Beaujolais producers who have already completed this year’s harvest are calling it the strangest they have ever experienced.

Harvesters at Domaine de l’Alfatière, who put down their tools on September 4, began picking grapes much earlier than usual because ‘the vines had reached a stage of development in late April that was comparable in most years to late May,’ owner Jean-Luc Merle told decanter.com. ‘Throughout April, we saw temperatures as high as 34-35°C (92-95°F).

‘I have never seen a year like this,’ said Merle, who is president of the Beaujolais and Lyonnais federation of cooperatives. ‘2003 was a dry phenomenon. This year, we had lots of water, but April was very hot. Despite the intervening rain and cool weather, we are having a very early harvest. It’s bizarre.’

He added that the cool and rainy weather from May to August compromised the harvest for some areas.

‘We worried about the cool July, but in the end the grapes had good concentration,’ he said. ‘I would not call this a great vintage, but a very interesting one – rather heterogeneous because some areas had more rain than others. It’s a good vintage for connoisseurs.’

Georges Duboeuf, head of Vins Georges Duboeuf – one of the region’s largest producers – said he noted a trend toward progressively earlier harvests. Before the 1970s grapes in Beaujolais were normally picked at the end of September or beginning of October.

‘If you look at the 1970s and 1990s, we would harvest on average by September 20, and between 1995 and 2000 it was around September 15,’ Duboeuf told Reuters. ‘Since 2000, it it’s between September 2 and 15. It’s clear the trend in the last 50 years is to earlier and earlier harvests.’

Written by Panos Kakaviatos