Two producers have declared a total of 89 hectolitres of Quarts de Chaume 2012 to French Customs. The two producers are Château de Variere (Jacques and Anne Beaujeau) and Domaine des Baumard. On Monday afternoon at the Salon des Vins de Loire (4th February 2013) I tasted with Anne Beaujeau their 2012 Quarts de Chaume. Anne told me that this was picked on one day (8th November) and that they have declared 10 hectolitres from their 1.25 - 1.3 hectares of Quarts de Chaume.
Therefore Florent Baumard will have declared between 77 and 79 hectolitres of 2012 Quarts de Chaume from five hectares of vines. I understand that only four hectares may actually qualify as Quarts de Chaume because some of the vines do not meet the appellation's rules regarding spacing in the vineyard. If it is four hectares Florent has declared just under the maximum of 20 hectolitres per hectare permitted under the rules of the Quarts de Chaume decret of 22nd November 2011. Five hectares gives a yield of fractionally under 16 hectolitres per hectare - an impossibility for grapes picked in October 2012. Even if Florent delayed picking until the end of November achieving such a yield that met the appellation's rigorous criteria would have been highly improbable.
Unfortunately in October conditions went downhill in spectacular fashion. In August 2012 the meteorological station of Beaucouzé, a western suburb of Angers, recorded 16.4 mm of rain (average over the past 30 years is 41.3mm) and in September 36.8mm compared to an average of 55mm. These two dry months were followed by record rainfall in October when 202mm fell. (All of the weather stats in this post are from Beaucouzé courtesy of the excellent Meteo France site: http://climat.meteofrance.com/chgt_climat2/climat_france. Obviously stats, if they were available, from the Quarts de Chaume would not be identical but would not be significantly different as the vineyard is a little less than 20 kilometres due south of Beaucouzé).
Last year I was in Anjou for part of 8th October, all day of the 9th and left for the UK on the 10th. Late afternoon (8th) we drove from Doué-la-Fontaine in pouring rain. During the 9th there was intermittent rain with very humid conditions – ideal weather for mushrooms! That day we saw plenty of mousserons springing up in the vineyards of Anjou.
On the afternoon of 9th October 2012 I spent an hour (approximately 14.30 - 15.30) in the Quarts de Chaume looking at and taking photos of the vines. It was obvious that the grapes in Quarts de Chaume plots were some way off being at the necessary minimum of 18.5˚ potential. I took photos of the Baumard vines both in their plateau plot, which is just to the north of their terraces, which overlook the Layon and in the terraces amongst the vignes larges. It was clear that Baumard’s vines were as usual generously laden and you would have struggled to make dry white wine without resorting to chaptalisation with a significant proportion of the grapes.
Between 16th-23rd October 2012 a further 101 mm (3.98 inches) of rain was recorded at Beaucouzé. There was also little sunshine – 23 hours from 15th-27th October and none between 17th-22nd October. Over that period (15th-27th) the temperature averaged 15.06˚C. Florent Baumard’s second and final picking was on or before 27th October with 25th being the most likely date. Unless Baumard’s parcel of vines in the Quarts de Chaume is blessed with a quite extraordinary and unique microclimate, there is no possibility that Domaine des Baumard’s 2012 Quarts de Chaume has met the minimum legal requirements. The photos demonstrate that it can only have been produced by using cryoextraction and this is confirmed by an unimpeachable and well–placed source.
However, the grapes still have to reach the required degree of surmaturité on the vine before they qualify as Quarts de Chaume:
'Quarts de Chaume: Cahier des Charges 22.11.2011
Although overall the grapes need to have a minimum of 18% potential alcohol, they have to be at 18.5% potential for every picking sweep (chaque passage) through the vines. As Florent and Jean Baumard are mounting a challenging the Quarts de Chaume décret in France’s supreme court (Conseil d’Etat), they are surely well aware of that the décret does not permit grapes destined for the Quarts de Chaume to be picked below these minimum requirements and then boosted by cryoextraction.
There is another benefit to cryoextraction it removes the taste of rot – a very useful attribute in 2012!
A few other producers did attempt to pick grapes for Quarts de Chaume. On 31st October following a respite from the rain – only 1mm fell from 24th-30th Yves and Anne Guegniard of Domaine de la Bergerie tried without success. They have 1.36 hectares and harvested 4 hls with a potential alcohol of 16.2%. This has gone into their only cuvée of 2012 Coteaux du Layon. The same day Claude Papin (Château Pierre-Bise) picked 80% of his crop from their 2.97 ha at 18.2% potential – again too low to meet the minimum degree and will go into a lesser cuvée. Papin picked the remaining 20% (3.2hl) around 25th November when the potential reached 24%. In all he made 16hls here – none has been declared as Quarts de Chaume. Both of these producers habitually have very substantially lower yields than Domaine des Baumard.
I also took some pictures of vines from other producers in the Quarts de Chaume. Although considerably riper than the majority of Baumard's grapes, it was clear that none of these grapes were ready to be picked and this is before the heaviest of the rain of October 2012.
I have no doubt that the 2012 ‘Quarts de Chaume’ from Domaine des Baumard will taste good – Florent Baumard is clearly a very competent technician. There will be some that say it is the taste rather than the appellation rules that are important. This is like saying that passing off a cheap watch as a Rolex is fine providing it tells the time. Obvious nonsense!
Before posting I invited Florent Baumard to respond which he did:
Vous êtes manifestement inconscient de l'inconvenance de votre démarche et du ton que vous employez.
Rather than declassify his 2012 ‘Quarts de Chaume’ Florent Baumard appears to be determined to brazen it out. In which case the INAO and the Repression des Fraudes should ensure that the 2012 ‘Quarts de Chaume’ Domaine des Baumard is declassified and sold as Vin de France assuming that industrial ice wine can be sold under this label.