Saturday, October 24, 2020

Harvest 2020


This week we pressed the last vat from the 2020 harvest.  It was vat number 14 from the Rebouls Carignan vineyard.  This was one of the last vineyards we picked so logical that it should be the last one to be pressed – but it was so far behind the others.  The fruit was perfect, the yields low so we left the wine to macerate on the skins for 5 weeks.  It marks the end of the 2020 harvest – the grand finale!

The harvest started on the 24th of August at 7am with a team of five pickers, Michel on the tractor and Sébastien picking up the cases. This is the 12th harvest at Domaine Jones and we have never started so early.  Climate change is starting not only to interrupt our summer holidays but also bringing with it new challenges for our vineyards. 
So what was different this year – well Covid put a spanner in the works as far as our Spanish pickers were concerned.  We normally have a team of hard picking, sun proof Valencians but this year for the first time we were without the Spanish.   I really shouldn’t have worried! Equipped with individual water bottles, hand sanitiser, face masks and separate vehicles the tuchanais (and one from Paziols) picked their way through my vineyards.  But not just picked, picked, smiled and laughed right up to the last bunch.
The whites came in first – grenache gris and grenache blanc followed by the macabeu from Colombiers, the muscat from Taissonieres way up in the garrigue, the extremely rare carignan gris from La Roque and finally the grenache gris from our new vineyard La Grande Pièce in the valley under the Chateau D’Aguilar.
The La Gare winery was full of excitement as we made two barrels of orange wine from the macabeu and for the first time ever we discovered the quality of the fruit from La Grande Pièce grenache gris. The vines are 70 years old but as the grapes have always been taken into the local Cooperative by the previous owner the wine has never been made separately before.
All I can say is the vines must be enjoying their retirement at Domaine Jones - the wine is absolutely beautiful, so perfumed and evocative you could almost be walking through the vineyard. 

The 8th of September was the ‘top départ’ for the red grapes starting with the syrah from the Caune vineyard.  And with it came my first mistake of the harvest.  Last year we got 352 cases from the vineyard so as the grapes came in I started to fill V3 our largest vat.  This year we only got 195 cases 😬.  It wasn’t the fault of the wild boar, or mildew or Jean-Marc (!) – there were just some vines with no grapes.   It was my fault for assuming the yield would be the same and that is an elementary mistake by a would be farmer!
We finished the harvest on the 22nd September with total volumes about 15% down but excellent quality grapes
All the vineyards that we visited since April in my vineyard rambles are now in their little vats – St Roch is in vat number 12, the syrah from La Caune is in vat number 5 the carignan gris from La Roque is in vat number 10.  It’s weird and wonderful at the same time that all those vineyards are now reduced to a couple of hundred litres. 
But it’s not just wine, I have tried to capture the terroir (tear–wah), the sense of place, the wild herbs 🌿, the wild flowers 🌸the tramontane 💨, the Tauch mountain, the soils, the people.  Only time will tell if I have succeeded! 
Talking of people I wasn’t alone in the winery - I had a happy 'cru'.  Steve came back after a year off to help me (more I helped Steve) and it was such a pleasure, and a relief, to have experienced, trustful hands to respect our year’s work in the vineyard.   Steffen and Sandy bought a new dimension to the winery – german organisation, great friendly vibes and the occasional yoga stretch and culinary delight!  Not to mention Tom who did a sterling jog washing over 1500 baskets.

We had a couple of visits during the harvest, Quentin, James and Claire and Julia, and we even shared breakfast on the rock with Justin from Domaine of the Bee. 
We had fun! We had fun in such an ‘année de merde’! We all loved the 2020 harvest, enjoyed working together and that will be reflected in the wines! It was a special one – a distraction in a difficult year, a covid harvest, a relief and a breath of fresh air.