Rhône Harvest Report 2018
At Boutinot we’re incredibly proud to be winemakers, as well as distributors. Our Wine teams, based across the world in our various ‘Homes’, work all year round to produce wines of exceptional quality. This ‘boots in the vineyard’ vision of ours started eight years ago at our property in the Southern Rhône, and so we caught up with winemaker Julien to get his thoughts on the 2018 vintage.
Life is all about significant dates and in the life of Domaine Boutinot Rhône, our estate and winery in Cairanne, the 17th September is a memorable one. It marks the start of our 8th harvest from our home in the Rhône and much has happened since then: all our vineyards now hold ‘cru’ status (more to come on this so keep your eyes peeled); we’ve more fruit than ever with new(ish) plantings and some additional plots; we have a higher capacity winery and barrel cellar meaning we’re not strapped for space and can let our wines develop to their fullest potential; new blends (see ‘Les Six’), new concepts (see ‘Sans Artifice’), and a refurbished cellar – it’s been a journey.
Winemaker Julien Dugas described the Spring as ‘English’ (cold and wet!). Fortunately, summer brought conditions more typical of the region – hot and dry with just one welcome downpour during August – which dried off the developing bunches quickly on our windy, hillside vineyards and meant we didn’t suffer from the mildew experienced in some areas.
Conditions were glorious during the harvest with a long spell of dry and warm weather allowing Julien to judge precisely when to pick each plot; bringing to the fore both his years of winemaking expertise and experience across many vintages of tasting grapes on the vine and examining in close detail the colour of the stalks and pips.
So, exactly 12 days later than 2017, armed with secateurs and small buckets our picking team’s first task was to hand harvest Syrah from the plots surrounding the cellar. Over the next three back-breaking weeks they selected ripe bunches of 50-year-old Grenache Noir from our ‘Saint Andéol’ plot, moved down the hill to ‘Les Garrigues’ for low-yielding Carignan Noir, before trekking back up to our highest plots for bush vine Grenache Noir. Finally, on the 6th October, 19 days after starting, the last Mourvèdre from ‘Font Crozes’ down the hill (considered ‘exceptional’ this year), was harvested and it was time to pack away the pruning shears for another year.
The work doesn’t end there for Julien however, there’s the issue of vinification, an equally gruelling process all of its own. From the monitoring of open-top fermentations to remontage (pump-overs) and manual piegage (punch-downs), decisions are needed almost hourly at this time, but that’s the level of commitment making wine in this traditional way demands of winemakers like Julien.
This vintage Julien was joined by Ryno Booysen, Boutinot’s South African winemaker and both men benefitted from sharing views on when to pick, along with their thoughts and experiences on all aspects of vinification. For Ryno, it was a “once in a lifetime experience to work with the quality of grapes and the team at Domaine Boutinot Rhône”, before quickly adding that the food was also a highlight – “this is France!”
No winemaker likes to make conclusions about the vintage as vinification is still taking place but when pushed Julien felt that 2018 “may be even better than 2017” adding that “wines from Domaine Boutinot Rhône will have nice concentration and colour and a lot of finesse”.