Jean Perrier harvest 2018

France harvest 2018

A wet, stormy spring affected yields in some areas, but the glorious summer that followed has resulted in a largely optimistic picture from our French producers.

 

The north and east of France had a particularly good year, with Champagne, Alsace, Burgundy and their surrounding areas reporting both healthy yields and high quality. Elsewhere, a damp spring meant high mildew pressure, even in the Mediterranean south where this is unusual. But the long, warm summer that followed led to positive reports across the board in terms of grape concentration and flavour, with harvest beginning early in many areas.

 

Buyer Robert Mathias said, “2018 was in general a welcome relief from a short 2017 vintage across most of France, although there are exceptions, notably in the south of France. 2018 was not a homogenous harvest across France, and actually the weather tended to be quite extreme. Firstly there was quite severe humidity, heavy rain, and isolated hail in the spring period which brought with it heavy disease pressure. This was then followed by unremitting sunshine almost all the way until harvest. It was a vintage that required extreme vigilance in the vineyard, not only for treatments but the decision when to pick – this was an early vintage, similar to 2003 or 2009.”

 

Here’s a breakdown of each region with reports from our producers:

 

Champagne

 

High yields and good quality might prove 2018 to be one of Champagne’s most successful vintages in years, with many producers already showing optimism about the finished wines. A cool, wet winter recharged the vines and soil, in preparation for an especially warm, dry summer, culminating in an early harvest.

 

Buyer Jamie Avenell said, “An exceptional vintage in both quality and quantity, much welcomed after the frost losses of last year. Quality focused producers will be delighted with the base wines that they have to work with from the vintage”

 

Here’s what our producers had to say:

 

Champagne Palmer & Co
“Conditions have been perfect throughout the year,” says cellarmaster Xavier Berdin. “With a good winter, a magnificent spring and a hot summer, the grapes could develop to full maturity – an ideal scenario,” he says.

 

The north-facing vineyards in the Montagne de Reims area once again proved robust with good acidity, while the Chardonnays to the east also displayed promising balance. First tastings are scheduled for December, but Palmer are already confident of a great vintage year.

 

Bruno Paillard
After two challenging harvests in 2016 and 2017, 2018 was a blessed relief for Bruno Paillard. Perfect flowering conditions led to full bunches of small berries, and alternating heat and humidity enabled the berries to reach optimum maturity while maintaining excellent health. Dry days and fresh nights in August enabled flavour concentration while preserving crucial acidity. The harvest began early on 25 August and finished on 11 September, with a bounty and generosity reminiscent of the 1996 vintage.

 

R. Pouillon et Fils
Few winemakers will have witnessed a vintage like 2018 according to Pouillon. 1959, 1970, 1976 and 1982 were all famously good, but few had the combination of optimal maturity, high yields and an early harvest as experienced in 2018.

 

Champagne Serge-Mathieu
An early harvest began on 24 August and finished on 7 September, with good yields and perfectly-balanced, healthy grapes. Isabelle Mathieu-Jacob says, “Of course the quality of this harvest was top, but we will have to wait until spring to have a more precise idea of how this wine will develop and whether it will be a vintage year.”

 

Alsace

 

Like much of France, Alsace experienced an earlier-than-average harvest along with good quality and substantial yields.

 

Here’s what our producers had to say:

 

Domaine Marc Kreydenweiss
Harvest 2018 started very early at Kreydenweiss, on 28 August, which is almost a month earlier than normal. According to winemaker Antoine Kreydenweiss, “The grapes were beautiful, very healthy! We think that the wines will be very fruity and charming.”

 

Jean Biecher
According to Julien Schaal, the 2018 vintage in Alsace “has been as great as many other regions in France; with fantastic weather during the harvest”. He describes optimum ripeness of perfect grapes, along with good yields. The finished wines will be “pure, delicate and aromatic” he predicts.

 

Loire

 

Apart from heavy rain and thunder storms between May and June, 2018 can otherwise be described as having the ideal conditions for producing top quality fruit in the Loire.

 

Here’s what one of our producers had to say:

 

Loire Properties
Loire Properties described harvest 2018 as “Fantastic!”, reporting that it “will remain engraved in people’s minds, and promise a vintage of ‘anthology’, with very aromatic and gourmet wines from Nantes to Sancerre, all colours combined.”

 

A favourable spring meant early flowering, resulting in the development of beautiful bunches of grapes, with no threat of hail or frost. June was rainy with high mildew pressure, which meant growers had to be vigilant, but it turned into a warm, dry summer which led to high yields of good quality and an early harvest in good conditions. Looking ahead to the finished wines, Loire Properties are expecting “beautiful, aromatic complexity in white and rosé wines” and “round and silky reds”.

 

Burgundy

 

Producers have been unanimously pleased with the quality of 2018, as well as with yields, which have mercifully been better than the previous couple of vintages.

 

Here’s what our producers had to say:

 

Domaine Robert-Denogent
A period of storms (and therefore mildew pressure) between spring and summer gave way to a warm, dry spell right through to October. Hand harvesting took place between 28 August and 20 September, and Nicolas Robert was pleased with the results. “Vintage 2018 is really great,” he said, “wonderful grapes, very healthy, incredible juice and for the first time in 10 years we’ve seen good yields.” He predicts the finished wines will be “powerful, but with a very good freshness”.

 

Maison Dampt
Sebastien Dampt reported almost no rain during the summer of 2018, which meant he was surprised by the high yields at harvest. “It’s a bit crazy,” he said, “but I think that the vineyard is able to find water deep down.”

 

In terms of grape quality, he reports that “the balance between the acidity and the sugar was perfect”. Concentration is high due to the warm conditions, with flavours similar to 2015 (another warm year) and a richness more akin to 2006.

 

Despite picking early for freshness, Sebastien says it still won’t be a vintage for high acidity. But despite this, he is still confident with the wines’ ageing potential.

 

La Chablisienne
Ranking among one of the earliest Chablis has ever seen, 2018’s harvest “took place at a leisurely pace during the first three weeks of September in beautiful summer weather under an azure sky,” according to La Chablisienne. A wet winter was followed by a dry and mild spring, which led to a ‘glorious’ summer, allowing the grapes to reach prefect maturity, with the potential for reasonably high alcohol. The grapes themselves were reportedly “delicious to eat, which is always good”, with a maturity and balance that “brings to mind the famous vintage of 1982”.

 

Beaujolais

 

Ripe, concentrated fruit and the promise of top quality, structured wines seem to be the recurring story across Beaujolais in 2018.

 

Here’s what our producers had to say:

 

Domaine Cheysson
Carried out in warm, dry conditions, harvest at Domaine Cheysson was between 1 and 17 September when grapes had reached optimum maturity. The winemaker said, “we must go back to the 2009 vintage to find such a beautiful grape harvest”. Initial tastings have indicated the finished wines will be promising, with nice fruit, length, very silky tannins and a deep ruby colour.

 

Marcel Lapierre
The grapes harvested at Marcel Lapierre were reportedly “ripe but balanced”, and hold the promise of age-worthy wines with flavours of cherry, violet and a hint of liquorice.

 

Yohan and Lucien Lardy
The Lardys experienced an early, warm spring with no threat of mildew or hail (unlike the two previous years), leading to generous fruit set.

Extreme heat in July and August served to concentrate juice and reduced yields, which were nonetheless above average. Early indications suggest that it will be a powerful, juicy vintage, deep in colour, with a lot of tannins; similar to 2005, 2009 and 2015.

 

Savoie

 

After a series of three small harvests, including a catastrophic one in 2017 due to spring frosts, 2018 has been a joy for Savoie.

 

Here’s what our producer had to say:

 

Domaine Jean Perrier et Fils
Gilles Perrier was very pleased with the 2018 harvest, commenting that “in living memory, we’ve never had such great quantities along with such beautiful quality. The alcohol levels are also exceptional.”

 

Bordeaux

 

A damp spring and early-summer hailstorms signalled a rocky start to Bordeaux’s 2018 growing season, but a warm dry summer saved the day.

 

Here’s what one of our producers had to say:

 

Chateau d'Arche (Sauternes)
2018 was a year of extremes at Chateau d’Arche. High levels of rain and humidity in the spring brought with it the threat of mildew, with early summer characterised by hail storms, which affected 50% of Sauternes. Luckily the rest of the summer was warm and dry, which led to excellent concentration in the grapes. “The berries brought in during the harvest are of excellent quality, with good botrytis spread,” reports Armelle Jeannel. “We expect to see expressive and fragrant wines with a modern and approachable style.”

 

Rhone

 

Like much of the southern part of France, 2018 had a difficult start, characterised by storms and significant mildew pressure. But the second half was warm and sunny, with perfect conditions around harvest.

 

Here’s what one of our producers had to say:

 

Domaine Marc Kreydenweiss
A stormy end to May was followed by warmth and humidity for Kreydenweiss, which meant their toughest battle with mildew and parasites since they started making wine in the Rhone (Kreydenweiss’ original property is in Alsace). Despite carrying out de-budding to allow grapes to dry, they still lost 70% of yields to mildew. But while yields were significantly reduced, quality has been high. Marc Kreydenweiss describes the Gewurztraminer in particular as being “beautiful, generous and concentrated”.

 

South of France

 

Miren de Lorgeri from AOC Languedoc and PGI Sud de France reports that, “some parts were impacted by significant downy mildew attacks due to a very wet spring”, which is unusual for this area of France. This particularly affected those committed to organic viticulture. But despite reduced yields for some, she predicts that “the texture of the wines will be harmonious and very balanced”.

 

Looking at Provence specifically, buyer Jamie Avenell said, “This vintage we have a perfect storm from Provence, the wines have been growing in volume and popularity rapidly in the UK, as well as globally, but with a short vintage and said demand, pricing next year will increase and availability will be tight. Look to plan your Provence and other rosé selection early on next year”

 

Here’s what some of our producers had to say:

 

Chateau d'Esclans, Provence
Harvest started at the end of August, which is early but not a record, according to Patrick Leon, winemaker and manager at Chateau d’Esclans. He predicts: “The wines will be fruitier, with less tart acidity and slightly lower alcohol than those of 2017, which means we can just drink more.”

 

Mirabeau, Provence
The harvest was still relatively small for Mirabeau this year, following a very short harvest last year. Heavy spring rainfall caused some damage to flowering grapes and the farmers had to combat issues such as mildew, which are unusual in the area. They reported that “overall the wines are rounder, more complex and a little less on the red fruit forward side compared to last year,” but they are looking forward to another vintage of great quality.

 

Want to know more? Read our roundup of the 2018 English harvest here.
Charlotte Levy
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