The wine world was shocked when a sudden frost hit France this spring, and so far, it looks like one of the country’s greatest casualties is the Loire Valley. The average producer in this iconic wine region has already lost up to 30 percent of the crop, and in the most frostbitten areas, the crop is down by a staggering 80 percent. Loire Valley winemakers are in a state of limbo as they wait for the fruit to mature this summer, yet unripened fruit isn’t even their greatest concern of the moment; the best Loire wine stocks are down because investors are worried about the vintage’s quality, and this economic downturn is poised to do just as much damage to fine wineries as the initial frost. However, as grim as this might sound, you shouldn’t completely write off 2016 Loire. If you’re smart about your purchases, you can avoid some of the pitfalls of this vintage and help pull an incredible region out of the weeds in the process.
It Will Be Harder to Find Your Favorite Labels
Before you invest in 2016 Loire, keep in mind that the rarity of every label instantly increased when that frost wave hit in April. Estates that usually produce 20,000 cases of wine might be down to 14,000 cases in the least-affected regions, while estates in the most damaged regions could be down to a measly 4,000 cases. Generally, wineries in Touraine, Nantais, and Sarthe took the most damage, so if your favorite label is made in one of these three regions, you might not be able to find a single bottle of 2016, depending on how the fall harvest goes. In more collectible regions like Anjou, prospects are slightly better, and collectors who love producers like Baumard will likely see only a slight increase in rarity. Keep a close watch on your favorite producers over the next few months to find out how they fared.
The Best Loire Wine Could Come from Unexpected Places
Don’t just stick with your favorite wines; lesser-known Loire wineries that ordinarily don’t receive a lot of attention could produce some of the most sought-after bottles on the market if the quality of the grapes is high at harvest. Don’t be surprised if you see critics or fellow collectors talking about estates you’ve never heard of when 2016 bottles are released. Collectors have a great opportunity to seek out new Loire winemakers, especially those who managed to craft an excellent vintage under poor weather conditions. When frost strikes, it’s easy to see which winemakers were able to recover well. These are the winemakers you should pay closer attention to in the future.
And remember that Loire Valley is no stranger to frost damage. In 1709, a massive frost nearly wiped out every red grape in the region. The region bounced back with the frost-resistant Muscadet grape, which remains one of the most popular varietals in Loire. Knowing this, if any region of France were to survive a massive frost, it would be Loire Valley with its hardy, cold-loving vines. Your best investment in Loire will come from the grapes that prefer cooler temperatures, like Muscadet or even Chenin Blanc from estates like Domaine Delesvaux.
You’ll Spend More the Longer You Wait
You might be tempted to wait on investing in Loire wine until critics and collectors rate the wine, however, while this is less risky, you’ll pay more for your wine in the long run, the longer you wait. The reason for this is two-fold: first, Loire winemakers refuse to increase their prices in response to the frost, and second, the increased rarity will raise demand. InterLoire vice president Bernard Jacob says in a press release, “The Loire Valley is ready and willing to supply the markets without introducing price rises, which may lead to destabilization.”
Winemakers want to keep their prices stable, especially since the quality of the grapes is still in question, which means that you’ll pay less for the wine when you buy directly from estates or partnered merchants. Additionally, if a bottle is rare, collectors might charge more for it on the secondary market knowing that it’s difficult to find. To buy the best Loire wine, you should consider investing in pre-arrivals to secure your case orders and get the lowest price.
Consider Back Vintages
Keeping a close watch on the best Loire wine producers and buying pre-arrivals will be your best bet for the 2016 vintage, but you should also do research now on the 2015 vintage. That’s because many Loire winemakers have decided to hold back 2015 bottles and sell them next year ex-chateau. Since wineries aren’t increasing their prices, these extra 2015 sales will help see them through the potentially lean year. When you buy these ex-chateau bottles, not only do you get a high-quality vintage, you know that the bottles you’re buying are authentic. Storing these bottles professionally will increase their worth after you buy them, so even if you pay more up-front for backlogged 2015 Loire, you may be able to resell the bottles for a greater profit later when you have a proven storage and purchase record. This is a great option for collectors who are worried about the quality of 2016 Loire, but who want to support the region in its time of need.
Whether you are starting your high-end wine collection or adding to an established portfolio, Vinfolio is your partner in buying, selling, and professional storage. Contact us today to get access to the world’s best wine.
Harley is an Executive Wine Specialist for Vinfolio, helping collectors find the best wines for their collection. He’s a lover of everything outdoors and the proper bottles to go along with it. You can find him at any of the newest cocktail bars and restaurants in SF or on an adventure somewhere in between Lake Tahoe and the California coastline.