Jonathan Hesford of DomaineTreloar and long-time Purple Pager reports on the harvest in Roussillon this year, because he felt that the rather grim vintage report for 2014 did not reflect the harvest conditions in Roussillon.
As you know Roussillon has a few distinct climats so what I say may not apply to all the sectors, but the oenologists who cover the region feel that some great wines were made throughout Roussillon. There appeared to me to be an even bigger difference in yields this year between the organic, quality vineyards and the high-yield, conventional vineyards. In fact I saw quite a lot of rot in some conventional vineyards that are tied to the co-ops. My comments below refer exclusively to the higher-quality growers.
At the start of December, ICV (the oenological lab service) will hold a tasting of all the subregions, so I will get a better picture.
This year saw a combination of cooler summer temperatures combined with a lack of water reserves in the soil. The effect on the grapes was that we had fewer, smaller grapes and a slightly later harvest than usual. The harvest period was warm, dry and sunny, providing perfect conditions for choosing picking dates.
What was noticeable when testing the grapes was an increased acidity (lower pH) in the red-wine grapes. However, this acidity was caused by elevated levels of malic acid, which, after malolactic fermentation, will cause an increase in pH and therefore a much bigger drop in acidity than we would normally see.
The condition of the fruit was very good with virtually no damage from mildew or insects. In my sector (Les Aspres) all the grapes had been picked before the widely reported heavy rain. The flooding that was seen in certain parts of the Languedoc had no effect on Roussillon as far as I saw.
Fermentations completed faster than normal and malolactic fermentation occurred spontaneously straight after harvest, leaving all the wines is a stable state by the end of October. The reds, now that malo has finished, definitely show a drop in acidity and have become well-balanced wines.
On tasting, the white wines now show increased freshness, nice liveliness and lower alcohol levels. The red wines have great balance with good concentration, nice levels of aromatic and flavour complexity and, again, relatively low alcohol – closer to 13% than to 14.5%.
At this stage I think we have a very good set of wines with lovely balance and which also have the potential for ageing.