Home > Editorial > Southern Rhône: 2022 vintage report


Published: 5th March 2024



Catriona Felstead MW, Rhône Wine Buyer

The 2022 Southern Rhône vintage is ripe and rounded, after surviving hail and even a tornado. Our Rhône Buyer, Catriona Felstead MW explains.

The 2022 vintage in the Southern Rhône will forever be remembered for an apocalyptic tornado of horizontal hail that ripped through a corridor of vineyards in Châteauneuf-du-Pape on 14th August. This was just two weeks before harvest. Until then, 2022 had been very dry but was shaping up to be a great year. Many producers still made superb wines in this vintage.

At the beginning of the season, autumn was dominated by generous rain with 340mm falling in two months. In January and February, the Mistral wind blew on and off and temperatures fluctuated. By then, rain was limited with only 100mm having fallen since November. By March, vine maturity was about three weeks behind that of 2021.

Frost didn’t come in 2022 – but neither did rain. A mere 24mm fell on 23rd April and flowering started in May a week earlier than either 2019 or 2020 due to the mild weather. By 1st June there was still no rain. Vincent Avril of Clos des Papes said only 69mm of rain had fallen since 1st January but at that point, “vines were still not suffering despite the lack of water”.

June was marked by a couple of locally focused hail events which damaged some more than others; Clos des Papes lost 60% of six hectares but it wasn’t considered disastrous. More hail at the end of June was nothing out of the norm. Throughout June and July, it was very hot with cycles of extended heatwaves making it very warm at night and during the day, giving vines no respite. On the 25th July, vines had experienced temperatures over 39 degrees Celsius for two weeks and were beginning to suffer.

By early August, growers faced the prospect of an early harvest of small, extremely concentrated grapes. Daniel Brunier of Vieux Télégraphe described summer as “our hottest and driest vintage since 1950” with a significant effect on yields. Although some irrigation was authorised, Daniel says “nothing can replace the rain”.

Sadly, the worst was to come. On 14th August, a merciless, American-style tornado of horizontal hail cut through a narrow corridor of vineyards on the famous La Crau plateau in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. For vines in its path, destruction was absolute. Vieux Télégraphe, at the epicentre, lost 80% of its production in those devastating minutes and couldn’t make enough wine to release a Grand Vin this year. Fortunately, their lovely Piedlong Châteauneuf-du-Pape parcels, a few kilometres away and their Gigondas estate, Domaine des Pallières were unaffected. We are delighted to be able to include them in our offer.

That day, Vincent Avril of Clos des Papes also lost 90% of eight hectares of vines. Stéphane Usseglio lost 40% of his production, Domaine des Sénéchaux lost 35%. Château la Nerthe’s volumes were 50% down compared to normal. Domaine de Marcoux had the second lowest yield ever at the estate, only making half of what they did in 2023. It was brutal.

The few days after the tornado were hectic for the Châteauneuf growers who suffered the most, some racing to get teams back from holidays to pick before rot set in on remaining grapes. As the Mistral blew, drying out fruit in the days following the storm, others opted for patience, allowing more time for vines to soak up much-needed water. Harvest dates therefore vary from mid- to end-August but all were picking earlier than a “normal” year.

Other regions were unaffected by the hailstorm and benefited from the sudden rain. Roseline of Domaine du Cayron and Jean-Baptiste Meunier of Moulin de la Gardette were grateful vines could relax after the shower, allowing them to delay picking for another couple of weeks and gain more juice in the dehydrated grapes.

With stress and chaos after the drought and hail damage, growers were uncertain about the quality of the vintage at first. However, it has proven to be a wonderful surprise. Laurent Daniel of La Bastide St Vincent in Gigondas compares 2022 to 2020, saying ’22 has more “roundness”. We agree and add that this vintage is fresher than 2020 with wonderful balance and delightfully moderate alcohol levels. Overall, many glorious wines have been made, despite adverse conditions. As Vincent Avril of Clos de Papes perfectly phrases it, “It is a small harvest but the wines are of very high quality. Despite all the whims of nature, we have a very lovely vintage in the cellar.”