Vintage Report 2019 by Claude Vialade

1- The 2019 harvest in Occitania, with a focus on Languedoc-Roussillon. 

Progress so far / ripening: 

This is a fairly late vintage, due to start 1 week later than in 2018, and 2 weeks later than in 2017. The overall fruit load (grapes) is consistent and fairly normal. 

Weather and fruit health: 

Health status is pretty good. The grapes are healthy.  Drought is a recurrent factor in the wine arena. It has not rained since spring, so volumes will be affected by the lack of water. 

Hérault: the following are explanations of the phenomenon of vine scorching. The temperature of the vines, in relation to ambient temperature, is regulated through evaporation on the vine leaves, a known phenomenon which leads to cooling. Due to the lack of water, evaporation did not take place, and vines were scorched. The phenomenon was given dramatic coverage by the media and was accentuated by a few - reckless - winegrowers who wrongly sprayed their vines in the morning. The advice was to treat them in the evening in order to take advantage of lower night time temperatures and let the products stand before the morning heat. The harvest is decent on the Hérault plains (drip irrigation). Hillside vineyards are suffering from drought and the Languedoc growths, including Pic St Loup and Terrasses du Larzac are directly impacted. 

Aude: good health status, storms were effective and had a positive impact on production data. 

Gard: The crop is healthy. Intense heat wave and water stress. 

Roussillon: healthy grapes, some rainfall saved the day. Ripening was delayed by 1 week compared to 2018, Muscat included. Current harvesting has more to do with communication over the summer than a reflection of ripeness. 

Wine styles: 

A great quality crop, the juice will deliver. Alcohol content is expected to be high, and total acidity low. 

  • Concentrated red wines. 
  • Whites for early picking - we will focus on the requisite freshness and set up protocols to secure freshness through cluster thinning or acidification. 
  • Rosé: the vintage is shaping up well, rosés like warmth. 
  • The iconic Carignan grape variety has not been spared from water stress and is sensitive to extreme weather conditions. 

Biodiversity, a political issue: 

The defining feature of the vintage is extreme weather, and the likelihood is that this could be replicated in years to come. The severity and permanence of drought are game changers. The industry’s forthcoming plans will involve rapidly reviewing appellation rules, to include 

- A revised, modernised and suitable varietal range. 

- Appropriate and imaginative vineyard management methods. 

- Drip irrigation - a supply of water is becoming essential for the vine’s evaporation cycle to occur. 

The thought process involves the system of water supply sourced in the mountains of the Pyrenees, from retention basins to hillside vineyards. So far, flatland vineyards and varietal wines have been spared due to a supply of water from the lower Rhone-Languedoc irrigation canal. Our finest growths, those that extend over the high terraces of the Languedoc region, are not covered by this water supply network. Only a long-lasting water solution will allow them to remain in the vanguard of quality. The ecological observations (1974) raised in Professor Dumont's theses (1904/2001) have now become reality. Ecology and biodiversity are becoming a national priority for us. This is the price to pay for stopping the kind of desertification that is already affecting Andalusia, less than 1,000 km away from our beautiful country France. 

2- Some reminders about the significance of organic wines 

Worldwide: 

5% of the world's vineyard area is organic  80% is in Europe. 26% of area planted to organic vines is in Spain, 25% in Italy, 16% in France.

In France: 

12% of French area under vine is organic. 

Organic + Switch-over to organic in 2010 -> 50,000 hectares 

2018 -> 94,000 hectares 

Switchover is speeding up due to recognition of the ‘CAB’ endorsement 

2017 -> 8,500 hectares
2018 -> 14,000 hectares 

Across the South of France: 

75% of organic wines are grown across the South of France. 

Occitania: 35,000 hectares 
PACA: 20,000 hectares 
Aquitaine: 16,000 hectares 
Other regions, Alsace: 15%; Jura: 15%; Corsica: 11%; Rhone-Alps: 10%

Forthcoming changes to organic winegrowing worth knowing: 

- Human skills acquisition is becoming faster, winemaking methods are adapting rapidly and inputs authorised in winemaking, especially yeasts, are becoming more effective. 

- Wine inputs are periodically reviewed at European level. 

- Plant material (young vines...) is the subject of the next decree in 2021. 

I am happy to provide more information. Enjoy the end of summer and the holidays.