Description of the vintage
The very mild and dry winter of 2016/2017 caused an early budbreak between late March and early April 2017. The vineyards already looked green in mid-April and it was possible to see 3 to 4 well-opened leaves on Gewurztraminer vines. Rapid growth has at least minimized the damage caused by insects eating buds in this period. Unfortunately, two waves of cold from the north-east crossed France a week apart. Alsace was particularly affected by the first wave between 21 and 22 April, with temperatures around -3 ° C. The effect of the frost was catastrophic. Under the effect of an easterly wind, many vineyards have suffered frost, especially those usually protected by the winds that descend the valleys and prevent the cold from stagnating, such as the Herrenweg in Turckheim. My father, who witnessed more than 60 vintages, has never seen frost damage on some places which had frozen in 2017. It was possible to observe that Gewurztraminer is a grape variety that does not like cold temperatures, the biggest crop loss being noted on this grape variety. In one morning, we could only harvest 42hl on 7 hectares of Gewurztraminer ! In contrast, Pinot Gris suffered less with only 50% loss on average. It is likely that the softer cell structure of Pinot Gris, unlike that of the more rigid and hard Gewurztraminer, will have allowed the cells to change shape under the action of frost / thaw without bursting. At the time of freezing, the latent/double buds had already grown on many vines. It was not possible to hope for a harvest on these buds.
The increased risk of spring frost is probably the most harmful consequence of global warming in viticulture. A vine strongly affected by frost also takes a long time to recover from the shock, and the growth of latent buds only occurred in May, leaving the vines with little energy source. Much later in the year, it was possible to see the lack of shoots and leaves on the most damaged vines. This huge stress, associated with the loss of crop, will have also had a major influence on the floral induction which explains the very big harvest 2018 of the following year. Clos Häuserer is probably the most frost-sensitive area because of its sheltered position (no winds). Fortunately, a very late pruning (end of March) delayed the budbreak and the canes were attached only after the frost. Being away from the ground will have protected the young shoots from frost. The Clos Häuserer therefore produced a near-normal harvest. A rich teaching experience for future years …
In early May, we feared for the Brand when a hailstorm hit the vineyard, fortunately it remained inconsequential. Flowering started early end of May on precocious sites but only finished mid-June. It is possible to see aborted clusters, especially on Gewurztraminer, which grew into tendrils. The last two weeks of June and July are very warm, causing water stress on the most sensitive vines. Once again, the quality of rooting (old vines, cultivation of the soil), the level of harvest and the care of the vines made the difference. The beginning of August is milder and the vineyards are looking good. The low yields of 2017 definitely increased the resistance of the vines. The temperatures are rising again at the end of the month and the maturation of the grapes is progressing fast. The first vineyard was harvested August 29 (Pinot-Gris Roche Roulée) followed shortly by many Pinot-Gris vineyards like Rotenberg, Heimbourg,… A little rain on September 2nd only accelerates the ripening process. The Rieslings were harvested from September 11th and luckily, temperatures dropped around mid-September at 5 ° C overnight. We finished the harvest with Rangen, Hengst and Clos Jebsal on September 26th.
The poor harvest in 2017 will have at least allowed the vines to withstand the heat and drought during the summer. The choice of the harvest date was essential because if some places maturities were delayed because of the frost, others have matured very quickly. The harvest was very healthy, only the Clos Jebsal saw the development of some noble rot. The wines of 2017 have a great harmony, often characterized by nice acidities and low or normal pH, the maturities are normal without excess. Despite the precocity of the vintage, the wines fermented more slowly than usual, probably because of the density and structure of the vintage (and not because of excessive sugar content). Some wines have benefited from longer full lees contact, like most Pinot-Gris. 2017 is a great vintage that should confirm these expectations through a good ageing potential.