to the Loire regions
The Vineyards of Jasnières, Coteaux du
and the Vendômois
and Notable Vintages
Notes on the
vintages post 2000 come primarily from my visits to Eric Nicolas of
Domaine de Bellivière in the Coteaux du Loir and incorporate some of his
2003, this is the second earliest harvest since records began. The
official date for the ban de vendange was on the 4th October, but
Eric Nicolas received permission to start picking on the 24th September
(and even then 'Les Rosiers' was harvested at over 14% potential alcohol).
A strategic decision by Eric Nicolas to produce drier styled wines ensured
that there is very little sweet wine here. This has the potential to
become a very good vintage indeed.
was a full harvest with an overall average of 13.5% potential alcohol.
Summer was good although there was a little rain in early September which
saw the growers working hard to reduce any risk of botrytis. For Eric
Nicolas, the harvest started with the Pineau d'Aunis on the 1st October
and continued at a leisurely pace through to the end of the month. Even
with 25 pickers (working over 50 separate parcels) there was no rush to
bring the crop in. The wines are distinguished by their freshness, even if
many carry much more residual sugar than in 2008. A very good
Coteaux du Vendômois: A vintage without extremes. A
good quality yet small year, down by around 15 – 20% on average. The
cool conditions at the start of the season ensured that early budding
varieties such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon and Pinot Noir all suffered from
blocked maturity. Both Pineau d’Aunis and Chenin performed well, but
there were problems at flowering with the Cabernet Franc and the effects
of a poor summer ensured that there was little crop to be had. The harvest
started around the 26th September, with the grapes coming in
over the following three weeks.
du Loir: A growing season quite similar in some ways to that of 2007,
although the start of the cycle, in April, was much, much colder. Summer
was cold but there was less rain than in 2007 and this was more spread
out. September again helped save the vintage, and although the majority of
growers were very happy in the end, it went down to the wire. Eric Nicolas
started harvesting on the 2nd October and is one of the few
growers in the
this year to have harvested anything approaching a normal crop.
was a year full of surprises. April was cold during budding and the summer
was cold and humid. Conditions for the vines were not looking good and by
the end of August they needed heat and sun badly. Thankfully, in September
and October they received the conditions they required to allow grapes to
reach full maturity and the vintage was saved, even thoutgh the berries
were tiny with very little juice resulting in a small vintage. The wines
are very well balanced with good fruit and freshness with the whites
having lots of malic acidity offering very good potential for ageing.
summer months suggested a vintage as fine as 2005 was on the cards, but
the lead up to the harvest was much more traumatic with a need to make
severe grape selections in both the vineyard and again at the cellar. The
harvest in the Coteaux du Loir started on the 29th September
but was followed by two days of unpredicted heavy rain, and the resulting
humidity ensured a spontaneous outbreak of grey rot. Those who chose to
pick early probably came out best, certainly in terms of eventual yields.
Fortunately, the grapes were in a very healthy condition before the
weather turned, so a natural level of alcohol of between 13-13.5% was
achieved. As a result, the wines give the impression of coming from a very
ripe year. For Eric Nicolas a normal vintage will produce around 40,000
bottles; in 2006 however, he elected to wait and he suffered as a
consequence. The year yielded just 25,000; at an average of 25hl/ha, the
same as the original maximum yield for the two appellations from the 1930s
best year in the
since 1997 for the production of sweet wines, although one needs to go
back to the late 1980s to find a comparable vintage for drier styles.
There were no extremes this year and when it needed to rain, it did. The
grapes were harvested in perfect conditions. Like most places in the
, it is very successful vintage, and the best producers are worth
a good, classical vintage that also delivered a healthy crop. There were
no issues during the growing season and the harvest started in the Coteaux
du Loir on the 6th October and finished on the 3rd November
although there were many stops in between. There were less of the issues
here with the Chenin than those that affected the southern appellations of
Touraine, particularly Vouvray. Delayed by rain, it was necessary to wait and
allow the berries to re-concentrate. The best and ripest grapes were
picked on the left bank of the Loir. Both dry and liquoreux wines were produced, including some noble rot
affected bunches in Jasnières. The Pineau d’Aunis came in with perfect,
homogenously ripe berries in conditions similar to those of 2002.
year of the canicule and the
earliest vintage since records began in the Sarthe, with the harvest commencing on September 8th. If 2002 was a
year without excesses, 2003 is the complete opposite with both heat and
drought playing a part, and spring frosts on 10th April had
already effectively halved the eventual crop. There was a little rain in
June, around 50mm in July and a further 15mm in August, but this didn’t
help the vines that were now suffering from both water and heat stress.
The vintage for Eric Nicolas started 15th and was finished by
30th September. There was no specific order to picking with
both the Chenin and Pineau d’Aunis ripening at the same time, and due to
the health of the grapes and the speed with which everything ripened it
was neither practical nor necessary to conduct a triage. There was a very
small crop of Chenin due to some grillé.
The potential alcohols were around 17% and despite the heat there was
some noble rot. The acidity in this vintage is a little ‘soft’,
although this needs to be seen in the context of what is usual in this
extreme region. At harvest, the Pineau d’Aunis showed potential alcohol
levels of between 14% and 15% and there were problems with phenolic
ripeness, although the grapes were sugar ripe. The thick skins made it
difficult to extract the soft tannins needed and to avoid over extracting
and masking the delicacy of the aromatic complexity of this variety. It
was a challenging year to say the least. It’s not a personal favourite,
and as a general observation, the red wines are more successful than the
was a dream year, without chaos or excess and the grapes having all the
constituents to suggest great vins de garde were possible. There is
a greater degree of natural acidity, but this is balanced by ripeness and
extract. The conditions by October were set for healthy and ripe grapes
with between 13 and 15.7% potential alcohol with good acidity to ensure
freshness. The phenolic maturity, as evidenced by the Pineau d’Aunis
this vintage, is rarely achieved. Harvest started on 7th
October and was finished at the end of the month. This is a classic
vintage for both whites and red wines. The best whites should last for
question the worst vintage so far this decade. It was a long, cold growing
season and very wet immediately before the vintage. The harvest started in
pleasant conditions, but it was necessary to pick over a six week period
in order to achieve total maturity and avoid chaptalisation. The harvest
finished on 20th November with the same favourable temperatures
as at the start of the harvest. The wines (as in Savennières) have very
deep orange/bronze, seemingly advanced colour and a particular flavour
profile. Despite their appearance, the acidity is high and will act as a
preservative, but in reality this is a year that won’t win many friends,
and is for Chenin aficionados only.
were difficult throughout the year, although good regular rainfall helped,
keeping the grapes on a tight lead until they ripened. In the end, the
Chenin needed to be harvested at lower than idea ripeness of between 11
and 12.4% potential alcohol, but the decision to pick needed to be made
whilst the bunches were still in a healthy condition.
vintage full of contrasts. It rained every day for the three weeks prior
to the 13th September and it was necessary to wait for the
berries to re-concentrate and harvest later.
a good to average year with no surprises. Whites should now be mature and
are worth seeking out.
vintage for sweet wines produced from both botrytis and passerillage
affected berries. It also happens to be Joël Gigou’s favourite year
since he created the domaine in 1974.
and dry season which ensured the harvest started in perfect conditions in
early October. This was a small but concentrated vintage overall, but
easily the best year since 1990.
four consecutive write off vintages, 1995 came as a welcome relief. It is
still possible to find a few examples in some growers’ cellars and they
are worth seeking out.
was the second year in this decade to be decimated by frost. Not as
catastrophic as in 1991, but Joël Gigou lost 80% his crop and Eric
Nicolas, who has just arrived in the region this year managed only 15% of
a normal harvest.
pretty ordinary year throughout the whole region, although the occasional
bottle turns up in a grower’s cellar and surprises us all.
crop as the vines compensated for their shortfall in 1991. It rained all
through the vintage and the wines were always beset by traces of rot.
devastating late frost of 20th April wiped out the majority of
the crop this season. I’ve tasted some interesting Chenins from
, but never anything from Jasnières. For Joël Gigou, this was a pretty
forgettable vintage both in terms of quality and quantity.
as good a vintage in the Coteaux du Loir as anywhere else in France. Growers had never seen such ripeness. Examples can still be readily
found for sale in cellars around the region and are worth seeking out.
first of a pair of great vintages although both different in style.
Anyone for the
years: 1811 (l’Année de
l’Empereur’), 1870, 1893, 1921, 1933, 1934, 1945 (despite the severe
frost on May 1st that saw temperatures plummeting to
–7˚c), 1947, 1949, 1959, 1969, 1976 (a very dry, drought affected
year), 1982, 1983.
years: 1960, 1961, 1964, 1970, 1971, 1973, 1975, 1978, 1985, 1986, 1988.
and poor years: 1954 (the
latest harvest on record, starting on the 11th November. It is
a year remembered for its copious rains. The final ‘wines’ produced
just 5% of alcohol),1962, 1963, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1972, 1974, 1977,
1979, 1980, 1981, 1984, 1987.