From le Marais de Goulaine with Nantes in the distance to...
I’m sure it is right to seek simplicity – not complicate things for the sake of complication. There are times, though, when the desire for keeping it simple can be a drawback.
Vintages in the Loire Valley are an example. It won’t be long before people start asking is 2010 a good Loire vintage. Given the diversity of Loire wines, the range of grape varieties used and styles made, this is always going to be a difficult question to reduce to yes or no. What is favourable weather for Sauvignon Blanc is not necessarily equally good for Cabernet Franc, for example. Similarly with Chenin Blanc, the Loire’s most diverse grape, the conditions for making great dry Chenin and great sweet are not necessarily the same.
Weather is a further complication. As the crow flies, it is around 360 kilometres (223 miles) from Nantes to Sancerre. Plenty of distance for marked changes in weather as the July 2010 stats from Météo France show.
Looking at the stats for temperature, hours of sunshine and rainfall it is clear that in terms of maximum average temperatures and sunshine hours the Loire was pretty homogeneous in July 2010. Overall the valley enjoyed both above average daily maximum temperatures and hours of sunshine.
However, there are huge variations in rainfall. Much of the western Loire had a very dry month of July, whereas the eastern Loire had a wet month – in places a very wet month. Parts of Anjou were the driest. The weather station at Angers recorded just 8.4 mm of rain for the whole month with 4.8 mm falling on 14th July to commemorate the fall of the Bastille. Indeed virtually throughout the valley 14th July was the wettest day. The average rainfall here, taken from 1991 to 2000, is 46.6mm Nantes and La Roche sur Yon (Vendée) were also much drier than the norm – 19.6mm for Nantes and 20mm for la Roche compared to 46.6 mm and 45.3 in an average year.
By the time you reach Tours July was considerably wetter with 49mm, although still drier than the average – 53.4mm. It is a similar story at Bourges with 56.6mm in this July, which is just below the average. However, an American blogger living in the Cher Valley close to Saint-Aignan and who happens to be a keen gardener, recorded 107mm. The wettest July in at least five years he reports.
Clearly the growing conditions in Anjou and those in the Cher Valley will have been very different over the past month with minimal risk of rot and mildew in Anjou, while it must have been a continuous battle in the Cher Valley.
A straight yes or no to ‘good Loire vintage?’ again looks out of the question this year.
.... to Sancerre.
I think I have always been convinced by the notion of terroir. Any gardener with more than a bijou window box knows that there can be considerable variations even within a small garden.
Suitable terroir for a city – generally less so for vines ...
I see from a report in Vitisphere that L’OIV at its 8th AGM held in Georgia at the end of June agreed a definition of terroir:
‘Lors de sa 8ième Assemblée générale qui s’est tenue fin juin en Géorgie, l’OIV a adopté une série de 29 résolutions dont voici les plus marquantes :
- Définition du terroir : la notion de terroir, qui a fait l’objet de nombreuses discussions, a finalement fait l’objet d’un consensus. Le terroir est donc défini comme « un concept qui se réfère à un espace sur lequel se développe un savoir collectif des interactions entre un milieu physique et biologique identifiable et les pratiques vitivinicoles appliquées, qui confèrent des caractéristiques distinctives aux produits originaires de cet espace »
I suspect that the tricky part lies in defining ‘des caractéristiques distinctives aux produits originaires de cet espace’. What is ‘typé’ for a particular terroir? And can it be recognised in wine or does the human element impart too many variations? All too often ‘typé’ indicates mediocrity with the outstanding condemned as ‘pas typé’, Monsieur.