The vintage was magnificent throughout the entire length of the Loire, from Nantes to Tours. The Loire 2009 vintage confirmed that the magic of years ending in “9” continues.
Muscadet harvesting got underway on 14 September, the classic start-date, and after two low-yielding harvests (in 2007 and 2008) happier times returned. “The vintage was of exceptionally good quality,” commented Denis Rolandeau, Vice President of InterLoire.
These superb results were thanks to favourable weather conditions. Spring was warm without any untimely frosts, meaning that grape bunches were able to develop well by the end of May/beginning of June. After a few worrying moments in July, when the condition of the vines was threatened by heavy rain, very welcome sunshine returned at the end of the month and continued into August.
“Overall we benefited from a beautiful Indian summer in September, when there was lots of sunshine without excessive heat. This meant that the acidity in the grapes was held at 4 grams but fruit could also develop a high sugar level,” commented Joël Forgeau, president of SDAOC (Syndicat de Défense des AOC Muscadet). Rain on 17 September even allowed the most patient pickers to catch up with any water deficit and to harvest grapes at top quality.
As fruit was extremely mature, its skin developed golden glints. Wines were characterised by aromas of pears and citrus fruit, they had good body, minerality and long length. “Balanced” and “round” were the key words of the season. Already very supple when produced, they were ready to drink on their release during December. “We also had some excellent wines for ageing, similar to those from the 1989 vintage,” said Denis Rolandeau. “2009 has become the third beautiful wine of the decade, the other two being the good but atypical 2003 and the high ranking 2005.”
After the difficult economic period of the last two years this positive news is very welcome. In Muscadet, the principal appellation in the Pays Nantais, the low volume harvest in 2007 and especially in 2008 meant that there was a reduction in stock and an increase in price which caused an in-balance. Thanks to the year’s favourable conditions, Muscadet was back in the shops with top quality wines and an attractive price of at least 4.50 Euros for Muscadet and Muscadet sur Lie, and around 7-9 Euros for more precise terroirs e.g. Gorgeois, granite from Clisson, rubis from Sanguèze, schist from Goulaine. InterLoire President, Patrice Laurendeau was confident: “In France the appellation should regain 90% of its market share this year,” he said.
Anjou and Saumur
Water stress, due to prolonged sunshine, meant that the red grapes had thick skins and marked tannins. In order to obtain perfect maturity, winemakers had to be patient until the end of September before harvesting Grolleau and until 2 October for Cabernet Sauvignon. Cabernet Franc also achieved good maturity, particularly from clay soils, where wines were very supple with red fruit notes (strawberries, redcurrants and cherries) and black fruits (blackberries) and pungent aromas such as liquorice and violet.
In Anjou, rosé wines were very fruity and had the beautiful citrus fruit notes that are indispensable for this type of lively, fresh wine. The soft rosés, like Cabernet d’Anjou, were reminiscent of citrus fruits (grapefruit) and red fruits (strawberries). The majority were vinified by pressing rather than the saignée method in order to conserve fruit aromas.
The Chardonnays and Chenins, in particularl, benefited from a good end of season. They were very pure, without synthetic flavours and had a marked mineral note.
For the sweet Layon wines, it was a beautiful vintage.
Vice President of InterLoire, Benoît Gautier, declared: “During the last 29 years of my working life, I have never seen such high quality! The acidity was perfect, there wasn’t any trace of rot and no berries were split. It was miraculous!”
The weather was good throughout the season, the only dampeners being two hail-storms in the Cher Valley which damaged 300ha of vines. The Sauvignons in other areas benefited from more clement weather than in 2007 and 2008, resulting in high quality, fruity wines without heavy alcohol. Many had the intense aromas of mango.
Most importantly, the 2009 vintage was particularly favourable for Chenins. In Vouvray and Montlouis, all types of wines – sparkling, dry and sweet – had volume and finesse and many developed very exotic pineapple notes. Winemakers were able to take their time and pass through the vines a number of times carrying out several tries in order to pick grapes at their apogee. These excellent conditions meant that sweet wines were made from higher quality shrivelled, rather than botrytis affected, grapes. The wines therefore quickly evoked the glorious years of the 1990’s.
Sparkling wines neared maximum production levels but kept their quality. “The organoleptic profile was close to 2005, but with the fruit flavours of 2006 and a mineral quality as well,” explained Benoît Gautier.
The Gamays were also spectacular. There were some concerns due to a rainy period at the beginning of September, however winemakers were reassured by the fruitiness and the roundness of the first wines produced.
In the Cher, the Côts produced well-coloured, round, seductive and meaty wines with a higher than average alcoholic potential and a good balance between elegance and freshness.
Only the Cabernet Sauvignons grown on gravel soils slightly suffered from a lack of water, but they also made the grade at the end as high afternoon temperatures helped fruit slowly evolve and ripen fully. The wines have a profile close to that of 1990 which was a textbook vintage.
Fresh, fruity and delicious, the rosé wines were a particular triumph.
Economically prices were stable and releases progressed in Vouvray and Montlouis. These wines were able to build on their existing good reputation in their established foreign markets, namely Great Britain and the United States.
Sauvignon Blanc from Touraine continued on its road to greater consistency of quality. Significant progress was made thanks to the work carried about by consultant and Master of Wine, Sam Harrop.
The red wine market appeared to be stable although primeur wines are slowly disappearing.
The 2009 vintage was full of promise for Loire wines. However, the strong Euro was a disadvantage for exports to countries with pounds sterling and the dollar. In these markets, InterLoire emphasised Touraine Sauvignon Blanc, Rosé d’Anjou and Muscadet. The immense bonus for the region is that they can offer wines with exceptional quality at less than 10 Euros, across all segments - whites, reds, roses, sparkling and sweet wines. No doubt for this exceptional vintage they will all be showing their best!