Impressions of the 2012 vintage

It’s that time of year again.  Traffic hazards in the Languedoc have multiplied and it is well-nigh impossible to drive anywhere without getting stuck behind a mechanical harvester or a large trailer full of grapes.    The locals seem to acquire a reckless approach to an unbroken white line in the middle of the road – if you can see, just whizz past …….

The usual question: how’s the harvest  has met with mixed reactions.  Up in the hills in St. Jean de la Blacquière, Jean-Baptiste Granier was about to start picking – on 14th September.  He said this was later than the previous three or four years, and more in keeping with the norm, while Gavin Crisfield has almost finished.  Both were happy; jean-Baptiste was looking forward to using his new cellar, and some spanking brand new equipment, and the grapes were looking healthy.  Gavin seemed very relaxed; quality was good, and quantity not bad either.  In fact I was witness to two happy vignerons, enthusing about 2012.  A moment to treasure. 

I spent last Friday morning picking grapes.  A 7.30 start was rewarded by banana cake and coffee mid-morning and a chance to catch up with some friends, as we tried to avoid snipping each other’s fingers as we worked down opposite sides of a row of Carignan.   And the Carignan was looking good; lovely healthy bunches, and it tasted good too – some sweet fruit.  The Cinsaut was little more problematic – some large juicy looking bunches, but closer inspection revealed in some instances that the grapes had compacted and turned rotten inside the bunch.  The offending grapes needed to be cut out – a messy exercise resulting in well-stained sticky fingers.   And there was an occasional case of oidium, which makes the grapes look slightly dusty, and rather unappetising.   

                                                               Grapes with oidium 

                                                                 A healthy bunch  

So in the middle of September most people have picked their white grapes and red grapes intended for rosé, and most agree that the quality is pretty good, but quantity does seem to be down.  I am not sure why.    Somebody said the sortie was not so good, compensating for a larger crop last year.   The weather during the summer has been pretty good.  Nights were cool in July, and the beginning of August was not too hot, but then things heated up for a week, with the heat wave broken by some rain, followed by fine weather at the beginning of September.

But now things are looking a bit iffy.   I was picking again this Friday morning, 21st September, under a grey sky, with our friends keen to get their red grapes safely into the cellar.   Everyone is watching the weather forecast with an element of tension.    It is not proving to be such an easy vintage.   


AlanM said…
Jeff Coutelou was telling me today that the grapes have been really good quality this year despite some oidium issues earlier in the season. White and red have done well for him. Considering the reports from other areas of France the Languedoc seems to have come off well
Leon Stolarski said… it usually does, Alan. There may still be occasional "iffy" vintages, but rarely - if ever - any bad ones. Even the 2002's are drinking well. Or at least the ones I have tasted so far.
Graham said…
Suspect you may have mixed up your photos Rosemary. The oidium picture is actually damage caused by a moth caterpillar - it shrivels the berries and makes them soft and liable to bleed easily when touched.
Graham, I've checked with Peter and this is what he said.

After a careful study of the 'oidium' photo, the bunch in question has two problems. Firstly the top part of the bunch has clearly been attacked by oidium. Happily, we have had very little oidium this year.

The bottom half of the bunch has bunch stem necrosis, caused by poor take up of potassium. Our vineyard has a lot of basalt which causes a high level of magnesium in the soil which in turn makes it difficult for the vine to take up potassium.

So now you know!

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