Unripe grapillons (second generation in background)
Last evening there was a brief scare – a little hail just before 7pm around Dampierre, just to the east of Saumur. Fortunately it didn’t come down with much force and it didn’t last. As far as I know it did little or no damage. Hail is never good but at this time would be catastrophic – lacerate the grapes, which would soon turn rotten.
Picking of the Chenin Blanc for still wines is just starting – Jean-Pierre Chevallier (Château de Villeneuve) started yesterday and Thierry Germain (Domaine des Roches Neuves) hopes to start today if the weather holds. His Chenin is between 12.5%-13% potential and between 6.5 and 7.5 acidity. “The acidity levels are dropping,” said Thierry. He intends to start on his Cabernet Franc on Wednesday. “They were at 12.2% potential last Friday with the acidity at 5.5."
“With the high acidity levels and their thick skins the 2008 reds will be complicated to vinify well,” he says. “It will be very important not to extract a lot of tannin. With the white I will do a less severe débourbage (juice settling) than usual.”
We went with Thierry on a quick drive to look at his vines. This took in a visit to his small parcel (15 ares – .15 ha) franc pieds vines (ungrafted vines) near the Saumur Hospital planted using the old system of échalas (cultivation around a pole). Thierry’s 15 ares are planted with Cabernet Franc to the equivalent density of 10,000 vines per hectare – the average density in the region is 5500 per hectare. He is very excited as he will get the first crop off them this year as they were planted in 2004/5. “I love their purity of flavour – their freshness,” says Thierry. “The flavour is totally different to grapes from grafted vines.” This fruit will be vinified separately in 400 litre open topped barrels. Thierry hopes to get a few vintages from them before the vines are destroyed by phylloxera. The soil is sandy clay over limestone, so with luck it may take a little while for the phylloxera to get at them. “I’ve long had a dream to cultivate vines using this old system (échalas) that you’ll find in parts of Burgundy.” It can also be found in the Mosel.