Saturday, 24 October 2009

Review of 2009 Loire Wine Harvest around Saumur - Le Puy Notre Dame AOC

First of all a ton of apologies for not updating the blog for nearly a month! Thought it was time I had better get round to it but what with the harvest in full swing, running our Wine Tours, looking after guests at La Grande Maison and offering our Wine Sampling Suppers in the evenings we have not had a moment to ourselves. All this and now the additional marketing effort that is needed to keep the websites, the blog, our facebook fan page and twitter up to date! Who ever said running a Maison d’Hotes was for retired people?

Anyway as we start to wind down for the season it’s time to review the past year so I’ll start with the 2009 Harvest in this post. Which I might add is not over yet for the late harvest wines and we are waiting on a call any day now to go and help one of our local producers hand picking for the Coteaux de Saumur.

Golden Chenin Blanc Ripening in the Sun

We have had an incredibly dry summer with very little rain since the beginning of June so the vines have been free from mildews and disease. Because of the dry conditions there has been much less need for spraying chemical treatments and the bunches are very clean. With recent ‘little’ rain, morning mists followed by sun and warm temperatures the conditions have been ideal for the development of noble rot (botrytis cinerea) and consequently the production of sweet wines such as Coteaux du Layon.

Some of the bunches have dried out due to the lack of rain.

The dry conditions mean that the yields are likely to be lower as some of the Chenin Blanc dried out but the concentration has been very high and the juice full of fruit and very aromatic. Picking for the Cabernet Franc was held off for as long as possible to gain the benefit of an extra week of sunny ripening conditions before harvest.

The Cabernet Franc is looking extremely good and free from rot

The feedback we are getting from the local vignerons is that the 2009 is going to be as good as the 2003 / 2005 if not better so we will cross our fingers and wait on the ferments!

Fermenting whites be very careful one sniff with blow your head off at this stage!

We have been pretty active with the harvest this year both with running our Harvest Wine Tours which gives our an guests a opportunity to see and take part in the harvest and in helping some of the local wineries with their hand harvesting. Aymeric and Melanie have recently taken over some organic parcels of vines around Le Puy Notre Dame and we were pleased to help them out harvesting both the reds and the whites.

The Melaric crew hand harvesting the Chenin

We also got the chance to barrel taste their Chenin from 2008 and although not quite finished it is already tasting sublime! See the Melaric website here.

Aymeric giving us a barrel tasting of the Chenin Blanc from 2008

We also had a couple of rows of Chenin Blanc donated to us by a kindly neighbour vigneron this year. He is happy to let us run wild in the vines and do as we wish so that he can witness the results! So we have green harvested which meant removing excess bunches in July and leaf stripped in August and September in order to reduce shading of the bunches and improve airflow. Seems to have improved the quality of the grapes in those two rows which have produced approximately 50 litres of juice which is currently undergoing fermentation.

The La Grande Maison Crew with the able help of Sue, Jo & Kris

In addition to this we were able to hand harvest the vineyards around La Grande Maison once the machine harvester had been through and we make a non-commercial production of white and red wine for our own use.

The once a year appearance of the machine harvester outside La Grande Maison tipping the grapes from the hoppers into the awaiting trailer.

Each machine harvested row yields about a bucket of grapes still left on the vine so with potentially 1,000 rows to play with we can be very selective and produce a very small quantity.

Sue harvesting the Cabernet France by the bucket load.

The red Cabernet Franc is currently macerating on the skins and the white Chenin Blanc is happily fermenting away. To add to this we have just hand bottled the 2008’s which will go down into the caves for storage ready for tasting next year.

Micaela bottling the 2008 with the old hand corking machine.

Bon fermentation. Come back soon as our next post will feature guest reviews from this year.