Les 5 du Vin

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2013 Loire vintage – the story so far

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Grapes in Savennières: 18.10.13. Mainly noble rot but without the concentration but equally without rotten flavours


Also in Savennières 18.10.12


Left on the vine in Savennières

« A difficult and complicated vintage » is a very common refrain from producers in 2013.

2013 is the second successive year where the Loire vignerons have been flayed by the weather, which has fully tested their mettle in the vineyards.

Since 2008 I have always spent at least three weeks in the Loire during the vintage as I think this is really essential. You get a real feel for how the harvest is rather than relying on reports from producers, merchants or PR companies. This year I have been able to spend five weeks here covering vineyards from the Fiefs Vendéens and the Pays Nantais through to Sancerre and Pouilly. So when I receive a preliminary 2013 Loire vintage report from Charles Sydney, a courtier en vin based in Chinon suggesting that everything is fine and enclosing a selection of photos of perfect grapes with not a sign of rot, I’m a little sceptical!

Although a difficult vintage it has been a fascinating one to follow and I think it has been really important to be in La Loire to see the vintage at first hand. It was only by being here that I could taste rotten grapes.


Cabernet Franc@Domaine de la Butte, Bourgueil

Rot has been a feature in 2013 from the Fiefs Vendéens and the Pays Nantais right the way through to Pouilly-sur-Loire, although its virulence varies very considerably from parcel to parcel. Also some varieties have resisted better than others. Cabernet Franc has generally stood up well, partly because until recently it wasn’t ripe. Curiously In the Central Vineyards it’s the Pinot Noir that was less affected by rot when normally it would be the Sauvignon Blanc. The good news is that through out. The Loire the rot tastes fine with no wrong flavours.

Another general feature of 2013 has been the low level of potential alcohol coupled with high acidity. It has not been that unusual for vignerons to report that their grapes are coming in at under 11˚.  On average the degrees have  been between 11˚-12˚ and it’s has been very rare for grape to come in at 13˚. Whereas over the last 15 years or more 13˚ has been common for the top domaines. Acidities this year are often between 6 and 7, where in previous years they have been between 5-6.

There is likely to be a big increase in the number of vignerons chaptalising at least some of their vats. This will include producers who have not enriched their musts for many years. Indeed for so long that they need help in filling in the necessary documentation. Of course this is good news for the beet farmers of Northern France who will be enjoying a bumper year and splashing out on new Mercedes and BMWs!

It is quite wrong think that 2013 is a complete disaster. There will be some good wines made but fewer than normal. Almost all the juice that I have tasted over the past four weeks or so has been promising – clean  with good fruit and length.

2013 is a vintage that throws into question the rather facile assumption that global warming was a good news story for the Loire. A very late flowering – just scraping into June – was not part of the script! Those thinking of ripping out their Cabernet Franc and replacing it with Grenache will need to think again!


What a difference a year can make! A bunch in Domaine des Baumard’s vines on the flatter ground above the terraces overlooking the River Layon

There remains the possibility that there could be some good sweet wines made in the Layon this year. Grapes in the Quarts de Chaume were looking promising last Friday. There is plenty of rot about all that is needed is some fine weather to concentrate the sugars and no rain. Time to cross fingers and toes!


Auteur : Les 5 du Vin

Journalistes en vin

11 réflexions sur “2013 Loire vintage – the story so far

  1. That’s what I was thinking until I came to the end of your piece : I’ll be looking for demi-sec in Vouvray-Montlouis 2013, for some Crémant elsewhere, for good straight forward Muscadet and perhaps for a few interesting reds from Chinon-Bourgueil for more than 50 years ! Thanks for this report. See you on the spot in February.


  2. Thanks Michel. Not sure that there will be very much demi-sec made this year in Vouvray and Montlouis. I think most of the production will be sec and base wine for sparkling.


  3. Ah well, that shows how difficult it was… 😉


    • Yes and also often small in quantity for many producers. Jacky Blot estimates that he is down by 250,000 bottles if you combine the reduction in 2012 and 2013.


  4. Hmmm. I think that’s the first time anyone’s actually accused me (however nicely) of lying…

    A couple of points :

    1 – My wife Philippa and I work as courtiers en vins, selling Loire wines on the export market, so yes, we do need to talk up the qualities of any vintage, but at the same time we need to point out the risks (hence three mentions of rot and various comments about the better producers) as we have a duty to our clients to tell them what is happening out here.

    2 – We have been living and working full time here in the Loire for the last 25 years. During harvest I spend 2 – 3 days a week in the vineyards, chewing grapes, talking to growers, tasting the juice and taking photos. (as I have the choice, I prefer to spend rainy days in the office and sunny days outside). I then spend 3 or 4 days a week for the next two months in the wineries, tasting the wines and working with the producers to help them make wines my customers will enjoy drinking.

    My preliminary report is a forecast – not a simple snapshot of the weather / grapes, but rather letting people know what sort of wines we’re likely to produce. As always, I’ll send out a more complete report once we’ve finished our main tastings.

    I can see no value in stressing the problems and posting photos of rotten bunches (especially when they’ve been left on the vine!).

    In your report, you state ‘Almost all the juice that I have tasted over the past four weeks or so has been promising – clean with good fruit and length.’ That corresponds to our experience this year – though evaluating ‘length’ of grape juice isn’t easy – and we have every expectation that our producers and the Loire in general will produce a wealth of tasty dry whites, from Muscadet through the Anjou and the Touraine on to Sancerre, Pouilly and etc.

    These dry whites represent around 90% of the Loire wines sold on the UK market, so we are happy to say this is a perfectly OK vintage

    Yes, Vouvray is a problem – but we knew that would be the case as soon as we saw the hail. The wines will be light and easy-going (not keepers), but in massively short supply. I only hope we can help keep the guys in business.

    Reds are now all in and the last pickings we saw were on the weekend, no less than 20 days after the last ‘courbes de maturité’ provided by Techniloire. Where the guys have run their vines properly, the grapes have reached a good maturity, acidity is down and we should have some pleasant wines to show.

    We’ve spent a lot of time over the years selecting growers we admire and trust and we are not interested in working with producers who are unwilling to adapt vineyard management and wine making to suit the conditions of the vintage and market. Our photos come from the vineyards of growers we work with.

    So, I repeat the base conclusion of our preliminary report : ‘2013 looks to be a perfectly normal (if slightly stressed-out) vintage.’

    Next time you’re out here, come and see us – we’d love to show you how we work.


      • I wasn’t accusing you of lying but it was my experience that there was rot throughout the valley, although we are agreed that it was rare that grapes or juice tasted on rot. I just did not think that your pictures of perfect grapes told the whole story. Had I chosen just to feature bunches containing rot that would also have failed to tell the full story. Jim


  5. Charles. Equally I largely visit producers I admire and whose wines I like. This includes a number of the people you work with. Like you I think there will be some perfectly drinkable and probably attractive wines made in the Loire in 2013 plus some nice surprises. However, I wouldn’t characterise it as a ‘perfectly normal vintage’ given that there are a number of fine producers who have not chaptalised in a decade but who will be doing so this year.


  6. Thanks for your replies.

    My pics were in part designed to rebalance things – as I said in my preliminary report. There’s been way way too much talk (and photos of) rot – and not enough emphasis on the fact that despite the obvious problems, there will be plenty of lovely wines this year.

    As for 2013 being a ‘perfectly normal (if slightly stressed-out) vintage’, I’d stick with that – it’s on the lines of ‘been there, done that’ – just think back to 2001, 2004, 2006, 2007 (except those fab chenins), 2008, 2011 and even 2012 with it’s seemingly endless rain at the end…. The guys have had rain, they’ve coped with rot, they’ve worked to prevent mildew and they’ve suffered hail – and each time they’ve learnt from their mistakes.

    I’ll say it again – there are going to be some really pretty wines from the Loire this year

    Whatever – my thanks for your continued support for the region – it’s much appreciated!


    • Charles – thanks.

      We agree that there are good grounds for thinking that there will be some attractive wines from 2013. I do, however, dispute that this has been a ‘normal’ vintage if only because the levels of acidity tend to be much higher than has been usual, while the sugar levels are well down on what growers have become accustomed to. More than one producer I visited said that their parents likened 2013 to some of the vintages in the 1960s and 1970s. It also may be unusual to have this level of rot without an apparent taste and equally little additional concentration.

      It will be interesting to see how the 2013s turn out.


      • Me again…

        I’ve just spent 4 weeks tasting dry white Loires, from Muscadet, through the Touraine, Sancerre and Pouilly and down into the murkier regions of the centre.

        As you note, given the lower sugar levels this year, I was expecting less-ripe wines with high acidity.

        BUT, big surprise. I’ve tasted about 25000 hectolitres of Muscadet, 30K hectos of Touraine and VdP sauvignon and 10000 hectos of Sancerre and Pouilly – that’s a lot of wine – and my hair didn’t stand on end (OK, maybe on a handful of vats), the enamel of my teeth didn’t crack – and at no time did I do an urgent dive into a supermarket for drinking yoghurt or even into the Ship for a Guinness.

        Those were the symptoms of 2008 and 2001 vintages – and this year the wines are clearly less acidic than in those years.

        On the whole, I was impressed (gobsmacked with some growers). The wines are generally attractively balanced, fruity and easy going.

        My only hesitation is that in some cases producers may have erred on the side of caution, fining or double settling juice which maybe didn’t need the extra care – so some wines may lack a little concentration…. but sooner that than rotten wines!

        2013 is looking to be a pretty vintage in the Loire.


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