Guide to the Loire regions
Savennières

Recent and Notable Vintages

2010
Despite a very cold winter budding started early. A cold period followed, but there was thankfully no late frosts. Flowering commenced around the 7th June and was pretty homogenous, but a very dry summer brought on water stress and the crop came in around 20% short as a result. September started wet and humid, but conditions did improve, although some growers lost a little to rot. The ban de vendange was on the 24th September, although some producers, including Domaine du Closel, applied for a dispensation to harvest early (on the 20th). The harvest went well over a three week period with generally two passages through the vines possible. Early impressions (01/11) are that this is a classic vintage.  

2009
This was a great vintage for the appellation, comparable to 2005. It is a year of low pHs but also reduced levels of malic acid, due to the warm conditions. There was no rain for the three months leading up to the harvest, meaning that young vines did suffer stress. Perfect weather during the summer and into the autumn ensured that, for the majority of growers, the harvest was conducted in a single pass through the vines. Picking started in the last week of September (the ban de vendange was on the 25th of the month)with most of the grapes coming in over a ten day period, although some waited until the end of October since the weather conditions allowed growers to harvest at their own pace. There was very little botrytis present due to the dry conditions. The weather in early October were very warm, even at night, with the temperature already at around 16 degrees centigrade at sunrise. This saw ripeness levels soar, pushing potential alcohol to close to 15%. 

2008
Frost damage ensured this was always going to be a short vintage. Initially, the growers hadn't noticed the damage as the frost came before most of the vines had budded, but as the new growth appeared, the tiny leaves were emerging already brown. Flowering was poor and the summer cold and rainy. Eric Morgat said he worked harder in the vines this vintage than any other (Domaine du Closel sprayed nine times this season to keep maladies at bay) and was rewarded with the smallest crop ever; producing just 10,000 bottles. Some rain fell on the 15th September, but the harvest was carried out in ideal conditions. The harvest started on the 25th September in Roche-aux-Moines and two days later in L'Enclos and lasted until the 13th October. At Domaine du Closel, everything was raised in barrel this year as there was insufficient wine to fill the tanks. 

2007
This vintage will be remembered for its bizarre weather during the growing season. A precocious budding brought on by a warm April saw the vines a full four weeks ahead of normal by the end of May. However, the summer was less kind with rain throughout June, July and August, and mildew and rot became a potential issue. A cold spell in June led to uneven flowering, and hence uneven ripening, so increasing the number of passes necessary at harvest time. From being a month early, the growers found themselves harvesting from around the 10th October, which is just about normal. It’s true to say that better conditions during September saved the harvest, with ten consecutive days of sunny conditions and a north wind which helped to dry out any mildew and rot, although it was still necessary to drop some of the crop to maintain a good sanitary condition of the grapes. The ban de vendange was the 26th September. Harvesting by successive (usually for this vintage three) pickings, was a necessity, with the vintage being completed over a two week period, although at least one grower (Domaine Franchaie) was still picking on the 7th November. Certainly, there was evidence of botrytis in the later or last passages.  

This is a very small vintage with many growers harvesting only 15 – 18 hl/ha, with a great many moëlleux and doux wines produced. For the drier styles, the wines are distinguished by higher levels of malic acid as this wasn’t respired during colder summer conditions. Expect some very fresh examples, but some growers will ensure the wines see either full or partial malolactic fermentation to help soften the acidity.

2006
This was the most difficult vintage since the revision of the appellation laws in 1996. The season didn’t start well as the vines were beginning to show the stress of three previous years of drought. Flowering was normal, but July saw another heat wave, and as with 2003 the nights were as warm as the days. August was miserable with lots of rain and cold weather which started to throw the vines out of balance, so there was plenty to be done this month in the vines to correct this. September and the beginning of October were also cool and wet with some growers electing to drop some of the crop, although the juice remained charged with high sugar levels, a result of the ongoing drought, even though the fruit was not technically ripe. The wet conditions meant that humidity was high and the botrytis arrived quickly, and a total of 50% of the fruit was affected seeing some wines yielding natural alcohols of 16%.

2005
This rates as the single best vintage in Savennières since 1990. Very good conditions all summer, including a very hot July, saw some growers harvesting in a single passage in the middle of September. Generally, the warm, dry conditions meant there was good ripeness, but no botrytis. Château d’Epiré harvested some moëlleux picked on the first day of harvest. This should have been a universally good year, but it’s not without its disappointments with some grower’ wines being over blown, alcoholic and flabby.

2004
A cloudy spring, with both warm and cold spells. The vines suffered stress due to a five month drought with the foliage starting to turn yellow as early as June. July was cold but humid and the vines began to close down. A storm in early August helped revitalise the vineyards. September was good, if a little cold, but with foggy mornings helping to raise humidity, although this was burnt off by the sun and breeze in the afternoons. There was no rain at all this month and so very little resulting botrytis. Harvesting started at the end of September although those growers who still had fruit hanging by the 10th October were hit by five days of rain. Any botrytis was more likely to be encountered on the later ripening, sandier soils. In the cellar, some growers experienced problems with prolonged fermentations due to the lack of natural yeast counts in the vineyards due to the poor conditions of the summer. Despite the difficulties, this is something of a classic vintage.

2003
Although the 2003 season proved to a hot one (Eric Morgat refers to it as his Châteauneuf-du-Pape vintage), there was a little rain consistently through the summer, ensuring a good récolte. Unlike the previous two vintages, there was no botrytis at all in 2003. The harvest, like everywhere, was early; the ban de vendange being declared on the 10th September. Madame Laroche did only one passage whilst Antoine Vivier, for whom this was his first harvest, managed ten! Florent Baumard produced, in his own words, an ‘atypical example of Trie Spéciale’. Understandably, there are some alcoholic wines here, often exceeding 15% alcohol.

2002
This was a cold year all round, in spring, summer and during the harvest which ensured this was a late season. There was rain at the end of August that continued into early September. This in turn attracted some rot. In the cellar, fermentations were also protracted. This is considered a good year with some wines displaying some botrytis. Eric Morgat harvested in three passages, on the 9th, 18th and 20th October.

2001
A cool season. It was necessary to wait for botrytis to add any sense of character. The harvest started around the 5/6th October. Most examples are much deeper in appearance and have a sense of oxidation about them, compounded by an unusual fishy, clove-like flavour profile with firm acidity. These wines are not for the faint hearted.

2000
Poor conditions later in the season meant that this year benefited those who elected to harvest early. Eric Morgat picked over three dates; 16th, 25th and 27th October. Domaine des Baumard managed to produced a ‘Trie Spéciale’.

1999
Madame Laroche started on the 30th September and found it necessary to make four passages through the vines. After a great summer, the harvest was spoilt by rain and a cold spell. The wines were pretty closed until recently, but even now the vintage does not have a particularly high reputation.

1998
A cold, wet and rainy year. Growers waited in vain for the onset of botrytis in the hope that this would offer some concentration and add a degree of flavour to an otherwise neutral juice. Not a particularly distinguished year.

1997
Considered by the majority of growers as a great vintage, producing ripe wines with little or no botrytis. By the end of the growing season there was very little malic acid left in the berries. Despite the reputation, the reality is that many of these wines taste hot and alcoholic with most producers picking too late to achieve any real sense of balance. Domaine des Barres picked at 18.5% potential alcohol on their second passage. Various growers, including Domaine des Baumard and Claude Papin, took advantage of the change in the previous year’s appellation laws to produce some sweeter style wines.

1996
A good year yielding a fair share of riper style wines.

1995
A good year with very healthy conditions in the vines. 

1994
Madame Laroche declares this as a very difficult vintage – ‘Not enough matière, although Claude Branchereau proclaims this to be a ‘great year’.

1993
An undistinguished vintage.

1992
Mme Laroche did seven passages this vintage due to rain and rot. The vines were compensating from the small previous crop.

1991
A late spring frost severely curtailed yields. The wines are generally average, but one comes across some minor successes.

1990
The earliest flowering ever recorded, It started during the last few days of May. This was also the driest ever year until 2003 came along.

1989
The first of two great vintages in the Loire and prior to 2003 the earliest recorded harvest since the appellation came into being – on or around the 26th September. Flowering was equally early at the end of May, start of June.

1988
Generally overlooked by the following two years, there were some sound wines made this vintage.

1987
A poor year.

1986
Good to excellent with most of the better examples still holding on.

1985
A cool spring. Some wines still show elements of reduction.

1984
Undistinguished.

1983
A good season overall which saw the harvest taking place in good conditions, although it did end a little later than normal. At Coulée de Serrant the harvest was completed on the 8th November.

1982
A perfect summer and autumn, right up until the 9th October after which the weather turned. The harvest started earlier than average; on or around the 20th September.  Coulée de Serrant produced both a dry and a demi-sec cuvée this vintage.

1981
Good weather conditions up until the end of the harvest, although there was a smaller yield at Coulée de Serrant.

1980
This was a very poor vintage with rain up to and through the harvest.

1979
An average summer redeemed by decent conditions during the harvest period. It produced a slightly larger than average crop.

1978
A reduced vintage due to frost (there was only 75% of a normal crop produced at Coulée de Serrant) however, the season was good although the harvest was late, but picked in ideal conditions.

1977
The smallest ever harvest declared in Savennières; a combination of a frost year (only 60% of a normal crop produced at Coulée de Serrant – equivalent to 12,000 bottles) compounded by the fact that only 46 hectares were declared as planted in the appellation.

1976
A very dry summer resulting in a precocious vintage, starting around the 27th September – at that stage the earliest budburst and harvest since the appellation was founded. Coulée de Serrant produced 32,000 bottles.

1975
A year affected by frost with only 40% of a normal crop (9,000 bottles) being produced at Coulée de Serrant.

1974
Undistinguished.

1973
A generous vintage. Some rain in September. Harvest commenced towards the end of the month.

1972
Budburst was quite average, but flowering was the latest ever recorded; in the first week of July. No Coulée de Serrant was produced this vintage.

1970
A small but excellent vintage.

1969
A very good year with plenty of sunshine. The Jolys produced a ‘sec tendre’ this vintage.

1967
Similar conditions to 1969, although with a slightly more forward harvest.

1966
Some 850mm rain fell resulting in the wettest vintage since the appellation came into being. That said, Coulée de Serrant is still tasting outstanding.

1965
No Coulée de Serrant produced.

1964
A good summer with fine weather right through the harvest. Average yields.

1963
Budburst was delayed until the end of April; the latest ever recorded, as was the harvest. Picking started the last week in October. No Coulée de Serrant was produced this year

1961
The earliest budburst recorded in the 1960s; during the first week of March, although possibly hit by a late frost (as in Bordeaux ) which reduced the eventual crop. The harvest was about average for the period in mid October.

1950s
1953 and 1955 are considered the best two vintages of the decade.

Heavy frosts in the winter of 1956 decimated the vineyards. 1958 was a very wet season with over 800mm of rain.

1940s
1947 and 1949 are considered the best two vintages of the decade. In both years Coulée de Serrant was produced from botrytis affected fruit.

 

Attractions

Eglise de Saint Pierre, Saint Romain
The pretty little church that sits at the very heart of Savennières is impossible to miss as it is necessary to navigate around it as one drives through the centre of the village. It is an original Romanesque example and is said to be one of the oldest in the whole of Anjou , dating back to the time of the Carolingians in the 9th and 10th centuries, with the addition of a bell tower in the 12th century. The south and west façades display both local granite along with ancient bricks aligned in a herring-bone pattern. The church was originally dedicated to Saint Pierre , with Romain, the patron saint of the Abbey of Saint Serge d’Angers, being added in the 11th Century.

La Pierre Bécherelle
This 15 metre high tower of rock perches out over the Loire at the boundary of the villages of Epiré and Savennières. Its existence has been recognised since the 11th century when it was used as a landmark for the numerous vessels that traversed the river. The rock stands next to the main Paris to Nantes railway line that cuts through the cliff at this point in its journey. During the railway’s construction in 1849 a part of it fell away into the river. The so called ‘Fallen Stone’ can occasionally be seen when the Loire is running low.

Château de Serrant, Saint-Georges-sur-Loire
Situated some ten kilometres west of Savennières, the chateau owners’ descendants, the Welsh de Serrants, were once the proprietors of Le Clos de la Coulée de Serrant. The origins date back to a medieval fortress erected by Ponthus de Brie in 1481, with a renaissance style chateau built on its foundations being completed in the mid 1600s. Details on visiting the chateau can be found on www.chateau-serrant.net .  

Ile de Béhuard
In order to cross the river at Savennières to reach Rochefort-sur-Loire on the south bank it is necessary to traverse two bridges, connected in the middle of the Loire by the island of Béhuard . This elongated spit of land takes its name from Buhard, a Breton squire, who was in the service of Geoffrey Marshall around the time that he became the Count of Anjou in 1063. The island hosted a pagan shrine which was replaced in the 5th century by an oratory, where prayers were said for sailors who worked this stretch of the river. In the 15th century, under the instruction of Louis XI, a small church dedicated to the Virgin Mary was erected on a small outcrop of schist on the island after Louis had been saved from shipwreck on the river nearby.

Eating, Drinking and Sleeping

Eating

La Terrasse
2 Place Ruzebouc, La Pointe, Bouchemaine
Tel: 02 41 77 11 96          website: www.la-terrasse-sur-loire.com
There is a lovely view overlooking the river at the confluence of the Maine and the Loire some five kilometres east of Epiré. La Pointe has the feel of a small coastal fishing village and the cuisine here rather reflects this, based on locally caught seafood. The restaurant has a great wine list with a comprehensive selection of Loire wines, from both the banks immediately adjacent as well as further upstream. It comes highly recommended for lunch. Next door and under the same ownership is a simple brasserie, L’Auberge de l’Ancre de Marine which also has five rooms.

La Taverne du Prieuré
1 Place du Pilori
La Possonnière
Tel: 02 41 72 20 44
A simple brasserie situated in the centre of the village. Good for a quick lunch. Frequented by local farmers and with friendly and efficient service. Also open some evenings, but best to check opening times in advance. Inexpensive. 

Staying

Moulin de Beaupréau.
Tel: 02 41 72 24 47  web site: www.chambresauxmoulin-savennieres.fr
A chambre d’hote surrounded by vines and situated in and around a converted windmill at the rear of the plateau of Savennières.


Where not to stay

The Grand Hotel, Rochefort-sur-Loire
You may find reference to this hotel in numerous guides on the Loire and out of date wine reference guides. After booking in one night in January, we had checked out within the hour. The place needs to be condemned.

Bibliography

English Language:

  • The Wine and Domaines of France, Clive Coates MW

  • The Vine, Clive Coates MW

  • A Wine and Food Guide to the Loire , Jacqueline Friedrich

  • Terroir, James E Wilson

  • Châteaux of the Loire Valley, Polidori/Pérouse de Montclos

French Language:

  • Grand Atlas de Vignobles de France, Benoît

  • Vignes et Vins de France, Poulain/Jacquelin

  • Les Vins du Val de Loire, Suzanne Blanchet

  • Le Guide Hachette des Vins, Hachette

Useful Links

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