During Sancerre Autumn Wine Fair, we met the winemakers of the different villages of the AOC. We were of course there to taste the 2020 and previous vintages but the discussions quickly turned to 2021y ear, its climatic accidents, its difficulties and the first good impressions in the cellars. A little autumnal tour in Sancerrois.
In the north of the appellation
We start in Verdigny with Domains Pierre Prieur and Hyppolite Reverdy.
"In white, we will make a half harvest which is a very good surprise. Beyond the frost, the control of mildew was very complicated."
"Due to the very small harvest of pinot noir, we have chosen not to make reds but rosés. For the whites, which are still fermenting, we can smell a lot of citrus fruits, it is aromatic and it tastes quite good already."
In Maimbray, Rémi Joulin (Michel Vattan) confirms that "the yields are small because of the frost. We waited to start on September 27 and harvested for two weeks. The small rains of September finally allowed the berries to liquefy and give more juice. The sanitary state of the grapes was very good, which allowed us to harvest the most fragile plots first. As a rookie, I have never experienced a balance like this year, but it's very interesting."
In Sury-en-Vaux, at Paul Doucet's: "It was complicated all year long with sectors that took a lot of damage from frost and a small hail at Pentecost that damaged the wood a bit. As far as diseases are concerned, we managed to contain them without too many problems. At harvest time, the sanitary state of the grapes was maintained, which allowed us to wait for full maturity. The first vats that have finished their fermentation taste good with a good balance of alcohol and acidity."
In Sainte-Gemme, the vines around the village paid a heavy price to the frost, but the east of the commune, towards Cosne-sur-Loire, was spared. For Olivier Foucher "we are not doing so badly in the end, with good yields on the plots that were not affected. What is fermenting is very promising with more "classic" alcohols and a nice freshness that we are pleased to find after the last hotter years."
In the West of the vineyard
At Montigny and Veaugues, Mathieu Deshais was pleasantly surprised. "We had grapes that were starting to deteriorate but, in the end, the rot did not turn grey and we have very good juice. The second week brought us really nice aromatic developments. We also have some very nice pinot noirs."
In Crézancy, Laurent Champault (Roger Champault et Fils): "we end up at - 40% for the whites and - 70% for the pinot noirs, which are very nice. We started on September 20th with the Clos du Roy which is always the earliest and then the clay slopes with grapes that could not wait. In the end we will have a lighter vintage with more acidity but less than we feared. For me, we will even have a more interesting balance than 2018. On the pinot noir side, we're going to make lighter reds, very fruit-oriented."
In Menetou-Ratel, at Claude and Clément Raimbault's "with a fairly early harvest, we'll end up with a half-harvest with a return to the classic."
In the center
In Bué, for Steve Millet (Domaine Gérard Millet) "The frost hurt, among other things because of the snow that felt during the night. But in the end it's better than expected. In terms of balance it's very good. I made reds and for now I am very satisfied."
For Maxime Lemain (Domaine Lemain-Pouillot) "It had been a very long time since we had botrytis on grapes but in the end it's very good. With less sweet and fresher juices, I think we will have better ageing potential than 2018 or 2020. With pear, peach and citrus flavors we're going to have a blast tasting 'real' sauvignon."
In Amigny, at Nicolas Millérioux's "we were hit hard by the frost and strangely, it was the plots that never freeze that were the most impacted. Despite the small quantities, I made a little red. For the whites, we are back in the Loire with freshness that we didn't have these last years."
In Chavignol for Gérard Boulay "it was complicated from A to Z. A lot of work for not much result in quantity but qualitatively it's good with white wines that finish at 12.5 in alcohol and good acidities for a more classic balance."
In Saint-Satur, at Patrick Noël's, "we had practically no frost in the commune unlike the other villages. afterwards in terms of protecting the vineyard, as there was not much to protect it was quite easy."
In Sancerre, at Claire Bonnard's "the harvest went well. The juice was much better than the grapes we tasted, which were quite bitter. The fermentations are almost finished I find a nice tension on the flint, lemon notes. A nice return to the classics."
In the south and on the Loire side
In Ménétréol, Chanel Gitton confirms that "the vines of Ménétréol, less advanced in April, were spared by the frost. In the cellar we find degrees more in the norm for white wines that will be more classic."
In Thauvenay and Vinon, no frost either. For Anthony Girard (La Clé du Récit) "while Thauvenay is quite early, the frost did not damage the whites but affected the Pinot Noirs more. The blending of the whites will allow us to offer nice wines, between freshness and fruitiness."
In the end, Sancerre will have a harvest at the expected level, or even a little better for the whites.
In terms of style, on the Sauvignon side, a return to classicism to be confirmed. On the Pinot Noir side, very affected by the frost, there will be more rosés than usual but also some reds.
In the memory of Sancerre, the years in "1" have never been great vintages (that's a gentle euphemism). 2021 could well be the first exception that confirms a rule older more than a century.