Initial indications for the 2015 harvest22-09-2015
With a hot and dry summer, and a cooler end to the season, producers are looking forward to a very good harvest 2015. And even though the harvest is early, this often means quality is good.
While the grape harvest may not yet be underway across all of France, early indications suggest that 2015 is a good vintage. France’s grape harvest is likely to reach 46.5 million hectolitres, according to estimations released at the end of August by the French Ministry of Agriculture (Agreste). This is admittedly 1% less than in 2014, but the majority of French wine regions agree that despite the heatwave, this year’s crop should be up on the average yield for the last five years, at around 45.6 million hl. Interestingly, this figure may still increase, as estimations were established mid-August, and subsequent cool weather and increased rainfall will boost final volumes and grape ripening, a byword for quality for this vintage’s wines.
In Bordeaux, the vines are a week ahead compared to 2014 and vine health is still spot-on. In Champagne too, harvesting is two weeks ahead of schedule and came to a close on September 18th. 2015 is expected to be a year for a number of vintage releases in Champagne. In the Rhone, where heatwave conditions struck, harvesting is also 1-2 weeks early. This time in hand often signifies quality for the wine, which will release its aromas in 2016.
The fact remains however that a number of vineyards are still waiting for picking to get underway. With only a few days before the 2015 harvest, there is very little to do other than wait patiently and taste the grapes to monitor acidity, sweetness and pH etc. Growers continue to scrutinise the development of their beloved grapes.
Take Eric Santier for example, who recently took over Domaine Dozon in Ligré, near Chinon in the Loire. Here, harvesting the 14-hectare AOC Chinon estate is scheduled for the end of September, as long as the weather allows the grapes to reach optimum ripeness. It’s all down to timing. “Ripeness levels are under total scrutiny. We are monitoring the development of the grapes in terms of sugar and potential alcohol. In parallel, we are keeping tabs on acidity to attain the perfect balance” he explains. Soon the proof will be in the harvested grapes but Eric Santier already has a good idea as to 2015’s production. “At the moment, it’s looking like a good vintage in terms of quality and quantity, but we really need to wait until the harvest is over and the grapes are in tank to have a true picture.” Erring on the side of caution, this Chinon producer will no doubt be keeping a close eye on the heavens over the next few days. And for Eric Santier and his wife, the stakes are high. With only 2 years under their belts, the couple are hoping to sell their red, white and rosé wine on a global scale. Exports represent and are going to represent increased importance for the future of the estate. As a result, Eric Santier is working tirelessly to raise awareness for Domaine Dozon to importers worldwide. Trade fairs, including Salon des Vins de Loire in Angers, Vinexpo, and activities targeting potential importers, meeting importers in key markets, every opportunity is worthwhile to win over new buyers.
In 2014, 8% of volumes were exported, representing no less than 25,000 euros of turnover. “USA accounted for 80% of that, with the remainder coming from Belgium, Switzerland and Japan” pointed out Eric Santier. A revenue stream that should increase next year, especially given the new wine labels. “They have a modern look, yet retain a classic feel, which is important as French wines are a good indication of authenticity.” But a label is worth nothing without the backing of the vigneron to go with it. “We are going down the route of “red wines of the Loire”, which are light wines, in the best sense of the term. In the UK, people are coming back to this style of wines.” Indeed, his next objectives for exports will focus on the UK, but not solely. “The business development carried out so far should come to fruition late 2015/early 2016. We are also targeting the US where we are under-represented”. Focusing on new markets and further increasing market share in the US, the objectives are clear for Domaine Dozon: “We are looking at exporting at least 15% of our production in 2016”.