Finally back in the Loire + 2021 vendange (part 1)
Part of Epeigné including the Mairie taken from top of l’Eglise
A little after 18.30 on Monday 27th September 2021 we came back to France, La Loire and Epeigné-les-Bois for the first time since 9th July 2020. This is our longest spell away from France for over 40 years. It is great to be back – great to be away from England, which has become an increasingly sad and insane country. Good to come to a country where buying petrol isn’t a problem and the shelves in the shops are full.
Our spell away was due to the second COVID lockdown. Thanks to be being double vaccinated we can come back even though the daily UK infection rate remains worryingly high with no-one in ‘Government’ appearing to care. Good to see here that wearing a mask in shops etc appears to be universal unlike England where the government has said you do as you wish so many people don’t bother to wear a mask in confined spaces.
We nearly didn’t get here as with the petrol supply crisis we only had 60 miles of petrol in our car and we needed 65 to get to the tunnel. Fortunately we have a hybrid motor so we got to the tunnel and through to France OK but it was nail-bitingly close!
As throughout almost all of France 2021 in the Loire is a very small harvest overall but it appears that there are wide variations – some parcels that weren’t hit by the April frosts or hail in the early summer or not badly affected by mildew have produced normal quantities of around 45 hl/ha. Other less fortunate plots have virtually no grapes or just 4 or 5 hl/ha.
On Tuesday afternoon I cycled over to Angé to see how Vincent Roussely’s 2021 harvest was going. Given the context of 2021 Vincent is reasonably happy. He started picked at the end of the week beginning 13th September. Yields vary between 18 – 25 hl/ha with potential alcohols ranging from 12.2 to 12.3. Vincent has now picked most of his grapes – Sauvignon Blanc, Arbois, Gamay, Pineau d’Aunis, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. He is now waiting for his Côt to ripen. Vincent stressed that although the quality is good, the grapes are quite fragile, so it was important to pick while the weather has been good.
Vincent thinks 2021 will be ready to drink young with an accent on the fruit with greater freshness than some recent vintages like 2018 – more typically Loire. He won’t be making his more long lasting wines that require more concentration.
The weather forecast at the beginning of October is not favourable with some heavy rain forecast for this weekend.
2021 in Muscadet Sèvre et Maine
Last Thursday (29th September) we headed to the Pays Nantais to visit a few vigneron in Muscaxdet Sèvre-et-Maine to see how the 2021 vintage is coming along. There is no doubt that overall that 2021 is a small harvest. However, there are considerable variations between producers and vineyard sites. Some unfortunate producers like Fred Niger (Domaine de l’Ecu) have made virtually nothing. Others in privileged sites have harvested up to 45 hl/ha. It depends on which sites escaped the succession of April frosts, various hail storms and didn’t see what grapes they had left devoured by mildew.
Pierre-Marie Luneau: « We are on the last lap – we’ll finish on Monday. We started on 16th September. Overall the yield is small – around 15 hl/ha but it is very variable. La Butte de la Roche wasn’t frosted so we got between 20-35 hl/ha. In contrast in other sites you have to really search to find any grapes. In our most affected parcel we got only 6 hl/ha. This year we have a much smaller team of pickers – just 17 whereas other years we have had a team of 60-70, so 2021 has been much more relaxed. Due to the recent fine weather the quality of the grapes that we do have is good with potential alcohols varying from 11.7 – 12.5. »
I made a quick visit to the Cathedral of Ecu (aka Domaine de l’Ecu). Early Setember 2019 was the last time I was in the commune of Le Landreau. The cathedral was then in construction. It is a magnificent winery but unfortunately Fred Niger has been very badly hit this year by a vicious combination of 11successive nights of April frosts, hail in June and mildew. The sad result is that he is only getting 5 hl/ha. Fred Niger: « This has been an annus horribilis plus!!
Hopefully nature will be kinder next year.
Jean-Jacques Bonnet: « My brother Rémi has now retired, so I am now in partnership with Vincent Pineau. With the exception of our Cabernet and Côt, which is not yet ripe, we will finish the harvest tomorrow (Friday). It has lasted 14 days. Our yields have been very variable: on the Butte de la Roche, which wasn’t frosted, the yield is 50 hl/ha. Our lowest yield is 10 hl/ha, while overall it is averaging out between 25/30 hl/ha. The frost in 2017 was worse for us because we now have some parcels with frost protection. Through the partnership with Vincent, we are fortunate in having vines in a number of different communes so the risks are spread. We are happy with the quality. The potential alcohols are between 11.5 and 12.5 with acidity between 4.5 and 5.5.
Vincent and François Lieubeau: « 2021 is better than we feared. We started picking on 16th September beginning with the young vines that were protected against the frost. Potential range between 11.5 to 12.2/12.3.
We have nearly finished – all the parcels that we pick by hand were finished on Tuesday night. For those parcels where we have frost protection we have a yield of 45 hl/ha. Our lowest yield for Melon de Bourgogne is 10 hl/ha with between 25/30 hl/ha for other grape varieties. We will be installing more anti-frost measures – it is the way forward. »