The Luneau family: Monique, Pierre-Marie, Marie Chartier (now married to PM) and Pierre
Early reflections on the 2011 vintage
There is no doubt that this is a complicated and for some a difficult vintage in what has been a bizarre year, which has seen some of the earliest picking dates ever.
There are likely to be wide variations in quality as well as considerable variations from region to region depending on when the grapes were picked as there were big variations in the weather during the harvest. This looks to be a vintage where the serious and good producers win out.
The beginning of the growing season saw a very warm and dry March, April, May and early June. This lead to an exceptionally early flowering with some vines beginning to flower in the first ten days of May. Normally flowering takes place occasionally in late May and more normally in June. Comparisons were being made with 1893, which was an exceptionally early vintage. It looked like many areas would be starting the harvest from mid-August.
Despite predictions of a long hot summer, the weather went into reverse in July, which was cold and wet. August was little better, although there was a brief hot spell. This both slowed down grape ripening and brought the threat of rot.
However, some producers in Touraine including the Clos Roche Blanche (Friday 26th) did start harvesting early varieties like Sauvignon in late August.
A visit to Sancerre and Pouilly-sur-Loire at the end of August showed that there was already rot in some parcels affecting both the Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir.
September started unsettled. There was some very heavy rain on 3rd, which caused flooding in parts of Bourgueil and also affected Saumur. As is often the case it was fairly localized with Chinon, for instance, seeing much less rain.
Picking started in Muscadet at the end of August and in Sancerre/Pouilly from around 5th September.
Pierre Luneau (Domaine Pierre Luneau Papin) reports that they were badly hit by rot and had to be very careful and selective when picking – throwing about 30% of the crop away. Despite the problems the nascent Luneau wines were as impeccable as ever when we visited them at the end of September.
In the middle of September the weather started to improve dramatically. The last ten days of September and in to the few days of October it was glorious with temperatures rising to 32˚C – astonishingly warm for this of year.
This burst of fine weather changed the vintage for those who had been able to wait, in particular Chinon where many producers didn’t start picking their reds until around 26th September.
2011 looks to be very good for sweet wines in Anjou. We were in the Quarts de Chaume on 28th September and the grapes looked magnificent – a mix of noble rot and passerilage. We saw Claude Papin picking in Chaume, where the grapes were already coming in at 26% potential alcohol. Claude told his pickers to include golden grapes that would be normally left to ripen later, so as keep the potential alcohol down a little and ensure that the wines did end up too sweet.
In Anjou many good producers were waiting until the first week of October to start on their Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon to give them time to ripen fully.
Christophe Daviau picked his Cabernet Sauvignon for Rocca Nigra on Monday and Tuesday (3rd and 4th) of last week and finished picking his Chenin last Wednesday (5th October). He will pick his Cabernet Franc for Petra Alba on Tuesday and Wednesday – and that will be it.