This was an excellent harvest, combining quality (always the most important thing) with quantity once again, as in 2005. However the way it came about and the style of the 2006 wines is quite different to 2005.
What makes 2006 special is the refined nature of the wines. The explanation for this lies in the unique combination of weather events during the growing season. At last we had a season which was not drought affected – a great relief for the vines. It began with the welcome rains of June 2005 refilling soil water levels over winter.
The rains continued deep into spring, with October the wettest for 30 years and well above average rainfall in November. This resulted in a very successful flowering and set, providing for the well filled bunches of 2006. It also maintained low levels of water stress in the vines going into and through our usual warm summer months, keeping the canopies healthy and leading to the development of the larger berries we had this year.
Whilst January was even a little hotter than normal, the period following veraison (colouring of the grapes) in February was quite cool and this is a critical time in determining the style of the wines produced. The cooler conditions which prevailed in February encouraged the retention of natural grape acidity and combined with the low water stress levels allowed the development and retention of flavour and aroma compounds in the fruit.
This resulted in grapes of excellent flavour and ready for harvest at lower sugar levels than in 2005. So when the very warm March weather saw grape sugar levels climb rapidly, with flavour to match, the harvest began rapidly and proceeded apace, as continuing fine, warm conditions led to ripe grapes everywhere and lots of them!
We purchased some more fermenters so we could keep picking and wound up completing harvesting on March 30, only 20 days after we started! This was in stark contrast to 2005 when our main harvest month was April!
The combination of a large crop and compacted picking period resulted in a very tired group of family and friends at the end of vintage.
Was it all worth it? You will be the judge of that but we can tell you that the wines are distinctly different to 2005, with more expressive, complex, nuanced, delicate aromas and flavours. These are wines which justify big fine glassware and the time to just smell them before drinking them. We cannot remember more aromatically expressive wines than these (perhaps 2002 and 1998 came close).
In the mouth they display wonderful elegance along with a seamless quality by which I mean all of the components are integrated and harmonious. There is no harshness to the wines. Although they possess a greater degree of finesse, they are not lacking depth or length of flavour. They just display these in a more refined style.
The inherent natural balance of this vintage means the wines will be easy to enjoy whilst young but should also cellar very well. They will make an interesting contrast to the bigger, more robust but less stylish 2005s over the years ahead.
We trust you will enjoy drinking them as much as we have enjoyed making them!
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