Rhone Vintage Reports

Domaine Serre Besson (Vinsobres), Victor Taylor and Alex Nyssen

We didn’t think we’d ever come up for air.  2023 started off warm, got warmer and then miserably hot.  Not long after pruning, we scrambled too thin the vines that started growing at warp speed.  The thinning took an enormous amount of time because of the thick advance growth.  Without a pause, we had to raise the roll over wires.  The over all health of our vineyards was pristine with virtually no signs of disease. The drought hit the southern Rhône brutally, but thanks to all the natural springs running year round on the Domaine, we only lost some of the 2022 replacement vines.  We kept the canopy higher than usual to protect the grapes from the extreme heat and direct sunlight and then opened up the leaf coverage just before some wonderful rain that saved harvest in August.  Before the rain the berries were tiny without much juice.  2022, although painful, has turned out to be a beautiful vintage.  The wines are tasting great and we are looking forward to blending the rosé in January 2023 and our reds at the end of the year.

Les Chemins de Sève (Cairanne and Côtes du Rhone Villages), Loïc Massart

We faced an incredible drought in 2022. Our region is used to drought, but this time we had almost no water between the end of February and the end of August! Much of Western Europe has been affected. The vines nevertheless tolerated this water deficit and their grapes ripened satisfactorily. Still, there was a loss of quantity of juice because the berries were on average small and also we saw a higher than normal mortality of vines during pruning. The harvest was a bit complicated due to a sudden acceleration of maturity in mid-September.

The quality is very good and the wines express themselves pleasantly, but vigilance is required because the pH is high, which limits the natural protection of the wine. The fruit and character is quite distinct for this 2022 vintage.

In the spring we planted a small plot of black grenache that resisted the drought well, thanks to rigorous work to render the watering of the small plants effective.

We have produced for the first time in our cellar a sparkling wine rosé brut nature, 100% mourvèdre, a champagne method without disgorging and sulphites. The result is very satisfactory and we envisage a small regular production. Finally, we bottled the last wines of the 2020 vintage and a large part of the 2021 a little before the harvest.

Terres Gaugalin /Raisins Suspendus (Le Gard / Hautes-Alpes-de-Hautes-Provence) , Angela Weidner and Maxime Aerts

Terres du Gaugalin

This year was hot year but not a scorching one like 2019. The problem was there was no precipitation from May to August, and the maturing of the berries became blocked after veraison. On the one hand we did very little treating against fungi because there was none, on the other hand the sugar concentration and alcoholic maturity came very early. The whites were ready at the beginning of August… Once again we were happy to be in a zone with groundwater reserves. There were two heavy rains in mid-August and late August, which helped to restart maturation and growth of the grapes. Harvest was complete at the beginning of September with grapes having a better balance of sugar/aromas/tannins. Thanks to these rains we had good yeasts, so the vinification took place naturally and finished well. We chose to vat the carbonic macerations a little longer and to extract a little more color to protect the wines. With these wines, we had to be vigilant because the malolactic fermentations took place on sugars, but we suceeded in avoiding a rise in volatile acidity. Regarding the Grande Rando 2022, this vintage will certainly be our most beautiful since 2018, something to follow in 2024 …

Les Raisins Suspendus

Finally the first vintage with no big hazards (no frost, no hungry birds …) since our arrival in 2020 in the Hautes-Alpes. Just like in the South [Rhône] , not much water but fortunately good reserves in the soil and cooler nights, so few treatments for diseases. The big challenge for us this year was planting 7000 vines of 8 different varieties (Mollard, Persan, Mondeuse Blanche, Gamay, Petite Arvine…) to build our vineyard. This was a difficult difficult adventure without rain, we had to water each foot every 3 weeks for 3 months, we were exhausted, but the planting succeeded. We had no rest ; at the beginning of August we moved our cellar [from the Rhone to the Hautes-Alpes] to high altitude, we are at 1600m (probably the highest winery in France) where we vinified all the grapes from the Alps and the South. The harvest started very early around September 10th and ended at the end of September, we have never picked such beautiful, large and ripe grapes in our 3 vintages, so we are very happy. The quantities are still limited but we are continuing to plant a some vines this year, with a massal selection of 5 grape varieties from our old vines to preserve biodiversity.

Les Chemins de Sève (Cairanne and Côtes du Rhone Villages), Loïc Massart

The 2021 vintage was particularly challenging and tense due to a succession of situations from the end of pruning to the harvest: historic frost at the beginning of April, regular and light rains in spring and summer, no real heat in summer, rapid growth of grass, uneven reach of maturity of the grapes and therefore long duration of the harvest.

If the young well-nourished vines recovered well from the frost, the old vines produced very little and did not really start growing again until mid-May. As a result, the blends of grape varieties in our cuvées are different than previous years.

The big challenge in the cellar was to vinify with consistency, as it took almost a month to bring the all grapes to the cellar, rather than the usual 15 days. The result is satisfactory with a lot of color, good richness, beautiful acidity, moderate alcohol levels; and if we manage to finalize blends that are aromatically close to the previous vintages for each given cuvée, then we will have a beautiful balanced vintage.

In the vineyard, the emphasis is on the amending the soils, the tilling adapted to each plot. We are replanting half a hectare of Cairanne quickly (1 year? 2 years?) with black Grenache and maybe a white grape variety.

In the cellar, our work has become more precise thanks to the purchase of quality equipment, in the spirit of always limiting intervention and the number of steps required until bottling. We welcomed 2 winegrowers who each wish to create their own estate but who do not have the means for the moment, allowing them to vinify and store their organic wines in our cellar; in this way, we share our experiences and knowledge.

We have started to market the 2017 red cuvées (the “Métamorphose” cuvée received 90/100 from the Revue des Vins de France) and the 2019 white cuvée which are magnificent vintages. The 2020 vintage will be bottled before the summer and shows finesse and balance.

Terres Gaugalin /Raisins Suspendus (Le Gard / Hautes-Alpes-de-Hautes-Provence), Angela Weidner and Maxime Aerts

2021 was a good vintage for us.

In the Gard area we experienced frost, and just a bit of vine disease. Over the summer we had a several rains at opportune times. We did not achieve the normal maturity of the grapes, sugars were not very high , alcohol degrees were lower than usual, but that is preferable for the light style red that we make. Macerations were longer for our classic red blend to be able to achieve the right concentration. We heard that some vineyards in the south waited until October to harvest carignan or mourvedre, overall it was a late maturing year.

We are not feeling the effects climate change the same way others are. For us it’s more extreme events like heavy rain, intense heat waves and increased hail. Where we are farming (according to agronomists), water is retained in our soils, and if the soils are not over-worked, the weight of the soil will protect against the heat of the sun, and also retain heat to protect against the frost in April. Worms are helping the soil to create nutrients and even water for vines to survive in extreme weather. So we will be adapting our farming practices to optimize this.

In the Alpes, we had similar challenges with frost. We had cold and snow until April then dry and warm weather in summer and long days into October. Still, the maturation cycle of the vines was very short (April-October). The major problem this year was the birds. We do not have many vineyards there, rather fruit trees. The frost wave impacted our wild fruit trees, the the birds were starving and they attacked 25% of our grapes. We even found birds under the nets in some areas. They needed it, it’s like that. We will not place more nets, we share!

We transported our grapes from the Gard to the Alpes and the winemaking took place there for both vineyards. It was a big challenge because there is not a lot of space and accessibility is complicated. But we hope to find and move to a larger place this summer.

The other challenge coming in 2022 is the plantation of 1.5 hectares of vines. 8 grape varies, the local red Mollard, and the Alpine white Modense, Red Persan, Roussanne..etc. And also we are experimenting with Petite Arvine from Valais and a bit of Gamay and Muscat.

Domaine La Banate (Côtes-du-Rhône Village Rousset-les-Vignes), Jean T’Kint

The 2021 vintage is marked by many challenges, frost at the start of the season, numerous rains throughout spring and summer. In short, the year is very favorable for the rosé. The grapes reached good maturity without too much sugar. With a strict sorting at the harvest, we had very nice rosé juice that will result in a beautiful Côtes-du-Rhône Village Rousset-les-Vignes ROSE, floral and fruity, with good length on the palate and a lovely color.

Domaine Serre Besson (Cru Vinsobres), Victor Taylor and Xavier Nyssen

Serre Besson was luckier than most winemakers in the Rhône valley as we avoided the frost and the mildiou in 2021. The growing season went smoothly. Harvest was the latest we ever experienced ; last week of September. In addition to our Vinsobres, rosé and 100% old Grenache without sulfites, we will produce for the first time a 100% syrah without sulfites.

Campagne Sarrière (Luberon), Ludovic Blairon

The vintage, although very unusual and full unexpected twists and turns for the majority of French vineyards, was ultimately a beautiful and rather classic vintage. In the vineyard, I suffered less from cryptogamic diseases (mold and mildew) than in other years, perhaps thanks to a new application in my treatments: a decoction of horsetail and willow sprayed very early in the vines (just after bud break). I had a little bit of frost but less than my neighbor winegrowers because my vines are on the slopes of the Luberon Mountain and therefore better protected than the vineyards further down on the plain. In the cellar, it’s a year where the natural fermentations happened quickly and well with  malolactic starting directly after the alcoholic fermentation, as a result the wines were ready very quickly and tasted well early in the season.

Les Chemins de Sève (Cairanne and Côtes du Rhone Villages), Loïc Massart

The new vintage is in the cellar and still bodes well for promising cuvées! Despite the complicated situation, a great team of grape pickers, both novices and experienced, were there between two COVID confinements… We thank them again for their motivation. The health crisis is slowing down sales and clouding our commercial visions in the short and medium term; in fact, a large part of the 2019 vintage was still in the cellar, while the 2020 grapes were already entering. Though sometimes a very complicated set of circumstances results in everything happening at the right time and in the right place!

No tele-harvest!

The 2020 harvest took place in the usual good humor, despite the COVID atmosphere hovering over us, requiring us to make special arrangements. The harvest is healthy and nicely fruity. The yield could have been better if the frost had not disrupted the budding buds in March. Vinifications occurred at 100%! The vinification continues satisfactorily and without sulphites for the reds. The wines are presenting very pleasantly on tasting and analytically. Only the white Cairanne in barrels is really taking its time, it has not yet finished its sugars!

An Autumn that was wet and confined...

Autumn colors arrived in the vineyard after very significant threat from summer mildew. The post-harvest mildew no longer harms the fruit, but attacks the leaves and disrupts end-of-season storage, before winter, by prematurely destroying the organs that are still green, but without endangering the established plant.

Plantier of grenache, carignan and clairette rose

The new plot withstood the summer drought with only 3 good waterings and two hoeings at each plant to avoid competition from weeds, which are harmful to these very young vines. However, a clear outbreak of mosaic mildew on the leaves appeared during the heavy rains in September…

After postponements linked to the COVID period of spring, the 2019 bottling was carried out just in time to release the vats needed for the incoming harvest! We used, for the first time, the new syndicate bottle with the Cairanne coat of arms.

Domaine de Berane (Côtes du Ventoux), Bertrand Ferary

We had a wonderful harvest 2020 with very good conditions due to relatively regular summer temperatures. Fermentations have been lasting a little bit longer than usual, but as a result, we have more intense aromas, color and tannins.

2020 should be a millenium equivalent to 2015 including all the power and finesse that we seek in our wines. As you know so well, it is the quality of the grapes that determine the vintage, despite the skills of the winemaker.


Domaine Stéphane Otheguy (Côte Rotie)

After a hot year, without frost or hail, with lots of wind and little rain. Again another year with very little treatment ( 2 maximum per parcel).

Harvests took place during lovely sunny weather.

Excellent level of quantity and quality, for all parcels.

The degrees have (again) reached record levels.

Domaine de Berane (Côtes du Ventoux), Bertrand Ferary :

We had quite a few suprises in 2019.

We grow Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre. And for 19 years we have been harvesting them in that chronological order. For the first time Grenache matured before the Syrah. Incredible! In addition, maturities were blocked.

One of the causes is that we had the hottest summer in Provence since 2003. The grape skins were very thick, natures reaction to protect the pulp from dehydration, preserving its own production. We did reach normal quantites, with wonderful deep color, with higher degrees than usual.

We are performing many “déléstages” (multiple rackings of juice during fermentation and maceration, a process that aerates the juice and softens it by lessening time spent in contact with skins). And, hard to believe, for the first time, our Syrah and Mourvedre tanks have still not finished fermenting in early November. We expect they will have finished in a week. With this careful vinification, 2019 should be an excellent vintage.


Domaine Stéphane Otheguy (Côte Rotie)

The 2018 vintage here, while a hot vintage, is also a quite balanced one. We had a cool, wet spring, which lasted for a long while. However, lots of wind, from both the North and the South, protected the vines.

Following, everything happened quickly, fruit set, ripening onset, grape maturity. Harvesting ws also quick, taking place around the 20th of September. Very few treatments: 1-3 maximum. Though the end of August was dry, the vines suffered less than in 2017.

Domaine les Ondines (Vacqueyras) Jeremy Ondes

The 2018 vintage was a particularly low yielding vintage due to the incessant rains during flowering.The vintage was however abundant in syrah, and of quite lovely quality.The whites are aromatic and in good quantity.

Domaine Stéphane Otheguy (Cote Rotie)

A very wet Spring, a not very hot summer, except for the end of August, though, as the days became shorter. Here in the north of the Rhone Valley, we were spared frost and hail. That rendered a vintage of decent volume and wines of more finesse than 2015, alcohol levels around 12%. The cold entered the cellars quickly following, the malos will happen in the Spring.

Domaine les Ondines (Vacqueyras), Jeremy Ondes

An excellent vintage full of black fruits with a balance of acidity and tannins, even more beautiful than 2015 Vacqueyras! A bit more alcohol with a very rich texture. The yields are the same as 2015! Great wines to come!

Domaine Stephane Otheguy (Cote Rotie)

Concerning 2015 : good rainy Spring, a very hot summer with rain from the beginning of July until August 10th, allowing the vines a good start off in their development towards an excellent maturity.

From this perspective, powerful wines!!

Domaine les Ondines (Vaqueyras), Jeremy Ondes

The 2015 vintage is proving to be very good at Domaine les Ondines :

A healthy and ripe crop supplied the matter and potential for the elaboration of complex white wines and red wines with very fruity aromas.

It was a short duration harvest, with no rainy days to interrupt the team’s work. In addition, the arrival of new wooden tronconique cone-shaped fermenting vats and wooden foudres will bring the necessary touch to soften this years red wine.The characteristics of the 2015 wines at Ondines are :

White Wine:

Spontaneous fermentation took place over a long duration, especially the Vaqueras blanc. As a result, the nose will be more discreet than last year’s. On the other hand the white wines posess a great aromatic complexity : fruity, floral and spicy. A frequent stirring of the lees increases the richness on the palate and the length of finish.

Rosé Wine:

The rosé wines have a very amylic nose (banana, English bon-bons) due to fermentation at low temperature resulting in the “re-suspension” of the lees. Very fresh and fruity wines.

Red Wine:

Ripe and impeccably healthy red grapes, allowing for better extractions from the berries themselves, the different varieties and of the terroir.

We thus have wines whose expression is dominated by ripe fruit. These wines will be accessible to all, initiates to wine, wine enthusiasts and those who are passionate wine consumers