The Rhône Valley isn’t the only major wine region having a tough go of it in 2008. The Loire Valley is also struggling as they prepare for their harvest. Following a growing season that was marked by extremes, from a severe frost in Muscadet in April to a nasty hailstorm in Sancerre in June, growers are now dealing with the effects of cool, gray days and persistent rain. It all comes on the heels of difficult harvests in 2007 and 2006 as well.
Here’s a quick look at the still-early stage of the harvest from a few of the region’s top producers.
Matthieu Baudry, owner/winemaker, Domaine Bernard Baudry in Chinon
"We should start picking around the beginning of October, which could be comparable to 2000 or 2002. There are still two and a half weeks to wait and we really need wind, sun and warmer conditions. We had a bad frost at the beginning of April which damaged 10 to 40 percent of the production in Chinon and other regions of the Loire. Then, spring and summer have been humid. The paradox was that the level of rainfall wasn't very high (the subsoil was dry) but the humidity was in the air. We had to spray against mildew every week. The fungus pressure was big, even bigger than 2007. Each week, we had 5 to 10mm (.2 to .4 inches) of rain that maintained the mildew and oidium pressure.
"It was a very difficult year to manage. The positive side of '08 is the flowering period was short and made in good conditions. It helps today because the grapes are nice and homogeneous. We are quite anxious because the crop is low, the grapes are nice but if it is still rainy and humid the skin of the grapes will be spoiled and rot could appear. The forecast for this week is good. We hope to keep the sun with us until the harvest."
Philippe Germain, owner/winemaker, Château de la Roulerie in Anjou
"Again, this year will not be easy. We have had a bad summer and we should not be able to start the harvest before beginning of October. Regarding the quality of the grapes, the maturity is not so bad particularly for Chenin Blanc, [but] Cabernet Franc is more difficult. As last year, the quantity is very small. We are hoping for sun for the next three weeks to have a better maturity. This week should be sunny if we believe the weather forecast."
Florent Baumard, owner/winermaker, Domaine des Baumard, Rochefort sur Loire
"Small harvest ahead. Too early to know what kind of grapes/wine we will have, however I am planing to start picking Chardonnay and Pinot Noir this coming week for sparkling wine and then probably following with Grolleau next week. Chardonnay is beginning to rot, so we need to pick clean grapes ASAP, reducing volume. Chenin blanc is not matured completely yet. No botrytis, but the weather for the past week has been perfect for [botrytis] development, let us hope it will not go too fast. Summer has been quite different from past vintages, and the quality of the work in vineyards will, I believe, determine the quality of the grapes much more than usual. Weather of the past two weeks has been excessive—strong showers, not cold—here and there.”
David A Zajac — September 19, 2008 5:18am ET
Dan Jaworek — Chicago — September 23, 2008 10:26am ET
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