Tina Gassier sent us the following note about the season and harvest in the Costières de Nîmes at Vignobles Michel Gassier:
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. It was quick on most varietals but languished a bit on young Grenache when there was pronounced hydric stress. The problem was not seen on old vine Grenache. Late August produced two storms with, in some cases, significant rain fall. But as it is the case with most storms here, the quantity varies greatly even within a small zone. Small amounts of water were beneficial, while big ones created health issues on early ripening varietals like Viognier and Syrah. 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 are too close together or too compact. This extra effort to assure grape ripeness and health has paid off remarkably well so far.
At this point the vintage is looking very interesting with higher color potential than last year and lower acidity. Sugar levels are very reasonable and should allow us to hang long enough for full phenolic ripeness without seeing the sugars going through the roof. We started with our whites and had to do some sorting with our Viognier and young Roussanne but the juices are very flavorful with soft acidity. The rosés (young Syrah, Grenache and Cinsault) have a wonderful fruity expression, a bit more color and probably a richer body then last year. As for the reds, we’ve only just begun. The Syrahs are coming in beautifully ripened, nicely colored and, with the first extractions, fine tannins. We’ll probably start harvesting the old vines next week and they look very promising. Grenache will be next, followed by Carignan and Mourvèdre.
In the winery, as with every year, we’ve set ourselves the additional challenge of several experiments. For the whites (which require a great deal of precision), this is the first time we’re playing with indigenous yeast (we’ve been doing native fermentations on our reds for some time now). The results thus far have been remarkable – the whites from the indigenous yeasts seem to have gained aromatically a bit of complexity and have a nice weight and character in the mouth. As for the Syrah, we’ve upped the percentage of Viognier in some of the vats to 10% and the whole cluster to 50%.
With harvest less than halfway completed and the winemaking still at the early stage, the read is anything but final. We’ll just have to keep our fingers crossed.