September 20: The Harvest is on!

Monday September 20, 2010: The harvest at Rives-Blanques fell into full swing today, under cloudless, perfect skies and impeccable conditions.

One field was harvested by machine on 10 September to add freshness to the final blend, but it was only today that the harvest really got underway. Twenty-five harvesters set off at 8:00 am in the morning, picking the mauzac for the Rives-Blanques Blanquette de Limoux.

The lead-up to the 2010 harvest was interesting and fairly complicated: a particularly cold and wet winter (December to March) was followed by a Spring that fluctuated between being too hot and too dry (April) to too wet and too cool (June) – and no one will forget seeing the ancient medieval city of Carcassonne covered in snow in early May. Generally speaking, it was the coldest millésime of the decade. However, the crucial landmarks in the calendar of the grapes’ development – flowering, bunch formation – passed fairly uneventfully, although it has to be said that low temperatures, cloud-covered skies and a lack of bright light had their effect on the photosynethsis of the vines: less sugar meant less nutrition. Those same aspects also affected the pollinating insects, who flew less. As a result, fairly early on it became clear that the 2010 harvest would be a little later than the previous years, and possibly also a little less. This seemed to be confirmed by the unseasonally cold weather in early August … until a heatwave struck the region later in the month, resulting in increased concentration of the grapes, but also a possible decrease of volume.

Towards the beginning of September, the vines began showing slight signs of needing more water. A gentle rain falling in the first two weeks of September did much to set them up for a good start today.

“We presume an excellent harvest” said the official note from Limoux’s Syndicat. At Rives-Blanques, we can report that the grapes seem plentiful and look very healthy.


Tuesday October 5

Our harvest ended today, and as the last grape rolled down the sorting table into the press, we could reflect with satisfaction on a harvest that was both happily uneventful and extremely compact. The sorting table proved to be a microcosm of the year: some grapes showed signs of extreme burning on their south-facing sides, witness to the two or three unsually hot days in late August; a few bunches had failed to form perfectly, result of two or three unusually cold days during the flowering period; and on some bunches there were signs of botrytis, victims of the September rain followed by a few humid, windless days. The overall quality, however, was very good, though not quite of the same luminous standard of 2009. Like many other producers in the region, we noted a decrease in quantity: chardonnay slightly down on last year, and mauzac very much down. The Rives-Blanques Cuvée Occitania will be in short supply.

The harvest itself was very much a cameo of the year. We had stunning days of immense magnitude and munificence, followed by cold, overcast days threatening rain. Dry weather, humid weather, and a little rain at night.

In the end, nature had the last word and adjusted the harvest more or less into its usual norms.

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