Going down the Loire, we stop this week in Touraine, homeland of the Châteaux de la Loire, pure french speaking with no accent, rillettes from Vouvray and other cultural and tasty treasures.
The 2020 vintage was, as everywhere in the Loire, very special. Brief summary of the year with Philippe Gabillot and Michel Badier, Chambers of Agriculture technicians in Indre-et-Loire and Loir-et-Cher.
Little Touraine introduction
From a wine point of view, Touraine is much less homogeneous than you can think. We can, in a simplistic way, separate it into three sub-regions. Starting from the west with the kingdom of Cabernet Franc (with appellations such as Chinon, Bourgueil and St Nicolas de Bourgueil) we go through a parenthesis (enchanted) with Chenin (Vouvray and Montlouis but we do not forget Jasnières or Mesland) and it ends in the eastern part, place mostly dedicated to Sauvignon Blanc, Côt (Malbec) and Gamay (to name only the most important grape varieties).
The climate 2020 year
We can easily separate the 2020 yearinto two very distinct periods. A cool and rainy winter and a dry period. The winter rains allowed the vines not to suffer from the lack of water (with the exception of the beginning of autumn). This winter cool temperatures led to the earliest start of the vines ever recorderd.
The spring frosts, so deadly for the region in recent years, have spared the vineyard. Only three mornings were close to 0 ° C but without any consequences for the harvest.
At the beginning of June, technicians and vinegrowers expected a very large harvest. In the end, the harvest is very good but lower than 2018.
From a health point of view, no major issue except a little tighter monitoring on the powdery mildew. The symptoms of wood diseases, on the other hand, were enormously expressed in mid July, certainly because of the lack of rains.
August led to a strong difference in ripening. If the high temperatures roasted red grapes quite everywhere else, in the western part of Touraine, it was more the development of Cabernet Francs that was stopped by the lack of water and the heat wave. The vine got stuck while storing energy. The first rains in September released ripening, which then accelerated. In the eastern part, no blockages observed and consequently faster maturation in August.
No more summer holidays for winegrowers ?
Precocity from the start of the vines and very good weather in summer led to the beginning of the harvest in August for most of the vineyards (with an even earlier start for the “sparkling” grapes).
The Cabernet Francs began to be picked on September 14, followed by an harvest accelerating due to the rapid increase of sugar in grapes.
For Touraine technicians, the 2020 vintage confirms major trends for vines management. The 100 days between flowering and harvest don't mean anything anymore, you have to be in your vines all the time, no longer going on vacation in August and be able to harvest very quickly.
First tastings full of pleasure
The first wines tasted perfectly reflect a vintage rich in excessive climatic events.
At the level of "western reds", we taste 2020 wines full of fruit, gourmet, wines of pleasure. The very good quality of the grapes has a lot to do with this, of course, but we must also note the much gentler extraction techniques and a very strong reduction in the use of SO2 allows for more supple tannins.
The range of styles tasted at Vouvray and Montlouis is very wide, with very fruity wines and others that are more structured and richer, suitable for aging.
On the oriental side, we note white wines with a very Loire profile despite the high alcohol content. A welcome freshness is provided by an maintained acidity.
The ripe reds are full bodied and full of promise.
In the end, according to the two technicians, a stressful but fascinating vintage for a very good 2020 in Touraine