Four great vintages in a row for Côtes du Rhône and RhôneValley AOCs
2018 gives Côtes du Rhône and Rhône Valley winegrowers and négociants cause for celebration as it proves to be the fourth in a series of outstanding vintages, widely acclaimed by wine critics and consumers alike.
Good weather, healthy vineyards
Although the 2018 growing season wasn’t the same for everyone (some areas were badly hit by downy mildew), harvesting throughout France’s second largest AOC winegrowing region took place in balmy summer conditions.
The weather was excellent throughout September, with fairly cool and sunny conditions, low humidity and an appearancefrom the Mistral, all of which helped the grapes ripen fully, and ensured they remained in excellent health.
“September’s terrific weather has been a key part of this year’s success; we’ve been able to harvest our fruit at peak ripeness”, reports Michel Chapoutier, President of Inter-Rhône.
“With September being so sunny”, he continues, “our main focus has been to preserve acidity and potential minerality in our whites, while the Syrahs have made the most of their phenolic complexity and have achieved excellent levels of physiological ripeness.”
Vinification progressed smoothly. Alcoholic fermentation was quickly completed, followed swiftly in many cases bymalolactic fermentation. Meanwhile acidity levels remained very low, requiring remedial work in the winery.
“And then there were four! After the 3 unbelievable years we’ve had since 2015, the end of this year’s growing season and September’s dramatic temperature swings have given us yet another outstanding vintage,” exclaims Philippe Pellaton, President of Côtes du Rhône and Côtes du Rhône Villages AOC.
Early estimates show that harvest yields are set to be at the lower end of the 5-year average, but higher than in 2017.
Aromatic whites and rosés in the south
Denis Alary, co-president of the Cairanne appellation (newly promoted to Côtes du Rhône Cru status), reports that hiswines are “very pleasing and full of flavour, with good colour and finesse”.
Whites and rosés arehighly aromatic, retaining plenty of freshness. 2018 has been a particularly good year for Roussanne and Clairette, two very expressive varietals.
Rosés are brim-full of fruit. Acidity is low, but the wines have more body, roundnessand sweetness, making them deliciously quaffable. The rosé market continues to grow exponentially, thanks largely to the variety of styles, coloursand grape varieties available, attracting ever-increasing numbers of new consumers.
Reds show a broad spectrum of colour, with intensity varying according to ripeness. In terms of structure, the reds are smooth and supple with molten tannins – the result of good ripeness. Generally speaking, 2018’s Syrahs are superb, with soft, gentle tannins.
Grenaches are already showing scents of raspberry and grenadine, with peppery overtones. “This has been a good year for Grenache, the Côtes du Rhône’s keygrape varietal. The weather gave us a chance to leave the fruit hanging long enough to ripen fully. Mourvèdre, Carignan and Marselan are a perfect complement; we can look forward to fine blends with excellent textures,” continues Philippe Pellaton.
In Lirac, an historic right bank Côtes du Rhône cru, appellation co-president François Miquel adds that “2018s already show excellent quality, and we have every reason to believe that quantities will not disappoint either.”
And finally, Réjane Pouzoulas, co-president of the Rasteau appellation which produces mainly reds but also the naturally sweetVins Doux Naturels, reports that 2018 is a “Top-of-the-range vintage. Initial tastings show good complexity, lots of depth and a very broad range of flavours.”
Not to be outdone – the Rhône Valley’s northern crus
In the north, initial tastings also promise wines of remarkable quality with dense,velvety tannins and good sweetness. Whites show a tremendous range of aromas and flavours, while Syrahs are juicy and intensely coloured with a pleasing tannic structure, promising a good vintage despite potentially low acidity.
Jacques Desvernois, co-president of the iconic Hermitage appellation, is very happy with the 2018 vintage. “2015, 2016 and 2017 were all great years; 2018 also looks set tobe an outstanding vintage, judging by what we’ve seen already – good structure on the palate and luscious, molten textures.”
Yann Chave, co-president of the elegant,easy-going northern appellation of Crozes-Hermitage,admits to being pleasantly surprised by the balance in this year’s wines – “quite astonishing for such a warm year. Good yields have helped usavoid the problems of over-concentration, and our 2018s retain their classic blackcurrant and raspberry flavours along with some pleasingly elegant tannins.”
Christophe Pichon, co-president of the Condrieu appellationfamous for its superb Viognier wines, is equally enthusiastic. “Quality and quantity! This is THE greatvintage. We’ve got good acidity and excellent freshness.”
Equallygood results in the Rhône Valley appellations
“We had to wait patiently for the grapes toreach full maturity, but at the end of the day we’ve got extraordinary colour, a superb range of very pronounced, very rich aromas with plenty of fruit. Our 2018 wines will have all their traditional finesse,” says Samuel Montgermont, co-president ofthe Ventoux appellation located in the foothills of Mont Ventoux, the ‘Giant of Provence’.
Joël Bouscarle, co-president of the neighbouring Luberon AOC, renowned for the admirable freshness of its whites and rosés, confirms that “Our wines will be centred on fruit and flavour, with good concentration, pleasing textures and supple, elegant tannins.”
Right across on the other side of the Rhône Valley vineyards, Etienne Maffre, co-president of Costières de Nîmes, the most Mediterranean of all the Rhône Valley appellations, notes that the wines there “showgood balance, plenty of finesse and excellent aromatic potential, promising agreat vintage.”
So initial results are consistent throughout the Rhône Valley, confirming that winegrowers and négociants should be inspired by this year’s raw materials, and deserve to be proud of their work.
Meet winegrowers and négociants and discover the new vintage at:
Wine Paris – 11-13th February 2019 – HALL 4
Prowein – 17-19th March 2019 – Hall 11 E80
Découvertes en Vallée du Rhône – 15 – 18th April 2019 – Ampuis, Tain l’Hermitage, Avignon