Loire bounces back with 2014 vintage

Loire producers have welcomed some “delicious” wines from 2014 and a promising start to the 2015 growing season as they seek to recover from the problematic 2013 and 2012 vintages.

Loire

Cabernet Franc about to flower in Saumur

“2014 was a fantastic vintage for our red wines,” Emmanuel Ogereau of Domaine Ogereau in Anjou told the drinks business during a trip to the region last week.

“There was rain all around the vineyard cycle so the vines didn’t get stressed – the problem with schist soil is that you can have some dry tannins,” he explained. “Then there was very nice weather in September and October so the grapes were ripe, didn’t have tough tannins and there is freshness on the palate.”

Philippe Vatan of Château du Hureau in Saumur-Champigny echoed this observation about the importance of the final stages of the 2014 growing season for this “very good vintage”.

Drawing a parallel with conditions in 1997, he remarked: “It was never going to be fantastic – the beginning of the year was very average – but the Cabernet Franc grapes ripened well in September to give fruity wines that are not too concentrated.”

As the vineyards in Saumur prepared to flower, Vatan was also positive about the early stages of 2015. “This spring is a dream,” he declared of the unusually dry conditions. “We have only done one spray of copper and sulphur against mildew and oidium and even the copper was not really necessary.”

Noting, “the whites are very good too,” Vatan highlighted the need for an improvement on both 2012 and 2013, when yields were so diminished that his estate was able to produce just one dry white cuvée rather than its usual two. “After 2012 and ‘13 it is progress in quality and quantity,” he concluded of the present outlook.

Despite the challenges posed by these two years in particular, Vatan tracked a shift in the management and perception of vintages in the Loire. Firstly, with a steady rise in the number of organic producers, he cited the co-owner of Burgundy’s Domaine de la Romanée Conti, remarking: “Aubert de Villaine said that now with bio, every vintage is interesting and I agree.”

In addition to this factor, Vatan pointed to a change in stylistic objective within the region, which has improved perceptions of a cooler vintage. “In the ‘90s we really liked maximum maturity, alcohol and sugar, but that’s completely changed now,” he commented.

Instead, Vatan observed: “We want to make very gentle wines with soft tannins and good fruit – for that you don’t need really fantastic weather.”

He also acknowledged the possible impact of climate change on fears over achieving sufficient ripeness. “Now a poor vintage is at 12° alcohol – when I started in 1980 it was 10°,” he concluded.

Although welcoming the quality of 2014 wines as “amazing, delicious”, Jérôme Billard of Domaine de Noblaie in Chinon highlighted the pressure still faced by producers as a result of the shortfall in the preceding two years.

Due to start bottling his 2014 wines in September, Billard remarked: “Because of 2012 and ‘13 we have not had enough wine for our customers so we’re trying to find a way to do the ageing properly but without losing our customers.”

 

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