While 2019 had its challenges—particularly in June, when a hailstorm devastated vineyards in Crozes-Hermitage, and end-of-the-month temperatures exceeded 100˚F for days—the wines don’t show the heat near as much as the 2018s. August’s cool nights lent some relief to the grapes, so that they were able to hang into September and hold on to their acidity. So while alcohols were high (14-15%), the best wines have a freshness and brightness that makes them lively, even while the fruit is concentrated and tannins firm.
After a promising start, with good reserves of water in the soil after winter weather, the 2018 vintage quickly became a giant headache for growers up and down the Rhône. Pouring rain coupled with warm temps in June set the scene for rampant downy mildew; while a temperate July allowed growers to catch their breath, temperatures rocketed up in August and it stayed hot into September. Many people started picking in August, and harvest proceeded fast and furious, everything coming in at once. Alcohols were high in many of the wines we tasted—many were labeled 15% abv, and others that didn’t claim so much still showed their alcohol in peppery heat. The best wines tended to come from producers with old vines and cooler patches of land, whether north-facing slopes (as at the Saoumas’ in Châteauneuf), or higher elevations (Vieux Télégraphe)
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