Provencal Rosé Online Course and 2020 Growing Season
As I write this article in early October, the harvest season is still underway in Provence, but I can already tell you that the 2020 season will go down as one of the most memorable in history!
In particular, sourcing harvesters has been particularly problematic because of the health and travel restrictions imposed by the coronavirus pandemic. A majority of the harvesters in Provence come from other countries, including Spain, Poland and Morocco. A memorandum issued by the French prime minister on May 20th opened the French borders for seasonal workers from the Schengen area, but the supply was still hampered. Vineyards normally provide workers from abroad with food and lodging during their stay. But the social distancing and other hygiene measures required for lodging these workers have required many vineyards to re-think their procedures. The extra health measures have been incredibly taxing on vineyards in appellations where manual harvesting is mandatory, such as Bandol.
In an interview with La Provence, Sophie Vache, president of the Vaucluse FDSEA (Departmental Federation of Farmers’ Unions), said, “This year, the concern is the recruitment of harvesters, but in particular their lodging and meals, where extra vigilance is required.”
The climatological conditions this year have also kept winemakers on their toes. Between March 24-26, temperatures in Provence plunged to -6ºC, which caused some damage to certain vines where the first buds had begun to sprout early due to the warmest winter recorded since 1900.
The vines affected by the gel (frost) were, of course, the ones that had already started budding, including Tibouren and Grenache in the Côtes de Provence appellation. Because of this, the Côtes de Provence Wine Syndicate issued an exceptional waiver for the 2020 vintage that allows winemakers in Côtes de Provence to have as little as 50% primary grape varieties in their rosé and red wines, rather than the usual 70%.
Because of the warm winter followed by a mild spring and hot, dry summer, grape harvest across France in 2020 was one of the most precocious on record since the 15th Century. While the harvest in Provence didn’t start as early as some other regions, it did start about 10-15 days earlier than usual on average.
“Everyone predicted a hot, precocious vintage this year, and that was the case in most of France, but in the northern part of the Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence appellation, it wasn’t as pronounced,” said Jérémie Peckre, head of the production at Château Paradis, where harvesting began on August 31st.
Then, right as the harvest started, so did the rain! It rained on and off throughout the Provence region beginning at the end of August and throughout September. The rain has the opposite effect of hot, dry weather: it slows down the grape maturation. So winemakers have had to be especially vigilant about keeping track of the grapes’ sugar levels and ripeness and adapting their harvest schedules since they can’t harvest in the rain.
“The rainy weather over the past few weeks has slowed down the grape maturation slightly, but the winds picked up nicely towards the end of September, which has helped keep the grapes healthy and have allowed us to pick the grapes that ripen later in the season at just the right time,” said Peckre.
Cheers To Good News
Notwithstanding the unusual conditions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the vigilance required to navigate the weather conditions, the 2020 vintage promises to be amazing. The maturation period was long and hot – but not too hot – with good diurnal temperature variation, which together ensured a grape juice that is both aromatic and refreshing.
While the 2020 Provence harvest season is still underway, everything points to it yielding wines of beautiful aromatic complexity and finesse on the palate. A deserving reward for the challenges navigated.
Online Wine Course
Be the smartest person in the room when it comes to rosé. The Magic of Provence Rosé demystifies Provence rosé by explaining what’s in it, how it’s made, and how it’s blended. If you love wine and rosé in particular, this 1-hour cut through the confusion about the pink-hued wines.
About Michèle Foster
Michèle Foster is the creator of Solière rosé, an estate-grown AOP rosé from Provence. Her passion for both Provence and rosé began when she moved to the region in 2007. Originally from Texas, Michèle has lived in Provence for 13 years. Passionate about Provence wines, she exports these drops of joy to the United States and offers an on-demand online course about Provence rosé.