A Challenging Year with Hidden Gems
2006 Bordeaux: A Spotty Year with Mixed Reviews
2006 in Bordeaux may have weeded out the pretenders due to the difficult growing season - but some excellent wines did prevail. The "en primeur" in the beginning of April will allow our wine buyers a closer look, and it appears as thought that is just what wine buyers will need to find the gems from '06 - and they CAN be found. The vintage started out tough. A less than ideal spring lead to a hot and dry summer, especially July. August was cool, and gray, followed by an early September heat wave and a cold and rainy harvest. The weather conditions gave winemakers a heavy dose of challenges. Many vineyards were plagued with a combination of under-ripe and over-ripe fruit. Less experienced winemakers may have let nerves get the better of them as they harvested too early. But, it is these conditions which distinguish Bordeaux from so many other wine regions. Had a vintage like 2006 happened in many of the new-world regions, with far less experienced winemakers, there would have surely been poor wines across the board. But in Bordeaux, beautiful wines have risen from the less than ideal weather conditions.
We have to wonder how much of the talk surrounding the '06 Bordeaux is based upon the demand for super high fruit and alcohol laden wines. Americans loved the 2003's and 2005's because the warm vintages gave way to big, bold, dark wines. Notoriously, the American palate loves this style of wine. Many Bordeaux winemakers, however, are touting their wines from '06 as "classic" and are actually quite excited and proud of the results. So how much of the speculation is due to the American palate versus the classic Bordeaux style of winemaking? Furthermore, in the wake of the 2005 vintage, which notoriously swallowed up the futures market at astronomical prices, how many critics are comparing the two vintages?
Upon the closing of the Primeurs and the return of our wine buying team, it will be nice to have concrete tasting notes and, hopefully, a more solid, unbiased report on the wines. 2005 is a tough act to follow, and certainly there are wines from 2006 to avoid. But skilled vintners, big name Chateau's and many, many family winemakers merely viewed 2006 as more work than the previous year. In fact, many are really excited about the strong tannins, good acidity and brooding fruit that resulted in their wines. That is the beauty of "good" and "bad" vintages - with the right winemaking talent, neither one exists.