Vintage 2018 – variability is the name of the game!

Conflicting reports have been issued about this vintage, particularly by the major French companies. That’s what happens when PR decisions are made a long way away from the vineyards, such is the speed of change this year.

It is true that changeable weather since the spring has had sudden and unpredictable consequences.

We are therefore bringing you our perspective on the vintage and an initial technical and objective analysis.

The 2018 vintage is characterised by variability due, of course, to negative weather events – hail, frost and excess rain – but also to a series of positive climate data regarding sunshine that has been widely reported by the press, and that is the heat wave.

 

Since 2011 vines have suffered from a constant, permanent and recurrent water deficit, hence the series of small harvests which has even disrupted the wine market through surges in prices, shortages of certain categories of wine and radical marketing changes where some French brands have switched origins – the media has made a big deal out of this and disciplinary action has been meted out to those who blatantly overstepped the mark.

The wet spring of 2018 marked a return to balanced resources for vines. The concept of variability became the norm in an unusual and sudden way. The simple fact is that there is no consistency and neither appellation nor PGI wines, vineyards on the plains or on hillsides, or even vines within a single farm can be referred to collectively such are the inconsistencies.

  • The 20% of Languedoc vineyards using drip irrigation have responded differently to water depending on the area.
  • Montpellier had 20 mm of (torrential) rain when Narbonne had none!
  • Although the vineyards are not suffering from drought stress, they have experienced bouts of heat that have a significant impact – this is the heat wave effect with no difference in temperature between day and night, which is extremely exhausting for the plant’s metabolism.

The grapes are healthy

Mildew and rot attacks were contained and eliminated by maximum sunshine. They could return if it rains but to date, they have been contained and blocked.

The first ripeness tests are satisfactory

Acidity is good as are sugar levels. Ripening is estimated to be a week behind the 2017 harvest, which was early.

In our region – Languedoc-Roussillon – we estimate the overall volume for the 2018 vintage to be below 12 million hectolitres, compared with just over 10 million for the 2017 vintage. This is an improvement but still very, very low.

As a reminder of the macro-economics, Languedoc-Roussillon used to produce 33 million hectolitres in the mid to late 1990s.

It would be naively optimistic to conclude that the decline is due to a drop in yields per hectare and improvement in quality.

No, a whole segment of our economy has been radically transformed due to the disappearance of our vineyards through grubbing up schemes subsidised by Europe.

 

The world’s leading producer region

Our region has responded to this through diversity, imagination and quality. We make no bones about the attributes our region is blessed with – its temperate, wind-swept, sun-kissed Mediterranean climate that allows us to react to the latest innovations:

  • Organic wines are growing and we continue to ramp up our commitment to conversion and provide assistance for wine growers
  • Biodynamic wines are becoming increasingly popular
  • Vegan wines are appealing to Asia and in the future will attract urban French communities
  • Our ‘sulphur-free’ wines have an incredible shelf life due to cutting-edge preventative techniques
  • Garage wines are headlining the global media
  • Our chateaux are opening up to wine tourism and inviting visitors to partake in our lifestyle
  • Vine crossings are safe bets and finally, beautiful ancestral vines like old Carignan and Alicante Bouchet are entering their heyday

Move away from the mainstream.

Dare to be yourself – you are unique, drink differently.

We have these treasures, made for you by big-hearted wine growers and outstanding technicians 

Your trust is our strength

Claude Vialade
Femme du Vin