The 2019 vintage will be characterised by the dry spring and then the scorching summer. On June 28th, a heatwave hit the South of France. Temperatures soared to their highest ever recorded, reaching more than 45°c. As at a number of estates, our plots were impacted. Varietals such as Roussanne were unable to cope and many grape-clusters were burnt.
Other varietals fared better. A number of the vines showed good resistance to the increasing drought. We were fortunate not to witness any excessive defoliation in the vineyard, so grapes could ripen under the protection of the leaf canopy.
The first grapes cut from the vine were Chardonnay, on 21st August. They were immediately put in a cold room and soon after transferred to the winery. Other white varieties followed: Viognier, Sauvignon, Vermentino, Clairette, Albarinho and, finally, Petit Manseng. The juice was excellent, very aromatic, which bodes well for structure and freshness in the vintage.
As September approached, we turned our attention to selections of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre – these for our rosés, while completing the harvesting of the whites.
Harvesting for the reds began mid-September with Syrah and Cinsault from the best plots. The Grenache and Mourvèdre waited it out some days and were not in the winery till the end of September/start of October. As with every year, the vendange was completed with the harvesting of our Cabernet Sauvignon. The 2019 vintage will be about black fruits with wonderful aromatic concentration, but also supple silky tannins and gentle extraction that will keep the fruit fresh.
Snow, mildew, heat wave, record rainfall… 2018’s been some year in Languedoc-Roussillon! However, 2018 also has the makings of being one of the great vintages of Château Capion.
The mild winter will go down in the record books. On February 28th and March 1st, up to 30 cm of snow fell on the estate – and that last happened thirty years ago! It brought everything to a standstill, including the traffic, but for the vine it was certainly beneficial as it aided soil drainage and balanced the water table.
Exceptional, too, was the cumulative rainfall till May – nearly 900 mm was recorded! The annual average varies between 600 and 700 mm in the Mediterranean region.
The rainfall, lack of wind, 95% humidity and then lots of sunshine created an explosive ‘tropical cocktail’ that was conducive to mildew. “This was our biggest stress factor,” says Rodolphe Travel, vineyard director at Château Capion. “It started directly on bunch, at flowering, exactly when the vine’s at its most vulnerable. Usually, you see it first on the leaf. We hadn’t seen this phenomenon for a long time. Result: 30% loss of Grenache, a little less of our Chardonnay and Roussanne.”
In the summer, Capion’s particularly cool terroir protects the vine from temperatures of 35°c plus. Sometimes there’s more than a 20°c difference between day and night, and this thermal amplitude is ideal for the vine’s maturity, which gets sun during the day and rest at night.
“All the grape varieties ripened beautifully”
For seven weeks, from August 23rd to October 8th, there were optimal conditions for the harvest. First, the whites were picked: Chardonnay, Viognier, Roussanne, Clairette, and Vermentino (the last varietal is a new plot located 200 meters above sea level). Then came the rosé and the reds – Syrah, Cinsault, Grenache, Mourvèdre, before an experimental final harvest on Cabernet Sauvignon.
“We decided to pick the whites and the rosé earlier,” says Claude Gros, Château Capion’s consulting oenologist. The humidity and the heatwave we had in June led to fairly low levels of acidity. There wasn’t a lot of alcohol, either, so the result? Brighter, fresher wines, easy to drink and cooler, too.”
“All the grape varieties ripened beautifully”, he adds. “Mourvèdre revealed its typical spiciness, Grenache had surprisingly intense raspberry tones that will balance the dark fruit of Syrah in our blends…”
2018 has been an exceptional year for Syrah, Capion’s predominant grape variety. “Syrah is, if you like, both the backbone of our wines and the final touch, made up of different selections from micro-plot vinification,” explains Rodolphe Travel. “Some plots were picked early for their red fruits, others later to get that aromatic concentration.”
Now in vats, the harvest has already been revealing its potential. “It’ll certainly be a great vintage,” says Rodolphe Travel. “We’re very happy with what we have in vats. There will be some wonderful surprises.”
Claude Gros is also convinced: “2018 will be a fabulous vintage. The quality will increase. Now we’re seeing the effect of all the work that’s been done in the Capion vineyard over the last two years. It’s really beginning to pay off: the vine’s much more balanced. This harvest will be great to work with when we get to the blends,because our grapes are as we expected them to be. We’re going to have a lot of fun!”
A cool vintage, marked by frost at the beginning of May, 2017 will be remembered for the substantial loss of the harvest, nearly 40%. Some plots simply could not be harvested because there were no grapes!
Phenolic ripeness evolved slowly but this did lead to a very balanced vintage, with lower average alcohol levels than in 2016 – a vintage belonging to red fruits, the wines rich and smooth.
We opened the Château to the public, too, as we moved the tasting cellar to the 19th century building and launched into wine tourism.
The new team took over the estate in 2016. As the first harvest got under way, new protocols were in place: harvesting in crates, cold room storage, temperature controls, sorting table, etc…
It was a hot vintage, marked by very little rain and no cryptogamic diseases on the vines (i.e., fungal attacks).
Despite a dry year, the harvest was plentiful with grapes showing a good balance of acidity and concentration. We also divided the vineyard into its first zones.