Vintage Report: Rhône 2019 - Another “9“ makes its mark

Vintage Report: Rhône 2019 - Another “9“ makes its mark

Monday 23rd November 2020
by Giles Burke-Gaffney

Another “9“ makes its mark 

Like 79, 89, 99 and 2009 before it, the Perrins consider 2019 to be another in a line of ‘9s that “regularly mark the memory of winegrowers.” This is very aptly worded. For the 2019 season conditions certainly made an impression right across the Rhône valley. Wherever estates were based, Northern or Southern Rhône, they all shared the same challenge – a very dry and hot summer. It is rare for such meteorological conditions to be felt so equally throughout the Rhône. The only devastating anomaly being a hailstorm that hit the “Chassis” plateau of Crozes, wiping out between 20-100% of the crop there. The preceding winter was very wet and boosted water reserves, helping to sustain the vineyards during Summer 2019’s drought. An equally crucial role in 2019’s success, though, was also played by growers and their ability to adapt their growing techniques to conditions; limiting impact and stress and vines, soils; shading bunches proved vital.

Despite the tribulations faced, growers are thrilled. By harvest time, grape health was immaculate and quantities were normal to good (except in Crozes.) The wines are powerful, deeply-coloured and ripe, but are notable for their silky textures. This is clearly one of the more sensual and elegant hot, dry vintages.

Pierre Fabre, of Château Mont-Redon, goes as far as to say “2019 is one of the best vintages of the last thirty years,” whilst Julien Barrot of Domaine la Barroche and Vincent Avril of Clos des Papes, describe it as “a very great vintage.” In the south, they are comparing it to 2016, 2010 and 2001, some 1989 even. Whilst in the North 2015 and 2009 are the two most common parallels drawn. Up and down the length of the Rhône, the 2019s are generous, aromatic, and fruity with a smoothness that belies their intensity and tannic power. This is a Rhône vintage de garde.

The Season

Between Autumn 2018 and late Winter 2019 there was good rainfall, which helped build up water reserves. Temperatures warmed up thereafter, with hardly any rainfall from Spring until mid-June. A devastating hailstorm hit Crozes-Hermitage, and to lesser extent parts of St Joseph, on June 15th – the like of which had not been seen since 1952. Temperatures rose further and the mercury eventually hit 44°C on 28th June in the South.

Temperatures continued to be very high in July and August; a little rain in both months, though, proved just enough to sustain the vines through to the end of vintage. Weather cooled towards the end of August and brought further respite, before warm and sunny conditions returned for September. Harvest time revealed exceptionally healthy bunches, perfect berries and very good ripeness levels, the grapes showing better alcohol/acidity balance than 2018. Rainfall at the right time and cool nights just before harvest had really made the difference.

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