2005 in Centre -Loire: Gifts from the Sky
A remarkable grape quality has made 2005 an extraordinary vintage. Nature’s elements came together during the season to yield this cru which is already considered among one of the finest.
A Climate for Vines…
Generally warm and dry, the season was punctuated by alternating hot and cool periods. Well adapted to the vine’s cycle and the grape’s needs, this climate was nearly ideal.
The very hot temperatures encouraged a rapid development of the vegetative cycle through the end of July, then a cooler month of August allowed the vines to recover and begin the maturation phase. The low amount of precipitation, regular and moderate, provoked an early stop of the vegetative growth. All these conditions contributed to foliage in a perfect functioning state right through to maturity as well as an excellent sanitary state of the crop.
…and For Ripening of Grapes
The healthy condition of the vines combined with a particularly favorable climate to produce a large sugar content. The moderate temperatures had a very positive affect. Acidity is balanced and remained stable to the end of the harvest. Aromatic potential, especially for the Blancs, developed slowly and completely. Coloring for the Rouges accumulated favorably with strong skin coloration and ripe tannins.
Winemakers approached the harvest confident in the knowledge that the dry soil and absence of a rot threat permitted them to pick each parcel at the moment of optimum ripeness.
Picking began in fair weather practically “without a drop of rain”. The first grapes were harvested in Sancerre beginning 7 September for some parcels of early-ripened Blanc. Harvesting started for Reuilly on 9 September, 10 September for Quincy, 15 September for Pouilly-sur-Loire and Châteaumeillant, 16 September for Menetou-Salon and 17 September for Sancerre and the Coteaux du Giennois.
In general, the Blancs were harvested first and the Rouges were harvested afterward.
First Impressions of the Vintage
For both White and red wines, aromatic elegance, power and volume are discernable in the first tastings.
The white wines express superb aromas, intense and with great finesse. While fermenting, notes of fruits (white fruits, tropical fruits) are dominant. Minerality and some vegetal (liquorice) touches are also perceptible. The mouth is rich and round and well supported by a degree of firmness. The finish is persistent.
The red wines are a deeply colored, beautifully ruby – violet. The nose evokes very ripe red fruits (raspberries, blackberries). The gustative structure is ample and full of firm tannins (for wines from siliceous or clay soils) and silky (for wines from chalky limestone soils).
2006 in the Centre-Loire: Bounty and Elegance
At the end of a hot and dry year marked by large climatic variations, the vines produced grapes of excellent qualitative potential. The key to success in 2006 was to harvest quickly.
After a dry winter, the vine’s vegetative cycle began with welcome humidity; March and May were particularly wet. This created water reserves in the surface soil levels that were to prove very useful.
Indeed, June and July were very hot and dry: +2°C for June, +5°C for July compared to the seasonal average. These conditions suited vines in which the development was already two weeks early. Only young vines 4 to 6 years-old on fragile soils suffered stress from lack of water.
In August, temperatures -3°C lower than the seasonal average arrived at the right moment allowing the plants to recover and the rainfall, normal for the month, was enough to prevent the arresting of maturation.
Finally, September (which was +2.5°C above the seasonal average) arrived with two weeks of very hot temperatures and no water which was compensated by a large storm on the 14th. The second half of the month was mild with a few light scattered showers.
Vine diseases were not very serious throughout the season and easy to contain. For this reasons the grapes were in excellent condition.
…favorables for maturation
Sugar levels rose while acids remained balanced. The level of alcoholic potential rose rapidly until 14 September then assumed a normal rhythm. Acidity and pH levels remained good thanks to the stability of the tartaric acid throughout the maturation.
Cloudy skies beginning in mid-September permitted the preservation of aromatic intensity and freshness.
Thanks to the performance of wine estates’ equipment, the grapes were harvested in record time. Picking was concentrated during the optimum period of 10 – 12 days: any sooner and the grapes would have been insufficiently ripe and later they would have begun deteriorating. The official harvest period was announced for 11 September for Reuilly, 13 September for Pouilly-sur-Loire and Quincy, 15 September for Sancerre and Menetou-Salon, 16 September for the Coteaux du Giennois. Harvesting had started in all the vineyards with the addition of picking in Châteaumeillant on 18 September. Harvesting began with the white grapes. Taking advantage of the excellent sanitary condition of the grapes, most winemakers harvested the red grapes last.
First impressions of the vintage
The cuvées having finished their alcoholic fermentation offer some first indications of the style of this year's vintage.
Aromatic elegance and correct balance between fullness and freshness globally characterize the 2006 wines.
The whites release intense, clean aromas. Very ripe, they are simultaneously rich and fine. Floral and fruity notes are very present. The mouth is full, opulent and vivacious.
The reds, ruby to purple in color, display a pleasant fruitiness both in intensity as well as in complexity. Tannins are well-structured, balanced and very fleshy.
2007 in Centre-Loire - Aromas and Firmness for a Vintage Miraculously Saved
Warm spring – cool and rainy summer, these inverted seasons marked this year's climate. Fortunately, during the all-important late summer period, nature presented a gift of 29 miraculous days to ripen the grapes.
The Viticultural Season
A memorably warm month of April then the months of May and June warmer and wetter than average; a cool and damp early and mid-summer followed by a dry late summer with moderate temperatures. This is the climate that has made the 2007 vintage.
Until the end of August, worried winemakers surveyed their vineyards. After an early budburst, the risk of frost became a serious concern. Work in the vineyard needed to be performed quickly due to the rapid growth of the vines which were already three weeks in advance by the beginning of June. The threat of cryptogamic diseases such as mildew and rot required total vigilance and they were well-controlled overall and qualitatively inconsequential for the rare parcels that were affected.
The fear of a difficult ripening was the main topic of conversation in the first days following the véraison (change of color of the grapes). Then starting 24 August, just what everyone was hoping for arrived: a dry and cold north wind blew in to dry and clean up the soil and vines. This was followed by warmer days and cool nights and mornings with abundant dew.
In these conditions, sugar production was accelerated and the degradation of acids was slowed. The assimilation of water by the berries having been well-regulated by the drying of the air and the soil, the phenomenon of concentration appeared in certain parcels. This became widespread in the red grapes in the beginning of September which intensified color and quality of tannins.
The aromas of the white grapes were slowly developed during the ripening stage which was long despite the precocity of the year.
The harvest period began between 3 and 13 September, but the parcels were picked as the grapes became ready over the span of a month. The red grapes were picked first. The white grapes were harvested during the last three weeks of September and beginning of October. This particularly long period reflects the flowering periods which were spread out until maturity and the wisdom of the winemakers who patiently waited for the optimum moment to harvest.
Wines from 2008 have good typicity, they are lively with expressive aromas. In whites as well as reds, potential for aging appears excellent.
The whites exhale a palette of intense aromas as varied as the diversity of their terroirs. Floral aromas dominate accompanied by fruity, vegetal or mineral notes depending on their origins. The balance in the mouth is characterized by a very present acidity which, combined with the potential provided by the grapes' natural richness in sugar, yields wines that are simultaneously full and firm.
In the reds, with their ruby-red colors, we rediscover the beautiful fruity aromas of the freshly harvested parcels. Their tannins are supple and often concentrated.
2008 in Centre-Loire - A Vintage from Shadow to Light
One of the least early harvests of the last ten years, 2008 is providing fruity wines, lively and fleshy thanks to a cool but dry summer and a superb end of season.
The Viticultural Season
The vegetative cycle started in the hot month of May. Temperatures then descended, on the whole, to lower than usual for the period. Spring brought plenty of rain. Beginning with the formation of the grapes in late June, the rain showers became more regular yet lighter.
In addition, dates of the vine’s principal vegetative phases were similar to the 1980s: budburst around 25 April followed by regular and uninterrupted growth, flowering on 20 June and lasting for 3 days, change of color of the grape berries between 20 and 25 August. Thanks to inspection and control methods (including the use of reference parcels and modeling) mildew, while virulent, was well controled and the average number of interventions were reduced.
The ripening period occurred during a rare and beneficial dry spell.
During the first phase, it was very slow then suddenly accelerated with the arrival of fog and mist beginning in October. The grapes were rich in sugar with some concentrations attaining very high levels.
Cold nights prevented excessive degradation of malic acid and permitted a favorable evolution of aromas in the white and red while also reinforcing the accumulation of color in the reds.
Harvesting began first in Reuilly on 22 September then in Quincy on 29 September and from 2 October in Sancerre, Pouilly-sur-Loire, Menetou-Salon, Coteaux du Giennois and Châteaumeillant.
The majority of grapes were harvested between 6 and 15 October and the last around 20 October. The whites were generally harvested before the reds.
Once again, one can recognize the winemakers’ wisdom in knowing when to harvest each parcel at its optimum ripeness.
First Impressions of the Vintage
Distinguished by their aromas, the wines have a lot of presence on the palate. They show volume and power. Their potential for evolution is very good.
Again this year, the whites are very aromatic displaying the full range depending on their terroirs. Fruity and floral aromas mix with discrete vegetal notes displaying great finesse. With a frank acidity, they display a gustatory balance based on firmness. Thanks to the richness of the grapes, this vivacity is harmoniously balanced by a sucrosity and richness that fills the mouth.
In the red wines, we find aromas of red fruits (particularly cherry which was already noticeable in the must) completed by spicy notes. Their robes are beautifully deep ruby red with varying degrees of violet tints. Tannins are good quality: measured when the extractions were light for the wines to be consumed first, while for the grand cuvees reds, a prolonged maceration led to denser tannins.
2009 in Centre – Loire: A Rich and Generous Vintage
August and September’s ideal weather and a limited yield make 2009 an exceptional vintage: these wines with their fresh, refined aromas and powerful palate, exhibit the remarkable natural richness of the grapes.
The Viticultural Season
The principal vegetative stages (budburst, flowering, veraison, maturity) occurred up to 2 days earlier than the average of the last fifteen years.
Following a relatively cold and dry winter, April began with three weeks of temperatures 3°C higher than the norm. May was also warm. June and July were normal for the season while higher than usual temperatures appeared again in mid-August. While not excessive, precipitation often arrived in the form of thunderstorms leaving 20 mm to 30 mm of rain which broke the dry spells. Unfortunately, hail accompanied all of the storms and devastated certain areas on 7 March and 16 July. The vineyards of Menetou-Salon, southwestern Sancerre area, northern parts of Pouilly-Fumé and the vineyards of the Coteaux du Giennois situated in the Nièvre administrative department were particularly affected. The regular watering maintained the humidity of the soil at a sufficient level until the veraison. A dry period progressively arrived becoming more pronounced at the end of the harvest.
Mildew was a constant threat and remained a concern throughout the season. The dry months of August and September preserved the excellent sanitary state of the crop.
Overall, the yields were among the lowest seen in recent years.
Sugar levels progressed very rapidly and attained particularly high levels; one must go back to the famous 1947 vintage to find such high concentrations thorough the entire crop. Acidity levels remained in place primarily thanks to cool nights during the first half of September and the dry period. Only a few cuvees picked at the very end of the harvest lacked a little acidity. These conditions also helped maintain the fleshy texture of the berries, a characteristic that we generally find in the wines.
The start of harvesting was spread over two weeks. Reuilly and Quincy were first starting between 12 and 15 September. Next was Pouilly-sur-Loire beginning on 16 September, then Sancerre, Coteaux du Giennois and Châteaumeillant from the 21st and finally Menetou- Salon on the 23rd of the month. Most grapes were harvested between 25 September and 3 October. The last were picked on 12 October.
With the balance between the sugars and acidities being obtained in all cases, the principal deciding factor as to when to pick each parcel became the aromatic maturity for the whites and the phenolic maturity for the reds. This decision was made even more comfortable for the winemakers because of a stable high pressure zone that had moved into the area and maintained the dry weather.
A strong constitution and vinosity characterize the wines of this vintage, a vintage for the record books.
The whites display sober aromas and a great finesse. Fruity notes (white fruits and tropical fruits for example) dominate. Floral and mineral nuances, sometimes with light vegetal notes, add to this lovely olfactory freshness. The mouth is generous: a harmonious attack, then rich and fleshy, even warm, finishing on a lively balance.
The reds, with a deep ruby robe often with violet highlights, reveal concentration. Red fruits and spicy notes mark the nose. Tannins are tender in wines from chalk soils or wines with light extractions while the wines from chalky-clay and flinty-clay soils, or from more prolonged macerations, are austere. Full-bodied and solid, these are wines for aging
2010 IN CENTRE-LOIRE: A GREAT CLASSIC
The moderately dry climate was marked during the vegetative season by alternating hot and cold spells. Thus the maturation, like all the phases – budburst, flowering and veraison – started slowly and finished in optimal climatic conditions. A beautiful balance on the palate associating fullness and freshness characterized by superb aromas of fruit in white as well as red, 2010 is a great classic.
After a relatively slow budburst, flowering spread over a three week period. Low temperatures in May and early June provoked flower abortion in numerous areas, especially for the whites. The last ten days of June and all of July were particularly hot (2°C above normal) which permitted tardy plants to catch up time to the closing of the grape bunch. Then once again, a cold spell interspaced with some fair weather days arrived in August and September which made the veraison long and marked by a certain heterogeneity. Rainfall was down 15% throughout the vegetative period. An episode of hail affected part of the Châteaumeillant vineyard; the other Centre-Loire vineyards did not suffer any significant damage.
Pressure from cryptogamic diseases was less than in previous years. Mildew appeared late while odium was a bit more virulent. The relative dryness in the deep soil maintained the healthy state and continued right up to the harvest. Concern was more focused on diseases of the wood (esca, black dead arm) symptoms of which were seen in high proportions (as much as 15% of the plants affected in certain parcels).
Slow in the first phase, maturation gradually accelerated thanks to gentle rain showers and periods of warmer than usual temperatures. The last week was revealed to be of capital importance for the quality of the vintage. In particular, the slightly high acidities were rebalanced by the loss in malic acid while the impressive increase in sugar levels exceeded winemakers’ hopes. The warm nights and sunny days, warm but not excessively hot, refined the maturity of the aromas.
The majority of vineyards (Sancerre, Pouilly, Coteaux du Giennois, Châteaumeillant) opened the harvest on 27 September. Reuilly and Quincy began on 20 September and Menetou-Salon started on 29 September. The harvest reflected the differences in the flowering dates and most harvesting was finished on 15 October with the very last finishing on 19 October. Harvesting was carried out under sunny skies except for the heavy rain of 4 October which allowed the maturation of late parcels. In general, the reds where picked in the first half of the harvest except for some which obtained very good results by delaying picking until the end and employing rigorous sorting.
First Impression of the Vintage
The whites exhale all the richness and aromatic finesse of sauvignon according to its origins (soil type, exposure). The astonishing fruitiness of the musts can be seen in the wines: exotic fruits (passion, mango), gun flint, boxwood and other vegetal nuances (rhubarb, pea, asparagus). Ample and well balanced. Supported by a good vivacity, they affirm a presence, firmness and a remarkable length on the palate. Their aging potential is certain and many will only obtain their full expression after 12 to 18 months of aging.
The reds are seductive by their intense fruitiness (strawberry, raspberry, black currant, blackberry). On the mouth, the attack is firm. Tannins are austere, sometimes vigorous, well supported by fatness, conferring solidity and length to the structure. The malolactic fermentation will bring roundness. More elegant than powerful, they will be ready rather soon (end of 2011) but the denser cuvees will also be suitable for additional bottle aging.
2011 IN CENTRE-LOIRE: Unusual and unpredictable weather for our classic wines
Weather in spring, autumn weather in summer: an extraordinary set of weather patterns shaped the 2011 winegrowing season. In April and May the vines experienced unusually rapid growth which continued right up until flowering; then things settled down again, and normal growth and ripening patterns resumed. 2011 is bound to go down as one of the earliest vintages since the famous harvest of 1893. Despite the weather, the wines are just as we had hoped and expected: full and supple on the palate with the classic Loire freshness, well-defined flavours and the potential to broaden out and develop over the next few months.
In the Vineyard
Temperatures were mild towards the end of winter and bud-break came early, around the first week in April. A very warm, dry spring (2.7ºC above average in April and May, rainfall down by 65%) caused an almost unprecedented rate of growth; each new phase followed the last at a frenzied pace, leaving only 53 days between bud break and flowering instead of the average 65. Flowering itself was rapid, three weeks ahead of schedule and was over by the end of May.
And then everything changed. Temperatures fell, especially between July 14th and August 15th. It became more humid; and not a moment too soon for the grapes on which the frenetic pace was starting to take its toll. The vines recovered well, took up the moisture they needed and quickly got back to normal. The temperature rose again during the ripening stage; pockets of thundery rain sped up ripening but had a negative effect on plant health in certain places.
Apart from the hailstorms which caused some severe damage in part of the Quincy vineyard on May 2nd, the weather was not quite so unkind at harvest time. Mildew and oidium, the two main vine diseases, were relatively superficial, and little remedial intervention was needed.
Early development and healthy foliage were among the first indicators of a high quality vintage. Despite rapid development in most areas, the ripening phase was slow. Patience definitely proved to be a virtue this year: in addition to monitoring the sugar-to-acidity balance which quickly reached the required levels, wine growers were well advised to taste the berries to assess flavour ripeness. Delaying in this way was a feasible option as the grapes were generally in good health, except for the 10% or so of parcels where botrytis made a worrying appearance. Where grape health was compromised, débourbage (whites) and painstaking tri (hand picking) for the reds helped to “clean up” the harvest and maintain a high level of quality.
The grapes began to show good levels of sugar (but not excessive, as in 2009) alongside relatively low acidity. Thanks to mild temperatures and an often overcast sky, freshness of flavour has not been compromised.
Harvesting was staggered over almost a month, and the weather was kind throughout. The terroirs which had suffered from lack of water during June and July were the first to be ready; the first grapes were picked from August 29th onwards, in Sancerre for whites and Pinot Noir in Reuilly for reds. Reds and whites were harvested simultaneously. In the Central Loire most were harvested between 5th and 17th September with the last crops coming in on September 22nd. Never before has a harvest been over before the end of summer; not even 2003 and 1976 were quite this early.
2011 Vintage: First Impressions
Whites are soft and mellow with a lovely natural sweetness. They are beautifully rounded, and despite reduced acidity, freshness and balance are good. Flavours are already intense and elegant, but will open up more over the next couple of months. White flowers and fruit are the dominant flavours (citrus and white-fleshed fruit) with vegetal and spicy notes.
Reds are showing a vibrant, intense colour. They are well-rounded on the attack with expressive flavours of fruit (morello cherries) and flowers (peonies). Tannins are well-balanced and even, often a touch firm on the finish, but this will mellow over time and meld with the softness already apparent on the mid-palate.
2012 IN CENTRE-LOIRE: Balanced, sophisticated wines
During a dry and relatively mild 2011-2012 winter, the only significant cold spell happened over February’s first half, which led to the culling of a few buds.
Budbreak came early, stretching from mid-March to early April. The climate reversals as of April 10 lead to three months of cold and humid weather, with some buds freezing over again in April. As such, the early season’s head start was gradually lost.
Flowering began a week late and lasted three weeks. Flower drop and millerandage occurred sporadically, affecting reds especially, with whites resisting well. Pressure from fungal diseases, mildew and oidium was significant, yet handled well overall.
Another climate reversal was observed once again in mid-July, as the rainfall period drew to a close. Starting August 10, temperatures rose to above-average levels. These weather conditions occurred just in time to stem twig growth, as well as accelerate and tighten veraison. The drought lasted until September 20, when some ripening blockage was noted among young parcels on sensitive soils. Fortunately, the timely arrival of abundant rain (50-60 mm) from September 21 to 27 restarted the ripening process.
Ripening conditions proved very favourable, as the drought enhanced sugar concentrations.
Rainfall over the final harvesting days stemmed this evolution. Cool nights helped preserve plumpness and tartness (high tartaric acid and normal malic acid levels), while aromas developed slowly and with finesse. The sunny period proved beneficial for reds, enhancing their colours, tannins and aromas.
Thanks to thick skins, health conditions remained excellent, which gave wine producers the peace of mind they needed to let their grapes ripen properly.
Flowering conditions shaped the final ripening process. Reuilly began its harvest season on September 15 with Pinot Gris.
While the Sancerre region’s most precocious lots were harvested as early as September 20, the harvest season truly began across Centre-Loire’s wine districts on October 1.
Systematic parcel-by-parcel tracking of technological, aromatic and phenolic maturations is now well established. Furthermore, several wine producers have harvested on an intermittent basis, keeping pace with the terroirs’ varying progression levels.
First impressions of the vintage
The wines boast remarkable fullness and concentration. Flavours are superbly expressed, with varying balance according to harvest date: the first grapes harvested produced more incisive wines, with fullness ramping up as maturity set in.
Whites showcase magnificently defined aromas, both delicate and complex. Nuances of white flowers and fresh fruit dominate, occasionally enhanced by spicy notes or subtle hints of vegetables. Undeniably pure, whites boast both freshness and fullness.
Reds present deep colours, namely ruby with varying nuances of violet. Tannin content is carefully controlled through today’s gentle extraction methods. The grapes’ rich fruitiness is fully expressed in these wines, whose aromas run the gamut from dense to sappy, depending on their origins.
2013 IN CENTRE-LOIRE: A waiting Game
A long, drawn out growing season; harvest dates later than we have seen for 20 years or more; wines that won’t reveal their true colours for a good few months yet – the 2013 vintage is definitely playing a waiting game; but in the end, it is likely to impress us all.
A year in the vineyard
2013 was cold, and full of delays. Temperatures well below the seasonal norm put a stop to growth until April 10th. Budbreak came around 10 days late; the cold, wet spring weather caused further delays in the cycle, and the vines eventually flowered a good two weeks later than usual. The resulting spread of coulure and millerandage led to lot of small grapes in the harvest, particularly whites. Then came a long period of drought – from 20th June until mid-September – along with some extremely high temperatures in July. Fungal diseases such as mildew and oidium and were kept at bay relatively successfully. The vines were able to draw on accumulated reserves of water in the soil and suffered little hydric stress; only in a few areas did the vines begin to show a failure to ripen. Three weeks of mild, rainy weather followed, leading up to October 9th; and so the growing season ended on a cooler note, still with the year’s trademark damp conditions.
A few spells of rain in the second half of September helped to speed up the accumulation of sugars, while cool temperatures ensured a gradual decline in total acid content. Mild weather at the end of September re-booted the ripening process, concentrating sugars, lowering acidity and defining flavours. This mild period also encouraged the development of botrytis, which can lead to two very different sets of consequences: in general, Sauvignon Blanc grapes have a thick skin, so the fungus affected them in its “noble” form, traditionally a positive aspect of late harvests such as 2013; it improves wine quality by increasing solids and concentrating flavours. However, elsewhere, especially on free-draining soils, the effect can damage the grapes and cause defects in the resulting wine. The white must had to be comprehensively treated (careful débourbage and fining), while reds, which were thankfully less affected, needed thorough sorting.
Sugar production remained good right up until the end of harvest. Acidity was a little high to start with, but by October 7 the balance was excellent.
Harvesting got off to a slow start. Pinot Gris was harvested in Reuilly from September 26th and the earliest parcels in Sancerre were brought in from October 2nd. The pace then gradually picked up right across the Centre Loire, and most of the grapes were harvested between October 7th and 19th. The vineyards were well placed to harvest quickly at exactly the right moment, and to process the wine in the best possible conditions.
As with all vintages where ripeness is a long time coming, 2013’s wines will seem a little austere while young.
White wines are still relatively closed. Florals dominate, mixed with grassy, fruity flavours. Depending on harvest date and provenance, they are either soft and fresh or brisk and lively to varying degrees. Experience tells us that this style of wine always improves with age: high acidity may make it challenging to taste in the first few months, but has a positive influence on the wine’s development over time.
The red wines are showing a good, intense colour, and their fruity flavours (raspberries and blackberries) also carry a hint of florals (peony). Keeping a close eye on polyphenol content in the grapes, and carefully checking flavours throughout the process has ensured an excellent level of tannic extraction, leading to measured, supple tannins.
2014 IN CENTRE-LOIRE : A Vintage with Character
The unusual shift between the seasons has created a 2014 vintage with great potential for Centre Loire Wines. The unexpected warm weather in autumn produced exceptional wines with finesse and power.
A year in the vineyard
2014 was characterised by a long growing season. The mild end to the winter and a dry March warmed the soils and accelerated growth. Bud break began in the first days of April. Except for the period from June 6th-13th, and the second half of July, the year was relatively cold until the end of August. Therefore, the vine was delayed throughout the whole season, despite bud break being 10 days early; there was a 3 day delay for flowering and a 4 day delay for veraison. For rainfall, 2014 was broken down into three phases: dry in March to mid-July, followed by heavy rain until 25th August when finally the return to dry weather permitted the moderation of water levels.
Regarding fungal diseases, Oidium occurred presented itself in some unusual areas this year while the risk of mildew lasted until the beginning of August. Little damage was reported. Botrytis was almost non-existent. There was a small amount of acidic rot which meant some had to enforce the process of sorting but only a few parcels were affected. September, however, was excellent for the vintage with moderate heat during the day, cool nights and very little rain.
The excellent weather conditions in autumn allowed for slow maturation where each element fell into place in harmony. The warmth increased sugar, while cool nights preserved the fruit and halted the decline in acidity which was high at the beginning of the year. 2014 stands out as a remarkable year as levels of sugar and acidity are high but still perfectly balanced. Healthy, thick skins maintained berry colour and aromas. The good hygienic conditions led to very pure musts.
The winegrowers have shown great skill in determining the harvest date. They were able to observe with precision the maturation of their parcels to pick each one at the best moment; a complicated exercise as vine evolution did not correspond with the usual schedule. Growers benefitted from the late autumnal heat and good weather, waiting until optimal maturity had been reached before harvesting. The harvest occurred in stages; Pinot Gris in Reuilly on 15th September and Sauvignon in Sancerre in 18th September. The largest portion of the harvest began on 29th September and finished between 6th and 11th of October. The maturity of reds were picked before October 5th. The last grapes were picked on October 13th.
The wines reveal consistency and density. High acidities are subtle on the palate as they are balanced by the grapes’ natural richness. White wines reveal promising aromas. The finesse and complexity already shows fruits (pear, peach, exotic fruits) and hints of herbaceous aromas. For some wines delicate mineral notes can also be detected. On the palate, the balance in taste is often marked by tension.
Wines exhibit a fine tension counterbalanced by a rich mouthful of fullness and richness. With a long finish, white wines from 2014 have real potential. Depending on the soil, they should begin to reach their full expression after 8-15 months of aging. For those who favour older vintages, these wines should be able to last a decade or two before enjoying their great aging qualities.
The rosés are pale salmon and with subtle hints of coral. The aromas of fruits, such as strawberry, raspberry and banana, dominate. Vivacity and freshness characterise the palate. They will be crisp wines.
The reds show vivid colours; bright ruby highlights with purple tints. Still closed, there are already elegant aromas of red fruits (cherry, raspberry). The measured tannins coat the mouth although they are currently increased by the acidity as at this point malolactic fermentation is not yet complete. The finish is full bodied.
2015 IN CENTRE-LOIRE : HOT, DRY WEATHER MAKES FOR A PROMISING VINTAGE
Just as any other northern region, the Centre Loire is profoundly affected by vineyard conditions in any given year – and 2015 will be no different. The weather has been rather distinctive this year, and has resulted in wines with very pure flavours.
The Winegrowing Season
There was nothing particularly exceptional about the year. Winter 2014-2015 was one of the least cold for 100 years. After a mild start followed by a somewhat cooler February (but still no frosts), winter came to an end in March. Temperatures were well within seasonal norms.
Until the end of February winter rainfall was higher than average, helping to build up a good reserve of water in the soils and subsoils ready for spring.
The growth cycle kicked in slightly late, but mild temperatures from April 8th onwards quickly made up for any delay. Warm weather coupled with good water availability encouraged bud break, which progressed evenly and without any major problems. Sunshine was the order of the day – until the last week in April, which brought back chilly temperatures and poorer weather. The first days of May were also cold and rainy – but spring arrived at last on May 4th, and this time it was here to stay. In fact it was more like an early summer, with only small amounts of infrequent rainfall. A modest hailstorm on May 20th in parts of Sancerre, Quincy and Reuilly brought back bad memories, and caused localised damage in Reuilly.
Flowering started in the first half of June. Conditions were good, with temperatures slightly higher than average and little rainfall, although there was still some incidence of coulure in the Sauvignons. Some rain fell on June 12th and 14th – and then the drought set in. The first week of July brought scorching temperatures; the younger parcels were first to experience the effects of the drought, with hydric stress making itself apparent around mid-July. Elsewhere, very pale green foliage was a sure sign that vine development was slowing down.
Veraison started at the beginning of August, but the extremely dry conditions slowed progress down considerably; however, a rainy episode in mid-August changed everything, and veraison finished very quickly.
The dry weather acted as a natural suppressant for pests and diseases. Powdery mildew was closely monitored and kept under control.
Ripening conditions were very good. Given the summer weather, we were expecting smallish berries with low acidity – it was to be part and parcel of the year’s experiences.
However, a final period of rainfall at the end of August was of great benefit to the vines, which still needed a little more water. The berries started to grow at last, and the rain had little effect on the speed of ripening. Sugar content rose rapidly and any reduction in acidity levels was contained. Technological and phenolic ripeness was quickly reached, and the fruit remained in excellent health. Harvest dates could be decided by tasting alone, and all the different components came together in a well-balanced, harmonious way.
Harvesting started calmly - on September 7th with Pinot Gris in Reuilly. Sauvignon harvests started on September 14th for the other appellations, while red varietals were picked mainly between September 17th and 20th. Minor episodes of sleet in September did nothing to dampen spirits; they even had the added benefit of softening the grapes’ rather tough skins.
Grape juices showed excellent purity of flavour, and this is set to be one of the 2015 vintage’s major features.
The whites are full and elegant with complex aromas of white fruit. They are dense and warm, offset by a refreshing tang of acidity.
Red wines meanwhile show an appealing ruby red colour and aromas of red fruit (strawberries, cherries and raspberries) with underlying floral notes. Rounded, silky smooth tannins are testament to good ripeness, and give freshness and elegance.
2015 is an excellent vintage. The wines are already well-flavoured, and, as in any high-sunshine vintage, their youthful character will stay with them for a long time to come.
2016 in Centre-Loire
Good things come to those who wait
2016 has been giving our winegrowers a run for their money. Weather conditions were difficult; growers have had to contend with rain, humidity, frost and even sunscald, but have carried on regardless. Luckily nature rallied at the eleventh hour, and the vintage will be an excellent one after all.
2016 in the Vineyard
The beginning of 2016 was excessively mild, but also excessively rainy. In fact the weather bared its teeth on only two occasions - once to celebrate St Vincent's Day in January, and again in the first weeks of March. It ended on the same note as winter 2015 - without even a hint of frost. There was excessive rainfall throughout the winter.
The growing cycle started late - in April, a month marked by alternating periods of very mild and very cold weather. From April 18th, vines were exposed to sub-zero temperatures at night, with the worst of the damage occurring during the night from April 26th to 27th. Weather conditions were unpredictable – on some evenings, rain left the buds wet, leaving them even more susceptible to the night-time cold.
The extent of the damage is difficult to estimate, but we already know that the effects are likely to be serious in Coteaux du Giennois, Menetou-Salon, Pouilly-Fumé and Quincy, and to a lesser extent Sancerre.
May started – and finished – on a cold note, and will no doubt stay in our memories as a month of exceptionally heavy rainfall (15% above the norm); this made access to some plots particularly difficult. The first few days of June were cold and damp; there followed a period of calm from June 5th - 9th, only to be disrupted again later on. As we know all too well, cold, wet weather encourages disease, especially downy mildew, and diseased grapes, naturally affect production potential. Weather can cause stress not only for the vine, but also for the winegrowers!
Flowering started during the second half of June, but the weather continued to be difficult, and coulure and millerandage were rife. Nature rallied for the first time on June 23rd: the sun came out, temperatures rose – and given these newly favourable conditions, vines continued to flower rapidly.
Summer made its first tentative appearance - and the rain stopped. Cumulative rainfall for July and August was less than 90% of the thirty year average. On July 15th, temperatures began to rise, culminating in a late heatwave at the end of August. The warm spell also left its mark, and by the end of August the vines were showing early signs of hydric stress - and more notably, the effects of sunscald. Veraison started in the second half of August, somewhat hampered by the very dry conditions. Things moved along slowly – but prevailing conditions ensured that at least the fruit was in excellent health.
The start of September brought summery conditions, with sunshine and temperatures of over 30°C. Significant differences of temperature between day and night promote ripeness in the grapes, both phenolic and aromatic, by balancing out any touches of overly-vegetal flavour. Meanwhile, lack of water was really beginning to make its mark.
Hardly daring to complain, the winegrowers begged for just a drop of rain - and rain it did, on the 14th and 16th of September; a little miracle in an otherwise tough year. At last the berries started to swell, sugars continued to develop and declining acidity was checked.
Cool nights alternated with sunny days, giving perfect ripening conditions – and winegrowers felt safe enough to wait until both whites and reds reached the peak of ripeness
The weather remained completely dry during harvesting, and for the fourth month in a row there was little rain. The very cold mornings are likely to become a hallmark of this year’s harvest.
Just like 2015, 2016’s wines are expected to show good purity of flavour; and as with all late vintages, they have plenty of freshness and a crisp texture.
While still slightly reticent on the nose, the white wines hint at notes of white flowers and white-fleshed fruit, with a base of underlying minerality. Rosés have a lovely intense colouring, and fresh fruit aromas such as blood orange and raspberry. The reds, with their deep, intense colouring, are expected to be the belle of the ball this year. They are showing aromas of red fruits including blackcurrant and raspberry, mixed with florals. Mouthfeel is fresh, underpinned by velvety-smooth tannins.
2016 will be remembered as a year of frost, and of high quality wines. And for Centre-Loire this year - all’s well that ends well.
2017 in Centre-Loire – a year of contrasts
2017 is the latest in a succession of early harvests.
As winter drew to a close with temperatures worthy of late spring, nature snowballed ahead. The vines continued to reach each milestone early, right up until harvest - despite very variable conditions which changed month by month and area by area.
The 2017 growth cycle
Winter 2017 was cold and dry, with rainfall some 60% lower than the norm. Temperatures varied, starting out lower than the seasonal norm in January, then rising in February ready to usher in an unseasonably warm spring. By the end of March, and for the first few days of April, temperatures were worthy of mid-May. Vine growth surged ahead, and the first buds began to appear at the beginning of April, 8 – 10 days earlier than the 10-year average.
Unfortunately, the second half of April was blighted by freezing weather, and growers spent around 10 nights battling the frosts. Temperatures plummeted to lows of -5°C; it was an unequal struggle.
Centre-Loire’s vineyards, like vineyards throughout France, are now paying a heavy price. Damage levels vary, but every vineyard has been hit to some extent. Châteaumeillant was decimated, and Pouilly-Fumé was again seriously affected.
April will be memorable not only for its heavy frosts, but also for low rainfall, some 70% below the seasonal norm; but once again, our growers picked themselves up, dusted themselves off and got back to work.
Growers spent 2016 battling with record levels of rainfall; May 2017, by contrast, was dry: cold and grey for the first couple of weeks, then the exact opposite towards the end of the month, with temperatures reaching record highs on May 27th and 28th.
Conditions such as these encourage growth, and the vines began to develop rapidly. Nature set a blistering pace, and growers had no choice but to keep up. There was no time to relax as the frozen vines made up for lost time.
Mildew made only a tentative appearance at the end of May, and oidium was also relatively understated; favourable conditions in winter and spring followed by rapid vine growth had played a major part in mitigating the dangers. This again was in complete contrast to last year, and proof that weather is not always the enemy.
Flowering started at the beginning of June under favourable conditions – warm temperatures with limited rainfall. The vines raced through their phenological milestones, and it looked as if ripening would be fairly uniform.
Then came the heatwave. For the entire two weeks between July 10th and 25th, temperatures regularly soared to 30˚C and above, while water was in short supply – down by 40% compared to the norm. Although not critical, the situation gave cause for concern. Vine growth slowed.
The hot weather persisted throughout July, with two peaks in temperature from July 4th – 7th and July 17th – 19th. Rainfall varied across the different areas, and cumulative totals were, in many cases, the results of heavy storms, some even including hail. This also had an impact on production potential.
The rainfall brought much-needed water to some areas, but other sectors – those which had escaped the storms – were beginning to show signs of hydric stress.
Veraison began in the first days of August, under these very divergent conditions. Vine growth had not stopped completely, however, and veraison got off to a slow start.
Ripening progressed in very distinctive weather conditions: light August showers alternating with sunshine and giving way to more heatwave temperatures towards the end of the month.
This weather encouraged the berries to swell, and helped develop sugar levels. The few extremely hot days reduced acidity and ensured the absence of unwanted ‘green’ flavours. Meanwhile, nights remained cool, helping to preserve fruity flavours.
Low rainfall affected certain areas throughout the season, and in these zones lack of water began to have a major impact. In areas with plentiful rainfall on the other hand, berries began to bloat and burst, or were damaged by wasps, raising concerns that the fruit may rot. Vigilance on the part of the growers went up a notch with every passing day – as did their unease.
September arrived – and so, suddenly, did autumn. Temperatures fell, bringing a return to normal conditions Grape health stabilised, and growers were given the chance to wait for their fruit to reach optimum ripeness.
The grapes continued to ripen under close scrutiny, and there was tension in the air as harvesting started. Picking began with Pinot Gris in Reuilly in the final days of August. In other appellations, Sauvignon harvests started on September 12th, while red varietals were mainly picked between September 19th and 22nd. Once again, Sauvignon Blancs didn’t disappoint – grapes were healthy and quality was excellent. For red varietals the situation was a little more variable, and grapes needed rigorous sorting to maintain wine quality.
Harvesters finally laid down their secateurs in October – this is one of the rare vintages where Centre-Loire harvests have been spread over 3 months.
This year’s whites are very elegant, with notes of citrus and white-fleshed fruit; minerality and a touch of liquorice add to their charm. They are full and rounded, underpinned by an appealing edge of freshness.
Rosés are generally fairly pale in colour, their dominant flavours of grapefruit and blood oranges beautifully balanced by a delightful edge of vivacity on the palate.
Reds are intense in colour, and show flavours of red berry fruits. Extraction and vinification has been tailored to suit the needs of this year’s vintage; the results are well-honed, smooth, supple tannins.
In short – Centre-Loire’s 2017 wines are made for enjoyment.
Fabrice DOUCET (SICAVAC)
Press contact: Benoit ROUMET – email@example.com