With volumes up by 7% on the 5-year average, 2015’s harvests are giving Loire winegrowers plenty to smile about. Whites – both dry and sparkling – are distinctive for their elegance and finesse, and the sweet whites are also likely to fare exceptionally well. Reds and rosés are looking smooth, well rounded and brimful of fresh fruit.
PAYS NANTAIS – elegantly balanced
Making the most of a coolish, stable period in terms of weather, picking continued throughout September. Melon grapes showed slightly reduced levels of alcohol, but made up for it with their elegant, expressive flavours. Meanwhile, after three years of low harvests, 2015’s Muscadet crop yields complied with specifications. Initial tastings lead us to predict that this year’s Muscadets will be elegant and full of finesse, with a palette of citrus fruit and floral notes.
ANJOU-SAUMUR – the rich fruity flavours of a great vintage
The Ban des Vendanges signalled the start of harvesting on September 10th for the Crémants, while the last passes in the Quarts-de-Chaume vineyards took place on September 30th. For Chenin, both quality and quantity were excellent – fruit was ripe and healthy and acidity was low, especially given the prevailing climate. Grapes were able to ripen almost to their maximum, and are well concentrated with excellent balance on the palate – worthy of one of the great vintages. In Anjou and Saumur, the year’s reds are tending to be light and fruity. With some harvests not finishing until October 15th, grapes have been given time to ripen to their peak in certain areas – notably Anjou-Villages-Brissac – giving some very appealing aromatic profiles. Harvests of Cabernet for the rosés finished in mid-October; the result is a very elegant product with a beautifully rich aromatic profile. The Grolleau and Gamay-based Rosé-de-Loire and Rosé-d’Anjou are lighter and more ethereal than last year. In terms of quantity, the harvest is well within the five-year average.
TOURAINE – concentrated whites and flavoursome reds
In Touraine, most Sauvignons were picked during the week commencing September 7th. Yields are relatively low following the very dry period towards the end of spring and the subsequent fragility of the flowers. In spite of this poor start, ripeness was well advanced, leaving a notable sensation of freshness. The same goes for Chenins, whose delicious ripeness will be underpinned by 2015’s hallmark lemony citrus flavours. Harvesting in Chinon took place between September 25th and October 10th. Cabernets Francs are looking smooth and rounded – classic Loire Valley wines. In Loir-et-Cher, 2015 looks like a remarkable year for Côt; Côt wines are set to be quite outstanding, full of violet and blackcurrant flavours. Rosé grapes stayed on the vine until very ripe, although yields are very evidently lower than average. Cuvées are currently showing flavours of very ripe red fruit and cooked strawberries.
SWEET WINES – 2015’s success story
Sweet wines are this year’s success story. Late September rainfall had no ill effects, thanks largely to an easterly wind which persisted over 4 or 5 days, helping to keep humidity at bay. Noble rot then calmly set in, concentrating the sweet flavours. The first sweet wine grapes were picked at the start of October in Vouvray and mid-October in Coteaux-du-Layon. Initial calculations after the first Coteaux-du-Layon harvests showed potential alcohol levels of 15-16%; in subsequent passes, levels rose to 18-20%. Final passes in Quarts-de-Chaume and Bonnezeaux showed potential alcohol levels of 23%, indicating the highest sugar content since 2010. Overall, it has been a very good year for sweet wines both in terms of both quality and quantity. Anticipated yields have been achieved in all except the Vouvrillon area. The first wines are showing good elegance of flavour, while the sweet Vins de Tris have a rich palette of flavours including candied fruit, quince and honey. Add to this a satisfying vein of acidity - and the result is admirable balance.
SPARKLING WINES: elegantly structured
Blending is unlikely to pose any problems this year: quality is even across all varietals. Chardonnay, which always flourishes in high-yield years, shows excellent aromatic expression with well-integrated acidity, and is elegant, crisp and full of subtle flavour. Chenins too are showing good backbone, and are precise without being too green. The first blends display a classic Loire personality, being fresh, aromatic and well-structured. Here’s to some very elegant sparkling 2015s!