the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The results are rich in alcohol (11-12.5%) and above all, very balanced in terms of acidity (about 5 grams/liter).

Generally, I don’t consider myself to be a good taster of must (nor of wine for that matter!!) but I must confess that I really enjoyed tasting such balanced and, I think, complex juice.

The Vineyards of Montagnieu with the Rhône river in the distance.

We stopped the harvest for three days – (20 mm of rain fell this weekend) and started up again on Tuesday, September 13th.

After finishing picking the Chardonnays, I decided to do a small pressing of Altesse, just to see.

So I harvested some plots which will be used to make sparkling wine and, when pressed, the juice showed a degree of potential alcohol of 10.9%. This came as a great surprise because I had been expecting much less, especially from such a late harvest varietal as Altesse. In the mouth, the acidity did not seem excessive at all.

So, how do I decide when to harvest the other plots destined, for the most part, for the still Altesse? The grapes are certainly nicely ripe right now, but if it continues to be clear and warm for another few days…it’s a gamble. I consult the oracles of Meteo France and Meteo Consult, but their predictions have completely changed for the next 48 hours, so when it comes to seeing 5 days into the future….It’s almost always the same dilemma at this point in the harvest, especially when the weather is so changeable.

So now all that is left is consulting the Big Guy (my father, Jean), he who has lived through 66 vintages (even if for the first few he was only tasting cow’s milk!). Our talk is, as always, enriching: no two vintages are alike (I figured as much!), 2005 looks very promising, but it’s always better “not to put all one’s eggs in one basket” as the saying goes, and not to let oneself get intoxicated by the lure of the gain (of quality, of course).

I knew all that, but it’s good to be reminded to keep a cool head.

I thus decided to pick 2 plots on Thursday, September 15th: the Côte de Presles (a very well exposed plot of old vines) and the Nez de Commissaire (a young 5-year-old planting where we had done a big green harvest earlier in the year).

The Côte de Presles always seems to rank with itself - year in and out; producing this year 11.5% potential alcohol and 5.8 grams of acidity: very good, good ripeness.

The young planting was a little disappointing: 11.6% potential alcohol and 5.4 grams of acidity. I had sampled some of it last week at 11.9% and 6.1 g/l….The 20 liters of rain that we got last week must have reached the roots which are still rather shallow. I realized that the berries were fuller...no alarming dilution, but there is a little nevertheless, despite nice material in the mouth.

In spite of this incident and since I am already satisfied with the quantity and quality already in vat, I will reattempt the “feat” and, once again, stop the harvest.

The day before yesterday, Saturday, it was overcast and cooler. Yesterday, Sunday, it was cold, 42 degrees in the morning and 50 at night with rainfall measuring 8 liters per square meter …A sharp check for the sap and vegetation or a simple warning? Whatever the case, I will go back to harvesting tomorrow, Tuesday.

More later…

The Harvest Starts in the Colli Astigiani

From Alessandra Bera in Canelli, Peimonte on September 13th

.…And here we go! The harvest has started. After a very ugly week of rain, storms, squalls and even a little hail, we started this morning. The grapes are beautiful at the moment, maybe not perfect in maturity, but because of the rain, we need to harvest otherwise rot could begin to set. Hope the weather is good where you are.

Bera's Moscato vines before harvest (right)

Eric Texier in the Rhône

From Eric Texier on September 21st

Northern Rhone : drought was really severe until first week of September, then heavy rains. Very ripe grapes, but with some rot on early ripening places. Sorting will be the key. A balanced 2003, probably.

Whites are very nice (very like 1996 in Maconnais) ripe and balanced. Very tiny yields (3 barrels only) on roussanne in Brezeme. Côte Rôtie to be harvested next week. Condrieu is done, very "alsacian" in style. SInce the acidity were very high and the ripeness perfect, I vinified the Vernon fruits in the Spatlese style (7.5 % alc, 85 g/l RS, 8.1 g/l Acidity).

Southern Rhone : In the Gard (St Gervais) heavy rains early September, as usual now (the so called épisode cévenol, rare in the past, happens almost each year since 2002). But a drop in temperature and very strong mistral since last Friday protect the grapes from rot. Strangely, the fruits taste very ripe and are not so high in potential alcool (mid to high 12%). Cadinières will be harvested next week, as well as Grenache in Chateauneuf, where the rains were much lower than on the other bank of the Rhone. Seguret and Vaison will be picked early october as usual, along with the mourvedre in Chateauneuf. This might be a very good year for the Vaucluse appellations.

Macon is fabulous. Low yields (25-30 hl/ha), perfect ripeness. Last press on friday.

Noble rot is spreading on the best spots, and if we have good weather in october, this might be a real opportunity to make brillant Vin de Paille and Noble Rot

Clos Roche Blanche First Report

From Didier Barrouillet on September 19th

“Tout va très bien, Madame la Marquise”….(1936 song by Ray Ventura et les Collègiens”)

Everything is wonderful, well, except for one little thing….

The grapes that were hit by hail have had a hard time ripening – they haven’t gotten enough water or photosynthesis. But then again, isn’t that what’s great about Northern vineyards: the fact that ripening is slow and arduous? An endless debate!

I stupidly (partially) broke my Achille’s tendon and have one leg in a cast for one to three months…..

But apparently, once it heals, it will be stronger than before. So, why complain?

That said, the pressing of Sauvignon they did on Saturday was of great quality (13.3 degrees of potential alcohol and 4.8 grams of acidity). There was not one speck of rot on the grapes and a high pressure front bringing good weather has moved in for at least a week.

The harvest will probably start in earnest next Thursday.

More News from the Muscadet!

From Marc Ollivier on September 18th

The past week has been really beautiful with just a few drops of rain on Friday.

The Clos des Briords, harvested on Monday, had 11.9 degrees of potential alcohol and 4.8 grams of acidity (a little less than 2004).

The Cuvée Eden, harvested on Tuesday had 11.9 degrees of potential alcohol and 4.45 grams of acidity and like the Clos des Briords just a tiny bit inferior to the 2004.

On the other hand, the Moulin de la Gustaie, at 11.5 degrees of the potential alcohol and 4.6 grams of acidity, is actually better than in 2004.

On Thursday and Friday, we picked two more vats of Pépière. This second batch is clearly better than the two vats we harvested last Thursday and Friday. That is, they were at 11.6 degrees of potential alcohol and 4.6 grams of acidity and 12.3 degrees of potential alcohol and 4.3 grams of acidity.

What’s left are the old vines of Pépière. It should go well: it looks like the weather will be good.

On average, both the degrees of potential alcohol and the acidity levels are about 0.3 points below 2004.

Chinon Looks Great!

From Bernard Baudry on September 16th

“The Gods are with us!” 2005 looks like it may be an excellent vintage even if we still have 10 days before the clippers go to work.

As far as temperatures are concerned, 2005 is turning out to be similar to 1976 and even better than 1989 and 1990. Rainfall has been much lighter than the average for the past 40 years (almost identical to 1976, which was a drought year in France). There was slightly more than average sunshine but not enough to challenge the records of 1976, 1989 or 2003.

So, 2005 has been a dry and consistently warm year. The harvest will be early (by about a week) and the yields will be on the small side. In contrast to 2003 with its record breaking temperatures, the grapes have concentrated more acidity and polyphenols (color and tannins).

2005 is a promising vintage and will probably be of great quality. The grapes are fleshy and firm which leads me to think that we will get very well structured wines which should age well.

45 pickers are scheduled to start harvesting around September 28 and,weather permitting, we expect to finish around October 10.

The Chenin Blanc grapes are superb and we are looking forward to the first harvest of a plot of young vines situated on well exposed clay-limestone slope.

Pre-Harvest Report from Gevrey-Chambertin

From Sylvie Esmonin on September 15th

2005 Weather Conditions

The first little green buds appeared around the middle of April 2005: 10 to 12 days ahead of 2004.

The very first flowers appeared on May 30, 2005 and the flowering phase in general started in early June, still 10 to 12 days in advance of last year.

There was no significant rain from June until the second week of September with only 5 mm in August. Because our vines have such deep roots (thanks to frequent work), they did not suffer from the lack of rain.

No problems with diseases - perfect health.

Six days before the harvest -- The grapes are ripening slowly (degrees of potential alcohol between 12.5 and 13 percent) and they are still in perfect health. The yields look fairly average with small bunches. The stems are already ripe and drying.

It looks like the Pinot Noir grapes may have great color, the level of anthocyanes being very high. Acidity has been kept fairly high by a cool month of August.

So everything looks right for a great vintage, all that’s left is the weather. We are keeping our fingers crossed that there won’t be any rain.

A new wooden (50 hl) vat arrived today, the fourth in my cellar.

Château d'Oupia Sorting in the Minervois

From Marie-Pierre Iché

We just started the harvest. Our region was hit by some really strong rains but right now its sunny and beautiful. We hope that with careful selection and sorting and a continuation of this good weather until the end of September that we will have a successful vintage.

Domaine de la Pépière Reports from the Muscadet on September 11th

From Marc Ollivier

Some news from Domaine de la Pépière: The harvest started on Wednesday, September 7; it was so hot we could barely stand it. A this point, we have harvested 3 vats of Pépière. It’s looking really good with 11.3 degrees of potential alcohol and 4.8 grams of acidity, in other words, the same as last year. Today, Monday, we are picking the Clos des Briords.

Harvest Starts at Terres Dorées in the Beaujolais!

Jean-Paul Brun reports by Telephone on September 19, 2005

We started picking in Charnay today. I’m optimistic and confident. We have a beautiful harvest in front of us.

I’d take a growing season like this any year. Everything went well, we had less to do, less corrections to make in the vineyards than we normally have. The vines look magnificent.

The summer had lots of sun and dryness. I was never that concerned about the vines being overstressed, by the dry weather but the small rains we had at the beginning of September and last week were perfect. They refreshed the vines and reaccelerated the maturation.

The Gamay we picked today was about 12 degrees with good acidity. They yields are low and correct. We’re waiting to pick the Chardonnay as I’d like to have some noble rot.

The weather report predicts good weather through the next seven days. That can always change, but we might be on the verge of a great year..

Many of my colleagues are in too much of a rush. Most of Charnay has already stopped picking and I’m just starting. They get into a mind frame that they are making Nouveau and the point is to rush out there, pick the grapes, get the vinifications going and pump out the Nouveau. Even if the grapes are not yet ripe. It’s a shame.

I’m completely confident.