Rhône Valley begins harvest two weeks early

The Rhône Valley wine region has begun this year’s harvest two weeks early due to the current levels of ripe grapes.

The first bunches are the white AOPs of the southern Rhône Valley, which will be picked on Monday August 21 and in the northern vineyards, harvesting is due to start on Monday September 4.

The early start date has been forecast based on a combination of spring weather conditions and this year’s relatively modest crop load.

Earlier this summer largeparts of southern France were hit by wild fires which caused local residents to evacuate.

“We had been hoping for rain in July,” said Françoise Dijon, manager of the Vineyard Observer.

“But it didn’t happen. Nevertheless, our latest findings show that the quality of the harvest is very promising, with plenty of colour and a good ratio of sugar to acidity”.

A mild, dry winter in the southern part of the vineyards and an unseasonably warm February and March led to early bud-break. The subsequent cold snap – alongside rainy weather in May – brought localised episodes of frost and hail, causing damage in places.

Temperatures rose again in mid-May, reaching more than the seasonal norm. Vines grew rapidly as flowering approached and 
then at the beginning of summer, a period of hot, dry weather speeded up the ripening process.

In the northern vineyards, vine development began equally early and on two occasions, temperatures were brought down considerably by a cold northerly wind, resulting in delayed flowering.

But subsequent May rainfall drove temperatures back up, topping up water levels in the process and the heat waves took over by June.