Mild, wet winter
The start of the vintage season will be remembered for abundant rainfall and mild temperatures. “Winter 2019/2020 broke all the records for rainfall and temperature. We recorded 700-800mm of precipitation in the south of the region from 16th October to 21st March, almost an entire year’s worth of rainfall – and particularly high daytime temperatures, at 12- 20°C in February!” reveals Frédéric Bonnaffous. “Both the growers and our equipment struggled in the heavy rainfall, which makes any operations in the vineyard exhausting – for man and machine alike.”
Sustainable cover cropping and temporary planting, suited to the specific profile of each plot, allowed the vineyards to avoid any surface run-off, erosion and soil compaction, while encouraging water uptake and creating significant water reserves in the soils, which is so important for a successful growing cycle.
An early spring
Encouraged by mild temperatures, the first buds arrived early on early and late-ripening soils alike: on 6th March at Le Boscq and 10th March at Ricaud. Bud break was 2-3 weeks early across the entire region, and reached its peak on 20th March.
Seemingly oblivious to this year’s slower rhythm since the onset of confinement on March 17th, the vines reaped the benefits of the remarkably warm spring weather and saw rapid development. The active vines grew apace on the well-drained soils of Château La Garde and Château Belgrave, and more slowly on clay at Château Reysson and Château Pey la Tour.
A rainy 10-day spell at the end of April/beginning of May incurred little change and the mild weather continued. Flowering was quick and even amid excellent conditions across the vineyard, taking full advantage of a lovely sunny period during 5th-20th May.
Preventative action in the vineyard under significant disease pressure
Our high standards of environmentally-conscious viticulture – all our vineyards have been certified Terra Vitis and HVE 3 since 2018 – and painstakingly targeted work in the vineyard, adapted to the specific profile of each vineyard parcel, ensured the vines stayed in good health and kept any treatments to a strict minimum.
Frédéric Bonnaffous explains: “With several years’ experience coping with highly changeable weather, our teams worked tirelessly in the vineyards, fully committed to protecting our environment, which has been our driving force for many years now. They should be warmly thanked for their efforts, this year in particular, where once again there were no limits to the time and effort invested, against an exceptionally challenging Covid backdrop.”
Calm restored as summer dawns
In 2019, cold weather during flowering caused limited flower initiation, thus reducing the potential of this year’s harvest, in terms of yield and bunch size. Thankfully, good weather during flowering this year meant we only observed minimal coulure, after which the vine saw rapid, normal development. By mid-July, as a result of hot, dry weather from the end of June, the pressure of mildew relented. The grape clusters are healthy and in great condition. We observed the first signs of veraison around 10th July in the Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot in earlier-ripening areas. The vine is still 10-15 days ahead of schedule.
At the end of July, it is still far too early to make any quality forecasts, but if the great summer weather continues through to the end of August, we can expect an early, if not very early harvest for the whites at Château Rahoul and Château La Garde, with the first grapes possibly being picked around 20th August.