Wild Boar and rain take bite out of Roussillon vintage

Winemakers in parts of the Roussillon are facing up to a diminished 2013 vintage after wild boar and Spring-time deluges took a large bite out of their grape yield.

With an estimated yield of 29 hectolitres per hectare for the 2013 vintage and little over 30 hl/ha in both of the previous two years, the South East France region is among the lowest yielding in the world.

Little could have been done to combat the heavy Spring rains that damaged Grenache’s transformation from flower to fruit but some winemakers have taken to arms to deal with the pest of the pig.

Valérie Balmigere of co-operative Château de Clace in the Vallée de l'Agly, which is only separated from Languedoc to the north of the Roussillon by the Corbieres mountains, told Drinks International she had “bought a gun” a few weeks before the harvest, having gained a “hunter’s licence” the previous year.

Balmigere reported last weekend alone nine wild boars had to be culled in Calce and three years ago a sounder of boars reduced her yield from “6 tonnes to 1 tonnes of grapes” in one sitting.

In Aspres, at the southern end of the Roussillon, there were also problems. “I have a vineyard very close to a forest and the line of vines that were closest had no berries left – they were all eaten,” said Frédérique Vaquer of Domaine Vaquer a Tresserre.

Eric Aracil, from the CIVR’s export division, estimated that in areas such as the Vallée de l'Agly about 5% of grapes may have been lost to wild boar. He said: “They like Muscat the most. The boars take one line each, like the cutters [grape pickers].”

Winemaker Laurent Dal Zovo of Mas Janeil, a François Lurton property also in the Vallée de l'Agly, said the feral hogs have broadened their horizons this year.  “Right now they love everything - what a life they have! They are much more numerous than us, they are everywhere – and there are wild goats too.  The hunters [which are officially commissioned to cull boar] are not doing their job – I have filled out the form to ask for compensation.”

The rain

Though Dal Zovo’s biggest problem in the Vallée de l'Agly this year, was Roussillon’s flagship grape, Grenache. “We only harvested 20% of what we normally do, but it was a one-in-ten-year event,” he said.

Balmigere of Château de Clace said their harvest had been “complicated”, especially after the rains damaged the vines' flowers but said only 5-10% had been lost, and that the Maury area's vineyards had suffered most.

Though in most cases Roussillon’s harvest was two weeks later than normal, and in some cases heavily depleted, winemakers questioned by DI agreed that the quality of the grapes was very good.