Harvest report 2011: the vintage in the Rhone Valley

Here is another harvest report from one of the French wine regions: The Rhone Valley. Admittedly, this press release sometimes reads more like a promo sheet with too much hyperbole: “Rhône Valley wine professionals have dared to take risks by favouring optimal vine maturity”, “Wine lovers will recognise the accessibility of our flawless, supple and light wines, whilst connoisseurs will also find full-body and concentration” and so on.

Nevertheless it is an interesting read with some good information about the 2011 vintage and harvest in the Rhone Valley appellations: Cairanne, Beaumes de Venise, Crozes Hermitage, Gigondas, Cotes du Rhone, Hermitage, Saint Joseph, Chateauneuf-du-Pape etc.

When we were there early in the summer things looked very good. But as in many parts of France, the summer later turned into something much cooler and the quality of the grapes were rather made by excellent autumn weather.

So if we try to read between the lines the red wines seems to by judged as full of fruit, not too full-bodied or heavy but more leaning towards finesse, with ripe tannins, and overall of good or very good quality. The whites seems to be judged as even better than the reds.

We have not yet had the chance to taste any of the “wines” ourselves but look forward to doing so.

Read below the full press release from Sopexa UK and from InterRhone, the producers’ organisation in the Rhone Valley.

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Vineyard with red poppies, Hermitage, Rhone

Vineyard with red poppies, Hermitage, Rhone

Press release – 16 November 2011

Rhône Valley AOC 2011 vintage: fruit and finesse

The exceptional climate of the Rhône Valley, the reactivity of the wine producers and the quality of the grapes are reflected in a vintage that combines fruit and finesse.

A successful element of controlled risk-taking

2011 has been an exceptional year: an unseasonably warm spring, a spring-like summer and an ideal autumn. Rhône Valley wine professionals have dared to take risks by favouring optimal vine maturity before beginning the grape harvest. In doing so, wine growers have fully expressed their own personalities adding a sure-fire bet into the bargain.

With more fruit, 2011 stands apart from the 2010 vintage

Initial tastings clearly show a difference from the 2010 vintage. With lots of fruit, 2011 is close in profile to the 2009 vintage, with cherry and prune aromas, slight over-ripeness and warm notes. 2011 wines are well-balanced and should be characterised by beautifully made fine wines.

“Wine lovers will recognise the accessibility of our flawless, supple and light wines, whilst connoisseurs will also find full-body and concentration,” states Philippe Pellaton, President of the General Union of Wine Producer Côtes du Rhône, and Inter-Rhône Vice-President.

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Vineyard with galet stones in the southern Rhone Valley

Vineyard with galet stones in the southern Rhone Valley, copyright BKWine Photography

Fruit, ageing potential and blending for the South

According to Denis Alary, President of the Cairanne local union In the South: “Wines are well-balanced and well-rounded. The 2011 vintage will provide fine wines with lots of fruit and excellent acidity”. For Romain Hall, (Domaine des Bernardins in Beaumes-de-Venise) “This vintage can be compared to 2000 with the fruitiness of wild blackberries and smooth tannins”.

The 2011 vintage therefore has a lot of body and an interesting ageing potential. The reds are supple and pleasant, the whites are fresh and light, and the rosés beautifully made.

In Gigondas, Pierre Amadieu testifies: “We can already see that the wines are marked by fruits with ripe tannins which are rather well-integrated. A delightful 2011 vintage, which is highly expressive with intense freshness and good ageing potential – in essence taut and well-balanced”.

The grapes really benefited from the long Indian summer, with extremely mild temperatures. The Cinsault, Mourvèdre and Carignan are magnificent. The distinctive assembly of southern Côtes du Rhône wines will give the 2011 vintage a large proportion of its typical characteristics. “2011? An original vintage. Syrah and Clairette were relatively early, the superb Carignan- Mourvèdre took their time, the Grenache required “bespoke” attention, and we were blown away with the whites!” declares Elisabth Saladin, a wine maker in Saint Marcel d’Ardèche.

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A barrel aging cellar with people tasting wines

A barrel aging cellar with people tasting wines, copyright BKWine Photography

Superb Syrah in the North

The northern Côtes du Rhône display high levels of finesse. In 2011 Syrah is at its very best. “2001 will be a lovely vintage, aided by clement temperatures in the month of September. We can see very good phenolic maturity, a perfectly balanced Sarah and great finesse. The reds have a beautiful sweetness, lovely fruit and white flowers. The minerality of the Marsanne is really well expressed this year,” states Emilie Desmeure-Mandon, a producer of Crozes-Hermitage, Hermitage and Saint Joseph (Domaine des Rémizières).

“2011 should produce highly elegant, well-balanced and well-rounded wines similar to those of vintage 2007 for the North. We can experience aromas of both ripe and fresh fruit. The structure in the mouth is sustained with elegant tannins,” comments Michel Chapoutier, President and CEO of Maison Chapoutier and Vice-President of Inter-Rhône.

Philippe Guigal, Director and oenologist from Maison Guigal, adds: “The wines are beautifully ripe and very well-balanced. The reds are dark and fruity.”

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A view over the steep vineyards in the northern Rhone Valley

A view over the steep vineyards in the northern Rhone Valley, copyright BKWine Photography

A year that is generous in fruit and colour

The Rhône Valley also draws its strength from its other appellations (Grignan-les-Adhémar, Luberon, Ventoux, Costières de Nîmes, Clairette de Bellegarde and Côtes de Vivarais).

“The 2011 wines in the Guigan-les-Adhémar appellation are more fruitful and better balanced than in 2009 and have more tannins than in 2010, with considerable ageing potential. We have a highly promising vintage,” declares Henri Bour, co-president of the section. In the Luberon Jean-Louis Piton, co-president of this section, believes that the 2011 vintage displays a large range of qualities: “fruit, balance and colour, as well as good acidity. A lovely vintage in prospect which is extremely interesting. The whites and rosés of the Luberon will be solid and well-constructed wines in vibrant colours. And for the reds the tannins are very supple with excellent aromatic richness and notes of ripe fruits”.

The same level of satisfaction is present in the Ventoux where Yves Favier, co-president of the Ventoux section, states: “2011 will be an excellent vintage for the Ventoux. The whites and rosés are exceptional. There will probably be excellent red wines too. The harvest was of very high quality, particularly for the Syrah”.

Michel Gassier, co-president of the Costières de Nîmes section, comments: “Maturation has been exceptional for all grape varieties, even those which are late to mature. The reds are rather colourful with good depth and remarkable concentration. The rosés are lively and very fresh. Finally the whites have beautiful fullness, in the same vein as in 2010”.

The final challenge: wine makers from the Rhône Valley now take particular care in their work in their cellars so that the vintage can continue to reveal its character.


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Terraced vineyards in the Cote Rotie

Terraced vineyards in the Cote Rotie, copyright BKWine Photography

For further information:

Notes :

• Rhône Valley wines are produced in 6 départements
• The wine industry represents the largest economic activity in the region with 413 million bottles sold on 2009/2010 across 155 countries
• The wine industry is the largest employer in the region with 46,000 direct or indirect jobs
• For more information on Rhône Valley wines :

The village Chateauneuf-du-Pape, and the ruins of the Pope's summer palace

The village Chateauneuf-du-Pape, and the ruins of the Pope’s summer palace, copyright BKWine Photography

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