November is always such a crucial and exciting time when Stephen, our operations director Thierry and I get in the car and join our winemaker Nathalie Longefay for countless meetings all over the best grower cellars in Provence to chose the building blocks for our new vintage.
So what was the 2020 vintage actually like you may wonder? Firstly, the all important water levels were good, given that we had experienced some pretty sizeable rainfalls in November and early spring that had filled up the water table. Given that we have had hydric stress in the vineyards for some years prior this was a good beginning to what would turn out to be a very complicated year.
A very mild and warm winter followed, which meant the vegetation was about 2 weeks ahead of schedule, when a late frost on the 24th of March hit the region. Two nights at -5 degrees Celsius had a devastating effect, especially so in the areas that are known to develop early. We count ourselves as the unlucky ones at the Domaine, which lost nearly 70% of its expected crop, but many other growers had partial damage to their vineyards across the wider region. Seeing the grey and dead buds on our own vines was a tough initiation ceremony to our own farming adventure.
The rest of the year passed without significant climatic events, with no significant heatwaves (in contrast to 2019 when we registered some of the highest temperatures ever in the region), little mildew and generally a healthy looking crop. Challenges were more around uneven ripening due to the partial frost damage, which had the vignerons running in circles between their fields checking maturities, stopping and starting harvests and being unable to stick to their varietal calendar. Luckily today’s technology helps and they were well prepared and highly vigilant. A few days rain break at the end of August meant a juicier crop and the harvest levelled out at roughly 8% below the last one in the Côtes de Provence area.
We were offered a big and beautifully coloured panel of more than 150 of the best base wines from all over the Cotes de Provence region. The wines displayed good extracted flavours from the main grape varietals, Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah and a little Carignan, providing us with a really interesting tasting experience. Choice is everything in wine blending and we were really spoilt this year, giving us all the pieces of the puzzle to complete each Cuvée’s very own character and style. Less than a third of the preselected wines make it into our final blends and whilst it’s always sad to leave good wines on the « cutting room floor » it is a sign that unless it’s great it doesn’t make the grade.
Once we have preselected we lock ourselves away to go through intense blending sessions for each Cuvée. We have just finished blending Classic a few days ago, which was our last wine to come together, as it comes from the areas that harvest last. It is exhausting work and a glass of beer is our drink of choice at the end of a long day with a very tired palate.
The wines are now resting for a bit longer to allow them to develop more of their aromatic profiles, before the final “assemblage” and first bottlings during January. We are both very happy to say that our growers and winemaking partners have worked incredibly well, in spite of the difficult conditions both in and outside of the vineyards. The result will be another year of enchantingly good quality coming out of Provence. We are also delighted to have welcomed a new Team member to the Mirabeau blending team in Pablo Laborde, a young Argentinian oenologue, who has realised his own dream to move here and work with the famous Rosés of Provence.
In the meantime we hope you are still enjoying the Rosés of 2019, which will still be delightful to drink in Spring 2021. If you have any questions please send us a quick note. Jeany