THE CORK BOARD
Compiled by Chloe Geller
2018 Loire Harvest:
An Early Harvest with Favorable Quality At the start of the 2018 harvest season, the Loire Valley Wines Council announced that the total volume of the 2018 vintage is expected to exceed last year's production. Ideal weather conditions have put a smile back on the faces of Loire winegrowers.
The 2018 harvest started two weeks earlier this year, similar to 2011 and 2017. The early maturity of the 2018 vintage, acquired in spring, was preserved thanks to this year's historically fine summer. The amount of sunshine in July and August was indeed remarkable, with 600 to 625 hours of sunlight, which is as much as 30-percent higher than normal in some areas. Unlike 2017, the vines were spared from hail and frost. The rainy month of June, as everywhere else in France, led to mildew attacks. Overall, the disease was controlled by the know-how and vigilance of winegrowers, even if some farms suffered significant crop losses.
Winegrowers follow the grapes' evolution and taste them regularly to determine the optimal harvest date, according to wine profiles required for their different markets. Some Loire Valley winegrowers also employ high-tech tools, including Prévimat, a web interface developed by the Loire Valley Wines Board to predict the evolution of Cabernet Franc grape maturity up to 14 days.
The five distinct wine-growing regions dotting the Loire's banks feature no less than 4,000 wineries, 170,000 acres of vineyards and 61 appellations of origin, thus making the Loire Valley the third largest French winemaking region. Producing 380 million bottles per year - be they red, rosé or white; still or sparkling; dry or semi-dry, supple or sweet - the Loire Valley is France's leading producer of white wines and ranks second for rosés. The region as a whole exports 68 million bottles every year to 157 markets.
Napa’s 2018 harvest builds balance at a steady pace
According to the Napa Valley Grapegrowers, 2018 has been an exciting year so far. In February, rain was abundant, and when the skies cleared, endless days of sunshine followed. Then tiny buds emerged from the dormant vines, marking the beginning of the 2018 growing season. Looking across the valley floor in the early spring, it was a sea of bright, strong growth. In the spring, vines flowered uniformly, which paved the way for even cluster development.
"A very even bloom was followed by a rapid veraison this year, and to date, our ripening period has been void of extreme heat, which will allow for some extended hang time and great phenolic maturity in the fruit," said Paul Goldberg, director of operations at Bettinelli Vineyards and president of the Napa Valley Grapegrowers.
2018's first picks occurred mid-August, about a week or so later than 2017. These were primarily for Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier for sparkling wine. Other white varieties, and those for still wines, began coming off the vines in late August.
As growers enter October, activities will speed up, as the majority of red varieties ripen and begin to come in. Viticulturists closely monitor grape phenolics to ensure that harvest occurs at exactly the right time and once the pick date is set, vineyard crews spring into action. It's a well-choreographed operation that Napa Valley growers wait for the entire year – it's show time.
Napa Valley Vintners board member and Favia winemaker Andy Erickson, who works in multiple nested appellations throughout the Napa Valley, said that after a month of picking white varieties, reds like Cabernet Sauvignon are just starting to come in and that the recent cool weather has been extremely beneficial.
"The first reds that we're seeing, the color, the aromatics, the acidity, it's all there," said Erickson, who added he is delighted about the potential for even further development of fruit still on the vine. "Now that it's officially fall, that's when you get some really interesting late-season flavors." Erickson and several other NVV members have also reported strong yields.
Overall, a very balanced growing season has vintners extremely optimistic about the 2018 harvest.
A new vision for Mouton Cadet
Philippe Sereys de Rothschild, Chairman and CEO of Baron Philippe de Rothschild SA recently announced that Mouton Cadet is reimagining the way it selects parcels for grape production, the taste of the iconic Bordeaux, and also the look and packaging of the famed bottles. He visited New York, Miami, and Las Vegas to herald the relaunch the new Mouton Cadet portfolio in the United States, more than sixty years after it was first introduced to American wine lovers. The company aims to make the richness of the prestigious Bordeaux terroir accessible to a wider audience, offering both authenticity and quality with the Rothschild name as the hallmark of French savoir-faire.
“The process of reimagining the Mouton Cadet portfolio encapsulated years long efforts that will now result in a new chapter for the brand,” said Philippe Sereys de Rothschild. “While consumers know the dedication of our winemaking family to excellence, the recently renovated Mouton Cadet portfolio will provide the opportunity to experience our family’s heritage in an accessible way, while taking a new terroir-driven approach for the grape selection that we are convinced Americans will rediscover and love.”
Reinvigoration initiatives, coupled with Philippe Sereys de Rothschild’s vision for the next chapter of Mouton Cadet, which was created in 1930 by his grandfather, have helped to refine the wine’s signature style, making it even more smooth and round while remaining true to its origins, as elegant and refined as ever. The portfolio will be featuring both red, white and rosé wine - underlining the skills of the Mouton Cadet winemakers in the art of blending, capturing the ideal balance between fruit and freshness on one side and elegance and structure on the other.