Growers and winemakers in the Loire had cause to be excited while picking the 2015 harvest. Fingers became sticky, tacky residue stuck to the forearms of pickers and tangled the hair on their arms, and skin became stained with the colour of grape juice.
That’s an exciting thing, it turns out, because sticky fingers means high sugars in the grapes. In most wine regions, that’s probably not much to be excited about – business as usual, even – but in the Loire (Northern, cool, often wet) it becomes a sign of a particularly good year. Coming straight after the exceptional year they had in 2014, it’s not unreasonable for Loire winemakers to feel particularly pleased with this – but then good vintages seem to come in pairs in the Loire. 1989 & 1990 were two of the most outstanding harvests on record, and it would be over ten years before 2002 & 2003 repeated the feat.
The parallels to 2002 & 2003 are quite marked, says Charles Sydney – one of the Loire’s most respected courtiers. “2014 and 2015 make a magic pair,” he comments, “…except 2014 is better than 2002 ever was and 2015 has the acidity some complained was missing in 2003.”
What’s a courtier?
Courtiers have their roots in Bordeaux, where they are specialists brokering deals between Chateaux and Negociants. Originally, they carried messages between the two to facilitate negotiation and purchase of wines for sale. They have specialist knowledge of growers and winemakers, developed over many years, and their relationships allow them to source grapes or finished wine on behalf of their clients.
The feeling is amongst those in the know that 2014s have the edge on longevity, but the 2015s bring attractive fruit, ripeness and are turning out to be very smart wines – if you’re the cellaring type, the ’15s are 10 year wines where the ’14s are 15 year wines.
It has been an especially good year for sweet wines and reds – apparently the Cabernet Francs will be amazing, and Chenin Blanc is the absolute superstar with Vouvray, Savenières and Chaumes producing outstanding wines with finesse and ripeness. We direct you to our fine wine friends at Lay & Wheeler to get your mitts on those.
One of the real surprises in 2015 was Muscadet. Growers who lavished the care and attention required managed an exceptionally high quality and ripe crop, with the potential to out-do the incredible 2014s. The best wines show depth, concentration and complexity with a backbone of acidity to tingle your mouth and keep the wines fresh and zesty – as good Muscadet should be. We’ll start seeing these wines arriving in-store over the next few months, and they’ll be well worth looking out for.
In the meantime, snap up what you can of the 2014s – these are great wines from one of the finest vintages in recent memory, and where the 2015s are more showy, these are the wines the critics would call ‘precise’.
Which you can translate as ‘really good’.
Our top picks:
Ripe citrus fruit and a touch of green apple peel, clean with a touch of natural spritz which enlivens the wine. The archetypal seafood and oyster wine and a must-have with moules marinere.
Laser-sharp freshness with hints of stone fruit and white flowers over citrus. Has a bit of that rain-on-stones aroma. Lees ageing gives richness and a slightly bready bead. Bring on the scallops!
Domaine Joël Delaunay is a fantastic small grower in Touraine, smack in the middle of the Loire valley. His son Thierry is now winemaker and makes one of the best Sauvignon Blancs in the region. A brilliant match for spicy fish or Thai dishes, citrus and herbs abound in the glass and bring green fruits, gooseberry and a lovely leafy lick in the mouth. Lovely stuff.
Domaine Vacheron are one of the best producers in the region. Aromatic, complex, balanced and delicious Sauvignon that should serve as the textbook for Sancerre. Blackcurrant leaf, gooseberry and zesty citrus.
Six months on the lees lends weight to this brilliant Sancerre, adding complexity to the flavour. A touch of rhubarb and solid gooseberry aromas before lemon, lime and flint with greengage. Calls for goats cheese and tomato.