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Loire 2022: Winter Weather & Spring Frosts

I would usually begin my canter through the growing season with a cursory nod towards the winter weather, important because this is when water tables are topped up, and the freezing cold has the power to kill off bugs and pests as they overwinter among the vines. For 2022, however, the story of the vintage begins much earlier, in the spring of 2021. Not for the first time and, I suspect, not for the last.

The 2021 season kicked off with two closely associated periods of frost, with sub-zero temperatures recorded between April 4th and 8th, and then again between April 12th and 16th. The damage was for many significant, with once again the Nantais was worst hit. Many in the various Muscadet appellations lost between 50% and 70% of their crop, while vignerons positioned upstream, in Anjou, Saumur, Touraine and beyond, also suffered some losses.

The most immediately apparent impact of frost is damage to the new buds and leaves, reducing the vine’s crop, slashing yields. But it also has downstream effects which only become apparent the following season, as frosted vines like to compensate for a small harvest one year with a large one the next. As a consequence the vines of the Loire Valley entered the 2022 season bursting with unspent 2021 potential, with an over-abundance of microscopic inflorescences buried deep within this year’s buds. This is a key point in the story of 2022, as it is one of several factors which together explain why, despite a difficult start to the season, many vignerons had close-to-normal, normal or even higher yields than they expected this year.

Even though the 2022 vintage was, like 2021, also blighted by frost.

Winter

The weather during winter was relatively dry, and groundwater levels remained on the low side. January was cooler than expected, but in February and March the temperatures began to climb, with both months warmer than the thirty-year average. When you bear in mind the fact that the French Météo service now uses the years from 1991 to 2020 to calculate this average, thirty years which were on the whole very warm (2003 and 2011 having been joined by 2018, 2019 and 2020, among others), rather than the cooler years of the 1980s or 1970s (when I first started writing harvest reports the thirty-year average was based on the years 1971 to 2000), for any temperature to be ‘above average’ is noteworthy.

Loire 2022

These super-warm temperatures had one obvious and predictable effect on the vines, nudging them into an early budbreak.

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