Tasting the 2006 Rhône wines over the 2006/7 winter was a source of great joy. After the concentrated and muscular 2005 vintage wines, many of which have now entered a shut-down phase, the 2006s are, virtually without exception, beautifully rounded, with great finesse and nuance of flavour, wines variously described by the French as `soyeux', meaning silky, and `gourmand', a word which challenges translation, but implies a certain succulence, an approachable and good natured personality.
Indeed the wines seem to have captured the best of the 2004 and 2005, far superior to the first and complementary to the latter, and certainly not without great ageing potential. The cold but dry winter and lack of rain in the Spring were followed by blistering heat in June and July. Relief came, appropriately enough, with rain on Bastille day, then again on 15th August; both providing respite , the overall rather churlish August weather ironically helpful in securing balance and elegance, with phenolic ripeness and tannic structure harnessed by the balmy days of early September.
The heat was more pronounced in the North, the Mistral perhaps a little more evident in the South. Throughout the region, wines were produced with generous tannins, rather reminiscent of 2000, but relatively low pH levels which put one more in mind of the balancing acidities of 2001. Indeed François Perrin at Château de Beaucastel maintains that it was the coolness of the nights in the latter stages of the harvest that have garnered these wonderful flavours; powerful, elegant and harmoniously balanced.
(Simon Field, MW, BBR Rhône Buyer)