27 July, 2020
As every year during this season, we like to visit the estates one by one to go and see first-hand the history of the vintage in progress with the winegrowers.
It is Les 7 Pierres in Ardèche which opens the tour this year. We take the road to Rosière, in the south of the Ardèche, to meet François Tissot and take stock of the state of the vineyards, and the projects that our winegrower friend has in mind.
François owns 3.5 ha of vines on his estate at Mas Heritage, and a wine négoce covering all the Ardèche appellations grouped together under the name Les 7 Pierres.
In this report you will find:
- 2020 Season update: Winter – Spring – Summer
- Discussion: to irrigate or not to irrigate?
- Visiting the Region: Gite & Boutique
- Wines Available NOW
The rains were welcome as early as autumn 2019. In Ardèche, but also all over France, the vineyards have experienced several episodes of heatwave that have exhausted the vines: late June/early July for the first and late August for the second in 2019.
These rains have allowed the reserves to be replenished as the leaves fall and the vines begin to rest.
The winter was mild with very few frosty days in January and a mild February.
Before the vines started to grow again, the vineyard was covered with a thin layer of snow, and it got a little colder. However, this did not really slow down the budburst which arrived 10 days ahead of schedule at the beginning of April.
Spring & Summer 2020
May got the moisture it needed. According to François, the spring of 2020 was not complicated but he had to be vigilant to intervene at the right time and make the few treatments before the rains.
The flowering went well, it was homogeneous and regular at the beginning of June under a very blue sky.
At the time of writing, summer temperatures have settled down, it is hot during the day, but the vineyard benefits from still cool evenings. Soon with the month of August will also come the hot nights.
The vines are beautiful, there is no trace of disease. However, as the veraison is just beginning, it would be good to see some more rain as the leaves are beginning to curl – a sign that the vines are thirsty.
For the moment the harvest is announced for the beginning of September. Some Syrah grapes have just started to change colour.
To irrigate, or not to irrigate… that is the question.
For François, irrigation was something he refused for a long time. Yet for the last few years, in Ardèche as elsewhere, the vines have been suffering and hot, dry vintages have followed one another.
In the Rhone as in other regions, irrigation could become the only solution to maintain vine cultivation. Trials are being carried out to work with resistant grape varieties but we must not lie to ourselves, it is a real subject. The survival of farms is sometimes at stake.
At Mas Heritage – François’s estate – the 2019 vintage produced grapes without juice on certain plots. It was necessary to make a drastic sorting, without counting the direct loss of harvest.
Therefore, François decided to submit a file to the DDT (Direction Départementale des Territoires which manages these requests) to allow a very moderate and controlled irrigation of his vineyard and to provide only the necessary water when conditions become too arid.
First of all, he called upon a Sourcier – a traditional water-source – to locate a water vein and see where to drill. It is very impressive to see him working, using his green wooden sticks made from Hazelnut branches, he looks for water below-ground. The Sourcier hands a wand which, as soon as he is above a spring, twists as we can see in the video below.
François remains reflective. It is not a question of soaking the vines, and he knows that the root system risks developing too much on the surface following irrigation, thus weakening the vine and making it dependent on the water brought in. So he wants to bury the irrigation network and allow the root system to develop in depth. The double advantage is that there is no loss of water by evaporation in choosing buried irrigation. It is a more efficient system with lower water withdrawal.
Today, DDT has put the issue on hold due to too much drilling in the area. Plan B is ready if needed: by creating a rainwater harvesting basin into which the water used for irrigation will be pumped. When it rains, a gully passes very close to the vines and the house, it should then be channelled to a storage basin. However, this is a more expensive project.
Other projects ?
Mas Heritage, where François’ vineyards are planted, was a former estate where horse breeding, vegetable production and viticulture were practiced. The grapes were pressed in a wooden press, still on the estate. A man that never backs down to a challenge or new project, François has in mind to renovate it to press his grapes.
Visiting the region… ?
The Ardèche is full of magnificent, rugged landscapes, and no doubt you will be charmed if you come to visit.
In Joyeuse, the estate shop is open if you wish to taste the wines.
Address: 253 avenue francois boissel, 07260 Joyeuse, Ardèche
Phone: 06 35 14 94 04
Wishing you a lovely summer!
Fanny & Ellen
The Wines of Domaine François Tissot: Mas Heritage
Mas Heritage Blanc – Cuvée Marie
The white 2017 is a blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier and Riesling vinified in vats, 30% of which are new barrels. The wine in bottle for a few months is already very expressive.
Honey on the nose, the texture is creamy and creamy with aromas of peach, nectarine, toast, brioche, fennel, anise, lime. The palate is long, very pleasant to drink, a touch of pleasant almond-skin bitterness on the finish.
The whole range of wines of Les 7 Pierres
The range is complete with all the appellations of Ardèche :
- Côtes du Vivarais 2016
- Coteaux de l’Ardèche rouge 2018
- Coteaux de l’Ardèche blanc 2019
- Côtes du Rhône 2018
- Saint Péray 2018
- St Joseph rouge 2018
- St Joseph blanc 2018
- Condrieu 2018
- Cornas 2017