Harvest Report: Loire 2013, preliminary

Harvest Report: Loire 2013, preliminary

Wednesday 23rd October 2013
by Julian Campbell

Loire specialist Charles Sydney recently sent us the following 2013 vintage report.  Charles and Philippa are not only stationed permanently in Chinon but also very close to many Loire growers. Their intel is therefore excellent….

The note of cautious optimism is a welcome relief. It seems 2013 in the Loire will go down as another tricky, but ultimately successful vintage (for those that put the work in)… 

Apologies in advance for the long message - there's too much panic out there and we wanted to put some perspective on things.

Looking out the window at the moment, Phil and I are wondering whether to wander down to the Anjou to watch the picking today, or to leave it till tomorrow. It's misty, there was some rain yesterday (sunshine too) but the forecast is fine. Which sort of sums up the 4 weeks since harvest started here. That's obviously not perfect - but it's also nothing new.

2013 looks to be a perfectly normal (if slightly stressed-out) vintage.

Muscadet : started end September, the guys got hit by some rain beforehand, but in some sectors they needed it. Combined with warm weather, that meant a risk of rot, so it was time to pick.

Where the vines had been properly looked after, that was fine, even if we'd have liked slightly higher degrees. Better still in vineyards that had been grassed through, as the moisture went to the grass and the grapes were clearly riper and healthier.

By the end, the guys were happy to finish, fining some vats to eliminate any potential off flavours. In general, after a good cold settling the juice was tasting fine and the wines should be pretty good!

Sauvignon : started right at the beginning of October, with the same sort of conditions as in Muscadet - basically, if the grower looked after his vines, the harvest is fine, with reasonable degrees and balanced acidity. Again, there's more ripeness with growers prepared to grass through their vines or to cut out (as chez Jacky Marteau) any unripe or rotten bunches.

Also as in Muscadet, there was some rot so producers had to be particularly careful with the juice (inerting vats, fining the juice), but we've tasted enough grapes and enough vats of juice to be happy that the wines will be classically fresh and grassy.

Up in Sancerre and Pouilly, picking generally started a week later - around the 7th - and we're not
convinced they would gain anything by waiting.

Here you'll really see the difference between growers, with special benefits coming with growers who grassed through their vines and who were prepared to 'tri' the grapes either in the vineyards or in the cellar. 

Chinon and the reds : Some people have started picking, harvesting machines were out yesterday. They run the vineyards to get the best possible ripeness in a late vintage - grassed through vines, de-budding to keep bunches apart, high foliage for maximum photosynthesis, de-leafing around the bunches.... we've been there before!

These growers have no need to panic - the grapes are healthy and ripening gently. This won't be a hyper-ripe 2009, but, well, more anon!!!

Chenin blanc : No idea yet - apart from seeing some first pickings to bring in some 'baby' moelleux with a potential of 18° and others to clean up the harvest to let the grapes ripen more.

With a bit of luck, we should see some pretty good dry chenins and maybe some moelleux, but that's guess work. we're off to see the grapes now (the mist has lifted) and we're off to Vouvray and Montlouis tomorrow.

More anon!!!

Charles and Phil

PS cliché time.... looks like this is (yet another) année de vigneron...