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Loire Valley: Another Test for Region's Winemakers

Despite some odd weather, 2001 looks to be a step up in quality from recent years.

James Molesworth
Posted: January 2, 2002

  United States  
  2001 Harvest Diaries  
  2000 Vintage Report  

Recent vintages in the Loire Valley have provided a series of tests for producers in this region of northwest France. While 2001, as years prior, experienced some odd weather patterns, it looks to be a step up in quality from 1998, 1999 and 2000.

"It is not a top vintage, but a good one," said Jean-Ernest Sauvion, owner of the large Sauvion & Fils winery, which produces wines from throughout the region. "There are big differences from one location to another, one grape variety to another."

The Loire Valley is large -- stretching from southwest of Paris all the way west to Nantes on the Atlantic Ocean -- and weather patterns can differ widely from appellation to appellation.

In the eastern end of the Loire, Pascal Jolivet, who makes some of the best Sauvignon Blancs from the Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé appellations, echoed Sauvion's comments. "It's early to say, but I think it will be a good, not great vintage. The wines have more acidity and the yields were lower [than in 2000], and the wines are very clean," he said.

In the central valley appellations around the city of Anjou, where the best wines are those made from Chenin Blanc, in both dry and sweet styles, August and September were unusually cool, but were then followed by a warm October.

"As a result, growth did not happen along the year when it should have happened," said vigneron Nicolas Joly, who is known for his racy, dry Savennières under the N. Joly label. "This latter growth has resulted in a high level of acidity with a half a point lower [alcohol than normal], which I have not seen since '93."

Among dessert-wine producers, Florent Baumard of Domaine des Baumard, which produced classic-rated Quarts de Chaumes in '95 and '96, feels the vintage will not be of that class, but will still show balance and elegance. "October was the warmest in 30 years," said Baumard. "We had some rain, but unlike in 2000, we were picking grapes dried by wind."

The central Loire is also known for its red wines, made from Cabernet Franc in the Chinon and Bourgueil appellations. Chinon leader Domaine Charles Joguet reported yields of less than 3 tons per acre, lower than normal. "The climate was far more favorable than it had been the previous three years," said Alain Delaunay, manager of Joguet. "Despite a few moderate showers, an especially warm and sunny September contributed to an optimal maturity."

At the western end of the Loire, in the Muscadet region, Véronique Günther-Chéreau, who overseas several properties for her company, Vins de Grandes Cuvées, is particularly pleased. "Spring was very rainy. Despite this, the very hot summer days allowed the grapes to get a high sugar concentration," she said. "We had very little rain during September, which allowed us to harvest the grapes in very good condition. 2001 will be a beautiful vintage."

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