Famille Lieubeau, 2019 Update

“It is a ‘once in a generation’ vintage, exceptional and to be compared to the legendary 1947 or 1990, in Muscadet and in the Loire”.

So says Pierre Lieubeau of the 2018 vintage in the Loire Valley, and in holding this opinion he is not alone. Along the length and the breadth of the river and its vineyards it is difficult to find anybody who is not delighted with the outcome of this vintage. Only the unfortunate few who were hit hard by mildew, in May or June, have cause to be disappointed. They still made very fine wines in the end, but the volumes produced, or the extent of their range of cuvées, have in some cases been much reduced.

The 2018 Vintage

None of this applies to Famille Lieubeau and their wines though. Yes, June was difficult here, as it was elsewhere, with frequent showers of rain depositing a significant volume of water on the vineyards; the worst was when 80 mm, equivalent to 10% of the total annual rainfall, fell in just one day, on June 11th. The conditions were so humid that at one point Vincent Lieubeau (pictured below) even found botrytis on the freshly-opened flowers, something he has never seen before. Even in the face of such disease pressure, a rigorous approach to spraying, using Bordeaux mixture, commenced at the first indication of deteriorating weather, saved the day. Both the volumes produced here, and the quality of the wines themselves, are good.

Famille Lieubeau

There are, however, more reasons why the 2018 vintage is a notable one chez Lieubeau; this is the first certified organic vintage for the domaine. This does not apply to the entire domaine, as like many successful Muscadet estates this is a very large property (or rather, collection of properties), and the family have chosen to start with only their more prestigious vineyards. This means the 2018 releases under the Château-Thébaud, Clisson, Confluent and Bel Abord labels will all be certified organic, by Ecocert. This is a significant achievement for any domaine, and the Lieubeau family deserve appropriate credit.

As elsewhere, after a drizzly June came a warm and dry summer, running into perfect conditions at harvest time, with clear skies; this meant no rain during the picking, as well as cooler temperatures at night, which helped to preserve the freshness in the fruit. The harvest commenced on September 5th, a few days after the official ban des vendanges. The resulting alcoholic potentials were above 12% across the board, with the harvest on the family’s crus communaux vineyards of Château-Thébaud and Clisson reaching 13%. Vincent Lieubeau was also content with the acidity levels. The vat samples I report on here, five cuvées from four different vineyards, demonstrated great consistency and communicate with clarity the fine quality of the vintage, which should drink well when young, but which should also develop in a very positive fashion in the bottle.

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