The challenges of 2021

With regional differences marked by harsh climatic episodes, the 2021 harvest in Touraine is moving towards a profile that breaks with recent years. After a few vintages on the warmer side, 2018 and its very solar character, 2019 that was dry, warm with quick maturity and 2020 that showcased richness and volume, 2021 will be remembered as the break in the cycle. Cooler, marked by frost, 2021 was a technical, stressful vintage overall.

However, the resulting wines shows a very typical Loire character, closer to a 2014 profile, whose trademark is the freshness made possible by the acidity. The winegrowers have not been idle, and it will be a vintage that will remain marked in their memory.

Starting off strong, this challenging vintage had weather difficulties in April and experienced multiple frost episode, especially in Nantais, but also across the whole region. This complicated spring affected yields tremendously with heterogeneous loss across sectors from east to west. Patrick Baudouin, producer in Anjou noir, committed to promoting the great terroirs of its region, located among others on the Chantefaux Commune known for its abrupt geological chaos explained how difficult vintages like 2021, often reveals the differences, and unique character of different terroirs. An average of 40% of loss was observed, with varying degrees. Nantais has experienced a 30% of loss, Vouvray was around 40% and in Anjou, Saumur & Touraine some unsettling losses of more than 70%. Fortunately, effective frost protection is more and more widespread in the
Loire region. Cannon, aspersion, wind turbines, fire candles, flaming haystack, weather station are very common practices now and helped some fortunate parcels.

Unfortunately, leaving no respite to the winegrowers, summer wasn’t easier on the vines. Rain
poured constantly and encouraged diseases developpement. These fragile grapes required proper treatment, sorting, meticulous, gentle maceration, careful monitoring of the plots to address
this issue depending on producers’ practices.

Autumn brought a fortnight of sunshine which really made the difference. Harvesting started in mid-September, and glorious end-of-season weather gave an unexpected boost to wine quality and accelerated maturation. A return to regular Loire harvesting dates after a few early years.

A vintage like 2021 calls for reactivity, efficiency, and devotion. Amélie Neau, President of the Union of Producers of Saumur-Champigny proudly claims: ‘We fought and we won! It was a battle against the weather and stressful conditions.

2021’s wine profiles are very fresh and aromatic, exactly what we expect from a Loire Valley wine. Fine-tuned wines, fresh, fruity, supple and well-textured would be a good summary. Wines are not overly powerful, nor expressive. On the contrary, they show a great potential for fruitiness, elegance and finesse.

You can expect crisp and vibrant Crémants, fruity and textural Muscadets, floral, exotic and expressively aromatic Sauvignon Blancs, a balance of freshness and maturity for Chenin Blancs with a tendency for longer lee ageing, suppleness and tart fruitiness in Cabernet Francs, and lastly, smooth, tropical, lifted character for Sweet wines, that might prove to be quite age-worthy.

by Joanie Metivier


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