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Vintage 2021 in the Loire Valley: like the climate, good surprises in a difficult year

As the last picks for sweet wines are done, a brief summary of the 2021 harvest with technicians from the Loire Valley, Romain Mayet, Jean-Michel Monnier, Michel Badier and François Dal.
Vendanges in Sancerre
Harvest 2021 in Sancerre

In Nantes region

Even if yields are a little higher than expected (1 to 2 hl/ha more), 2021 will be a historically low year (to be compared to 1991). "We were one of the regions most affected by the frost and we should end up with 15 to 20 hl/ha".

For mildew, the Nantais region was lucky to see it arrive after the most sensitive phase, which meant that it only affected the leaves and not the grape.

In terms of quality, "in August we were not confident but it went well thanks to the weather in September. A few very hot days degraded the acidity, a little rain made the skins softer, so we had a beautiful phenolic maturity, a homogeneous maturity with nice alcoolhic potential in the parcels, whether for the Melon or for the Malvoisie ».

When the harvest start was announced, no one rushed to pick the grapes and, as the sanitary state allowed it, the winegrowers harvested later than planned. In the cellars, at the end of fermentation, no vegetal notes but freshness for pure Muscadet in the good way of classicism.

In Anjou and Saumurois

« The harvest of sweet wines is over and we can use the term "extraordinary" for grapes that we managed to harvest between 19 and 21 of potential alcohol. The late season was generous for the few producers who chose to harvest grapes for sweet wines despite the small harvest. The sweet wines of the region will be rare but exceptional. »

The reds are still in maceration. We will finish with lighter wines, without great concentration but with beautiful colors and lower alcohol than in the last years.

Spared by the frost, the volumes of Saumur, Saumur Champigny, Chinon or Bourgueil are in a good average. It is especially the Anjou region that paid a high price for the morning frosts in April.

On the dry Chenin side, the maturities are good and the first wines finished suggest a return to the classic vintage of the region.

In Touraine

It was a very complicated year, with no break for the winegrowers from April 6 until the harvest.

The impact of the frost was relatively strong with very large disparities between plots, even for the closest ones. The professionals who have anti-frost equipmenst were able to protect part of the harvest despite the black frost.

In terms of vineyard protection, in both organic and conventional vineyards, reactivity has become a key word in the management of the vineyards. A year as 2021 shows that you have to be always in the vineyard and react on the same day to be efficient.

The harvest went very well with, as a pre-starter, 40 mm of rain 8 days before the beginning of the harvest, which allowed the skins to soft and the pulp to liquefy. The good weather came after and allowed a no-stress harvest under the sun.

The sugar content was good with a very Loire profile, without excess. The white wines are back to the classic style. The reds too, with the need for a very precise work of the wine maker in the cellar, print of a complicated vintage in any point.

Photo : Domaine Daniel Reverdy et Fils

In the Centre-Loire

"At the end of the harvest in the Centre-Loire, we know that the winegrowers should make an average of half a harvest with very strong variations between the colors and the domains. Frost and mildew (some storms were locally deadly with sometimes 80 mm of water falling in 20 minutes) are the two markers of the vintage even if their impact is very different according to the appellations.

The weather and its less precise forecasts for 2021 have often complicated the decision for the harvest date which, in general happened in very good conditions.

The first white wines tasted have nice aromas and a lot of finesse. To determine the 2021 style, we will have to wait for the maturation and taste at the end of the winter but we already know, with lower alcohols, that we will have a lighter style than the last years which were very sunny.

The production of red wines has been much more disturbed. Low harvests, differences in grape maturity, sometimes in the same plots, have led a large number of winegrowers to choose the production of rosés which are already promising. For the reds, the science and talent of the winemakers will be paramount for this vintage.

Automne à Sancerre
Sancerre in autumn

In the end, the professionals of the Loire Valley are happy to leave this year 2021 which, in the memory of winegrowers, has been one of the most complicated ever.

In terms of quantity, we can estimate a half harvest but this average will hide very strong differences between the regions of Loire Valley and sometimes even within the same vineyard.

The good surprises, because there are many, are to be found in the quality. This 2021, so complicated to obtain, should give a lot of pleasure to the amateurs. Let's meet now at the beginning of 2022, at the Salon des Vins de Loire and at Wine Paris to confirm in the glasses the first impressions of a vintage that will remain in the memories.

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