2018 at Châteauneuf-du-Pape turned out to be a nightmare for three of its finest names, Château Rayas, Château de Beaucastel and Clos des Papes. Their harvests were ravaged by mildew, the problem exacerbated by working organically, and, in the case of Beaucastel, unable to rustle up workers to get into the vineyards at night and at weekends, which was the only salvage option for the lesser sized family domaines. Tractors were also stuck if they tried to enter the waterlogged ground as the mildew moved relentlessly on to the bunches in just 24 hours in May.
At Château Rayas, the birth of Emmanuel Reynaud’s first grandson, Austin, the son of Benoît, was the reason to celebrate the year – the vineyard certainly wasn’t. “99% of the bunches were destroyed, the leaves also,” Emmanuel recounted. “The leaves re-generated with grapillons or secondary bunches later on. On 28 November, 2018, in one day, we harvested 12 hl of Rayas, 4 hl of Fonsalette, and 5 hl of Pignan. There will be 400 litres of Rayas blanc and 800 litres of Rayas rouge.” This will hopefully all be drunk en famille to toast Augustin as he grows up.
“I am quite content to have a year like that, since it shows the young generation why I keep wines back to sell,” affirms Emmanuel philosophically. “It’s good if they can learn that early in their careers.”
In 2019, Emmanuel was once again the last estate to harvest, bringing in his crop in the last days of October, and on 1 November. “It’s a large harvest,” he tells me, “a good budding, with very joli grapes aided by the mid-October rain, which served to re-balance the sugars, to render the fruit supple and less bitter than it was.”
Post by John Livingston , www.drinkrhone.com