Louis Dressner Selections - Wine Importer

2008 Harvest Reports


Arianna Occhipinti in Sicily

October 25, 2008

Kevin McKenna and Shawn Mead just visited two days ago and it looks like a fabulous vintage.

Laurent Barth's Second Report from Alsace

A few impressions as the harvest continues and little by little the vats fill up.

September 30th: Harvest of the Pinot Noir : an intense and laborious sorting which allowed us to vinify two terroirs separately. The devatting is planned for this Wednesday (Oct. 15th). The grapes were able to attain ripeness (13.1%), but as far as the tannins go, I’m not so sure. I decided to keep about 10% of the stems for the Cuvée “M” (only after aging will we be able to know if this cuvée will ever see the light of day). I reread some pages from a book by Peynaud le Bordelais (in which philosophical and technical reflections confirm each other) to reassure myself about the choices I was making about vatting and pigeages.

The week of September 29 – October 4 was marked by one rainfall after another; light in intensity, but nerve wracking nevertheless.

The Riesling from the flatland, the Muscat and Gewurtztraminer are all harvested. One consistent feature of this year has been the discrepancy between the visual appearance of the grapes and their texture (thick skins) and the actual ripeness which has been relatively high. The acidity levels have also been generous.

Last Wednesday (Oct 8), for the first time, we harvested Muscat from the Grand Cru Schlossberg, a plot of pure granite. It’s a small terraced parcel where Muscat and Riesling grow together. The deer, wild boars and other predators of the neighboring forest have confirmed their clear preference for the aromatic variety and are in part responsible for the ridiculously small yield.

In the end, hardly 360 liters of concentrated juice (13.55% potential alcohol). I have no idea how this juice will end up. If its identity reveals itself, I will age it separately.

More to come later…

News from the Bugey: “Merci mon Dieu!”

Franck Peillot, Montagnieu

This old French expression is not part of everyday language any more, but it suits me perfectly for vintage 2008. For, if the year is far from perfect, I deem myself lucky and happy.

The season started with a cold snap and freezing temperatures in the week of April 15th. But we suffered more fear than damage, only a small plot at 400m high was affected.

May went went without problems, then, when the flowering was already occuring late, at its very beginning (on the Altesse, notably) we got big rains and cold temperatures. Rain is not a friend during flowering, and cold even less so. Imagine trying a fecondation in a cold bath, at around 35F! most studs would renounce. For vines, it is the same problem, and many flowers aborted, bringing coulure, that winemakers’ bane.

Chardonnay and Pinot noir fared better, their flowering was a little earlier. Mondeuse, once again, showed her rustic strength and produced beautiful, well-formed grapes.

June and July made us go through a surprising series of hot/cold moments, which had two main results: the development of a lot of mildew and oidium at the same time. This is really astonishing in Montagnieu, where the slopes are really steep and stony, and so drainage is excellent; that factor usually spares us any mildew development. Anyway, we managed to keep disease in check, despite some loss. The second result was unstable weather, with a thunderstorm per week on average. Many hail storms hit around Montagnieu, but my village was spared this year. Only my Pinot noir plot, 10km away, was hit on July 26th, but the damage wasn’t too severe.

August was not much better, more storms and cool temperatures. With the late flowering, we had planned for a late harvest, but by then I had doubts about ever reaching ripeness.

In early September, we got a 15mm of rain, but finally, the weather turned, with fog and coolness in the mornings, and sunny afternoons. Yippeee!

By then our grapes are beautiful, there is a little rot on some Chardonnay, but nothing too bad. After checking the ripeness numerous times, I decide to harvest those two plots on Sept. 17th and after, for my sparkling wines. The acidity level is high, but potential alcohol is between 10.5 and 11 degrees, and very good for a sparkling: during the second fermentation in the bottle, alcohol goes up 1 degree, so we’ll end with about 12%, which is perfect.

In the mean time, boars attacked a superb plot of Mondeuse, which was already quite ripe. They made a big mess and we had to install an electric fence to prevent them from devouring the rest! My father, 69, a winemaker and hunter for 50 years, had never seen such a thing. Really, this year is difficult and full of surprises. As far as applying organic remedy to fight that new kind of predator, I don’t see a solution, except maybe tigers or elephants, but what a dangerous escalation in violence that would be!

My father, with eyes sparkling with mischief (and gourmandise!) sees a solution: a boar stew in Mondeuse.

We interrupt the harvest, good weather is here to stay, why rush?

On Sept. 23rd, we cut some Altesse grapes from sunny plots, and on Sept. 25th, we harvest my large parcel of old vines Altesse. Yields are low and there is rot to sort, it was time for this to be done.

More rest and wait until Sept. 29th for superb, perfectly golden Altesse at over 12 degrees of alcohol. We continue with Mondeuse; I had done strict green harvest, and the maturity is great, almost exceptional. In the youngest plot, I only left 3 bunches per vine.

On Tuesday the 30th, we pick the last Chardonnay – I “forgot” them to check their evolution: no rot really, 13 degrees, which is a lot for the vintage. Of course these vines are now over 20 years, which is a mature age for a vine (although usually not for humans!) And we reach the end of the harvest on Oct. 1st with the last of Mondeuse.

Not so bad, finally, especially in quality. Quantity is not great, there are several hectolitres missing, but I’d rather not complain too much: 2003 remains a “burning” memory and was worse than this.

As I am writing, vinification is on, and needs more care than in an easy year. It’s like a fragile newborn, who requires even more care and love.

I have more possible cuvées, from single plots, more vats waiting for the indigenous yeasts to start the fermentation, under my watchful eye. Take your time, I’m right here.

That’s the summary of a difficult year. But as the saying goes: “Misery always brings out something good”, since life has sometimes been hard on me, at least all these difficult times let me say “Thank you” today.

Also, this vintage is a motivation: it will not be easy like in 2005 and 2006, but I am hopeful. It could be a very interesting, complex and definitely original vintage, so a vintage in my image.

Domaine Thomas-Labaille, Chavignol (Sancerre)

Jean-Paul Labaille

After rainy and cold July and August, disease (mildew and oidium) got worse. The harvest of 2008 looked to be even more difficult than in 2007. We were planning a harvest like in the 80s and 90s, i.e. in early October.

The second half of September was very dry and cold, which concentrated the juice, the acidity level was high. The official date to start the harvest was set on Sept. 29th. On that day, we had a major disappointment: the potential degree was high (13.5) and the yields were very low (30HL/HA.) We had to wait for some rain to soften the berries.

On Oct. 3rd, I started with my Pinot noir: good quality and low yields, which is perfect for the variety. On that day, we also got the rain we were hoping for.

We started picking the Sauvignon on Oct. 7th, our hopes are growing, since there is more juice and the degree has fallen to 12.5.
The harvest went slowly, this year one had to have patience. We finished on Oct. 14th with the Monts Damnés vines.

2008 seems to have good balance, and small yields, it should be a lot like 2007, but with more structure, and acidity similar to 2002.
We will know more after the fermentations.

Clos de la Roilette in Fleurie, Beaujolais

Alain Coudert on Oct. 22nd

A harvest like in the 80s

The official date for the start of the harvest was set on Sept. 15th, which had not happened since 1996. The vintage is square in the average of the last 50 years, but later, and yet the growing season’s temperatures were 0.5 degree C above average. But it rained a lot: from January til the end of August, there were 152mm above the norm, and 30mm extra for August alone.

After a strong presence in 2007, mildew was again in the spotlight. Other diseases were negligeable. The buds sprouted leaves very late, around April 20th, which is 15 days later than in 2007.

Flowering started on June 6th, which is also late, because of cold temperatures. The cool and humid conditions made the flowering take about 12 days, and the grapes were affected with a lot of millerandage (the berries stay tiny), so we knew the crop would be small.
Véraison, or the change in color brought by maturation, came in very late July, which pushed the harvest to a late date.

It rained a lot in May, and the mildew attack was intense, on the leaves and the grapes. We lost about 15% of our crop to it, despite the increased frequency of treatments.
In September, rot started affecting the grapes and also slowed down ripening.

Finally, we started on Sept. 19th. The sun and the north wind that had come at last allowed us to push the picking further in time, and we enjoyed ideal, sunny conditions.

On the whole, our crop reached 11.7 degrees of potential alcohol. The acidity levels are very high, but there is a lot of malic acid which is going to be converted, and the total acidity will come down.

After my first tastings, I see wines with a strong resemblance to 2004 or 2006. For us, the crop is very small, though: about 70% of a normal yield.

Catherine Roussel's Final Report

Mareuil-sur-Cher in Touraine, October 14th 2008

We finished yesterday (Oct. 13th) under hot weather and in a cheerful atmosphere, with a tough customer, our Cabernet: we had to wait an extra week to harvest it, but fortunately, most our pickers showed up.

At first sight, the yields are around 25HL/HA, degree: 12.5%, acidity: 6.4g.

Didier is relieved, and relatively relaxed, given this difficult vintage.

PS: weather too dry for mushrooms (waaah!)
PPS: Buster has to be warned, we have two new tenants: Sécotine (striped) and Pélagie (black), two adorable kittens. Sécotine follows us everywhere (hence her name, i.e. a brand of glue) and Pélagie loves to sleep in cardboard boxes

Looks Good for Sophie & Vincent Morey

Santenay in Côte d'Or, October 14th

We started on September 25th and finished on October 4th, and picked under sunny skies, sometimes with a few clouds and one small midday shower, so under very good weather.

This was a rather long harvest, but it was worth the time spent. We picked beautiful grapes, plump and juicy. There was very little rot, thanks to two weeks of sunny and windy weather in the second half of September. The ripeness is good, in white as in red.

Our worries of early September have turned into a smile of contentment, this vintage promises to be good, in white especially. Vincent is very busy in the winery, he has started devatting the reds and has to closely monitor the whites’ fermentation in barrels.

A Tough Year for Gianluigi Bera

Canelli in Piemonte, October 10th

To think the season started off well.

The vines potentially had a lot of grapes and budded splendidly, green and vigorous. The climate was the best, not too hot and really dry.

Then, on the 20th of May, the catastrophe began - a continuous month of rain, sometimes hard, sometimes light, but daily; a month of continuous cold with dark clouds in the sky. It was the kind of thing no one remembered seeing for at least 100 years. The delicate moment of flowering was compromised, most of all for the late varieties.; under the constant wet, the little flowers closed up, rotted and fell off. All that remained of the bunch was a sad twig.

The vineyards soon became a disaster, the growth of the grass was unstoppable and it became high, without any way to eliminate it. The mildew started and attacked the leaves in a very harsh way. Not being able to go between the rows with a tractor, I couldn't do anything but try to control by doing treatments of powder with a sprayer on my back. This was somewhat homeopathic, but tiring, because every day it rained and every other day I had to repeat the treatment. Then the rain stopped and from one day to the next it broke out in a heat: a humid heat, intense and harmful. The vineyard looked like it had become a jungle, and on top of the mildew came oidium (or powdery mildew), could this year get any worse!. Everybody was using a ton of poison, but we stayed with organic treatments and our crops were no worse than the others'.

Everything came to a head at the end of July in a week of madness. I needed to bottle some Moscato and I could not go into the vineyard. My father was cutting the grass with a tractor so the daily treatment of sulfur against the oidium was left off for a day. Within the week the malady had become unstoppable despite the interventions that were done after. As far as there remained any grapes, they were dried out.

After a windy and hot August, the harvest began for us on the 8th of September. It was a strange a depressing harvest. There were very few grapes: 50% less than normal on the Moscato, 60% less on the other white grapes and 70% less of Dolcetto and Barbera: a true disaster. The quality? It was best for the Moscato, since luckily we are situated in the best vineyard sites in the region and could pick later. It's fair quality for the reds; they suffered at the end of the season so the ripening was not perfect. It was the same for the white grapes (Arneis, Cortese and Favorita); the grapes were very healthy but not completely ripe. Qualitatively, in complexity it's a good year; quantitatively, it's the worst in the last 100 years.

For now, there is a sufficient amount of Moscato; with the reds on the other hand I am thinking of making a single wine, which should yield about 6,000 bottles as a souvenir of the most difficult and agonizing vintage of my life!

Giovanni Masini at Ca de Noci

Quattro Castello in Reggio-Emilia, October 10th

The harvest in the hills of Quattro Castello was a small one as a result of the mildew attack that followed the heavy spring rains. The Cabernet Sauvignon for making our Gheppio wine was not even harvested. I am not a big fan of the grape and the soft, characterless wine it produces, so it is okay with me.

The Spergola, Moscato (Giallo) and Malvasia are very aromatic and with small yields and cooler September nights the aromas were only heightened.

Now we hope not to erase nature's work by doing as little as possible in the cellar.

More from Catherine Roussel atClos Roche Blanche

Mareuil-sur-Cher, October 6, 2008

The harvest is getting longer and longer. Is Didier trying to make the pleasure last to make up for the lack of grapes?

We finished gathering the Gamay on September 29, it was 28 F in the morning (according to the weatherman on the radio)….our hands were cold in the morning but the sun warmed us up quickly. The average result for the Gamay: between 12 and 13 degrees of potential alcohol, 6 grams of acidity, yield: 30 hl/ha. Tuesday September 30th : Pineau d’Aunis : perfect : 13.5 degrees, 5.2 grams, 30 hl/ha, we will only be making Rosé.

Same thing today: Côt, 12 degrees, Didier hasn’t tested the acidity yet, yield : nuttin!

Only the Cabernet is left…don’t know yet if we will pick on Thursday or next Monday. The rain we got this morning may speed up the ripening!

If you want to see photos of Laurent Saillard (and me too) harvesting, go to Jim Budd’s blog. (Jim is an English journalist friend), in last week’s or the week before’s entry, he talks about us, among others: Jim Budd's Loire Blog

Jean Maupertuis: Small Yields, Good Ripeness

St-Georges-ès-Allier in Côtes d'Auvergne, October 6, 2008

We began harvesting little by little last week, starting with the Chardonnay. Small yields but good ripeness, which seems to be the general rule this year.

No rain in either September or early October, sunny and cool.

So, we are seeing concentration with more ripeness than in 2006 and, above all, more than in 2007. There is still quite a bit of acidity in the Gamay, so I have put off their harvest until this week for the sparkling wines and until early next week for the reds.

Sylvie Esmonin: A Miracle

Gevrey-Chambertin in Côte d'Or, October 6, 2008

A Miracle

We managed to complete the harvest without a day of rain even though the weather forecasts had predicted lots of rain, particularly for Thursday October 2. As it turned out, it was a beautiful sunny day, one of the nicest of the harvest.

We started on September 27th and finished on October 2nd at noon. All the grapes are in the cellar. The ripeness is good, around 12% on average. Now all that’s left is the fermentation.

P.S. The grapes were healthy but we had to do some sorting due to rot.

Marie-Pierre Iché: No Worries in Minervois

Oupia in Languedoc, October 4th, 2008

We finished the harvest on Friday, October 3rd. There was a hailstorm at La Caunette (a village where Château d’Oupia has several plots) on September 4th. We didn’t have any problems with rot as we treated the vines with copper the following day but there was a loss of yield.

At Oupia, the grapes were very healthy. We think it will be a good vintage. For the time being, we have no worries.

Arianna Occhipinti Begins Harvest

Vittoria in Sicily, October 3rd

Here we go, finally. The most anticipated moment…it's hard to describe. The grapes are ripe and we are starting the harvest. Besides two small and insignificant rainfalls, this year has been very dry, beautiful and pleasant.

The scents of the air are changing to those of grape must and of fruit that in turn changes to the scent of wine and, of course, the smell of carbon dioxide which intensifies the air.

As always it is a happy moment, of renewal and trying new things.

Some photos we put together.

Buona Vendemmia a tutta Italia!

Silvio Messana: Just Missed by Giant Hail in Chianti Classico

Cerbaia, San Casciano Val di Pesa on October 4th, 2008

This is the year where I really did not want to look back and write this report, but Kevin asks so... here it is.

From May 17th until mid -June 200 mm of rain followed by 70 days extremely hot and very windy, then 70 mm of rain just at the beginning of September with heavy hail, 3 cm diam, that missed us by 300 m !!... , people had to be hospitalized, lots of cars taken to the body shop (or how do you call it ?) but we got spared!

Peronospora (mildiou, in french; mildew, in english) joined us quite early. Oidium (powdery mildew, in english) spared us.
Harvest is now finished, not much quantity but on whatever was left quality looks very good with decent acidity and very healthy grapes. Skins where just okay so I will probably do short maceration, but still hope that some of the skin extraction will balance a little the sugar, as it looks like we are going for another 14°+ vintage. Now we have to wait to see what it really is going to be like. Never a dull moment !!!!

Eric Texier: Harvest 2008 -- Harvest? What harvest??

Charnay, October 3rd, 2008

On Thursday Sept. 11th (what a coincidence) I was driving north from Châteauneuf, where the whites were almost ready to be picked. That would happen the following Monday and Tuesday (15th and 16th.) The weather was beautiful, at long last, after a rotten summer, and, contrary to 2007, a bad start to September. Depressing….

Near the city of Donzère, where the provencal vegetation disappears and the northern Rhône starts, the sky darkened to a black ink color, and five minutes later, I had to stop on the side of the highway. It was raining so hard that I couldn’t see a thing outside. In 2 hours, between 100 and 150mm of rain fell between Montélimar and Lyon.

Now I’m not depressed, I’m desperate! From Côte Rôtie to Brézème, our unripe Syrah and already fragile whites are going to bite the dust, for sure.

Next year I’m going to start making beer…

And then, the Mistral, blowing for 10 whole days.

There is no real ripening, but gray rot has been stopped, and the noble rot on the whites is concentrating. So, we are waiting. And we are waiting a bit longer, since it’s not raining. We’ll pick in the south at the end of next week.

Thursday, September 18th: 120mm of rain! Just as we were going to start. Oh, the Mistral is back, that’s a good thing.

On October 3rd, here’s where we are:

The whites have all been picked.

A good year in Châteauneuf, similar to 2005 with lively acidity

Opale, just like last year, with 15-10% noble rot

Condrieu with even more botrytis, and incredibly high acidity (8 to 10 g of tartaric acid)

Brézème: extra-terrestrial! More than half the crop in deep purple botrytis, between 13 and 19 degrees of potential alcohol, according to the plots, 12 g of acidity on the last picked. I have no idea what style we are going to achieve, but the must has great aromatic purity.

In red, Brézème will resemble 2006. It is a small crop, and we rejected about 20% of the grapes in the vines and on the sorting table. Thanks to all our pickers who did such careful sorting and understood that they were going to determine the quality of the vintage, much more than I, the winemaker, would.

70HL of red wine are picked, out of 350HL. Well, 350HL in principle, we’ll surely end up with a lot less, because every passing day the crop diminishes.

The weather is sunny and cold, the Mistral is blowing, so we are waiting. For a miracle? For inspiration? I am not sure myself. It is as if we were all stiff and sleepy after this summer that never came and this cold and dry autumn. A harvest borne by the winds, which stretches on and on without giving a hint of its true self.

End of Harvest and Pressings in Juliénas

Michel & Françoise Tête October 2, 2008

At our estate, the Domaine du Clos du Fief, 2008 will be remembered as year of up and downs in the weather: difficult for the vines and taxing for the winemaker.

The harvest, which started on September 18th, was late and not very abundant, but at least it was sunny and cool.

The first cuvées are aromatic and have good structure.

One could say that this has been a year of “jealousy”, as there were marked differences from one plot to another, from one area to another, with the overall yield amounting to 40% less than usual.

We will have to wait and see how the next stages of vinification go before we can really know what the quality of this vintage will be.

Harvest Starts at François Cazin, Cheverny

September 28th Cheverny

Last week, we harvested a few plots with our team, as a test. We picked the grapes for our sparkling wine, and the young vines of Sauvignon blanc and Pinot noir. Then we took a break, the weather is so beautiful that it would be a shame not to wait.

The summer wasn’t good, but a lot less humid than 2007. The grapes are healthy, we were able to combat mildew without overtreating and there is practically no rot. That’s thanks to the east wind that has been blowing for the last 10 days, bringing sunny but cold weather.
The grapes are gaining in concentration, so again the sugar levels are high. But the acidity levels remain very high, and that’s why we are waiting a bit longer.

On Monday, Sept. 29th, we’ll pick Chardonnay, then Pinot noir and Sauvignon blanc late in the week.

Our Romorantins grapes are fantastic, with a little patience we are expecting a great vintage.