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Wednesday, 30 September 2009

2009 vintage: some of Sancerre’s biggest names hit by hail

Arrival of the Vacheron cavalcade in the vines near to La Moussière. Echoes of the presidential entourage with the motorbikes already returned to base

28 September 2009: Sancerre
The harvest continues in brilliantly warm, sunny weather. Indeed it is almost too warm – it touched 27˚C around 3.30pm – as the potential alcohol is shooting up. Very few producers that I have seen are bringing in either Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Noir at under 13% and there are stories of someone picking a parcel at 15.5%. Fortunately the acidity levels are reasonable – mainly between 4.5-5.5 g/l. I have tasted the juice in a number of chais and although rich, it appears well balanced with a freshness in the finish and good aromas. Certainly all the juice that I have tasted here is very clean – there is hardly any rot around, expect for those vines hit by hail. 

Hail and its effects is really the big story here this year. Like Menetou-Salon the vineyards of Sancerre, Chavignol and Bué were hit by three successive hailstorms – two in May and one on 16th July – the day after the Tour de France passed through the region. Although the recent good weather has produced very high quality grapes, producers hit by the hail will make much less than normal.
A trailer load of grapes entering Montigny

Some of Sancerre’s best-known names have been hit badly. Overall it looks likely that the Vacherons will be down in the low 20s hl/ha. Jean-Michel Fouassier reports 20hl/ha average in those vines hit by hail and only 35 hl/ha elsewhere due to a petite sortie and poor conditions for the Sauvignon during the flowering. This compares to 45hl/ha last year. “30 hl/ha,” says Jean-Marie Bourgeois. For Jean-Max Roger in Bué it’s around 25hl/ha, while for both Gilles Crochet (Lucien Crochet) and François Crochet the Sauvignon yield is around 30hl/ha, with Pinot Noir in the region of 35/40hl/ha. For Les Alphonses (Alphonse Mellot the yields are between 25-35 hl/ha depending on the parcel but as Alphonse junior points out this is about a normal yield these days for them." As the Pinot Noir flowered earlier, it was less affected by the poor weather in June that disrupted the Sauvignon Blanc flowering.

Sorting Pinot Noir (Sancerre)@Domaine Alphone Mellot

However, once you move away from Sancerre – Bué to Verdigny yields are normal: André Vatan in Verdigny reports around 60hl/ha and Pascal Reverdy in Maimbray estimates that his Sauvignon Blanc will be around 45-50hl/ha with the Pinot Noir at 45-50hl/ha. “We need to pick very quickly now,” says Pascal, “as the degrees are going up fast and I’m worried that the acidity levels will drop. It’s now a race – we hope to finish this week.”
Pumping over Grands Champs@Domaine Alphonse Mellot


Diana Hamann said...

Hi there,

Couldn't find a e-mail addy for you, but wanted to ask your opinion on the 2009 Cherrier Sancerre, which I tasted the other day and noted it's at 15% alcohol. The vendor said it must have been a typo; but I can't imagine that's true. I also have a difficult time believing any Sancerre is at 15% alcohol. Thoughts?

Jim's Loire said...


I, too, doubt if it was a typo. In 2009 grapes in Sancerre, particularly in the areas affected by hail, were regularly coming in at over 14.5% with some over 15% even up to 15.5%. Cherrier is in Bué one of the communes affected by the hail.

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