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May 30, 2022 View:

Rhone Valley vineyards see first harvest of 2020 vintage

After several weeks of observation of the vines and the weather, the vineyards of the Rhone Valley began this week the first harvest of the 2020 vintage.

Image courtesy of: Côtes du Rhône vineyards

Despite an early harvest across France in 2020, the Rhone Valley region, France"s second largest vineyard, is poised to create a premium vintage. The first harvest will focus on some of the faster-ripening grapes, while starting next week, the entire vineyard will hit harvest, starting on August 24 for whites and early September for reds.

The large amount of precipitation in October and November 2019 filled the vineyards' soils with moisture. After such a rainy autumn, the vineyards were greeted by a mild and dry winter. Since January 1, 2020, all months have seen considerably below normal precipitation, with the exception of April and May, which saw near normal rainfall. This year's winter was arguably the mildest since 2015/2016, and this climate did well to encourage the growth of the vines. This spring was also considered one of the hottest in France, adding to the rapid growth of the vines.

As we entered the summer, the relative heat of the day was balanced by cooler nights and the lack of rain provided the necessary moisture for the grapes to ripen. As a result, instead of further accelerating early ripening, the vines continued to grow in a stepwise manner. The plots and bunches varied, as did the degree of grape ripening. Overall, however, the grapes were more productive, with larger fruit and growth one to two weeks earlier than in 2019.

The exact date of harvest will depend on the weather conditions in the next few days. At the same time, differences in plots and grape varieties can make a difference in the timing of the harvest. In some early-ripening areas in the southern part of the Rhône Valley, the white wine harvest has already started in earnest, while in the northern part of the Rhône Valley, the first harvest has already started the week of August 24. As for the red wines of the Rhône Valley, the harvest is still to start in early September.

Overall, grapes ripened 7 to 10 days earlier than in 2019 as harvesting hit the southern and northern parts of the Rhône Valley region. Vines, bunches and berries are in excellent health. If favorable weather conditions continue in the coming days and weeks, the Rhône Valley region is poised for another good vintage in 2020.