This year’s climatic conditions did not make life easy for the winegrowers in the vineyards of the Rhône Valley: Frost, hail, and rain did not spare the region and had dire consequences for some businesses. This year will be remembered. Not only because it is so atypical, but also because it will produce quality, fresh, luscious, and tasty wines – despite the very different quantities that will be so common in France and the rest of the world in 2021.
Whether white, rosé or red wines: the year 2021 will be characterized by quality in the vineyards of the Rhône Valley. Structured, elegant, fresh and fruity are the most important keywords for this new vintage. The quality is extremely satisfactory, with good natural acidity and excellent balance, despite the lower yields in some parts of the vineyard due to the difficult weather conditions.
The 2021 grape harvest in the Rhone Valley vineyards took place relatively late and extended over a longer period of time. In addition, it was very different in the parcels and areas of the second-largest French AOC. The first wineries started the grape harvest on Monday, August 30th, 10 days later than in 2020. In order to make the optimal time for the harvest possible for everyone, the harvest extended into October.
Philippe Pellaton, President of Inter Rhône, is delighted with the quality with a satisfactory phenolic degree of ripeness: “2021 is a vintage of remarkable quality, the health of the vineyards is very good, although it was an atypical year. The Grenache produces elegant wines that come from a beautiful and balanced harvest; the Syrah is usually a little more generous and produces fresh and harmonious wines “.
Excellent balance in the north with remarkable wines
Despite this year’s climatic adversities (spring frost, abundant rain, occasional hail), the winemakers in the northern part of the vineyard confirm the good resilience of some vines. Other plots, however, suffered greatly from the conditions, which leads to the great heterogeneity of this vintage. However, the harvested grapes are healthy and show excellent ripeness.
Michel Chapoutier is grateful for this atypical vintage and even describes it as a stroke of luck: “We are returning to the climatic conditions to which we were used in the 90s, with cooler temperatures and later and less advanced degrees of ripeness of the grapes. I always like to point out that the vintage is a mirror of the climate, which defines the terroir in connection with the soil and the people. This year the Hermitage and Saint-Joseph appellations are already showing their typical peppery and spicy character with a restrained fruit profile. Mineral years like 2021 highlight the peculiarities of the soil. This atypical vintage is an opportunity! It offers consumers the opportunity to understand the impact of climate and terroir on wine “.
Various oenologists have already established the beautiful balance of grape musts between potential alcohol and total acidity. A particularly elegant and finesse-rich vintage 2021 is expected in the northern part of the vineyards.
“The Viognier is developing well, with a nice freshness, a lively aromatic character, and good pH values,” explains Christophe Pichon, co-president of the Condrieu appellation. “The white wines are well matured and have more acidity than in previous years. We will probably have lighter wines, less generous and sun-drenched. These wines could be more in line with what consumers are looking for.”
“In the AOC Côte-Rôtie, the harvest is really of high quality, which will undoubtedly please the market. This is mainly due to the quick action of the winemakers to bring in the harvest on time and under good hygienic conditions,” adds Philippe Guigal.
Yann Chave adds: ” At the AOC Crozes-Hermitage 2021 will be an exceptional vintage for white wines with excellent balance and remarkable acidity. For reds, the vintage will produce charming and pleasant wines, with moderate length and rounded tannins”.
In the AOC Saint-Péray, “the health of the vineyards is more than satisfactory. Thanks to the rainfall and the excellent harvest, some higher-lying vineyards were able to compensate for the frost-related losses. Thanks to the good weather towards the end of the growing season, the grapes were able to reach a good degree of ripeness. The vintage should be characterized by its sugar-acid balance. A nice year to showcase the freshness of Saint-Péray wines, “ says Benoit Nodin, President of the Saint-Péray appellation.
Lighter and fruity wines in the south
The southern parts of the vineyards enjoyed the cooler temperatures and rainfall in early September. The first tastings of the wines in the barrels provided nice surprises for the white and rosé wines. The red wines are fruity, with an alcohol content of 1 ° lower than in previous years.
In Beaumes de Venise, Xavier Vignon, co-president of the appellation, commented on the situation: “Thanks to the protective influence of the Dentelles de Montmirail and the favorable temperature gradient between the lower and higher vineyard parcels of the Cru, the wines of Beaumes de Venise were spared the frost . We expect generous wines of very good quality, concentration, depth and good acidity. The muscats are already bursting with aromas and the red wines show a great personality , even if they have to mature for another winter before they are finished “.
Laurent Brusset, President of the Cairanne appellation, adds: “In view of the adverse climatic conditions, we did not expect a large yield, we were rather pessimistic before the harvest. But the reality exceeded our expectations! This Cairanne vintage really shows quality. Like every year, nature decided for us! One of the joys of our profession is having a unique vintage each year. 2021 is a vintage of the winemaker. At times, decisions about harvest dates had to be made spontaneously, which were often reversed compared to classic vintages. That requires a lot of experience and feeling. The new vintage is attractive due to its drinkability, its elegance, its long finish and its finesse. The wines are very balanced and have a nice natural acidity. The colors are strong and stable. The wines are very aromatic, flattering and with a rather explosive fruitiness! In terms of taste, the wines are very elegant, the tannins are smooth and silky “.
On the west bank of the Rhône, in Lirac in the Gard department, François Miquel, co-president of the appellation, adds: “It will be a very nice vintage in the Lirac appellation, with fresh wines that have an alcohol content of 1 to 1.5 ° less This year means a real opportunity for the appellation, because we have started a long-term process to increase its image and value. All three colors are abundant in the 2021 vintage, which is sure to please the market. “
While the frost in April raised concerns about a 40% drop in yield, a cooler summer and rainfall in September had a positive effect on the vines and berries.
Denis Guthmuller, President of the General Syndicate of the Côtes du Rhône, added: “The rains have partially reduced our harvest losses. The year 2021 will be remembered as a difficult vintage. Its qualitative potential is promising, however. It took a long time before the Grapes were ripe, but patience will be rewarded and we are already tasting some very nice wines “.