Awards and citations:

1997: Le Prix du Champagne Lanson Noble Cuvée Award for investigations into Champagne for the Millennium investment scams

2001: Le Prix Champagne Lanson Ivory Award for

2011: Vindic d'Or MMXI – 'Meilleur blog anti-1855'

2011: Robert M. Parker, Jnr: ‘This blogger...’:

2012: Born Digital Wine Awards: No Pay No Jay – best investigative wine story

2012: International Wine Challenge – Personality of the Year Award

Loire vintages

Work in progress 

Picking Chenin Blanc: Le Puy Notre Dame – 3.10.09

2012: A very difficult year when the weather was orchestrated by a mischievous devil, who delighted in sending the right weather but in the wrong order.  


2010: This vintage reinforced my increasing belief that it is rarely sensible to attempt to label a Loire vintage as good, good or indifferent. This is for a number of reasons. The vineyards are spread over such as distance with considerable variations of weather/climate. The Loire makes a very diverse range of wines covering virtually all possible styles apart from fortified as well as using a range of grape varieties. Thus it is unlikely that the weather in any given year will be right for all styles of wine. The best conditions for dry Chenin, for example, may be too cool for top quality reds from Cabernet Franc.        

2009: Looks to have lived up to the reputation that vintages ending in a 9 are a success – notably 1989, 1959 and 1949 and 1919 was pretty good, too.

Fortunately after three difficult years the Pays Nantais escaped spring frosts as did the rest of the Loire. The winter – certainly early January saw snow and very cold temperatures – down to minus 18 in eastern Touraine. This spell was good news for the vines ensuring that vine pests and diseases were killed off by the cold. 

East of Tours a number of areas were hit by a succession of hail storms. Worst hit was AC Menetou-Salon, which suffered two storms in May – at the beginning and the end – and then one on 16th July. Sadly the appellation was celebrating its 50th anniversary with some producers with nothing to harvest. parts of Sancerre – Crézancy, Bué and Sancerre, itself, were hit. Some of the best known names in Sancerre like Vacheron harvested around 25 hl/ha. Parts of the Cher Valley were also hit by the July storm.

Overall the summer was good a generally dry with some parts of Anjou and southern Touraine having virtually no rain from early June through to September.

The weather much much of September and October was ideal with September particularly fine and warm - often around 25-27˚ C with low humidity. October was a little more unsettled with some rain but nothing serious, so the vignerons were able to wait and pick their grapes when in perfect condition. As in 2008 the weather broke in late October causing problems for sweet wine makers in Anjou.

The harvest was around a week to ten days earlier than in 2008. Although it is still early days the reds  are looking particularly promising with opulent, sweet fruit. They are likely to be delicious and young with the best having a considerable aging potential. 

There remains a bit of a question mark over some of the dry whites – in Sancerre some grapes were picked at around 15.5˚. However, most I tasted during the recent Salon des Vins de Loire were well balanced. Many Muscadets will be richer than usual and may well be a better match with fish than with the traditional oysters and other shellfish.          

2008: Overall another vintage saved by a miraculous autumn – good weather through September and much of October when rain through much of November dashed hopes of a fine sweet wine vintage.

However, a disaster in the western part of the Loire because of an early April frost (night 6th/7th) for Muscadet and parts of Anjou. There were also some more isolated frosts in eastern Touraine later in April. As in 2007 mildew was a problem, especially in Vouvray after the torrential rain that hit the town duringb the afternoon of Saturday 31st May.

Rainfall was lower, particularly in August which was unseasonably cold. It was rare for daytime temperatures to get much above 20˚C and rare to be able to eat dinner outside. In a normal August it is customary to eat outside every evening.

As in 2007 and 2002 the weather improved in September, although average temperatures were lower than in 2007. The harvest was relatively late meaning that the grapes had a longer than normal hang time, so benefited from time to fully develop their flavours giving an intensity of fruit balanced by fine acidity.

Wines from 2008, especially the reds, have more more structure and body than 2007. The best reds should have a good potential to age and there are some very good dry whites. As the weather broke towards the end of October, there are some charming, light sweet wines.   

2007: A late start just as in the UK, it was a pretty strange year weather-wise. A mild winter followed by an extraordinarily hot April led to an early bud-break and a very early flowering at the end of May. At this stage it looked like the harvest would begin in places in late August assuming the weather was good – an incorrect assumption! The Loire had one of its worst summers for many years. The flowering was generally difficult because it was wet and cold, taking a long time and leading to a poor set with potentially big differences in ripeness within the same bunch – not good news especially if you harvest by machine.

Bad weather in June, July and August made mildew a big problem, especially for organic producers. It was not just yellowed leaves and white mildew patches on the underside of leaves but bunches of grapes attacked by mildew. In a few places mildew has gobbled everything up – leaves and grapes.

August was miserable. The temperature rarely crept over the early 20sC and at times it was 16˚-17˚C with several days of torrential rain around 20th August. It was so abnormally cold that it was only rarely possible to have dinner outside. Usually you expect to be able to eat outside every night in August.

Fortunately as it often happens the weather cleared up at the beginning of September and it was mostly sunny and dry with the wind from the north/north east that dried up any incipient rot. Generally the harvest started later than expected – early September rather than late August.
 The weather continued favourable well into November with the result that there are some sensational sweet wines with great balance and purity of fruit.

2007 is a good to very good year for dry whites with very clean flavours, although often with high acidity and quite austere. This makes them ones for amateurs of Loire wines, while others may find them just too austere. Reds are generally light and can be charming, if the winemaker chose to concentrate on the fruit rather than trying a make bigger, more structured wines,   

2006:  “A question of the Vigneron” A very hot July and a decent August  - but rain started falling in mid September in the west of the region and by late September in the east. Muscadet bore the brunt of the rainy conditions and Pierre Luneau picked his grapes quickly but in good condition.  Generally Sauvignon was picked before or just as the rain started and is of very good quality. There were some good Cabernet Francs and Chenin Blancs made but the input of the Vigneron was, as always, all important.

2005:  “A Great Vintage” The Loire was blessed with perfect weather conditions throughout this year and unlike 2003 the acidity levels were much better. As a result some wonderfully balanced wines have been produced. The grapes were harvested in ideal conditions and the vignerons have never known such an easy time.

2004:  “A fine to reasonable vintage” A lovely September resulted in the grapes in most regions being ripe and well balanced with a good acidity. It was a prolific vintage and many of the lesser producers in the region didn’t reduce their yields, but the good vignerons produced some consistently lovely wines with very good concentrations. A classic Loire vintage with the reds needing time to soften.

2003:  “Fabulous Summer” This year will be remembered as one of the hottest summers on record with picking starting two to three weeks earlier than normal in most regions. Frosts in April did however cause some damage and yields were subsequently lower. It was by general consensus a truly outstanding year for red wines, which have a wonderful concentration and lovely ripe fruit. Their ability to age remains controversial with some producers convinced that they will age well, others sure they will soon fall apart. I fancy much depended upon how well producers coped with the high temperatures during the harvest.

White wines generally have a lower acidity than normal but have tremendously ripe fruit and attractive floral characteristics. With time the balance in some of the whites, especially the Sauvignons, has become more apparently as the initial opulence has receded a little.

Some very good and opulent sweet wines likely to have a great potential to age.

2002:  “Plenty of attractive fruit” The exceptionally sunny September transformed what could have been a depressing vintage into a generally very good one. After the cool July and wet August this was a very welcome change to recent Septembers and altered the outlook totally. The wines of 2002 have an exceptional purity of fruit - partly due to yields being down as much as 20% - more for Sauvignon Blanc. Good reports have come in from all the regions from Muscadet to Sancerre and overall the vintage was a good one.

2001:  “From one extreme to another” This year turned out to be one of decidedly mixed fortunes. Muscadet had yet another very good vintage, whilst Sancerre and Pouilly had a rough time. The frosts in April reduced the size of the crop - the rains of late September and early October ruined the hopes of a great vintage, although most growers are fairly happy. The favourable weather in late October ensured that the sweet wines of Anjou were excellent. Very little wine was made in Eastern Touraine due to the frosts and stem rot. Anjou certainly had its’ best harvest since 1997 - the growers are content and some of the sweet wines were a revelation. As always, rely on the foremost growers to produce the goods.

2000:  “Not to be confused with the great vintage in Bordeaux” After a miserable July, mildew reared its ugly head although the fine autumn made some amends. The weather broke with disastrous results on the 16th October - with continuous rain for weeks on end. Those that harvested earlier made fine wines (as in Bordeaux) - Muscadet was good as were Sancerre & Pouilly. The red wines in general have good colour but not the structure for long maturation. Despite the downpour - there are some reasonable Chenin Blancs - including some small quantities of sweet wines picked early December! - a tribute to the nerve of intrepid growers.

1999:  “It came close - but it was not to be” As a vintage however, it sorted out the good from the indifferent growers. A large harvest loomed during July - serious producers cut off excess bunches. The idle and greedy did not. When the rains came in September - those with over laden vines (and unripe grapes) suffered - the prudent did not. Muscadet yet again avoided the rains and made good wines. This is a year where the selection of producer is vital - some - such as J P Chevallier in Saumur  (ten years on his 1999 Les Cormiers is sensational) made exceptional wines - many have not!

1998:  The least good vintage of the second half of the decade. Late September rains  and cold weather dashed the hopes of growers for another classic. Nevertheless the best vignerons, as usual, made good wines - albeit lacking the structure of previous vintages. Most of the rains occurred after the grapes had reached a phenolic maturity ensuring the dilution was not exaggerated. However, many of the 1998 reds were quite mean and stalky and, except for the very best producers, should now be avoid. Once again Jean-Pierre Chevallier's policy of making only the Saumur-Champigny domaine cuvée in off vintages paid off.  

1997:  'A great success' - Huge, fat and rich wines were made in Anjou & Touraine. Many with amazing alcoholic degrees - 15% was not unusual for dry whites in Anjou - even Gamay could be found with similar percentages. Some would argue that these wines are unbalanced - others would demur with delight. This all stems from the balmy weather of September and early October, which resulted in high, natural, sugar levels. Have they got the acidity and balance to be long lived? Ask some concerned experts. “Who cares?” say aficionados. 

1996: Overall, ‘96 is probably superior to ’95” especially for reds. A very dry summer produced the second of a trio of good to excellent vintages. For anyone looking to lay down some red wine - this is definitely the vintage to choose - many put it just below 1989. Dry whites, from Muscadet to Sancerre, are also very successful. Fine weather in September and October allowed growers to leave their Chenin until it was properly mature. Because of the drought, the sweet wines have less botrytis. Nevertheless rich and concentrated wines were made.

The top reds have aged wonderfully well – very classic Loire – and the best should continue to last for a number of years more.

1995:  'The best vintage since 1990 – admittedly not a great deal of competition!' For once, frost was not so devastating, though Muscadet, parts of Anjou and Saumur together with Bourgueil, experienced isolated problems. A hot summer was followed by some September rains but, except in Vouvray and Montlouis, not enough to mar the harvest. Dry whites are successful from Muscadet to Sancerre. The reds have concentration, quite high acidity and tannins and have needed plenty of time to soften. The long dry autumn produced some very fine sweet wines. The wines have a good balance of fruit and acidity.

1994  “A difficult year”. Severe frost in western part of Touraine. Fair for reds in Saumur - some fine sweet wines made in Anjou but the spectre of grey rot was ever-present in much of the vineyard area. 'Tropical' and very humid in September, so it was a race against the rot. Treat with caution, and many dry whites and reds considerably past their best  although some good sweet wines, which should last well.

1993:  'A fair commercial vintage'  but now well past its best - some fine sweet wines.

1992: Very big vintage after the devastating frost of the previous year – a combination of nature having had a year off and many producers pruned long. Lot of dilute wines and most now well past their best

1991: The year was defined by the severe frost of 21st/22nd April, which did enormous damage across western France. Overall the Loire made a third of normal. The vines started very early and so were particularly affected by the April frost. Apart from this reasonable weather for much of the year, although May was cold. Rarely seen now.

1990  “A great classic” - Lots of charm - the reds are lasting well but are now hard to find. Very good sweet wines

1989  “One of the true vintages of the century” - Many wines have yet to reach their optimum maturity still - superb sweet wines, great red wines. Compares with 64, 59 & 47. Fine weather throughout summer and autumn continued into December even the grapillons ripened!












1977: Awful

1976: Very hot, dry summer with some rain in mid-September. Age worthy wines if a bit baked. Some reds have lasted – even amazingly a few years back the 1976 Gamay primeur from Henry Marionnet.





1893: One of the earliest vintages ever. Great reds and sweet whites, some still drinkable.