What’s going on in the Loire valley vineyards in August?

As we countdown to harvest it looks like 2019 may prove to be a tricky year for winemakers.

Talking to growers in the past few days we should see grapes starting to come in in about a weeks time. Xavier Weisskopf anticipates picking towards the end of the first week of September, Peter Hahn on the 15th, Fred Plou of Montdomaine estimates between the 10th and 15th and Julien Pinon is looking at the 26th September.

We’ve had little or no rain since May (around 17mm total) and while this will have an impact upon volume for white wines, it may pose more of a problem when it comes to fermenting the reds.

Black grapes are looking very small and have thick skins meaning there will be big tannins. Great care will have to be taken not to over extract and avoid any greenness. It will be a year of the winemaker.

Badly damaged Chenin grapes after soaring temperatures this month

There has been a lot of damage from the excessive heat. Many growers estimate losses of around 25-30% from frost and heat this year. Orientation of the vines has played a big part in the level of heat damage. Parcels planted on a North/South orientation have seen much greater levels of damage than those planted on an East/West orientation. Who would have thought Loire valley grapes would be suffering from sunburn in 2019.

In a region where we are normally leaf stripping to gain maximum exposure to the sun, those that leaf stripped early have seen their grapes frazzled in the heat and even those that did not have seen damage.

It seems that climate change is here to stay and will continue to make growing grapes (and other crops) increasingly complicated.

I’ll be bringing news from the vineyards as and when the grapes begin to come in. The grapes destined for sparkling are normally some of the first so there will be plenty of action for us to see on the limestone plateau above the house as the Vouvray grapes for Mousseux come into the wineries.