R S J
R e s t a u r a n t
vineyards of the
Chenin Blanc (Pineau de Loire)
Indigenous variety - range from dry through demi- sec to remarkable sweets. Great years will live for 100 years +. Often goes through a dumb period between ages of 2 and 10 years. AOCS: Vouvray, Coteaux du Layon, Coteaux de l'Aubance, Bonnezeaux, Quarts de Chaume, Savennieres and Jasnieres (usually dry). Suggestions: aperitif, fish, chicken, pork, veal, fruit desserts, blue cheese and after dinner sipping. (sweet)
Muscadet (Melon de Bourgogne)
The grape variety of Nantes. Fresh, delicate white wine, excellent with fish. Can age well. Look for the 'sur lie' - bottled on the lees – finer wines in general.
Fashionable variety. Distinctive aroma - grassy, gooseberry, cats' pee even, especially when unripe. When fully ripe tends towards grapefruit flavours and some light exotic fruits. Names: Menetou-Salon, Quincy, Pouilly Fume, Reuilly, Sancerre, Touraine.
Related to Cabernet Sauvignon but ripens earlier and is lighter and more aromatic. Makes fruity reds, sometimes grassy - hints of lead pencil on the nose. Ages well, often developing gamey flavours.
Well known variety, frowned on in Touraine but now quite widely planted in Anjou. Soft & supple in good years, ripens later than Cabernet Franc, so less popular.
Fruity reds like Anjou Gamay, Touraine and all the upper Loire vineyards with some real blockbusters.
2013 – Another difficult year and another small vintage in quantity. Spring was very cold so flowering didn’t happen until late June. August and September were good whilst October was patchy. The reds are light, while the there are some nice surprises in dry whites. Layon sweets are better than 2012 in a light aperitif style.
2012 A challenging year for the vignerons with difficult weather conditions throughout. Small vintages with low yields but some attractive dry whites, particularly Sauvingons. Vey little sweet wine made – all light in style.
2011 A very dry hot until June, followed by a wet July and August and then a dry September – attractive dry whites and reds though not as long lasting as the 2001’s and 2009’s. Fine sweet wines
2010 - A curate’s egg Cool June but hot dry summer, especially in western half of the valley. Fine start to vintage but rain late September caused problems in Montlouis and Vouvray. Attractively fruity reds – top wines potentially very good with lower yields than 2009. Dry whites are leaner, fresher and more precise than 2009. Some very good sweet wines in Anjou.
2009 - Opulent whites Hot summer and fine autumn until late October. However, eastern part of the valley badly hit by successive hail storms, especially Menetou-Salon and parts of Sancerre. Opulent dry whites, some lacking acidity. and fine but quite tannic reds Sweet whites richer than 2008 but not the same level as 2007.
2008 – Saved by Autumn Frost affected, especially in Muscadet. Another cool summer, particularly August, but with less rain than in 2007. Another fine autumn until late October saved the day. Very good dry whites – a little richer than 2007 but also precise and vivid. Attractive reds with more weight than 2007 but less opulent than either 2009 or 2010. Light sweet wines.
2007 – A late start A hot April gave way to a cool and wet summer. Once again vintage saved by a fine autumn. Fine but quite austere dry whites. Superb sweet wines – very precise with a wonderful balance of richness and acidity. Should age magnificently. Reds on the whole light with many best drunk young.
2006 “A question of the Vigneron” A very hot July and a decent August - but rain started falling in mid September in the west of the region and by late September in the east. Muscadet bore the brunt of the rainy conditions and Pierre Luneau picked his grapes quickly but in good condition. Generally Sauvignon was picked before or just as the rain started and is of very good quality. There were some good Cabernet Francs and Chenin Blancs made but the input of the Vigneron was, as always, all important.
2005 “A Great Vintage” The Loire was blessed with perfect weather conditions throughout this year and unlike 2003 the acidity levels were much better. As a result some wonderfully balanced wines have been produced. The grapes were harvested in ideal conditions and the vignerons have never known such an easy time.
2004 “A fine vintage” A lovely September resulted in the grapes in most regions being ripe and well balanced with a good acidity. It was a prolific vintage and many of the lesser producers in the region didn’t reduce their yields, but the good vignerons produced some consistently lovely wines with very good concentrations.
2003 “Fabulous Summer” This year will be remembered as one of the hottest summers on record with picking starting two to three weeks earlier than normal in most regions. Frosts in April did however cause some damage and yields were subsequently lower. It was by general consensus a truly outstanding year for red wines, which have a wonderful concentration and lovely ripe fruit. White wines generally have a lower acidity than normal but have tremendously ripe fruit and attractive floral characteristics.
2002 “Plenty of attractive fruit” The exceptionally sunny September transformed what could have been a depressing vintage into a generally very good one. After the cool July and wet August this was a very welcome change to recent Septembers and altered the outlook totally. The wines of 2002 have an exceptional purity of fruit - partly due to yields being down as much as 20% - more for Sauvignon Blanc. Good reports have come in from all the regions from Muscadet to Sancerre and overall the vintage was a good one.
2001 “From one extreme to another” This year turned out to be one of decidedly mixed fortunes. Muscadet had yet another very good vintage, whilst Sancerre & Pouilly had a rough time. The frosts in April reduced the size of the crop - the rains of late September and early October ruined the hopes of a great vintage, although most growers are fairly happy. The favourable weather in late October ensured that the sweet wines of Anjou were excellent. Very little wine was made in Eastern Touraine due to the frosts and stem rot. Anjou certainly had its’ best harvest since 1997 - the growers are content and some of the sweet wines were a revelation. As always, rely on the foremost growers to produce the goods.
2000 “Not to be confused with the great vintage in Bordeaux” After a miserable July, mildew reared its ugly head although the fine autumn made some amends. The weather broke with disastrous results on the 16th October - with continuous rain for weeks on end. Those that harvested earlier made fine wines (as in Bordeaux) - Muscadet was good as were Sancerre & Pouilly. The red wines in general have good colour but not the structure for long maturation. Despite the downpour - there are some reasonable Chenin Blancs - including some small quantities of sweet wines picked early December! - a tribute to the nerve of intrepid growers.
1999 “It came close - but it was not to be” As a vintage however, it sorted out the good from the indifferent growers. A large harvest loomed during July - serious producers cut off excess bunches. The idle and greedy did not. When the rains came in September - those with over laden vines (and unripe grapes) suffered - the prudent did not. Muscadet yet again avoided the rains and made good wines. This is a year where the selection of producer is vital - some - such as J P Chevallier in Saumur have made exceptional wines - many have not!
1998 “A commercial success - but not exceptional” Late September rains dashed the hopes of growers for another classic. Nevertheless the best vignerons, as usual, made fine wines - albeit lacking the structure of previous vintages. Most of the rains occurred after the grapes had reached a phenolic maturity ensuring the dilution was not exaggerated. In general, one for current drinking.
1997 “A great success”- Huge, fat & rich wines were made in Anjou & Touraine. Many with amazing alcoholic degrees - 15% was not unusual for dry whites in Anjou - even Gamay could be found with similar percentages. Some would argue that these wines are unbalanced - others would demur with delight. This all stems from the balmy weather of September and early October, which resulted in high, natural, sugar levels. Have they got the acidity and balance to be long lived? Ask some concerned experts. “Who cares?” say aficionados.
1996 “Overall, ‘96 is probably superior to ’95” Especially for reds. A very dry summer produced the second of a trio of good to excellent vintages. For anyone looking to lay down some red wine - this is definitely the vintage to choose - many put it just below 1989. Dry whites, from Muscadet to Sancerre, are also very successful. Fine weather in September and October allowed growers to leave their Chenin until it was properly mature. Because of the drought, the sweet wines have less botrytis. Nevertheless rich and concentrated wines were made.
1995 “The best vintage since 1990” For once, frost was not so devastating, though Muscadet, parts of Anjou and Saumur together with Bourgueil, experienced isolated problems. A hot summer was followed by some September rains but, except in Vouvray and Montlouis, not enough to mar the harvest. Dry whites are successful from Muscadet to Sancerre. The reds have concentration and charm and a long dry autumn produced some very fine sweet wines. The wines have a good balance of fruit and acidity.
1994 “A difficult year” - good for reds in Saumur - some fine sweet wines made in Anjou but the spectre of grey rot was ever-present in much of the vineyard area. Treat with caution.
1993 “A good commercial vintage” Drinking well at the moment - fine sweet wines.
1990 “A great classic” - Lots of charm - the reds are lasting well but are now hard to find.
1989 “One of the true vintages of the century” - Many wines have yet to reach their optimum maturity still - superb sweet wines, great red wines. Compares with 64, 59 & 47
Unfortunately we have this funny idea that a sweet wine is automatically one to drink with desserts. Many merchants, who ought to know better, only increase the confusion by lumping all sweet styles together under the heading 'Dessert Wines'. This is as nonsensical as listing all dry whites as fish wines.
Actually, few sweet Loire wines match puddings well. Fruit tarts and other light fruit dishes work but most other desserts, especially if they are strong flavoured and sweet are a disaster. The wine's acidity is emphasised, while the fruit disappears. Much better to enjoy a Loire moelleux as an aperitif with blue cheese, a rich pate or a very rich fish dish - sauced lobster, for instance. They can also be matched to rich pork dishes, sauced chicken recipes and pheasant dishes such as a la Normande (with Calvados, cream and apple).