As vintage approaches there is a tendency to find similarities between past vintages, but when a vintage like 2016 arrives, all previous vintages flash into the distance. One become quickly aware of the importance of a sense of now, trust what you see and taste and know that the time of picking and handling of the fruit in the winery will be critical if the potential of the crop is to be realised.
The winter of 2015/2016 was extremely warm – for reasons not relating to stoicism or being miserly we only used one bundle of firewood, compared with our normal three.
Expecting an early growing season we rushed to finish the pruning and apply the compost only to find that the warm winter had been replaced by a cool spring. This cool and dry weather continued into early summer, slowing down the progress of the vines.
We spent time bringing water to and weeding our newly planted Terret and Grenache Gris as very little rain had fallen since last year’s vintage.
It was another annoyingly poor flowering for the Grenache, which would be all ripped out if didn’t produce such elegant supple and seductive wines that blend beautifully.
Into early July what had at first appeared to be an early growing season was now running two to three weeks later than average.
Then summer proper arrived, perfect for tourists, beach day every day and no rain. The vines took on the water stress that I hadn’t seen before. Two things can happen in this situation; the stomata in the leaves can close preventing the water loss, closing down photosynthesis and delaying maturity, or the opposite can occur, with the vine acting like a selfless mother and rushing its offspring to maturity at the risk doing itself serious damage. In all the varieties apart from the Carignan it was a rush towards maturity that occurred.
In late August sugar levels in the grapes started rising quickly so we decided to pick, opting for freshness and good backbone of acids rather than rich soft juice with high potential alcohol levels .
Many hours in the cave were spent removing green stems that seemed to splinter in the de-stemmer and for this reason whole bunches were fermented when the stems were not too green.
I like what I’m now seeing in the cellar. Delicate, with less tannins than I’m used to, some greenery but very clean crystalline wines with great tension and aromatic lift.
The true quality of this 2016 vintage will be revealed in time, but we do know that the quantity is down on last year, partly due to the wild pigs that decided that braving the vineyard’s electric fence was worth the drink.
In the next couple of weeks we will finish pressing the reds and move back to the vineyards where we will be applying the bio-dynamic cow manure compost, 500P . The cycle starts again.