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2020 delivered high quality for Côtes du Rhône and Rhône Valley Vineyards AOPs, in spite of great differences in harvest volumes due to climatic episodes in the southern part of the vineyard. Despite such a unique year, which was trying for all, lovely wines will be released, providing many opportunities to celebrate in the months and years to come.

This year stands out as a sunny vintage, but not a scorching one. The volumes harvested are satisfactory but vary depending on the sector. Early analyses and winemaking results are promising and lead us to believe this is a beautiful vintage: the wines are harmonious, balanced, and have good concentration.

The rainy autumn of 2019 made it possible to restore water reserves after a scorching summer. The mild, dry winter produced early bud break. This early growth cycle made the vine particularly sensitive to the last spring frosts, and so the differences in the vineyard growth cycle began to set in.  Powerful sunshine and high summer temperatures led to an increase in the potential alcohol levels, however it did not reach the rates observed in 2019. The drought and the heat were worrying in early summer, when maturity blockages occurred in certain sectors. On the other hand, the dry, sunny and slightly windy weather made it possible to keep the vineyard healthy & clean, and protect the harvest from diseases, leading to excellent sanitary conditions at harvest time.
In most cases, the fermentations started and proceeded smoothly and fairly quickly. Good nitrogen contents observed in the berries facilitated this process.

Elegance and finesse in the North

The Northern Rhône had little meteorological incidents, with the exception of certain plots that suffered from water shortage. This resulted in some impeding maturity at the beginning of summer, specifically in south-eastern Northern Rhône. The harvest is lovely, but falls short of achieving usual yields.

According to Xavier Gomart, Director of the Cave de Tain l'Hermitage, "this 2020 vintage promises to be good! The different terroirs are fully expressed. In some tanks, we find freshness that may have lacked in recent years. Some high-end cuvées already reveal a nice balance of freshness / concentration. Surely great nuggets to discover!”

A little further North, the harvests were early, starting around the first week of September. “In Côte-Rôtie, the wines are very elegant, very fine with aromas of red fruits, black fruits, whereas one would expect more ripeness due to summer heat. We are in an unprecedented string of 6 great vintages in Côte-Rôtie. We are blessed by the gods, even if the yields are not there,” welcomes David Duclaux, Co-President of the interprofessional section of the Côte-Rôtie appellation.

"In Clairette de Die and Diois wines, it is the altitude that makes the difference. The harvests were very rapid in the 30 towns of our appellations. The raw material was easy to work with, the quality is there. The first juices are concentrated and balanced with good aromatic qualities" explains Franck Monge, President of the Clairette de Die and Vins du Diois appellation.

Suppleness and balance in the south

For red wines of the Southern Rhône appellations, one can already notice beautiful color and good structure. The tannins are present and melt in the mouth. Thanks to a beautiful maturity, Syrah stands out with hints of ripe fruit and sweet spice. Grenache grapes had a harder time reaching full phenolic maturity and do not exhibit as much color intensity as usual.
The first wines tasted are supple, balanced and very elegant. They are rich and fruity, qualities found in the first wines ready to be tasted, and particularly in the early primeurs for the 2020 vintage. These young wines have already been sold on the market for a few weeks.
Vincent Boyer, President of Côtes du Rhône Villages Suze la Rousse confirms: "The harvest is very heterogeneous in quantity, but within the average for the appellation. Qualitatively, this vintage is very satisfactory, the wines have beautiful color and concentration.” Alain Aubert, President of the Côtes du Rhône Villages Plan de Dieu adds: “the wines are pretty, delightful, it will be a good vintage.”

“In Cairanne, we had a lovely harvest. Qualitatively, the wines are elegant and delicious. 2020 joins the string of fine vintages over the past 5 years" eagerly expresses Samuel Montgermont, Co-President of the interprofessional section of the Cairanne appellation.

White and rosé wines with distinct profiles

White and rosé wines greatly reflect the diversity of this harvest, with varying acidity levels depending on the grape variety and zone. This leads to wines with distinct profiles, sometimes very aromatic and fresh, sometimes rich and more complex. "The white wines from the Southern Rhône are lively and tense, the aging notes will undoubtedly be very interesting" adds Philippe Pellaton, President of Inter Rhône.
Thomas Giubbi, Co-President of the interprofessional section of the Tavel appellation continues: “Despite spring weather hazards, the vines suffered less than last year, which was heavily impacted by the heat. The slightly later harvest allowed the berries to ripen well with more acidity than last year. Therefore, 2020 in Tavel is a vintage with remarkable balance combining aromatic finesse and color intensity typical of the Cru. A vintage made for haute cuisine that we look forward to pair at our restaurants!"

Similar delight from Rhône Valley Vineyard appellations (Clairette de Bellegarde, Costières de Nîmes, Côtes du Vivarais, Grignan-les-Adhémar, Luberon, Ventoux) :

“The complicated spring did not affect harvest quality and quantity. Overall, the vineyard withstood the drought well. This is mainly attributed to the day/night temperature amplitudes, strong distinctions of AOP Ventoux, which allows the vines to recover from strong daytime heat at night. The wines are balanced, with a very good acidity/pH ratio. It is a vintage that stands out for its finesse,” rejoices Sébastien Vincenti, representative of the Ventoux appellation.

Philippe Dry, representative of the Côtes du Vivarais appellation, explains: "In Côtes du Vivarais, the rain was sufficient and allowed the grapes to mature at term and the vegetation to maintain itself. The sanitary state remained perfect. We find minerality in white wines provided by freshness of the limestone plateaus. The red wines are round, big, with structure and nice concentration. It will be a vintage poised for cellaring in Côtes du Vivarais.”

This year’s Rhône Valley vintage unanimously delivered quality, but harvest volumes are slightly lower. Surveys completed by AOP Côtes du Rhône and the AOP Côtes du Rhône Villages industry players show a drop in volumes of around -8% compared to the 2019 vintage and -10% compared to the ten-year average. Harvest forecasts estimate 1,540,000 hectoliters, including 270,000 hectoliters for the Côtes du Rhône Villages. 

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