Mis à jour : 9 sept. 2020
Since spring we had some clues. The winegrowers' race to follow the vines from April to June confirmed the trend, and, before mid-August we are sure: the 2020 vintage will be the earliest ever known in the Centre-Loire region (and certainly in all the Loire Valley vineyards).
2020 maturity controls will become the new benchmarks
As an oenologist, Fabrice Doucet had never started maturity controls so early. These controls now exist in all regions but SICAVAC (Interprofessional Laboratory of Centre-Loire vineyards) has been providing this service for all professionals of the region for many years.
From a selected network of plots of Sauvignon, Pinot Noir or Gamay regards to the AOC but also depending on the rootstocks, the laboratory team take samples every week, usually starting 28 days before the supposed harvest date.
The grapes collected are analyzed and the results sent to all the winegrowers concerned by the appellation every 8 days.
On these controls you find:
- the potential alcohol level calculated on the sugar content (small reminder 16.83 g of sugar per liter should give 1% vol. of alcohol after fermentation but it depends, among other things, on the color of the wine),
- total acidity
- tartaric acid and malic acid
- nitrogen (essential for easier fermentation)
These figures are completed with comments from the viticulture team about health of the grapes and any important information to prepare the future harvest.
All this datas help the winegrower to compare to his own plots (he can also make analyze its vineyard) and often, in recent years, to hurry up in order to be ready at the right time. This year, the first samples were taken on August 10 (record broken).
First picking is planned in Reuilly before August 20
If the following vintages are never the same, Reuilly remains the first Centre-Loire vineyard to start its harvest with Pinot Gris. 2020 will be no exception to the rule and the first grapes should fall into the press before August 20. Regarding the first observations, the Pinot Noir should follow then the Sauvignon blanc (to be confirmed).
Precocity leads to faster maturation
The 2020 bud break was at the same moment than 2011, the last reference year, flowering was within one day of the same date. The very good weather conditions made the vines accelerate with an earlier veraison this year.
In fact, as ripening begins earlier, average temperatures are higher, which amplifies the process. It’s estimated that classic maturation occurs in 40/45 days, this year we will be more in the 35/40 days range. Compared to 2019, Fabrice DOUCET estimates that we will be between 13 and 14 days early and in comparison with 2011, the pickers should be working 4 to 5 days earlier.
It should also be noted that the 2011 harvest started at the beginning of September because the grapes condition turned bad really quickly, which, in mid-August 2020, is not relevant.
The so important last weeks
The vines are now very beautiful, very green and have not suffered from the lack of water despite the drought. It rained a lot in winter and this water was sufficient for the vines until veraison. The few rains and thunderstorms (unfortunately sometimes accompanied by a little hail) have, until today, maintained great potential.
The really hight temperatures in August led to burn grapes, especially on very early plots and draining gravels soils. Bad for quantity but no influence on quality.
It’s now the time for winegrowers to prepare, after very short holidays, to be ready to welcome a vintage that will be in memories for so many reasons.