The red wines in vintage 20066 for Burgundy have developed significantly since their first tasting immediately after the harvest and are now an absolute delight, especially those from the Côte de Nuits and the best hillside sites of the Côte de Beaune.
Vinification went well, resulting in good colour extraction, and the wines have put on weight during their élévage. Stylistically everything depended on the producers' attitude to tannin management.
Some, such as Roumier and Drouhin, have deliberately refrained from extracting tannins in 2006 and have made beautifully perfumed and charming wines.
Others, including Barthod and Lafarge, have vinified their wines as usual, producing firmer Red Burgundies for the longer haul. Where healthy, ripe grapes were used, both styles work in 2006.
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 18th/19th March. 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. 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 30th May! 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 4th/5th June, becoming clear hot and sunny for the following two weeks, with forecast storms on and after the 16th failing to materialise until the following weekend. The flowering happened therefore in excellent conditions during the week of 13th June, suggesting a harvest date of about 22nd to 25th September.
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 Griottes- and Chapelle-Chambertin) on 27th July.
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. Oidium 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 18th September but some of the best known growers, including Dominique Lafon and Arnaud Ente, asked for a ‘derogation’ to start early because their vineyards were fully ready. Unusually, the Ban de Vendanges for Chablis (16th) was actually earlier than 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 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 & Coche Dury. Apart from a small shower on the 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 the evening. Picking went ahead full swing however because of the very poor forecast for Sunday which turned out to be overcast with frequent periods of steady drizzle – but not the torrential rain which had been feared.
The Côte de Beaune was finishing and the Côte de Nuits getting in full swing by Monday 25th, which was very overcast but dry except for a sharp shower in Gevrey. Tuesday was somewhat brighter and Wednesday 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.