Courtier Charles Sydney sends the following report on the 2013 harvest in the Loire, written on 17 October.
Looking out of the window at the moment, Phil and I are wondering whether to wander down to the Anjou to watch the picking today, or to leave it until tomorrow.
It's misty, there was some rain yesterday (sunshine too) but the forecast is fine. Which sort of sums up the four weeks since harvest started here. That's obviously not perfect - but it's also nothing new.
2013 looks to be a perfectly normal (if slightly stressed out) vintage.
Started at the end of September, the guys got hit by some rain beforehand, but in some sectors they needed it. Combined with warm weather, that meant a risk of rot, so it was time to pick.
Where the vines had been properly looked after, that was fine, even if we'd have liked slightly higher degrees [of alcohol]. Better still were vineyards that had been grassed through, as the moisture went to the grass and the grapes were clearly riper and healthier. See the pictures of Pierre Lieubeau at Fruitière (below left) and Jérôme Choblet in the Côtes de Grandlieu (below right).
By the end, the guys were happy to finish, fining some vats to eliminate any potential off flavours. In general, after a good cold settling the juice was tasting fine and the wines should be pretty good!
Sauvignon started right at the beginning of October, with the same sort of conditions as in Muscadet - basically, if the grower looked after his or her vines, the harvest is fine, with reasonable degrees and balanced acidity. Again, there's more ripeness with growers prepared to grass through their vines or to cut out (as chez Jacky Marteau, right) any unripe or rotten bunches.
Also as in Muscadet, there was some rot so producers had to be particularly careful with the juice (inerting vats, fining the juice), but we've tasted enough grapes and enough vats of juice to be happy that the wines will be classically fresh and grassy.
Up in Sancerre and Pouilly, picking generally started a week later - around the 7th - and we're not convinced they would gain anything by waiting.
Here you'll really see the difference between growers, with special benefits coming with growers who grassed through their vines and who were prepared to sort the grapes either in the vineyards or in the cellar.
Chinon and the reds
Some people have started picking, harvesting machines were out yesterday, but look at the below photos (taken at the Clos de l'Echo on 16 October).
Where the guys used their brains, they ran the vineyards to get the best possible ripeness in a late vintage (that's not rocket science) - grassed through vines, de-budding to keep bunches apart, high foliage for maximum photosynthesis, de-leafing around the bunches ... we've been there before!
These growers have no need to panic - the grapes are healthy and ripening gently. This won't be a hyper-ripe 2009, but, well, more anon!
No idea yet - apart from seeing some first pickings to bring in some 'baby' moelleux with a potential of 18º to clean up the harvest to let the remaining grapes ripen more.
With a bit of luck, we should see some pretty good dry Chenin and maybe some moelleux, but that's guess work. We're off to see the grapes now (the mist has lifted) and we're off to Vouvray and Montlouis tomorrow.