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Harvest report 2011: The Loire Valley vintage

Harvest workers picking grapes, chenin blanc

Harvest workers picking grapes, chenin blanc, copyright BKWine Photography

The 2011 vintage in the Loire Valley seems promising. When we were there in early October the winemakers we met sounded very optimistic. However, it has been a year with extreme, or perhaps more accurately, very strange weather patterns.

The whites look very promising, both the dry and the sweet. The reds had an unexpected extra push towards ripeness thanks to the excellent September weather and look promising too.

We have just received a harvest report from InterLoire, the marketing organisation for Loire wines, which has quite a lot of interesting details. We publish it here in extenso.

For more on Loire wines you can visit their site: http://www.vinsdeloire.fr/SiteGP/FR/. Read their harvest report below! (It does not cover the “upper Loire” for which we will publish a separate report.)

Squeezing a ripe grape shows the clear flesh and juice

Squeezing a ripe grape shows the clear flesh and juice, copyright BKWine Photography

Loire 2011: A Vintage for Artistry

Summer in springtime, autumn in summer, a month of August at the end of September, the weather over the past six months has the winemakers’ heads spinning. But the harvest is over and the 2011 will be a better vintage than anyone dared hope. The wines of the Loire will meet the market’s demand for beautifully balanced fresh, fruity and food-friendly wines.

Weather to Make One’s Head Spin

The Chateau de Chinon

The Chateau de Chinon, copyright BKWine Photography

An exceptionally sunny spring led to expectations of an early harvest. The relative dryness meant leaves developed two to three weeks faster than usual and these conditions lasted until the formation of grape clusters in early July. Then a cold wet summer dampened spirits until an Indian summer in September sent barometers and hopers soaring and put a smile back on the growers faces, and allowed for excellent harvests

Harvests and Cellar Work for Artists

The weather conditions meant that winemakers have had to call on all their skills and senses to make the most of the vintage. For the wines that were harvested earliest, observation selection, sensitive and vinification were essential to realizing the full potential of the wines.

It will be a very good year for both dry and sweet white wines. For Rosé, the weather allowed for excellent sugar levels and color, while retaining the necessary acidity for fresh, balanced wines.

For the reds, which were harvested later, the harvest took place under bright sunlight that revealed un-hoped for ripeness and quality. The wines are now in being vinified are rich, sweet and richly colored.

Loire wines of 2011 will be epicurean, fresh and fruity.

Continued below.

Vineyards, view of landscape and the Loire river

Vineyards, view of landscape and the Loire river, copyright BKWine Photography

The 2011 Vintage by Region

In the Nantais Region

The harvest began on August 24. Once the selection process was done, blending became all-important. Thanks to a sunny spring, the producers are looking forward to excellent Muscadet with fresh aromas and excellent balance.

In Anjou- Saumur

Harvest began on August 23 for chardonnay.

For chenin blanc, quality will depend on the producer’s selection of parcels and harvest dates. The sparkling wines are showing subtle aromas with a less pronounced acidity than 2010. The beautiful weather just before harvest boded well for the sweet wines, and the dry whites will be characterized by elegance and finesse.

The Rosés (Cabernet d’Anjou and Rosé de Loire) will be straight forward with fresh aromas suggesting citrus peel.

As for the reds of Anjou and Saumur-Champigny, those harvested early will be light wines with aromas of fresh fruits. Those harvested later will show more jammy qualities.

In Touraine

Harvest started on August 25 for chardonnay and on August 30 for the earliest cabernet.

The white wines (Touraine, Vouvray, Montlouis-sur-Loire…) will show their varietal character expressed by fresh, lively, citrus aromas. The balance, at this point, shows less acidity than 2010. Maturation on the lees will likely add an impression of weight to the wines. Where harvest could wait, and where careful selection was done, there is potential for excellent sweet wines.

Red wines from gamay are showing a beautiful color and structure. Cabernet franc , pinot noir and cot (Touraine, Chinon, St Nicolas de Bourgueil) will be fruity and are already showing deep colour.

Bunches of ripe grapes, cabernet franc, in the vineyard

Bunches of ripe grapes, cabernet franc, in the vineyard, copyright BKWine Photography

About InterLoire

InterLoire (L’Interprofession des Vins d’Appellation de Loire), the third largest association of its kind in France, brings together the wine regions of the Pays Nantais, Anjou, Saumur and Touraine. There are 46 appellations with 43,000 hectares under vine. Members include 4000 growers, 15 cooperatives and 60 negociants, creating 30,000 jobs. They produce 2,200,000 hl, of which 20% is exported. 280 million bottles are sold each year, or 9 bottles each second

InterLoire’s mission is the promotion and advocacy of the wines of France’s third largest region for the production of AOC wines.

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