I have read a lot of doom and gloom regarding the 2013 harvest in France. While certain lesser areas, like Bordeaux and Burgundy, had a tough time we produced what has been one of the best harvests since we started in 2009. On saying that it was a particularly difficult harvest with some unseasonable weather throwing up some real challenges both in the vineyards and the winery.

Météo de Faugères en 2013

First of all I must talk about the unusual weather events that had a profound effect on the 2013 harvest. After a particularly cold spring we new that we were in for a tough growing season. Bud burst was late and then slow growing conditions meant that the harvest date was going to be pushed back by at least two weeks. It also meant that flowering was delayed as well. We were praying for nice settled weather in mid to late June but instead were hit by the mother of all storms that dumped 20mm on our heads and made temperatures plummet for the next ten days. Subsequently the Grenache Noir vineyards had a terrible flowering and therefore produced a crop that was down by up to 75%. Interesting though was that all other varieties seemed to be unaffected and crop levels were good across Syrah, Carignan and Mourvedre.
July and August gave us a great hot summer that allowed the vineyards to grow some strong healthy foliage and disease pressure was only an issue in the susceptible Carignan vineyards. Everything was looking good and we were all geared up to start harvest in early September when another front came through and caused the temperatures in the first two weeks to dip well below average. All we could do was sit back and wait for the grapes to ripen.

 

Le début de la récolte

I found out this year that Domaine la Sarabande has a reputation for being the first winery to start picking grapes and one of the last to finish! So there must have been some chuckles as we set off to pick our young vine Syrah at the end of the first week of September. We pushed on and managed to pick a few tonne of Syrah from our new block near Lentheric before we had a little breather. The fruit looked beautiful, very clean and some lovely flavours. Any early fears of high acidity were unfounded and there are some really attractive white pepper notres on those early picks.
Grenache from our new blocks, Mont Gros and Les Rabasses, predictably were low cropping. However the lifted fruit character of the resulting wines is amazing. This will be a year to look out for some mono varietal Grenache but they will be hard to find. Carignan was a little trickier in our old vine block in Laurens. We probably should have treated with a late sulfur spray as powdery mildew caused some problems. We sorted the fruit hard in the vineyards and again in the winery. I was really impressed with how the wine came through ferment and should be a really good component for our blend.

 

La fin difficile de la vendageThings started to get really tricky around the end of September. Some of our fellow vignerons had only just started picking when a blast of warmth came through on the 21st and therefore had a hell of alot of fruit to pick when a rain event hit us on the weekend of the 28th. We had seen some botrytis before these rains so we knew that things were going to get ropey in vines with heavy canopy. We lost some fruit in a late block of Syrah and we were pushed to start our Mourvedre a little early. Luckily the humid weather was blown away by some forgiving wind in early October and we could really get some nice ripeness in our Les Rabasses Mourvedre. It was slow going though and our last pick was not until the 15th of October! Les Rabasses was planted on a lovely south facing slope and the soils are free draining schist. Therefore the fruit has every chance to get beautifully ripe even in difficult years like 2013. The last picks had potential alcohol of 12.5-13.0% and had some lovely dark fruit characters. Every year is different and poses specific problems. 2013 was hard and we were pulling our hair out trying to get the picking decisions right. Thankfully I think we did a pretty good job and the wines will have good power while maintaining a Faugères typicity. A Vignerons récolte!! CheersPaul and Isla

The picking crew at our Mont Gros Grenache