The topsy-turvy weather right across the French vineyards, with summer taking place in spring and autumn in summer, did not make life straightforward for wine growers in the Loire and elsewhere. Fortunately, a sunny September raised their spirits somewhat.
Once again, when conditions are tough, the best rise to the top. Stringent viticulture, such as that practised by exponents of biodynamics, makes the vines more resilient to dangerous weather conditions. The same rule applies to the following stages - careful harvesting, rigorous selection, and vinification tailored to the year provide the best outcome, even when the weather makes life difficult. The wine grower¿s distinctive touch was therefore crucial to the production of fine red wines in 2011.
It was a year in which the most experienced wine growers were able to stay right at the top of their game by watching the ripening of their Cabernets Francs like hawks! For white wines, which are harvested earlier, the job of parcel-watching, selection and vinification was crucial to creating a good vintage. For red wines, which have a later harvest, the grapes were picked in sunshine, yielding undreamed of ripeness and quality. 2011 should therefore deliver characteristic Loire wine balance: flavoursome, rather light, fresh and fruity. The most successful reds are Anjou wines from schist soils and Bourgueils where the wine growers chose the optimal harvesting dates.
The same applies to white appellations in general such as Sancerre, Vouvray, Montlouis and Muscadet. Although they are less acidic than 2010 wines, 2011 whites are light and accessible. In Sancerre and the Centre-Loire, Sauvignons and "domaine" blends are ready to drink early. Wines made from grapes grown on flinty ground are more austere and pure. In other appellations, whites retain a degree of tautness and are rich and interestingly substantial, more balanced than in 2009, but a cut below the exceptional 2010.