What a year 2016 is becoming for vignerons across France. After the lovely, near perfect 2015 vintage, frost in April, then incessant rain for a couple of months causing mildew, then weeks of very hot, dry weather for most, resulting in sunburnt grapes in places like Sancerre. Rain is needed now to help get some juice into the grapes.
Harvest last year was around second or third week of September for many. This year it is likely to be 10-20 October. Yields are down as much as 80%. So not much of a harvest for many. Who would be a vigneron?!
Bertrand and Pierre Riffault from Domaine du Carroir Perrin in Sancerre still manage a big smile though …
Pierre Riffault is extremely proud of his 1951 ‘Fergie’. When his father first acquired it, most of his neighbours were still using horse. Pierre describes how they all came round to his domaine to view this new technology when it first arrived. It came straight from the Coventry factory.
This year, he restored it to full working order. He showed it off at our recent Sancerre picnic, taking pride of place besides the tables in the orchard. Happily, it started first time!
In the Western Loire around Anjou they escaped most of the frosts in April. But poor weather in June meant less than ideal conditions for the flowering. Consequently there are not many grapes. Then there was lots of rain, resulting in mildew. Then two months of hot, dry conditions. What grapes there are now show signs of sunburn in many parts of the vineyards exposed to the (most powerful) afternoon sun. They are now doing a rain dance in the hope of some rain between now and harvest, which may commence mid October. Quantity will be small, that is a fact. But quality could still be good. Providing their dance works!
Gilles Sorin at Domaine de la Motte in the Anjou remains positive. His Coteaux du Layon is one of France’s finest and best value sweet wines. He is also one of the nicest vignerons you could meet.
It was a privilege to taste today one of his Coteaux du Layons from 1990. It was his second vintage after taking over from his father André and was perhaps one of the finest vintages for sweet wine in the Loire in living memory. It was delicious!
And I post a picture of his father circa 1980 (thanks to a 3D Partner), when brown was very much in fashion. I showed him the picture today. He is now 81 and he still potters about around the domaine. He was much amused.
Good luck to them, and all our hard-working vigneron who will be hoping that vintage 2016 will have a happy ending after all!