of the Quarts de Chaume Grand Cru
the end of the drought from 21st September
On Tuesday 15th October we headed across to Anjou for a quick look at how the 2019 vintage had gone here. The essential message is that the quality is good as elsewhere in the Loire but quantities are severely down due to a combination of factors starting with frost on 4th April, difficult conditions during part of flowering, drought and several summer heat spikes.
We arrived in Anjou in time to have a leisurely picnic in the Quarts de Chaume. Quite a lot of the grapes here had already been picked. Given that a significant proportion of the grapes here are now vinified dry it was impossible to tell. Furthermore it may not be easy to make good Quarts de Chaume and other Anjou sweet wines this year as the drought here broke on 21st September – figures from the Met station at Beaucouze (Angers). Overall rainfall in September 2019 was 50.5 mm mostly falling in the last 9 days of the month. For October the current total is 83 mm (up to 27th October) above the average 71.8 mm. Admittedly readings in the Quarts de Chaume do not necessarily mirror those at Beaucouze. However, mushrooms in the vineyard tells its own tale.
2019 is last year that cryo-extraction is permitted in Quarts de Chaume Grand Cru. I noted that all of Domaine des Baumard's grapes had been picked. It will be interesting to see whether the strategy of Domaine des Baumard changes with cryo-extraction ruled out. Will they, perhaps, follow other domaines who are increasingly making dry Chenin here? It might also be worth keeping an eye on ebay or Gumtree for a cryoextraction facility going cheap .........
Comments from Anjou producers (15th October 2019):
Réné Papin, Château Pierre-Bise, Beaulieu-sur-Layon
"We started on 23rd September picking for our Crémant. We have now finished the dry whites. Quality is good but quantities are catastrophic due to frost on 4th and 25th April as well as the drought and the summer heat spikes. We started the reds at the end of September and finished last week. The grapes that remain are nicely mature but volume is well down. Yesterday we did a first sweep through the vines for the sweet wines – recording a potential of 21.3 degrees in Les Rouannières, which was pleasing but there will be less sweet wine this year.
Adrien Moreau, Domaine Belargus, Saint-Lambert-du-Lattay
"We have finished. There will be just dry whites this year no sweet wines. We picked Les Treilles (the famous steep vineyard on the north side of the Layon that overlooks the river) in two tris in mid-September."
As well as trying some of the promising fermenting 2019s I also tried a few of the 2018s that had just been bottled – again they showed their potential with Les Gaudrets, Savennières showing particularly well. Les Gaudrets is a small parcel above the village of Savennières in the eastern part of the appellation. The 2018 Ronceray dry Chenin from Quarts de Chaume I found less expressive at present with a tight finish – just needs some time.
Emmanuel Ogereau, Domaine Ogereau, Saint-Lambert-du-Lattay
Again a similar message: "Quality – yes; quantity – no. We started on 13th September in Savennières, on the parcellaires on 16th September and finished the harvest on Friday 5th October. We haven't made any sweet wine this year and no Côte de la Houssaye (Cabernet Sauvignon) which was badly hit by frost on 6th May. Yields are low, especially for the whites – our Chenin is at 15 hl/ha. The reds are better 30/35 hl/ha, so overall we are at around 20 hl/ha."
Marie Guégniard , Domaine de la Bergerie, Champ sur Layon
"We have finished – having started on Monday 16th September and finished on 7th October. The quality is good but volume is small – 20 hl/ha. We have made any sweet wine this year instead making more dry white. For the whites the potential alcohol degrees are quite high but have good acidity – more than last year. The reds are less structured than the 2018s.
Eddy Oosterlinck, Domaine de Juchepie, Faye-d'Anjou
"We started on 22nd September with the sec with potential degrees up to 14.5% but some lower between 13-13.5%. We have started our selective picking for the sweet wines. Saturday's grapes were between 18.5%-19% and yesterday (14.10.19) was up to 20%. However, we are now waiting a week as it has rained quite a bit. Quantities are down by 20%, so a yield of around 16 hl/ha."
As with the other producers Eddy was happy with the quality.
The following day we dropped in on a couple of Chinon producers – Jérôme Billard (Domaine de la Noblaie) and Francis Jourdan and Philippe Pichard (Domaine Jourdan).
"We started picking our Chenin on 23rd September finishing on 26th. Potential alcohols are between 12.75 and 13.7 with acidity varying between 5.15 and 6.45 – good acidity levels. Our yields are around 43 hl/ha. We picked grapes for our Rosé on 27th September. For our reds some of our Cabernet Franc benefitted from the start of the rains making the skins softer and less thick. Yields for our grands terroirs are around 23-26 hl/ha. Elsewhere they are up to 45 hl/ha - 55 hl/ha.
Our yields were affected by the cold and wet conditions at the beginning of June that caused some of our fruit not to set properly. Maximum temperatures in early June were only 14˚C but from the 15th they were at least 25˚C."
The end of June saw a sharp heat spike with temperatures hitting around 40˚C.
Philippe Pichard and Francis Jourdan
Philippe: "We started picking on 30th September and finished on 9th. Our yields are correct – between 40 and 45 hl/ha. The wines are deep coloured. We were affected by the drought but our grapes weren't frazzled by the sun. The grapes were small but with a surprising amount of juice."
Francis (president of the Chinon Appellation): "The harvest has gone well despite volume being down by 50% due to the frost (25%) and 25% because of the drought. Savigny en Véron was particularly affected by the drought. Here is the soils are very sandy and do not retain water. Overall yield vary from 20 hl/ha to 45 hl/ha."
We also dropped into Baudry-Dutour but both Christophe Baudry and Jean-Martin Dutour were absent.
of Panzoult (Appellation Chinon)
(above and below)
Le Pot de Lapin (Saumur)
We have long been fans of Le Pot de Lapin. If I remember rightly we first went there in 2005 soon after it opened finding the relaxed style of eating very enjoyable along with a very good wine list with Saumur and Saumur-Champigny producers having pride of place. Naturally when we hear earlier on this year that Olivier Thibault had sold up we were concerned that a favourite Loire eatery would now disappear. Fortunately this is not the case as Le Pot continues under new owners.
Following our speedy visit to part of Anjou we stayed overnight at the refurbished Cristal Hotel that is on Saumur's Quai de Loire overlooking the river and named after Antoine Cristal. Naturally we decided to try out Le Pot de Lapin. The new owners formerly ran a restaurant down in Provence but decided that the heat of the summer was too much and have sought refuge in the Loire. He rattles the pots and pans in the kitchen to great effect, while Madame runs the front of house. Happily the wine list continues to feature the local growers. We enjoyed a bottle of Dominique Joseph's 2015 Les Poyeux, Saumur-Champigny. We decided that although under Olivier the cooking had always been good, it has now moved up a notch.
We can certainly recommend Le Pot de Lapin under its new ownership. The restaurant is small, so always best to book. The refurbished and centrally located Cristal Hotel is also recommended as being comfortable and reasonably priced.
Le Pot de Lapin