We began our 2020 harvest earlier than has ever been known in the region, on Tuesday, 1 September. The vintage has been affected by an unprecedented period of drought with no rain in the region apart from a life- saving 10 millimetres in Châteauneuf-du-Pape during the summer and 28 millimetres in Gigondas at the end of August.
The first parcels to be picked were white grape varieties in Roaix. What a spectacular year to be making the first Santa Duc white. Maturities are perfect, neither too much nor too little, and the acidities are mouth- watering. Freshened by the Rieu stream, this hillside of Miocene safre brings freshness and precision to these old vines of Clairette. After the successful experiment with Epreuve C made from these old Clairette, we decided to re-graft some of our Syrah vines on this parcel planted with Clairette and Bourboulenc. These two grapes go together perfectly; the first brings aromatic intensity and elegance and the second, vivacity and freshness. The whites were vinified in a stoneware amphora and a demi-muid several wines old, which is also where the wines will be aged to preserve all the purity of the terroir and the varieties in this Serre du Rieu which is full of promise.
As ever, the Syrah were the first to join the party; the Côtes-du-Rhône, then the Gigondas and lastly the Châteauneuf-du-Pape, with amazing freshness, moderate degrees, and magnificent acidities. The Grenache kicked off in Gigondas with Les Routes and Les Carbonnières, the earliest ripening sectors of the estate. Then came the Vacqueyras, followed by Clos Derrière Vieille at Gigondas, a wine in which Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre are fermented together. The berries were splendid, and beautifully plump. Then it was the turn of the Grenache from the Côtes-du-Rhône. Once again this year, these wonderful safre terroirs have given us juices full of vivacity, with extraordinary acidity and pH for a southern terroir. As for the single vineyards of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, they began picking on 15 September. Then came the 100-year-old Grenaches of La Crau Ouest, and the complantations of Saintes Vierges and Pied de Baud. After that it was the turn of the late ripening parcels of Grenache at Gigondas. A quick trip to Châteauneuf-du-Pape to harvest Le Pradel and then back at Gigondas to pick the Hautes Garrigues, starting with the Mourvèdre and then the Grenache and Mourvèdre complantations. Some 10 millimetres of rain peppered with small hailstones struck the vineyard suddenly on the evening of Monday, 21 September. We were somewhat worried because some of the Hautes Garrigues vines still had fruit on them, but fortunately, the goblet shape of the head pruned vines played its protective role and the remaining bunches were able to be picked two days later. We finished harvesting at Santa Duc on Wednesday, 23 September.
Naturally, the winemaking for the reds has been adapted to the conditions of the vintage, with gentle pumping over and punch-downs for gentle extractions. 60 to 80% of whole bunches, to confer freshness and elegance, are incorporated depending on the wine. At vatting, the sugar/acid balance was exceptional at Gigondas, which was perplexing given the weather conditions for the vintage. Acidity and pH levels aren’t quite so good in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, as the summer showers that fell there doubtless made the potassium more soluble, causing a moderate drop in acidity. The window we chose for harvesting turned out to be the right one as alcohol levels range from 13.5% vol to 14.5% vol.
Our initial assessment is that yields are very good, promising good balance, although volumes are no higher than predicted in our first estimates. Early devatting appears promising; the fruit is fresh and tannic structures are refined and elegant.