I know you're all bored of me talking about the Rhône all the time. So here's an update on the other French wine region I cover - the Loire. I thought you might be interested to read a few of the comments that I've received from vignerons over the last few days as they get ready for the 2006 harvest. (Look for our site's broader harvest coverage, coming soon.) For the Loire, it looks like an interesting - albiet somewhat tricky - year. Let's hope they get the sun they need these last few weeks of the season.
Thierry Germain, Domaine des Roches Neuves, Saumur
Indeed we have a surprising vintage.
The veraison for Cabernet Franc was almost finished at the end of August, something we have not seen in the Loire, even in such [strong] vintages as 2003 and 2005. This was thanks to a very homogeneous flowering in June, a superb July and a bright August with cool nights (there was some rain on and after August 15).
We can hope for something superb, but we shouldn’t get too excited because the remaining three weeks are important to obtain a superb balance in the grapes. Thanks to our work in the vineyards, our vines have very small bunches which benefit from good aeration, which should allow us to wait for ideal maturity.
The Loire, and especially Saumur, has not had bad weather during the last 15 days. The little rain we’ve had has actually been beneficial.
Nicolas Joly, Savennières
Since 2003 [we have had] the same pattern. The rain stops in April. The heat comes for three weeks in July. The weather is terribly dry with pleasant temperatures during the nights. And after August 15, nights are close to 10 degrees C.
The grapes are fine. For those who have no clones, the crop is down 25 percent.
Bernard Chéreau, Chéreau-Carré, Muscadet
After long cold and dry winter, budding was later than usual - middle of April. Rainy spring followed by very hot June and July. Flowering time in very good condition, 2nd week of June.
However some rain and a storm in the beginning of July brought some mildew and black rot pressure. Until the end of July, the vegetation was on time. August was not so nice, with cold temperatures and some rainy days at the end.
Since Wednesday, the sun is back, and the forecast is warm temperatures and dry weather for the next 10 days. We are expecting to start the harvest around September 11th, depending on the weather. We hope to have a dry September. Quantity seems to be normal and less than last year.
Rodolphe Raffault, Jean-Maurice Raffault, Chinon
With regard to this future year, I would prefer to wait 2 or 3 weeks to give a more precise opinion. September will be more than ever decisive for maturity!
After the heat wave and the dryness of July, we foresaw a year almost as early as 2003, but August was cold and with little sun. In spite of that, our area received very little rain precipitation, but that is not true for the whole of the Loire. The veraison was very homogeneous. The sanitary state is good, but we still need some sun!
Didier Dagueneau, Pouilly-Fumé
We had a very dry spring, and the month of July was very hot and dry. The vines suffered a little from the drought. Thank you for the greenhouse effect!
August was rather cold with small rainfall. We have a perfect sanitary condition, with a balance like 2005, but with a little more acidity, due to the cold nights that we currently have.
For the past eight days, the weather has been splendid, and if that continues we should harvest in three weeks.
Jacky Blot, Domaine de la Taille Aux Loups, Montlouis and Domaine de la Butte, Bourgueil
Difficult. The year 2006 is the year of the Scottish shower - we passed unceasingly from periods of anguish to very favorable periods.
Winter was difficult, long, with a very dormant vegetation which can lead to a very late flowering, which we hate more for the Cabernet Francs of Bourgueil than for the Chenins of Montlouis-sur-Loire and Vouvray.
Then the weather in June was spectacular, and the flowering was on time and under ideal conditions.
The beginning of the summer was incredible: It reminded us of the summer of 2003, with its excess of heat and its roasted grapes. If this weather had lasted, we would have had a similarly complicated vintage.
And then, at the beginning of August, we returned towards more variable weather with its batch of breaks and downpours - 50 mm of rain for one month, exactly in the historical average. Fortunately the majority of the clouds simply passed over the area, going to pour their water in the east more - practically 150 mm in Burgundy and Champagne.
Jean-Luc Soty, Pascal Jolivet, Sancerre
After a cold winter, vegetation resumed late, but the favorable weather conditions of early June and early July accelerated the growing cycle of the vines. High temperatures favored a faster growth and a precocious flowering, but also a millerandage – partial crop failure with smaller grape berries – which will affect the yield.
Fortunately the exceptionally high heat waves in July ended at the very beginning of August, just in time. The rain and cooler temperatures during the month of August helped to moderate the maturity of the grapes, and to give the bunches a quite high level of juice. The maturity is now very similar to the ’05 vintage, but with a slightly higher level of acidity. The weather conditions are now ideal for a great vintage.