The first grapes of France's 2012 wine harvest have been picked. The producers are predicting a vintage of high quality, at least in this sunny corner of the eastern Pyrenees.
A dry and sunny July was good news for local wine-makers after some unsettled weather earlier in the year, although yields are expected to be down in comparison to what was a bumper crop in 2011.
Advertisement"Last year, the quantity was exceptional. This year the quantity is normal but the quality is exceptional," Pierre-Henri de La Fabregue, owner of the Domaine de Rombeau estate, told AFP.
Rivesaltes is best known for its Muscat de Rivesaltes dessert wine, but the first grapes harvested are destined to make a dry white Muscat that will be in the shops on the third Thursday in October.
"The grapes we are picking this week are from the most advanced parcels but we also harvest young to get a more lively wine with grapefruit and floral aromas," said local estate owner Emmanuel Cazes.
"Two weeks from now the same grapes will have a completely different personality with notes of candied fruits, spices, menthol and camphor."
By the time wine enthusiasts are tasting the first 2012 Muscats, some of France's other, cooler regions will only just have completed their harvests.
The ministry of agriculture predicted in July that picking in most regions would begin in mid-September -- relatively late by the standards of recent years.
Yields are forecast to be down across the country, which could spell higher prices for fans of Bordeaux, Burgundy and Champagne.