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2020 Harvest Report by Maison & Domaine Les Alexandrins – a Very Subtle “Northern Rhône” Style Vintage

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2020 will go down as a technically exacting vintage. We had to review the situation in numerous parcels after a 2019 where hail had inflicted severe damage on our vineyards.
We therefore continued to nurse the vines back to health by providing them with a range of gentle but complementary nutrients.

As far as the weather was concerned, the season began with an abnormally dry and hot spring, and flowering that started around May 25.

The month of June proved to be wetter, with providential rain providing much needed water for the vines. Veraison, when the grapes begin to change colour, began around July 15.

During the summer, the vineyards became almost desert-like with the intense heat. Fortunately, the nights were not too hot, and the vines were able to recover a little by soaking up the occasional shower and light morning dew.

Although 2020 had its challenges – a high risk of mildew at the start of the season, constant and unpredictable winds, powdery mildew half way through the season, and the threat of high temperatures and scorching – it seems our efforts have paid off. It has taken a lot of hard work, but we now believe we are looking at a really great vintage.

Given the extreme heat, we innovated this year, equipping each of our grape pickers with individual head lamps so we could harvest earlier in the day. We began picking from 6 am every morning and immediately stored the grapes in a refrigerated lorry to keep them at a temperature of 5 to 6°C. Then at 2 pm, when picking was finished for the day, we delivered the grapes to the winery.

We adopted this method from August 19, with the harvesting of the first white grapes, and continued with the reds which had ripened extraordinarily early. We also tasted the berries regularly to assess their ripeness and decide the exact moment to harvest.
The rain on September 3–4 was a godsend, reactivating maturities and swelling the berries. After waiting a few days to allow the vines to fully benefit from this water, our teams resumed picking in the Crozes Hermitage, Saint Joseph and Côtes du Rhône Brézème parcels. Harvesting was finally completed on September 16.

Vinifications went very smoothly in the cellar since the harvest ended up being spread out over a whole month. Alcoholic fermentation of the whites was mostly carried out in oak barrels, and generally finished quite quickly. The first tastings before malolactic fermentation offered us a glimpse of highly aromatic wines of great freshness, with degrees that finally rarely exceeded 13.5°.

Ditto for the reds. Wines made from grapes brought in before September 3 show precise red fruit aromas with good levels of acidity and very well-integrated tannic structures. Grapes brought in later, with maturities that were more developed, promise wines with more depth but that still retain superb freshness. The running off of all the vats will be completed by October 14.

Now it is time for the wines to undergo a lengthy maturing period, which will enable aromatic complexity to develop and tannins to mellow.

Finally, the only really normal thing about this 2020 vintage has been the return to a more typically “Northern Rhône” style after the two Mediterranean vintages of 2018 and 2019.

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