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Loire Valley 2012 Harvest Report: Update

Another message from Loire courtier Charles Sydney, received yesterday, following on from his previous Loire 2012 report:

The 2012 harvest is pretty well over, with just a few parcelles of chenin hanging out in the Layon, waiting for the weather to go cold, sunny and windy (the forecast is good), in which case we may get some stickies this year after all. Keep praying!

Otherwise:

Dry whites – Sauvignon & Muscadet: as per, quality is good to fantastic in Muscadet, Touraine, Sancerre & Pouilly Fumé, with the Muscadets promising to be among the best ever. Quantities are way down in Muscadet and Touraine but look fine in Sancerre & Pouilly.

Muscadet’s yields are a problem and compounded by the appellation going from 13000 hectares to under 8000 as growers have ripped up or abandoned 40% of the vineyards since the 2008 frosts as bulk prices have been way below production costs. Luckily the serious single estates have survived so far. Hopefully you’ll be able to use the quality of the vintage to really put across to the consumer just how attractive this appellation can be.

The 2012 harvest in the Clos de l'Echo, Couly-Dutheil

Reds – Cabernet Franc: starting 2 weeks later than average (and a month later than last year) was always going to be a gamble, so the rains at the end of September that helped ripen the Sauvignons were less of a blessing here, especially as the last couple of weeks have seen about 5 inches of rain. That said, there’s been hardly any rot until this week (picking is now effectively over) so although there’s obviously been some concentration lost as growers waited for ripeness, this should be a pretty and easy-drinking vintage for the Cabernet Francs.

Reds – Pinots: Our guys in Sancerre and over in St Pourçain are pretty ecstatic about quality, with lovely ripeness – and the concentration that comes with low yields. With 35 hectolitres/hectare, winemaker Sylvain Miniot in St Pourçain reckons they lost more through the grapes being roasted by the sun and drought than they did through hail or frost.

The 2012 harvest by Claude Papin, Château Pierre-Bise

Chenin Blanc – Vouvray, Montlouis & the Anjou: First things first : there won’t be any great moelleux this year – but growers have stocks of the truly great 2010 and 2011 vintages, so that’s not a problem.

For dry and off-dry Chenins, things are looking surprisingly good, though again, yields are down. In Vouvray and Montlouis the juice is tasting fresh, clean and nicely aromatic. Less concentration than 2009 and 2010 especially, but this should make for a pretty, consumer-friendly vintage – and growers like Jacky Blot, who really did a serious ‘tri’ at harvest should make some super ‘secs’.

Meanwhile, the hand-picked chenins of the Anjou are promising to be really lovely, with some real ripeness and concentration.

The proof of the pudding is of course in the eating, and we’re about to start tasting with our growers all along the Loire. We expect to send you a ‘real’ vintage report early in the New Year.

Enjoy! – Charles.

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