For those of you looking to purchase a Loire wine we have summarised the recent vintages in order to try and assist you with your choice. Please discuss your requirements with us before you purchase.
2017 Whenever the winter and spring period is warm there is always the possibility of frost damage. As it turned out we had a mild period at the start of the year with early bud growth; then came the late frost which has resulted in some loss in the vineyards. This has been mainly with the vines located in land where the cold air becomes static. Some vineyards have escaped any damage but in some cases up to 80% of vines have been affected. This will result in a reduction of yield at harvest time. As we move forward in time the weather has been warm and sunny so growth has been about two weeks ahead of last year. A good period of flowering in early June has resulted in a good short pollination period. This will ensure that bunches will all be around the same maturity at harvest. Into July and August and the weather holds fair with some beautiful warm and sunny days allowing the berries to develop. The year reminds me somewhat of the 2011 vintage with hot dry weather giving rise to small berries and thick skins. All the way to the end of August the weather staying hot (up to 35C) and we witnessed a very early start to the vendange when the Bans de Vendange was issued for the first harvest on 28 August. Something very unusual for such an early start to the harvesting. The weather into September started to change and we have seen some rain and cooler days. The harvest become a race to pick the grapes before we see any rot set in. Generally the alcohol levels will be high with levels up to 14 degrees. With such good condiitons we will hope to see fully mature berries giving softness to the wine for this vintage. Should be a good one!
2016 The year had started with a mild period in early spring and much of the pruning in the latter stages had been carried out as the buds started to appear early. In March the weather stayed mild and much of the pruning and tying of the branches was completed. Unfortunately there was late frost with the loss of bud development. In some parcels this was 100% with at least 40% in general. This affected yields but the effect may well, if the weather is warm, produce more concentrated wines. There was a prolonged period of damp weather over May and June and only lately at the beginning of July did we see some decent warm weather. The damp period will also have affected the pollination and bunches will exhibit less berries maturing fully. Again this will affect yield. The hot and dry weather continued until mid September. Thereafter the long awaited and prayed for rain came one very wet and windy night on the 13 September travelling eastwards along the Loire and depositing some 15mm of rain. This has allowed the berries to swell and has assisted in the yield. For the organic growers the year has been difficult with the wet weather during vine development and this has resulted in loss of berries. The vendange started around the 21 September with the grapes for the sparkling wines made using the Methode Traditionelle. These are typically around 10-11% potential alcohol. The main white harvest started a week later firstly with the chardonnay for the IGP and the reds for the rosé. Levels of around 13% potential alcohol are being realised. The grapes for the red wine will be picked around the middle/late October. The weather thankfully has stayed dry and a good vintage is expected but with yields as low as 30% of the maximum allowable.
2015 It's not too early to start looking at the 2015 vintage at the start of the year. The winter was relatively mild so there was a good early bud developement with the warm weather conditions and temperatures. With the onset of spring bud formation was good with almost full budding on the canes. Initially this is a good indication of the yields which should meet the maximum allowances under appellation rules. The weather over the spring was generally warm but with some cold nights so in some areas there had been lack of development of growth from buds. I had seen where there has been some small effect which should not affect yields greatly. Over May stems had grown and the formation of the bunches had progressed well. With all the lovely warm sunny weather we experienced over the summer months the vendange will be earlier than last year by around three to four weeks. We have had a dry sunny June, July and most of August although the last week was wet and windy with quite an amount of rain. With all the dry weather the winemakers had been wanting some rain to help plump out the berries which have been small with little juice. So indeed their prayers have been answered with this wet spell. There is still some weeks to go before the main harvest but the harvesting of the Chardonnay for the sparkling wines started on 4 September here in central Loire. I tasted and measured the potential alcohol of some Chardonnay berries in Anjou country last week and these showed a figure of around 9.5 degrees. If the weather stays relatively dry and sunny then we should be getting a decent vintage this year. The harvest this year was slightly early due to the relative mild spring weather and warm dry summer months. Indeed 2015 could turn out to be a good vintage. I tasted the 2015 chenin sec in March and this has proved to be a classic with the wine nice and fresh and when picked at maturity or just thereafter it has shown to have some good structure. The reds so far exhibit some good signs that we will see a cracking vintage. The white classic chenin blanc exhibits a more fresh balance than the previous year with well developed flavours.
2014 The 2014 wine vintage in the Loire valley France has proved to be a good one generally with the late sunshine in September, although there will inevitably be some producers who picked too early and left the berries too unripe with stringent tannins. I tasted over 200 wines from the 2014 vintage at the Angers wine fair this year and a goodly number had picked too early probably because of the worry of the berries rotting if left on the vine. You might have said that I was a little early with my opinion and the hopes for the vintage but I said back in August lets look at the facts to date. Don't forget that the vintage each year relates to everything that happens from the winter onwards (maybe sooner – that's a separate question). The winter was mild and the spring also mild with not too much wind and rain. We had therefore a good start which dictates the bud development from pruning and the flowering in June. The bud formation was good with little damage from the cold and wet weather so little loss of buds and therefore a good idea on how much bunch development we can expect. Development had been about the norm for this region and in June we had the flowering of the berries. Again it was pretty good with good development and with little damage. With the bud formation allowing full development we had a chance of full yield allowance. In Anjou we had some hail in June so there has been some damage to the bunch development. So far from the spring the weather has been variable and in some areas quite wet whilst in others we have had some warmth and sunshine. So it was a mixed bag as ever in the Loire but thankfully we retained some good weather in the latter half of the season and a good harvest with ripe berries was forthcoming although there was that difficult decision late on about when to harvest particularly with the red grapes. They need to be ripe otherwise the tannins will be harsh and bitter and so will the wine when drunk. As ever it is only the best wine makers who will shine with their vintages in 2014.
2013 It all started off rather badly. We had a cold winter and prolonged cold new year affecting bud formation and then a long cold spell resulting in loss of branch and bunch formation. In some areas this has resulted in reduction in yield of some 20 – 30%. Then a cold Spring with plenty of rain so flowering was affected. Also we had losses resulting from hail. All in all a miserable start. But since late June in the Loire and through July we have had a good spell of warm dry weather with a couple of wet periods. August and early September too were good. Unfortunately because of the late start maturity was slow and towards the end of September the berries were still not ready reaching only around 11% potential alcohol. The weather then started to deteriorate with cold damp days. This resulted in berries starting to rot and some estates were picking at low maturity. It was fortunate that the cold spell in the spring left the bunches quite open and this helped against rot. Harvesting started in early October with the sparkling wines followed by the whites and then the reds which were picked well into the third week of October. I would put the year down as average with the same proviso as last year that you need to be selective and know your winemaker. During tastings of the whites in the central Loire the balance seems to retain the classic style. The reds are more varied and will need more development before drinking. I'd leave the wine in the vat for two years to allow the tannins to develop and then I think with the right estate (you need to have advice) it will actually be rather good. Again its all about knowing your winemaker as always.
2012 in the Loire valley has been another unusual year. First we had a very harsh winter with temperature down to minus 15 centigrade in late winter. This damaged the buds on the pruned branches and it resulted in later spring in loss of bud formation so instead of all the buds developing there was a 20 to 30% reduction. The effect was the reduced number of bunches on the vines. The second problem was that we had a wet flowering period which prevented formation of a portion of the berries on each bunch so a further reduction on yield. Then we had a dry spell which meant that the developed berry at harvest was very small again reducing yield but at the same time creating a more concentration and thicker skins and so more tannins. So as I said above it will be an interesting tasting. All this could lead to a more tannic wine, more concentration and early complexity. We shall see and I will report back on my return. The other factor in all this is the general overall quality and like 2011 you will need to be selective with your wine choice. You will need to know your winemaker because if he has taken the trouble to remove the rotten berries then that is ok but if the winemaker has been lazy and not bothered to do the green harvest then you will get the rusty flavours coming through.
2011 A crazy year in terms of weather conditions. We started with some very warm prolonged spring weather which allowed the berries to develop much quicker than normal, probably by up to 4 weeks. As the summer progressed the weather slowly deteriorated to some damp rainy periods throughout the region in August/early September. It was a difficult time as the whites in particular became prone to rot and some producers picked early fearing they may lose their crop. Some persevered and the remainder of September was warm and dry so for those who picked later the berries were fully mature and with good vineyard management the whites will be as good as 2009. The trick with this vintage because it was so hit and miss is to be selective and find those producers who were able to harvest late with good clean berries. Cabernet Franc grapes are better at surviving damp conditions without too much damage so for the estates picking late the reds of this vintage will have benefited from a longer period on the vine. Early indications are that this will be another good vintage. Lets see.
2010 Good conditions all through the year has helped produce some great wines of character this year.
In Muscadet we had some cold dry spring days and the summer continued to be dry and warm to allow full maturity at harvest so loads of sugar and good balance of acidity.
Again a long hot summer in Anjou and Saumur allowing the grapes to fully mature. Some worries about the lack of rain leaving the berries small and thick skinned so concentrating the sugars. There was some later rains allowing a good balance of the sugars and acid. The harvest period stayed dry to allow picking to be unhurried and well organised. A super year for the sweet wines of the whole region.
Reds in Touraine had plenty of colour at harvest and developed some complex tannins. These will certainly be fruity and will need to be allowed time to develop and round the tannins. Whites again are full of exotic flavours from the well matured berries.
Sancerre, Pouilly-Fumé and Menetou-Salon along with Quincy and Reuilly have produced some fine wines which are well balanced and aromatic.
All in all a good vintage.
2009 In Saumur, Anjou and Chinon this has been a great year. Better than 2005. The vinification process was noticeably slower this year than normal with a difficult malolactic fermentation. This has led to deliver a cracking year for reds. They have developed a much deeper flavour of jam and compoted fruits. Concentrated more mature tannins. The whites and pressed pinks have benefited from a long hot summer with mature berries. The tastings of the white chenin in 2011 show a good development and the wine should be good for a few years.
2008 It was generally good across the board in the Loire. We have laid down some Chinon and Saumur-Champigny both red Cabernet Franc.
2007 The central region gave us a mediocre year slighter better than the previous year. So stick to drinking Saumur and Anjou now and don't bother laying down.
2006 Go for sauvignons from Sancerre and Pouilly Fume from this vintage which are better than 2005. This was not such a good vintage for Muscadet, Anjou and Saumur.
2005 What can be said about the 2005 vintage? Good hot weather produced some real beauties. Why not open a sweet chenin from the Coteaux de Layon AOC now or if you are looking to extend your cellar these will improve over the next decade.
2004 In 2004 the western AOC's were good but further east the Sauvignons were a lot more varied so stick to good wine makers.
2003 This was one of the great Loire vintages. Both the reds, particularly, and the white chenins are well balanced with lots of fruit and as good as 1997 vintage.
2002 This was a great year for dry white chenin blanc wines better than the 1996 vintage. These wines can be laid down in the short term. As an example look for Savennieres a lovely bone dry wine from the AOC on the river just south of Angers. This is vigorous full bodied and supremely elegant and offers a bouquet of lime blossom, fern and jasmine.
We hope you find a wine that will encourage you to visit us in the Loire valley and extend your enjoyment of the many amazing wines on offer. If you would like some specific help, please email us.