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First impressions of the 2020 vintage in Centre-Loire

While autumn has made the leaves turn yellow and red in all the vineyards, the 2020 wines enter in their winter rest, the last long episode before the first bottlings in the spring.

This report on 2020 year in Centre-Loire is based upon an interview with Fabrice Doucet, director of SICAVAC, the professional viticulture and oenology laboratory in Sancerre – Centre-Loire.

Winter, what winter ?

2020 starts with the coolest winter never seen since the early beginning of weather reports. These cool temperatures were accompanied by very abundant rainfalls. In February, the average temperature was 3.5 ° C above seasonal norms. This winter leaded to a very early start for the vines (whereas the precocity of 2018 and 2019 was rather due to a shortened period of maturation).

Bud burst took place on April 5th, 8 days before the last 10 years average. This advance will be maintained and will even accelerate during the wine-growing season.

Snowy Sancerre : an image coming from the past ?

A vintage with no diseases pressure or... almost

In terms of vine diseases, the year was quite easy to manage for the winegrowers. The mildew pressure was not so far from zero. The spring rains, on the other hand, raise the risk of powdery mildew attacks, which had to be contained, especially in historical sensitive areas.

The first flowers appear on May 20. Full blooming, with benefits of good weather, was on May 28th, two weeks before the last ten years average. The rains in May and June, combined with the winter water, create significant water reserves which were essential for the rest of the year.

In June, a few hailstorms sometimes cause significant damage especially in Châteaumeillant. Reuilly, Menetou-Salon and Sancerre will also be affected, but with lower impacts and in very localized areas.

A dry and sometimes very hot summer

Closing of the bunch (when the berries of the grapes reach their final size) took place on July 1st. Veraison (change of color of the berries) occured the last week of July. The first half of July was quite cool. After National Day, temperatures gradually rised until August, which will experience two heat waves episodes in the middle of the ripening phase.

Maturation therefore begins at the very beginning of August. High temperatures quickly degrade malic acid, but tartaric acid remains high. Very hot days have caused scorch, sometimes resulting 30 to 50% losses. The vines, particularly the red grape varieties, tokk real sunburn.

The alternation of cool nights with very hot days, however, allowed good development of aromas. The very first pickers started to work on August 22nd, but the harvest became widespread from August 27th.

Harvests in sometimes accelerated mode

In the beginning, the winegrowers took their time but the come back of very high temperatures in the first days of September leaded to a quite rapid loss of water from the grapes and a high concentration of sugars but also in acidity. The winegrowers then accelerated the picking process.

During the harvest, the sanitary conditions of the grapes remained really good even in the plots hitten by hails in June, which were under close surveillance.

In terms of quantity, the yields seem slightly below average for white wines. The reds have paid the heaviest price for heat wave episodes, with average yields which could be between 30 and 40 hl/ha.

The first very good impressions of the 2020 vintage

The 2020 rosés have a slightly more intense color than 2019 (but not at the level of 2018). The aromas of this vintage are more focused on red fruits than white ones. The wines have a more winy profile but a nice acidity brings freshness to the palate.

The 2020 reds have beautiful color, very deep. The nose is often very complex, from fresh red fruits to more candied notes. On the palate, the tannins are now rather marked and a bit harsh. The wines are however supported by a welcome acidity. Winter, malolactic fermentation and aging will harmonize all these elements.

The 2020 whites are aromatically very rich. White peaches, pears, anise notes and even liquorice are often very present. The mouths give density but framed by a beautiful acidity which brings freshness.

As a conclusion, a 2020 vintage in Centre-Loire printed by extreme climatic episodes, very rainy or very dry, sometimes very hot but which, in the end, should once again delight our palates.

These qualities will be discovered from next spring, confined or not.

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