Loire 2011 at Ten Years: White Wines
I begin this look back at the 2011 vintage in the Loire Valley with a dozen white wines, spread evenly if rather thinly across the majority of the region’s most famous white appellations. That means after starting in Muscadet, we take in Anjou (or, to be precise, Vin de France Chenin Blanc from the Anjou region), Savennières, Saumur, Vouvray, Montlouis-sur-Loire and Sancerre.
Down in Muscadet, the 2011 vintage was the most challenging the vignerons here had experienced for some years. Many in the region were still smarting from the 2008 vintage, although the problem there was frost and loss of yields (and loss of revenue), whereas quality had in the end been pretty good. In 2011, however, grey rot infested the bunches, often internally, and it was thus not obvious on the outer surface of the bunches when they arrived at the press. As a consequence many unwittingly pressed bunches of rotten grapes. One of the few who saw the problem was Pierre Luneau-Papin, who took up station at the sorting table in order to break apart the arriving bunches, and discard those that were hiding rot.
That most did not do this became apparent in early 2012 when I had my first tasting of the vintage’s Muscadets. Almost everything I tasted was tainted by rot, either with the aromas and flavours of pourriture gris – that same disquieting taste when you unwittingly pop a half-rotten blackberry or grape into you mouth – or more ambiguous traits of undergrowth, soil, brown leaves and decay. It was the vintage in which the aromas and flavours of grey rot were cemented in my ‘taste memory’ forever; it was painful for the vignerons, but educational for me.