THE LOIRE VALLEY Ending on a high note

A fine end to the summer and ideal weather conditions at the close of the season have put a smile back on the faces of the Loire winegrowers, who have had to deal with a complex array of weather patterns throughout the year. This vintage is set to be flavoursome and fruit-driven, with good balance and ample availability to supply market needs.

MELON DE BOURGOGNE – fresh and full of flavour
Harvesting for Muscadet started on September 15th. Vines were badly affected by both frost and hydric stress this year; however September’s perfect weather conditions ensured grapes are high in quality and in perfect health. Initial tastings show a range of concentrated, flavoursome, fresh wines. The Melon de Bourgogne grapes show excellent balance, leading us to expect wines similar to those of 2009 and 2010 – good texture and mouthfeel, and plenty of fruit. In terms of volume, the ODG has revisited the estimates it made before the harvest, revising them upwards to a predicted 180,000 hl.

SAUVIGNON – concentrated grapes and good aromatic expression.
In Loir-et-Cher, the Sauvignons are concentrated and show excellent aromatic expression. Good grape health combined with harvest weather conditions (sun, rain and wind each taking turns centre stage) have led to a juice yield often 10-15% higher than initially predicted. The aromatic profile of the musts focuses primarily on citrus and tropical fruit,reflecting Sauvignon ’sthiol- based typicity. In the Touraine AOP, the Loir-et-Cherarea is showing good yields; the Indre-et-Loire area slightly less so. The ODG forecasts 160,000 hl, a fall of 30% on 2015 levels.

CHENIN, DRY AND SWEET – a noteworthy success
All agree that the high quality of this vintage needs to be emphasised. Apart from parcels affected by frost, this year’s Chenin harvests have given us both quality and quantity – thanks in no small part to the Indian summer which helped the grapes achieve peak ripeness. Colours and aromas are looking particularly attractive. In Anjou, the fall in volume for whites could be as much as 20-30% compared to 2015, while in Touraine yields are variable, depending on the amount of frost damage suffered. Falls in harvest volumes in the Vouvray appellation (100,000 hl) are set to be around the 15% mark (as compared to 2015).

LOIRE SPARKLERS – Well-balanced base wines
Chardonnay and Chenin – September’s excellent weather meant that growers were in no hurry to harvest, and were able to wait for grapes to reach peak ripeness before starting off their base wines.
In Anjou, juice yields at pressing have been very high, in some cases partially offsetting low per-hectare yields. Base wines are fresh and well balanced, showing notes of citrus.
A fall of 5% in harvest volume (compared with 2015) is predicted for Crémant-de-Loire and Saumur sparkling wines.

CABERNET FRANC – elegantly distinctive

The end of the season brought weather we had never even dreamed of, taking grapes to peak levels of ripeness for the Loire Valley and giving a high quality harvest. Tastings of the first juices confirm good extraction with supple fruit and a touch of elegance. Harvests in Chinon are down by some 50% (50,000 hl), while in the Saumur and Anjou areas – which were spared the worst of the weather – the fall will be around 15%. Good news too for Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil, where the drop in volume is no more than 15-20% (50,000 hl). Harvests for Cabernet-d’Anjou are also looking good – around the 300,000 hl mark (a drop of 10% compared to 2015).

GAMAY- excellent ripeness
To the east of Touraine, the Gamay grapes ripened well in the warm September sunshine. The fruit is beautifully fresh, and shows a lovely fuchsia-purple colour. The new wines are set to be a great success. Nevertheless, general enthusiasm is tempered by the fact that this year’s harvest levels may only be around half of the norm.

GROLLEAU – focusing on fruit

The Grolleau juices have reached fermentation stage without encountering any particular problems. Focus is on highlighting the fruity flavours using a process of débourbage. Rosé-d’Anjou and Rosé-de-Loire are predicted to fall by 10% (160,000 hl) in comparison to last year’s figures.

Despite an estimated across-the-board fall in volume of 25% as compared to 2015 (1,500,000 hl), the amount of stock currently held over from the excellent 2015 vintage will ensure that Loire Valley wines will still be available on all markets.

The Association for Loire Valley wines – InterLoire – is the third largest inter-professional association for AOC wines in France. It brings together the Nantais, Anjou, Saumur and Touraine areas, comprising around 50 appellations and designated areas across 38,000 hectares. It includes 2,700 winegrowers, 190 négociants and 13 cooperatives, together selling an average of 2,000,000 hl per year. InterLoire is at the heart of France’s 3rd largest appellation wine region; their mission is to manage the industry from an economic perspective, to carry out research and experimentation and to promote the wines of the Loire Valley.