Today we are heading back to London after nearly five weeks in the Loire with much of this spent travelling up and down the Loire following the 2015 vintage.
Given the number of different styles of wine made in the Loire and the long duration of the Loire’s harvest, it is always difficult and dangerous to generalise about Loire vintages.
However, it seems apparent that 2015 is generally a good to very good vintage, although probably not as stellar as hoped at the beginning of August.
Certainly the marked fluctuations in the weather tested producers’ nerves. Rain during flowering for some varieties caused loss through coulure. Then the very dry weather of June and July initially provoked delight but as the dry, hot weather continued drought became a concern. By August vignerons were looking for a couple of periods of light rain. Unfortunately nature, as so often, over compensated and there was some heavy rain in late August that caused problems in Muscadet, provoking rot in the Melon de Bourgogne. The Pays Nantais probably had the most difficult conditions in 2015.
Picking of early varieties like Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay started in the Cher Valley right at the end of August. Most of Touraine’s Sauvignon was picked in good conditions during the first part of September. Yields were lower than hoped for due to coulure and the heat and drought of June and July.
The fine start to September around 12th with a week of frequently torrential rain – in places like Bourgueil recording over 100mm during this period. Fortunately this was followed by a period of settled fine weather with a drying wind from the north-east. The Cabernet Franc appeared to stand up well to this dowsing
During this time most of the grapes in Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil and Bourgueil were picked.
This fine spell came to and end with further heavy rain between 4th and 6th October. Tours recorded 28.5mm on the 5th. Since then it has been dry with some good sunny days but also some cool, overcast days. This has allowed Chinon and Saumur to pick their Cabernet Franc and remaining parcels of Chenin Blanc in favourable weather. The same has gone for Anjou
Further east Sancerre and Pouilly and the Central Vineyards have had another good vintage with the Pinot Noir deemed to be particularly successful. Volume is a little down but this is hardly catastrophic after last year’s bumper harvest and avoiding the frost of late April 2012 that hit vineyards further west.
The current fine spell is raising hopes of some fine sweet wines in Anjou for those prepared to wait and truly pick selectively.
It may well prove in time to be fascinating to compare 2014 with 2015.