We caught up with Chris Hardy, our wine buyer for France, to get the low-down on how 2014 shaped up for vignerons across the Channel.
“Now that 2015 is in full swing, here’s a brief round-up of last year’s vintage in France and what you can expect from the 2014 wines when they start arriving on our shelves.
2014 offers the best vintage since 2010. After good weather during flowering, a mixed summer worried producers. A great September saved the day, with red grapes harvested into mid-October. Dry whites look especially promising.
Following a great harvest, volumes are expected to be up by around 10%. For dry white Muscadets and Loire Sauvignons, harvest conditions were near perfect. Grapes feature concentration and intensity, with well-balanced sugar and acidity.
Volumes are up, but quality across appellations is mixed. Some areas had excess rainfall meaning some wine dilution. Through rigorous selection, good producers have made concentrated wines with elegant structure.
Despite a cooler-than-usual growing season, an Indian summer helped produce high-quality rosés, which have great red fruit concentration and refreshing acidity. Red wines were more challenging due to problems with reaching full phenolic ripeness.
This usually reliable region was hit by hailstorms, causing flooding and destruction. Some producers lost up to 80% of their crop – vintage volume is expected to be down 10%. Picpoul yields were down by 60%!
After a string of challenging vintages, the region had a much better year with excellent quality and quantity. This should relieve pressure on pricing for entry-level aromatic whites.
A mild winter and warm spring were followed by one of the wettest Augusts on record. Luckily an Indian summer returned in September, boosting flavour concentration and promoting healthy yields. Some are comparing the vintage quality to 1996 and 2004. The base wines from 2014 will form the backbone of the Non-Vintage releases from 2017-2019 depending on individual champagne house style, so these will definitely be ones to watch.
Volumes are up and quality looks great with a few exceptions. Parts of the Côte de Beaune were subject to hail for the third year in a row with Beaune, Volnay and Pommard bearing the brunt. In the Mâconnais, the Lugny vineyard also suffered hail damage, while Chablis is healthy and very promising.”