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The Loire: A Dry October Saves the Day
By Helena Bachmann
Reminiscent of 1998, two weeks of heavy rain at the end of September damaged some grapes in the Loire Valley, leaving most producers with little hope of a great 1999 harvest. However, improvement in weather conditions in the first week of October allowed winemakers to save most of their grapes and produce pleasant, easy-to-drink wines.
"We were very worried by the effect the rain would have on the red wines, but now we see that the harvest turned out better than we had expected," said Florent Baumard, who is in charge of winemaking at his family estate, Domaine des Baumard.
In Chinon, one of the Loire's principal red wine appellations, where Cabernet Franc is the dominant grape, Alain Delauney, of Charles Joguet, said that despite the rain, this year's harvest yielded wines "that are deep and ripe, with a rich, fruity flavor."
As for the whites, Claude Dubos, of top Pouilly-Fumé producer Didier Dagueneau, said that the rainstorms compromised the quality of some of the Sauvignon Blanc, but "the wines have ripened very well. Still, it will not be the wine of the century."
Baumard, whose winery is known for its sweet wines from the Coteaux du Layon, particularly the Chenin Blanc from the grand cru Quarts de Chaume vineyard, said that the dry and cool October weather "gives us hope that the late harvest will produce well-rounded wines."
In Vouvray, at S.A. Huët, Noël Pinguet said the rain damaged about 30 percent of the Chenin Blanc grapes. He added that although the early harvest yielded mostly dry and semi-dry wines, "it is not impossible that, due to the turn in the weather, we will be able to get sweet Vouvray as well."