‘Record year’ for Centre Loire
The 2018 vintage marked a “record year” for the Centre Loire region, marked by extremes of weather in what is a “sun-driven vintage”.
The growing season started with heavy rain throughout the winter and early spring.
There was a brief respite in February followed by near freezing conditions in early March but by April the weather had turned and with the warmer conditions came bud break.
In fact the weather in April was much hotter than usual, with 21 April being the hottest April day on record, and the vines quickly caught up the time lost in the miserable start to the year.
Cooler days at the end of April brought back fears of another crippling frost the likes of which had been felt all too dearly in 2017 and 2016 but none materialised.
May however saw a return of the rains and with it mildew pressure though these were largely contained. After a rainy month (indeed rainfall in 2018 was very high with the annual average already reached by the end of May) flowering began in June in time for the long and hot summer, which was the hottest since 2003.
This in turn caused a drought but it also killed off any remaining mildew. Temperatures were cooler towards the end of the summer and while some younger vines were showing signs of heat stress the heavy rains meant most of the vines had enough water to see them through.
The high temperatures caused a reduction in the level of malic acid in the grapes and sugar levels were very high.
Harvesting began with Pinot Gris in Reuilly at the end of August and picking of red varieties generally began around 5 September with many having to hurry as the continuing warm weather (28° to 29°C at times) was causing some berries to shrivel. The Sauvignon Blanc harvest began on 10 September.
Initial impressions are good with ripe and intensely flavoured wines, the whites with a quite exotic profile and the reds with soft tannins and red fruit.