Following on from our Sicily notes yesterday, here is the news from the rest of Europe
Healthy grapes were gathered throughout the Loire Valley, with good yields in areas such as Saumur, particularly for whites. The Central vineyards were affected by hail during the summer and as a result yields in some parts of Sancerre and Pouilly are down considerably. Menetou Salon’s vineyards were decimated by hail and production in ’09 will be minimal.
Yves Cuilleron of the eponymous estate in Condrieu is “super content” with the 2009 vintage. After a tiny 2008 vintage he is able to replenish his cellars with a top quality, and copious harvest. The reds are equally good quality with ripe tannins and excellent sugar levels.
“Qualité fantastique” according to Laurent Brusset in Cairanne, who reckons that the 2009 vintage will be similar to the excellent 2007, but with better freshness. Yields in the Southern Rhône are small, with Brusset reporting volumes down 30% due to the dry year and some hail in Gigondas.
The whole of Burgundy, including Chablis, appears delighted by the quality of the 2009 vintage. Growers were worried in the summer that high temperatures would impact negatively on the natural balance within both white and red grapes, but 2 days of welcome rain in late August “saved” the vintage. Natural sugar levels are excellent, and healthy grapes were harvested throughout the region.
According to Pierre Chermette, owner of Domaine du Vissoux in Fleurie, 2009 is probably the finest vintage in living memory; his 96 year old father can not remember a better vintage in Beaujolais. “Magnifique” is the word that comes up time and again when discussing 2009. The wines have lovely balance and soft tannin structure.
Generally a smaller than normal vintage in the Languedoc, both for reds and whites. This is primarily due to the programme of vineyard uprooting, particularly red varieties, that has been gaining momentum in the area in recent years. White volumes are down due to spring frosts. Quality of both whites and reds is excellent.
Quality and quantity are the watchwords for Gascony in 2009. After 2 very small vintages, the gods looked favourably on the region and the vintage is back to a normal sized crop. Whites will be aromatic and balanced.
A long, cold winter was followed by a dry and sunny summer. Grape health was high and some are already comparing 2009 with the top quality 2005 vintage, albeit with slightly lower acidity and higher alcohol. Volumes will probably be slightly higher across the region, with the exception of some areas badly affected by hail, which was particularly severe around St Emilion.
Much has been written about the agreement reached between the growers and négotiants to limit the harvest. However, some reports overstate the effects and, to cut a long story short, the probable average yield will be around 12.8 tonnes as against 14.2 last year, a reduction of only around 8.5%. Quality, on the other hand, looks good at this early stage. Joelle Marti Baron at Champagne Henriot says that the 2009 quality overall is looking very good and the much publicised reduction in yields will only help this quality standard.
2009 has not been a straightforward vintage in Rioja, with very hot conditions throughout summer and an acute lack of rain. It is still too early to give a final assessment of the vintage as not all the grapes have been harvested, but growers appear overall to be content with the results.
Generally warmer than average conditions have provided a small crop of white wines in 2009. Acidity levels are lower than in 2008, but the wines are nevertheless balanced and fresh.
Miguel Roquette from Crasto is very enthusiastic about the 2009 harvest. Volumes are slightly down in the Douro as a whole, but quality looks promising for Tinta Roriz and Touriga Nacional. As usual, he was reticent about going into any further detail before March – the wines themselves were going through malolactic when we spoke to him.
For the first time in years the winter was very cool, with abundant snowfall which completely replenished depleted water reserves. In fact, autumn winter precipitation figures are the highest on record since 1803. This meant that budbreak was a week late. However, by late May the weather had warmed up so that flowering took place on time; August was the hottest since 2003, and the harvest was earlier than 2008. Grape health was good, and although the weather was very warm at times, the replenished water reserves meant that grape maturation was not blocked at any point and good phenolic ripeness was achieved. The warm weather and replenished water reserves also boosted volumes, which are estimated to be 10% up across the varieties, with the exception of Nebbiolo, which is slightly down on 2008. Chiara Boschis at E.Pira described the incoming Nebbiolo as 'sensational'
A cool, rainy and snowy winter was followed by a warm summer. In areas without significant hail damage, yields were up. However, Soave, Bardolino and Valpolicella all suffered considerable damage, with the result that volumes across the region are the same as last year. In addition to this, both Valpolicella and Soave have acted to restrict maximum permitted yields to adapt supply to demand. Sugar levels are slightly up, aromatics are developed and acidity is within norms suggesting a high quality ripe vintage.
Rainfall was high from autumn through to mid spring. However, by the time budbreak occurred, the weather was much drier with the result that there were very few problems with fungal diseases. This continued until the rains in June and July which required some treatment with spraying. A warm summer ensured full phenolic maturity, and a high level of quality is anticipated across all the Chianti varieties. Volume is up around 5% across the region.
It is early to say much about quality, as most of the Riesling is still on the vines. As for technical parameters, sugar ripeness seems to be good across the board, but acidities seem to be much more heterogenous at this stage, with some regions showing high levels and others already ripe. Yields look slightly lower, in line with the long term trend.