The Mistral is a strong wind that blows through the Rhône Valley, a source of inspiration for many who have experienced it over the years. Back in the first century AD, Pliny the Elder described it as “a most famous wind, the Mistral, unparalleled in its violence.” In Provençal, the word mistrau means master – the Mistral, they say, is indomitable. Meanwhile, according to a 16th century proverb, “The Mistral, Parliament and the Durance are the scourges of Provence.”
But this particular scourge also has its positive side – significant benefits even – for the Rhône Valley vineyards.
By dispersing the clouds, the Mistral is responsible for the distinctive quality of light for which the area is famous, particularly noticeable in the Mediterranean portion of the valley from Valence southwards, and for the sunny weather which attracts so many visitors. In spring it lowers temperatures, delaying budbreak and thus protecting buds from late spring frosts. Cold air is blown towards pockets of low-lying land. Most importantly however, the Mistral dries out the air, keeping fungal diseases such as mildew and oidium at bay. Winegrowers unanimously agree that although the Mistral occasionally causes lower harvest yields, it consistently keeps the grapes in peak health, as reflected in the quality of the wine year after year. Grapes are picked in the early morning, any time from sunrise onwards, both to preserve acidity and to keep the fruit from spoiling in the daytime heat.