With us already accelerating into 2014 – seven days in already – I think I can still just about get away with a look ahead into the year’s events and share a few hopes.
I’ll start with the hope that wine producers in the Loire as well as Burgundy and other parts of northern France will be treated more kindly by the elements than they were in 2012 and 2013. Although it would be good to have a high quality vintage, it is crucial that the Loire has a decent sized crop this year. After two very short harvests, I have no doubt that another very small crop may well drive a significant number of producers out of business.
At the end of October Jacky Blot (Bourgueil and Montlouis) told me that due to these two very small harvests he is down 250,000 bottles. Although I’m confident that he can survive such as financial shock, this substantial shortfall will be a brake on investment. For example, fewer posts and less wiring will be replaced in his vineyards.
Unfortunately years ending in 4 have rarely proved to be great vintages in the Loire. More often they have been of below average quality. 1964 was the last really good vintage, being particularly special and now legendary in Chinon. Since then 1974, 1984 and 1994 were far from memorable, although 2004 was decent it was overshadowed by the better and more attractive 2003, 2005 and 2006. There have been, however, now some nice surprises from 2004.
Going back from 1964, 54 is described in the list of Chinon vintages from 1889 to 2020, kindly provided by Pierre Couly as ‘année médiocre’, 44 as ‘vin moyen’, while 1934 was a ‘très bonne recolte – quantité, qualité, (http://jimsloire.blogspot.co.uk/p/chinon-vintages-1889-2002-details-from.html). I can confirm that 1934 was a fine vintage as this was the year that opened the fascinating tasting of Chinons with the still very drinkable René Couly (http://jimsloire.blogspot.co.uk/2011/09/1934-rene-couly-presque-prete-boire.html). Unfortunately 1924 is a typical 4 described in Chinon as a ‘mauvaise année, petit vin’ – however, it was good in Vouvray. 1914 and 1904 are good years – ‘bon vin de bouteille’ but with 1894 returning to type – ‘vin ordinaire’.
Although history suggests that 2014 will not be special, let’s hope that 2014 turns out to be the first excellent 4 vintage for 50 years!
At the end of January I will be in Montpellier for Millésime Bio, which is always a pleasure. This year I will have the full three days at this organic wine fair unlike 2013 when I could only manage one. I like the simple format with everyone having the same sized table, so none of the bling you find at fairs like Vinexpo.
From Montpellier it is straight to Angers for the tastings that precede the 28th edition of the Salon des Vins de Loire opens on 3rd February. I will be going to the Renaissance tasting at the Greniers St Jean on the Saturday and then to La Dive Bouteille on the Sunday, which this year will be held at the Ackerman cellars in Saint-Hilaire-Saint-Florent. The previous venue was in the freezing caves of Château de Brézé, so the 2014 edition should see a considerable reduction in the cases of hypothermia.
The Salon des Vins de Loire will see all members of Les 5 du Vin together for the first time since our memorable weekend in Bourgueil in early June 2012. This year Marc Vanhellemont is vying to become the four member of our quintet to win the Wine Blog Trophy (http://www.wineblogtrophy.com/). A relatively late entrant Marc is currently in third place in the popular vote with his post on Cabernet Franc. (http://www.wineblogtrophy.com/Users/Bloggers-2013)
Early March will see Olivier Cousin up before the beak in Angers on 5th. Whether this absurd long-running affair will come to a conclusion that day is anyone’s guess. It will surely once again create a considerable stir. Last weekend France Inter broadcast an excellent programme on Olivier Cousin: http://www.franceinter.fr/emission-interception-le-vin-qui-ne-peut-pas-dire-son-nom
I’m not a great fan of large wine fairs, so won’t be going to Prowein in late March, although it is the one large fair that I would consider attending. Dusseldorf, however, is less attractive at anytime of the year than the Loire even in March. I expect Prowein will once again a record number of visitors edging it ever closer to overtaking VinExpo (Bordeaux) as the world’s most important wine fair.
I will, however, be at the Real Wine Fair in London on 13th and 14th April. This is the first of the two annual ‘natural’ wine fairs held in London. The second – RAW – will be on 18th and 19th May. Although ‘natural’ wine continues to stir debate and has no formal definition, I’m sure these two fairs will again attract a substantial number of highly enthusiastic wine drinkers. The first day of each fair is open to the public, while the second days are reserved for the trade.
In June I’m contemplating a charitable stroll on une petite reine down the length of the Loire – more details shortly.
For the 2014 Bourgueillothérapie in September at the Café de la Promenade (Bourgueil), I should have an exhibition of Loire photos with the profits going to this year’s chosen charity.
By this time I hope we will be in the middle of a fine Loire vintage!