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Languedoc faces challenging winemaking conditions

The region's vineyards have suffered from drought this year although the winemaking process seems a little less challenging than the lack of water initially suggested.
Par Vitisphere Le 23 septembre 2016
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Languedoc faces challenging winemaking conditions
- crédit photo : Vignobles Foncalieu

he Languedoc wine region is witnessing “a complicated vintage” where “this degree of drought had not occurred since 1943”, explains winemaker Marc Dubernet, head of Dubernet laboratories. For his forty-ninth season of winemaking, the expert points out that the vintage is marked by lack of water and nutrients.

Good must fermentability

Quality, though, is anything but disastrous, firstly because there is a lot of variation depending on location and above all, because there have been plenty of pleasant surprises. “From a fermentation perspective, this is quite an easy year”, claims François Boudou, director of the Hérault section of the Co-operative Wine Institute (ICV). Similarly, must is relatively well-balanced. “Potassium is low, which promotes stability in acidity levels. Aromatic profiles are stunning and the wines show hallmark varietal features”, says Marc Dubernet.

Red varieties and phenolic ripeness

Drought led to early berry concentration and in some cases halted ripening in red grapes. Some blocks therefore have relatively high sugar levels but the tannins seem to have stopped ripening.  With such challenging fruit, “simple thermovinification or traditional winemaking techniques but with very short maceration which promotes fruitiness on the palate and prevents green tannins from being extracted”, are solutions put forward by Gabriel Ruetsch. After repeatedly witnessing sudden ripening, Marc Dubernet recommends patience and observation. “In every case witnessed up until now, ripening has occurred extremely quickly. In just three or four days, grapes go from being acidic with green tannins to showing remarkable surges in colour and pH levels. That’s when the tannins are ripe and aromatic balance is interesting”. 

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