2006 Vintage Overview

2006 Vintage Overview


It is tough to follow on from a ‘vintage of the century’ such as 2005. Some have ignored the qualities of the follow-on vintage because of the long shadow cast by its predecessor, while others have reacted against the hype for ’05 by expressing a preference for ’06. This can only be based on the relative accessibility of the younger vintage.


The weather After the very dry summer of 2005 there was plenty of much-needed rain and snow during a winter which dragged on much later than usual. There was still a wintry feeling in mid-March – the grass totally dead and nothing else stirring, even as late as the weekend of March 18/19. The following week was warmer, and the first signs of a green renewal in the grass had appeared by the end of the month.

April was cooler and wetter than usual. However, the wind on Palm Sunday was south and west, suggesting a warm, wet and possibly stormy season. And May continued as April had started: cool and wet, with early-morning temperatures only just above freezing into the first few days of June. There was even a snow shower at Meuilley in the Hautes-Côtes de Nuits on May 30th. As a result the ‘belle sortie’ of grapes began to abort even before the flowering, which was being delayed by the poor weather.

Happily, the weather turned over the weekend of June 4th/5th, becoming clear, hot and sunny for the next two weeks, with forecast storms on and after the 16th failing to materialise until the following weekend. The flowering took place, therefore, in excellent conditions during the week of June 13th, suggesting a harvest date of about September 22-25th.

July was hot and exceptionally dry throughout, with real problems of drought beginning to emerge by the end of the month. A major hailstorm caused damage in Chambolle and Gevrey (especially around Griotte- and Chapelle- Chambertin) on July 27th. August was cooler and notably wetter than usual, especially in the Côte de Beaune. At first this was welcome but by the end of the month it was beginning to cause worries about lack of ripeness and risk of rot. Oïdium and mildew were also threatening.

As so often, the weather glimpsed on Palm Sunday set in during September, with warmer temperatures but fairly frequent showers and occasional storms – including a fairly fierce one in the Côte de Beaune in the evening of Friday 15th. The Ban de Vendanges was set for Monday September 18th but some of the best-known growers, including Dominique Lafon and Arnaud Ente, asked for a ‘dérogation’ to start early, because their vineyards were fully ready. Unusually, the Ban de Vendanges for Chablis (16th) was actually earlier than that for the Côte d’Or.

Those who took the trouble to analyse each vineyard in detail found notable differences in ripening, hence the need to start early but continue slowly as each vineyard became ready. There were very few pickers in evidence on Monday September 18th, and even on Tuesday there was almost no activity in the red vineyards and only a certain amount in the whites – mostly the top growers such as Lafon, Ente, Roulot and Coche-Dury. Apart from a small shower on Monday evening the weather was fine and warm on both days, becoming hot on Wednesday 20th when there was much more widespread picking activity, and again on Thursday 21st. The remnants of hurricanes Gordon and Helen were pushing hot air before them, while the bad weather spiralled off to the north over Scotland.

Bad weather was forecast over the weekend, but in fact Friday was fine (though a bad day for picking according to the lunar calendar) until a light shower in the evening, and most of Saturday (23rd) was hot and sunny, although with a heavy shower in the morning and light rain again by evening.

Picking went ahead full swing nevertheless, because of a very poor forecast for Sunday; as it turned out, it was overcast with frequent bouts of steady drizzle – but not the torrential rain that had been feared.

The Côte de Beaune was finishing and the Côte de Nuits getting into full swing by Monday 25th, which was very overcast but dry except for a sharp shower in Gevrey. Tuesday was somewhat brighter; Wednesday was beautiful. Fine weather continued through to the weekend, by which time most people had finished – though some such as Alain Burguet, Laurent Ponsot and Thierry Matrot were only just starting. The late-picking card was probably a mistake, as the weather turned noticeably wetter as September gave way to October.

First impressions The very first ideas were that this would be a very good white-wine vintage but more difficult for reds. The whites were luscious and heady; the reds evidently could not equal the previous year. Yet by the time of the UK primeur tastings in January 2008, this view was already changing. Some of the whites seemed heavy rather than heady, while the Côte de Nuits reds were full of fruit and with reasonable structure. Côte de Beaune reds were more variable, with more rot and less ripeness in the grapes at harvest. Even with sugar ripeness, pips, skins and stalks were usually not ripe.

The wines in bottle 2006 whites have given pleasure but their relatively low acidity mean that many have finished their useful life and few will benefit from any further keeping. Drink up, especially if the producer concerned was not among the early pickers.

Red 2006s have continued to be somewhat ignored, but they are now starting o come into their own. As expected, the vintage does favour the Côte de Nuits ahead of the Côte de Beaune. Wines from the latter have a healthy concentration of fruit but are a little more sombre, with a structure based more on tannin than acidity. The vintage is clearly at its best in the Côte de Nuits: most notably in Nuits-St-Georges itself and Vosne-Romanée. Here the wines have the flesh, ripeness and concentration of an extremely fine vintage. Start to take a look, but there is no hurry.


Tasting Notes

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Click to read tasting notes on wines from 2006

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