Another complicated year. We had heavy frosts in late April; in spite of many bails of hay light on fire, Chavignol was not spared. This is the worst frost in the village since 1991. It was also a precocious year, and the hot summer sped things up even more; we originally planned to harvest on September 7th, but ended up starting on the 15th.
Though it was rainy during harvest, the sanitary state of the grapes was good (though there was not much juice in the berries.) The quantity is of course heavily affected by the frost, but the quality of the juices is there.
On the 18th, the sun came back and we were able to work the Monts Damnés in beautiful weather. With the lowering acidities and higher degrees, it reminds me of 2015, but with a smaller crop. In fact, this is the smallest crop since 2009 on Monts Damnés.
The higher degrees also mean vinification will be more challenging. With the last few vintages being drastically different climactically, our Sauvignon is having a hard time finding its balance. I can only imagine that things are going to get more drastic from village to village, because certain sectors are way more affected than others.
In 2017, the vines decided to grow very precociously. Following the catastrophic 2016 (frost and mildew), the buds were rather promising in terms of quantity. And then, a late April frost decimated 80% of my future crop.
I am lucky to be part of a collective of likeminded vignerons called Pinards et Jus d'Ancenis. We are all close to each other geographically and philosophically. For the last five years, we boat down the Loire with our wines from Oudon to Nantes on in an effort to make a larger public discover our terroirs.
This association also permits us to exchange greatly on our practices, to share work equipment and to not feel alone when faced with difficult situations. Through this solidarity, we were able to collectively able to get grapes from a few parcels that were supposed to be torn out. We started working them in May and maintained them up to harvest.
The harvest snuck up on us, and arrived very early. I started on August 31st, 15 days in advance. My neighbor Jacques Février and I shared a harvest team, and we began with the Melon de Bourgogne. It was very complicated to organize everything, as we had to juggle between the ripe grapes on the parcels that hadn't frozen, the less ripe grapes on frosted vines (sometimes within the same parcel!) the solidarity parcels we were harvesting collectively with other vignerons and grapes that were offered to us at the last minute we ended up buying.
It was an extremely difficult three weeks both mentally and physically, which in the end resulted in a little more grapes than last year. But the quality was very heterogeneous, and thus harder to vinify. I'm rather satisfied with the final result, even if some small vats have proven challenging. I continue to learn in this third, atypical vintage.
by Anne Houillon.
We are done with our harvest
80% of our land frosted on April 19th, so we were mentally prepared for another tiny year. Well, it's even LESS than we'd imagined. We started picking Ploussard on September 4th and were completely done by the 7th. A mere 3 days to pick 5.5 hectares; we'd get to the end of each row with a single bucket filled...
What we did pick was very good, and as always we were surrounded by a great team. The fermentations are off to a nice start, and the juices are tasting good. Now we will guard these like a new born babe!
by Joseph Mosse.
Though we did frost twice in late-April, we had less losses than 2016. Sadly, it was our single parcels that suffered the most: Bonnes Blanches, Initial Bb, Savennières and Rouchefer. The juices are of very high quality and are fermenting well: the Chenins are aromatic and vivacious, the Grolleau is juicy and the Cabernets are powerful.
Magic of Juju will make its triumphant return, and new cuvées may see the light of day. The harvest went well with a motivated, hardworking team.
by Ivano Barbaglia.
The distinctive feature of the 2017 vintage was the early harvest. Luckily, neither our vines or the young plantations in the Santuario plot were affected by the spring frost.
It has been a dry, windy year with above-average summer temperatures. A few storms in August threatened to bring hail but, luckily, we ended up with just rain, limiting any water stress to the plants. The grapes have ripened and are beautiful, of excellent quality. The 2017 Nebbiolo is at its best. This is surprising, because the variety is not used to such heat and lack of rain, so the skin of the fruit has thickened and production is more limited than usual. On the other hand, the hot climate favored the white Erbaluce vines. We completed our harvest in the beautiful, warm weather of late September - early October, the earliest we've ever picked!
In the winery, the must has a very high sugar content and good acidity, particularly for the white. For the first time we are employing and perfecting submerged cap fermentation for our white grapes. As usual, allowing the many tannins and sugars in her majesty the Nebbiolo the freedom to express themselves will be a real challenge!
By Rémi Branger.We began picking on August 29th and finished on September 13th for the whites. Usually we are used to starting in mid-September, and the last time I can remember such a precocious harvest was 2005. Here is a breakdown: Briords was harvested August 30th, Château Thébaud on September 9th, Gras Mouton on September 6th and Clisson September 8th. Clisson we picked a little earlier than originally planned due to a rainy weekend forecast.
A few days before harvest, we got 25mm of rain, which really helped advance maturities. It also ballooned the grapes a bit without diluting them. This is confirmed by the fact the juices are all between 11% and 12.5%, with 5 or 6 grams of acidity. Throughout harvest, the rain persisted and started degrading the grapes by the very end.
Still, we are very satisfied with what we've brought into the cellar: a higher quantity than even a good year, and certainly more juice than we were estimating for the vintage.
For the reds, the Côt was harvested on September 13th, the Merlot on the 21st and the Cabernet on the 26th. All of these were affected by frost and the maturities are a little out of wack compared to a normal year.
by François Cazin.
After the horrific frosts of April, all hope of a harvest was strongly compromised. Spring and summer, both warmer than 2016, permitted the vines to relaunch themselves in a way they could not in the previous year. Low and behold, we still had grapes, particularly on the vines that were pruned later in the season.
The heat of the summer made the grape’s maturities rise very quickly. We started picking on September 11th, with harvest lasting two weeks. Everything went really quickly, which is to be expected with the extremely low yields of 10l/hl. Only the Chardonnay was a little more generous, as one parcel was spared from the frost.
The whites are very ripe, with a high concentration of sugar but also good acidity. For the reds, we had some pleasant surprises with the Pinot: the wines are tense and with good structure. The Romorantin was picked the last week of September, a tiny harvest with just 5hl/ha. It was the most impacted grape of ours this vintage.
by Matthieu Baudry.
All you need to do is look at the happy faces of our team to show the satisfaction of finishing a harvest that had started really poorly!
Let's not forget that yet another threat of frost loomed over us for many nights, just as it did in many other regions. For five nights, we fought it will everything we had: candles, anti-frost towers, and spraying hot water to avoid the catastrophe of 2016.
While these methods were quite successful, it's important to point out that the temperatures never went below -3° C. In the end we were able to escape unscathed from a hellish period. The end of Spring was beautiful, with an exceptional May an a precocious flowering in June.
Summer was a little spottier but the vines got the rain they needed and in the end we started about 15 days earlier than a traditional vintage. Like the old guard says, a precocious vintage is rarely a bad one in Chinon. 2017 is looking great, with a generous harvest of grapes high in sugar and flavor.
While all the conditions for an excellent vintage have been given to us, it is with a heavy heart that we think of all our colleagues who suffered terribly from the frost and other climactic challenges.