As grape growers all over France gather their precious harvests safely in, it’s time to take a look at how this year’s vintage is shaping up so far. While most of the wines being made right now won’t be ready for at least another 9 months or so, wine critics and top French winemakers are already starting to express their expert opinions on what to expect. Here’s our insider somMailier wine club report on how the 2019 vintage is shaping up across France direct from our producers out in the fields!
According to the experts, this summer was very hot in Bordeaux, especially in June and July. This hot period was followed by rains during August which helped to cool things down and moderate the ripening process. The harvest started bang on time at the end of August. The great news is that there’s plenty of freshness and elegance in the grapes which should make for some deliciously vibrant white Bordeaux and well-balanced, refined reds.
Unlike other French regions, the harvest is set to continue for several more months in Bordeaux since the grapes used for the region’s sweet wines are typically harvested in late October or early November. This is because the growers must wait for the grapes to be affected by the so-called “noble rot”, a type of fungus which dries out the grapes. Although it might sound odd, this process is actually priceless as it concentrates the flavors and sugars in the grapes, enabling the winemakers to create beautiful, intensely sweet dessert wines.
Champagne and Burgundy
It’s been a bit of a tricky year in Champagne with both frosts and heatwaves making it difficult for grape growers to react. Burgundy also struggled with three major hail storms during August and temperatures in excess of 104°F. These challenges mean that less Burgundy and Champagne will be produced this year, but the quality of the wine that is being made looks to be very high. Producers are already praising the finesse and balance of this year’s wines which looks particularly promising for Burgundian reds thanks to the harmonious combination of intense, ripe fruit character and vibrant freshness.
Alsace had a particularly good year according to local winemakers thanks to plenty of summer warmth tempered by cooler periods. The harvest season so far has been dry and sunny which bodes well for grape picking since it helps to keep the grapes healthy and free from disease and mold. 2019 vintage whites from Alsace are expected to be well-structured with plenty of ripe fruit matched by mouthwatering freshness.
In the Rhone Valley the harvest began at the beginning of September and is still underway now. As with Bordeaux, this start date is consistent with the annual trend, although last year’s harvest began 10 days earlier at the end of August. The region enjoyed a fairly mild winter which helped get things started early in the year. This was then slowed by cooler conditions during spring and a moderately hot summer followed to ripen off the grapes nicely in time for fall. The reds are still yet to be harvested fully, but so far things are looking good!
South of France
Grape growers and winemakers in the South of France have had their fill of challenges this year due to the region experiencing its hottest day on record. On June 28th temperatures hit a whopping 113.18°F in Provence leaving locals grappling with a heatwave. Since then things have cooled off and the rest of the ripening period has proceeded as normal with plentiful sunshine to ripen off the grapes nicely.
And the answer is, a pretty good vintage expected all over France! We can’t wait to get our hands on some delicious 2019 vintages to share with our French wine club members, but there’s still a huge amount of work to be done by our loyal winemakers over the winter and spring next year before these wines are anywhere near ready. Watch this space!
Has this whetted your appetite to learn more about French wine? We’re here to help! Why not check out our French wine club. Every three months we send direct to your door three or six bottles of boutique French wines which have been carefully selected by wine experts in France along with detailed information about each wine and food pairing ideas to help you really discover French wine. And as if that wasn’t enough, we also have a wine club gift option for that special wine lover in your life!