Sunday, 1 June 2014
2014 Loire vintage: reasonably OK so far
Going to Vitiloire yesterday gave me the chance to chat to a number of producers about how the vines were coming along this year, especially important as I haven't been in the Loire since early April. True I do get a daily email from Météo France giving me the five-day forecast. Very useful, of course, but not quite the same as being here.
When I left the Loire on 8th April the vines were very advanced and there was a real fear that just as in 2012 there would be a severe April frost. Although it was apparently touch and go around the Easter weekend, this year the Loire has very largely avoided spring frosts.
As everything was so advanced when I left in early April I quite thought that, just as in 2011, the fllowering would be over when I got back last Thursday. Not at all. Cold nights and some heavy rain during May has slowed everything down and the vines are yet to flower. Warm weather over this weekend is likely to bring on the flowering pretty quickly. Céline Sanzay (Domaine des Sanzay, Saumur) told me that the first signs of flowering were now appearing in Les Poyeux.
Hopefully the flowering will start fairly soon and have favourable weather – warm and dry so that it is over quickly and effectively without coulure, which is provoked by cold, wet weather. The Loire vignerons have had a frost-free April; now they want a successful flowering. There is potentially a good crop of Cabernet Franc, while the Chenin vines have fewer potential grapes and very irregularly distributed. Some plants have a good crop, while others have virtually nothing, so it will be particularly important that the weather is favourable when the Chenin is flowering.
Although many producers complained about heavy rain in May and consequent increased risk of attacks of mildew, this isn't really borne out by weather stats, at least in the area of Tours. Rainfall for May is a little up on the average – 70.2mm compared to a norm of 62.3mm but is a long way off 137.8mm – a record set in May 1985. Tours weather station recorded heavy rain on 1st May, 20th (14.1mm) and 21st (17.4mm) but 14 days without rain. The average daily maximum temperature at 17.5˚C is below the average of 19.1˚C but well above the lowest 14.5˚C in 1984.
To sum up – largely OK so far but need good weather for the flowering, after which the potential will be a little clearer.