French vineyard owners set to reap a vintage harvest

After two very good years for wine, French vineyard owners already had dollar signs flashing before their eyes as they looked forward to a harvest that is likely to be even better than the last two. All the signs are now indicating that 1997 could be one of the best vintages in decades.

As early as 4 August grape-picking began in Rivesaltes, north of Perpignan; and on Monday the Haut Brion chateau near to Bordeaux announced that it would begin the grape harvest for white wine grapes on Monday, and for red wine at the end of the week. Grapes have not been ready for harvest this early since 1893.

Jean-Bernard Delmas, the chateau's director of commerce, explained that "the harvest usually takes place between 20-25 September ... but from the month of May it was clear that we would be harvesting early because the grapes were already very mature." Bottles from the last early harvest, in 1990, are now selling for several hundred pounds.

Other vineyards have also announced that they will begin harvesting this week, such as Couhins-Couton, Latour Martillac, Fieuzal and Chevalier. All these chateaux are in the Graves region in Bordeaux. The vineyards in the region of Cotes du Rhone are preparing for grape-picking next Monday and across France, wine producers are getting ready for an early harvest, even further north in the regions of the Loire.

The maturity of this year's crop is due to the very hot, sunny spring, and it not only promises good wine, but also means that the farmers have more time to harvest, which allows them to pick the grapes at the right time. The warmer weather of an early harvest also means that the alcohol levels are generally fairly high.

Even the heavy rain in July that flooded much of Eastern Europe, and made for a lot of wet summer holidays on the Mediterranean, was not a catastrophe for the wine merchants. Although it did destroy some grapes, some rain was essential to speed up the ripening process. The only disadvantage is for the grape-pickers, who will have to go through the vines with greater care, getting rid of the spoilt crop.

Some predictions are more cautious than others: Philippe Raymond, from the Wine Producers' Union in Saint Emilion, said: "Only a catastrophe with the weather would pose any threat to the harvests now, but we shall have to wait and see if the sun continues to shine in the next few weeks before we know if those crops which are not yet ready will be exceptional." Likewise, Fabrice Fatin, director of the Wine and Tourist office in Pauillac, in the Haut-Medoc, said: "All exceptional vintages do come from early harvests, but all early harvests do not necessarily produce good vintages."

Nevertheless, smiles are broad on the faces of most of those involved in the wine industry. A union official from the Bordeaux area said that they are "optimistic and relaxed", and a vineyard owner from Gaillac, in the South-west said he will get a relatively small quantity of wine, but it will be of excellent quality.

As for the weather, one vineyard owner in the Loire region said: "Even if we could control it, we could not have done any better."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Data Specialist

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are the go-to company for ...

Recruitment Genius: Search Marketing Specialist - PPC / SEO

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the UK's leadin...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This caravan dealership are currently recruiti...

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test