Louis Dressner Selections - Wine Importer

2006 Harvest Reports

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Natural Wine Making in the Coteaux-du-Layon

from Agnès Mosse September 12, 2006

The harvest approaches. The pneumatic press which we are renting from a cider-maker arrived yesterday. Toby has cleaned it thoroughly. We will start on Monday, September 18th. In spite of all the cold weather in August, ripening has been early because we have been subject to a real heat wave - around 85 degrees every day for the last two weeks. We got about 10mm of rain at the beginning of September and now we are seeing a few little areas affected by rot. There will be some sorting to do!

Stay tuned for the next episode….

Fast Ripening in the Mâconnai

Jean Manciat September 13, 2006

I started the harvest here last Sunday (September 10th) with no regrets. Even though that may seem a little early, what had happened here was incredible: in a single week, the level of potential alcohol rose by 2 degrees, going from 12 to 14 degrees.

After an atrocious month of August, nobody saw this coming. But it’s been sunny and hot since September 4th and since then everything has been going extremely fast – maybe even much too fast.

Cheverny, Part 1

François Cazin Cheverny September 14, 2006

The dominant theme this year has been dryness with big temperature swings.

After a particularly cold spring with frost threatening right up to the beginning of June, summer finally arrived and stayed until the end of July. The high temperatures in July helped the vines catch up on their late start in the spring.

In August, the grapes slowly began to ripen and change color. The whole month was marked by overcast skies and very little rain.

Summer-like weather has returned in September and in the last fews days, the speeding up of the ripening process has sometimes been quite impressive. The lack of water has resulted in high concentration of sugar.

We have every reason to hope for a very good vintage, different from 2003 and 2005, but still exceptional.

The harvest will begin on September 18th, we will send our first impressions next week.

The Southern Rhône is cooling down

Frédéric Alary Cairanne September 15, 2006

The harvest started very early this year due to the very dry weather in the spring and summer. If not for a couple of rainfalls (on July 14 and August 16th) the lack of rain would have caused some stress to the vines.

We began harvesting the white grapes on September 6th and the reds on September 11th.

The grapes are in perfect health, small berries with thick skins which for the time being are giving deeply colored and aromatic juice…(to be continued).

We will send more news soon. Keep in mind that it has been raining for the last two days, but not too hard. It has cooled down a bit which is a good thing for bringing in the grapes. The days leading up to the rain had been very hot.

Clos Roche Blanche, Part 1

Catherine Roussel, Clos Roche Blanche September 16th

Before writing about the harvest, it is important to remember how chaotic the summer was. July was very, very hot and dry, so when the rain came at the beginning of August, we were happy. The problem is that it lasted all month! At last, the sun came back at the start of September, and having absorbed so much rain, the grapes were able to ripen.

We started our harvest on Monday Sept. 11th, under a hot sun, which lasted until Tuesday (we had to stop at the end of each row to drink and fight the heat.) On Wednesday, it was a little less hot and it became overcast, on Thursday the temperature was perfect but it rained at night, and on Friday we picked almost all day under a fine drizzle. Today the sun has returned.

On Monday, we picked Chardonnay, at 13.5 degrees of alcohol and 5.4 grams of acidity
On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday: Sauvignon blanc between 13.5 and 14 degrees and 5 grams acidity
On Friday: Gamay at 12.3 degrees and 5.4 grams acidity

Our current estimate of yields is around 40HL/HA. We’ll have a better notion when all plots are harvested. We already know that we’ll have more Sauvignon than in 2005 (Joe will be happy about the quantity, but given the alcohol degrees, I can picture him making a face….)

Clos Roche Blanche, Part 2

Catherine Roussel, Clos Roche Blanche September 22nd

Our harvest is continuing, we think we’ll be done with the Côt and Cabernet next Tuesday or Wednesday.

On Friday Sept. 15th, we had about 20mm of rain, which slightly diluted the juice, but given the high potential alcohol degrees, it did no harm. We were mainly worried about rot, and quickly picked what was left of Sauvignon and Gamay on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, with mild and dry weather. On the whole, the grapes were beautiful, we had to sort some of the Gamay grapes, but I have a fabulous team of pickers, and all the sorting was done in the vines. Didier (in the cellar) was satisfied with the grapes coming to the cellar and did not even take out the sorting table.

On Thursday, it was sunny, we picked the Pineau d’Aunis, and this year Didier is making l’Arpent Rouge (a red wine)
On Friday, it rained in the morning and was sunny p.m., we picked Côt.
It looks like it is a custom for rain on Fridays, which makes sense since it’s the day of fish.

Gamay: 13 degrees and 5 grams acidity
Sauvignon: 13.5 and 5 grams
Pineau d’Aunis: 12.9 and 3.9 grams (for rosé and red)
La Closerie (Côt, Cabernet, Gamay): 12.5
Côt: 12.3 and 4 grams

Our yields are around 40HL/HA, we are happy for our customers, that is, if they still want to buy our wines.

Muscadet - Year of the Fungus! But things look fine

Marc Ollivier Muscadet, on September 24th

2006, year of the fungus! I have just spent an hour picking the many mushrooms that grow everywhere in the fields, and here’s my conclusion: mushrooms in the fields and fungi on the grapes….

We had mildew and blackrot threats this summer, and grey rot started at the end of August. And so much rain all through the summer: 60mm in July, 70mm in August, and already 100mm in September! No surprise that rot was so prevalent, given that rain was often in conjunction with high temperatures.

We picked our Muscadet from Monday Sept. 11th to Saturday Sept. 23rd. From the first days, we had to sort grapes carefully. We had to throw out about 10% of the grapes, up to 50% in one plot on Sept. 22nd. So we have a small crop (45HL/HA) and it has been hard work picking and sorting, often under the rain.

Nevertheless, the results are satisfying. My 11 vats go from 11 to 11.7 of natural degrees, and from 4.7 to 5.1 gram/liter of acidity (most musts are at 4.7 or 4.8 g/l in acidity.) The fermenting wines are very pleasant to taste, very clean and frank (this won’t be the case everywhere in the region.)

About 80% of the musts harvested by machine had to be treated to eliminate the smell and taste of rot: this entailed a passage through charcoal, a passage through fresh cream and a fining. I myself had to do all this because I harvested one plot by machine for wine I sell to a coop: there isn’t much wine left behind these treatments.

So, a very difficult harvest, and very expensive, but I am very happy with the quality of the future Muscadets from La Pépière. It comforts me in the notion that the only way to pick is by hand, especially in difficult years.

There is great homogeneity over all the vats, and I am surprised by the lack of difference in ripeness and acidity between the old vines and the younger ones’ cuvees. I think minerality will make the difference later.

I think I am going to pick my red grapes without delay. I have surveyed my vines and there is rot on some berries.

Clos Roche Blanche, Part 3

Catherine Roussel, Clos Roche Blanche September 28th

Well, we finished yesterday and I have some good news: this morning I went out on a mushroom walk and I found some cèpes, what organization! They decided to grow right on time, just as the harvest finished….Okay, okay, I know this is not what you are interested in.

So..

Monday morning: Cabernet

Wednesday: the end of the Cabernet and the old vines Côt

I don’t remember exactly what the degrees were but they must have been between12.3 and 13. The acidity level was around 4 grams. The rain last week diluted the grapes a bit.

We were visited by two photographers from the New York Times, one for Alice Feiring and the other for Melissa Clark. The first one came on a day we weren’t harvesting (we had to pick some grapes just for the photo) and the second one came on the last day. He was supposed to come and take pictures of the harvesters during their morning break (eating snacks etc…) but he arrived at noon so that all that was left was the afternoon break with cookies. I wonder what kind of an impression that will give (?). [note: On Wednesday , Oct 4th, The New York Times published Melissa Clark's fantastic report (with pictures and recipes) about working the harvest at Clos Roche Blanche and Clos du Tue-Boeuf.

On a positive note: with this parade of Americans throughout the harvest, my English has improved.

A Beautiful September in Bugey

Franck Peillot, Montagnieu-en-Bugey on September 29th

The winter was long and rather cold, and in April the vegetation started very quickly. It is often the case at that point in time, and usually I am very happy with a fast start, when the vines grow quickly and the insect population has trouble keeping up (it’s called a dilution effect: the same insect population – thrips, moths, e.g. - has to operate on denser vegetation.)

May, June and July kept us busy with vineyard work, and in June we already had day and night temperatures that are more usual in August. The temperature was locked well above 30C (90F) in the shade, every afternoon. It looked like we were going to endure another hot summer like 2003, only longer. This was not desirable, neither for people nor for flora, and even less for wine. The extreme heat conditions we had in 2003 led to an atypical vintage, and it was an experience to have once in a winemaker’s lifetime (and maybe a wine lover’s life), if only to realize the other facets of one’s varietals and soils. But I am always concerned not to pick over ripe, burnt grapes that give heavy, alcoholic wines without much finesse.
The forecast for August was for cooler weather, and for once, the weather people very right, only too much so! August was not glacial, but not so far from it. It was gray and cool, 8C in the mornings, 15C in the afternoons (46F and 59F), and damp. Which was fine weather for cider apples in Normandy, perhaps, but for wine grapes??? My colleagues in the area were mentioning “rot on green” (meaning that rot settles in even before the grapes are ripe.) That led me to numerous checks in my vines, but to my relief all my grapes were healthy. We were left with hopes for a beautiful September, capable of warming up our souls and minds.

September was magnificent in the Bugey. Other regions suffered torrential rains and I really feel sorry for my colleagues there.

We started the harvest with a smaller team on Sept. 8th. On Sept. 11th, the complete group of pickers was at work in the Chardonnay vines, and the afternoon (above 25C, or 77F) was devoted to the Pinot Noir vat.

That settled the course for the rest of the harvest: we would pick white grapes only in the morning, if the temperatures stayed high. Fortunately, the cooler nights and diminishing days allowed us to pick at a cool 14C (57F) in the mornings.

The characteristics of my harvest 2006 are:
-- the grapes are high in sugar, while retaining fresh acidity – in my view, that was the work of August, where the cool weather conserved acidity in the berries; also, the August rains followed by September sun resulted in perfect ripening.

-- a very healthy crop, with almost no rot. We had spent a lot of hours reducing the number of bunches, and later on removing leaves, for better ventilation.

--There is remarkable homogeneity in ripeness, all the grapes on each vine were equally ripe. My father does not “remember ever seeing the Mondeuse grapes so black and so similar to one another”

-- It is also surprising how little difference there was in the ripening of the early varietals (Chardonnay and Pinot noir) and the late ones (Mondeuse and Altesse.) My explanation, totally empirical, is that flowering happened at the same time for all the varietals, and went very fast in the heat wave. Maybe that’s why there is not much delay in ripening between all the varietals this year.
I interrupted the harvest for a few days on the 15th, 16th and 17th, and we finished on the 20th. I don’t think there was anything more to gain by waiting a few more days, since the grapes were ripe, balanced, beautiful fruit. Looking for a higher degree of alcohol is not always the guiding principle for choosing the date of the harvest.

I hope I have been right, for this vintage, and to make the wines I like. Those who know me will understand that I am still hesitating, after the facts… I’ll never pretend I have certitudes, at least about my work, because Nature is so rich, so varied, and so powerful.
On thing I am sure of (after the facts, again): the Mirabelle plums and the vineyard peaches were delicious this year, but the fruits we left on the tree quickly lost their taste.

At any rate, there are still 2 plots of Altesse, 15 ares each, waiting to be picked. I like the surprises that Mother Nature can plot. The near future, and the wine made from these grapes, will let us know.

A Winemaker's Year in Vouvray

François Pinon, on September 25th

Here are a few lines before we start the harvest proper.

We had a lot of sun and heat in June and July that made this vintage quite early. August was cloudy and cool, and the grapes ripened while retaining their acidity.

High temperatures returned in early September and promised a wonderful vintage. Alas, rain around Sept. 15th started to spoil our hopes and expectations. Mother Nature is playing with our nerves!

This vintage may very well become a winemaker’s year, at least here in the Loire with Chenin grapes.

We started the harvest for the effervescent wines on Sept. 21st, and I have grapes to press tonight.

Photos from Chinon

Sylvie de la Vigerie Domaine Olga Raffault Chinon on October 3rd

Well we started the harvest Saturday, September 23rd and we had a great group of 30 harvesters.

In July, ther was plenty of heat, in August, rain. Bad weather was announced for September and the rains came on the 15th, and since this could reduce the acidity, we decided to begin early.

The good weather returned and we harvested well. At a degree of 12.5 natural sugars. The harvest is really beautiful and I’ve sent some pictures along.

2006 will be another pretty vintage, perhaps with youthful tannin in the forefront but a wine to age.

We are about to finish this afternoon before the rain announced for 5:00 pm.

All’s well.

High Quality in the Friuli

Suzana Radikon Oslavia, Friuli on October 2nd

We started to harvest the 22nd of September, the weather was beautifully sunny all day, in truth hotter than August was. The grapes were healthy and golden in color.

We started with the Pinot Grigio that has the beautiful characteristic gray shade. Then we moved on to the Chardonnay, the Sauvignon, the Tocai and today, October 2nd, we harvest the Merlot – tomorrow, probably, the Ribolla.

We think that, like the 2003, this year will also be of high quality.

Monts Damnés Benefits from Final Rainfall

Jean-Paul Labaille, Chavignol, on October 7th

With their high temperatures, June and July caused millerandage (partial abortion of flowering, resulting in smaller and fewer berries on each bunch) and stress on the flowering.

August was cool and somewhat rainy, and the progress of maturation was stopped. Then September started with hot temperatures and no rain, so that the concentration got accelerated.

The official starting date for the harvest was September 15th. Our pickers arrived on September 21st, and we picked our Pinot noir first, just when the skins were going to wrinkle (a sign, especially on Pinot noir grapes, that optimum maturity has been reached.) There was good tannins, good color, a reasonable yield of 45HL/HA, and a potential degree of 12.5% alcohol.

We started picking our Sauvignon blanc on September 23rd, with the grapes for Cuvée Authentique. The yield was average, 50HL/HA, the degrees were between 13 and 13.5% alcohol, with rather low acidity. The grapes had suffered from the draught, the skins were thick and the juice difficult to extract.

On Sunday September 24th, we were at rest, and it started to rain. This rainfall was highly beneficial, and from Monday on, the harvest on the Monts Damnés was much better balanced: the skins became softer and pressing was a lot easier, the degrees went down slightly, as a result of the rain.

We finished on Friday, September 29th with the traditional poêlée (end of harvest celebration dinner), which celebrates all the work accomplished through the growing season.

I think this vintage will show similarities with 2005, with rich, fruity wines meant for medium-length age-worthiness. This opinion will, I hope, be confirmed when the vinification is over.

Good Impressions in Sancerre

Alain Girard, Verdigny-en-Sancerre, on October 9th

At the end of a hot and dry year, our vines produced grapes with high quality potential.

The winter was dry, and so were June and July, also unusually hot. In August, low temperatures allowed the vines to get some rest, and it rained sufficiently to help the grapes mature. The two first weeks in September were very hot, and ended with a thunderstorm on September 15th.

The sugar levels were high, acidity was balanced. The overcast sky of the second half of September maintained good acidity and ph levels.

We started on September 18th. Our first impression of the vintage is that the wines are going to be balanced and round, fresh and aromatic.

Finally it's good in the Val d'Aosta

Franco Noussan, St.- Christophe, Val d'Aosta on October 11th

Only until now could you say it is good.

The 23rd Spetember we started with Pinot Noir and the Pinot Gris. The grapes were beautiful and healthy perhaps with a little less alcohol than in 2005 because we waited an extra 10 days after a rainfall. In fact, the weather was ugly until the end of the month. Now it is beautiful sunny, hot days still and cold nights which benefit the concentration of sugars and of aromas.

Otherwise, we are waiting to pick the Torrette grapes, which probably wil be Saturday, the 14th.

Next time I will send you some pictures and an account with more details and the exact data.

Global Warming in the Rhône Valley??

Eric Texier on October 10th

It wasn’t a great start: after a completely rotten month of August, the sun finally made an appearance arm in arm with the Mistral and we were off to the races. The best exposed areas from Vernon to Condrieu (where I get grapes for Opale) ripened much too fast. On September 7th, more than 14% degrees of potential alcohol and less than 3 grams of acidity, it was a complete failure. Luckily, the lower part of the plot is perfect but the yields will be half of what we got in 2005.

Next we harvested the white Châteauneuf and Côtes du Rhône grapes on September 12th and 13th. The Grenache were already too ripe. So, for 2006, it will be Clairette and Bourboulenc. The natural yeasts seem to be very hardy this year, the alcoholic fermention has been vigorous and rapid. One morning when Fabien (our “computer consultant turning chef/chi kung master” intern) went to the cellar to check on the progress of the fermentation, he found all the vats happily bubbling over : at least half a barrel sacrificed to the genies of my cellar.

A little cause for concern: as I have been checking the ripeness of the red Grenache grapes, I am finding some that are already at 14 degrees of potential alcohol with their skin still completely pink. Is this the result of global warming? At any rate, it is becoming hard for the grapes to obtain full ripeness in terms of their skin while remaining at reasonable sugar levels. Maybe we will end up having to plant Grenache in Côte Rôtie before too long. Syrah will move up to Burgundy and Pinot Noir to Scotland.

Next, we harvested both the white and red Brézème on September 17, 18 and 19. It has been an abundant year (94 hl / 2.2 ha) and it’s all extremely healthy. This is also the first year of AOC production for my new Roussanne grapes (from a selection massale of Old “Roussette” from François Pouchoulin). They produced 4 vats of wine that just doubled the production of Brézème Roussanne. I have not done any blending with the Old Vines Roussanne yet; for the time being I am still waiting to see what happens after the malo-lactic fermention.

A new experiment this year: long maceration of the non-destemmed Viognier (it’s been three weeks so far).

We then moved on to the Condrieu (exceptional but small production of Janrode, (only 2 vats). The extremely ripe Vernon will probably not be a dry wine this year. The Côte-Rôtie sur Montlys was harvested very early (on the 22nd) in order to avoid over-ripening and the rain which was predicted (and indeed came violently and abundantly) on the 23rd.

So we waited until the following Wednesday to start the Grenache in Châteauneuf and St. Gervais. They were very ripe and, thanks to the rain, the levels of potential alcohol were not too high. In any case, if one just relies on the natural yeasts, the final degrees of alcohol are never very high. I am hoping that, apart from the Crau grapes, most of the Grenache will not go higher than 13%.

On the 24th, I went back to Charnay to vinify the Bussières. It has been another exceptional vintage in the Mâcon and we see the beginnings of remarkable botrytis. We will definitely be making dessert wines this year.

Last Friday: we picked the last grapes (Mourvèdre in Châteauneuf) and did the first devattings. The Brézème has beautiful deep colors and very good balance close to the 2004 vintage but perhaps with a little more elegance.

Fabien has gone back to the Parisian fog leaving us about 10 days of devatting and dishes to do!!

Despite the Varied Season, Good Muscadet

Pierre Luneau-Papin Le Landreau, Muscadet, on October 11th

The 2006 growing year had atypical and irregular climactic patterns.

The winter was cold and the spring dreary, so the vegetation started late, 10 days later than in 2005. The growth accelerated in June, which was very dry and hot. There was no lateness any more when the vines blossomed, around June 14th, and the véraison (moment when the grapes acquire color, a sign of increased maturity) came early, between August 10th and 15th.

Temperatures had been close to the average in May and June, but largely above average during the July heat wave. It rained quite a lot, in sporadic thunderstorms.

This way, the vine growing season alternated between cool stretches and very high temperatures, that some called tropical. Despite these extremes, ripeness came, and checks we did in August predicted a good potential harvest.

The threat of fungal infections (mildew and blackrot) was there all year, but we managed to keep them in check. The grapes were healthy, when considering the whole of our estate, before we began picking.

Early September, ripeness came quickly, and the official starting date was set for September 6th. Here we started on September 13th, and the harvest lasted two weeks. We had two days of stormy rains during that time.

Picking by hand, we harvested good quality bunches. Alcohol degrees are between 11.5 and 12%.

The juices, with good balance between acidity and sugar, promise a vintage of round, balanced wines with fresh typicity.

A Year to remember in the Collio, Friuli

Mario Zanusso (pictured harvesting in Brazan vineyard)
Corno di Rosazzo, Friuli
on October 13th

The harvest of 2006 has given us very healthy grapes with accentuated sugar levels but optimal acidity at the same time. We began harvesting the (Tocai) Friulano on the 18th of September in perfect weather conditions, sunny and dry. The harvest lasted for a week and the yields per hectare are very low, around 20 quintals (about 2 tons per hectare).

Lastly, we harvested the Verduzzo, crunchy in the mouth and golden. The grapes were perfect, with narrow bunches, perfectly whole, and lacking pulp, thanks to a year extremely favorable that allowed us to end any treatments much earlier than usual, around the middle of July.

As we are writing, the musts are fermenting, slowly, but already precociously demonstrative of a high quality vintage -- like we have not seen since 1997-- a year to remember and be thankful for. A year that happens only a few times in the life of a vignaiolo.

Hopes of a Great Year in the Mâconnais

Gautier Thévenet, Domaine de Roally in Viré. Mâcon on October 18th

The weather was very dry in July, and very chaotic, with several rainy episodes, in August, and a few weeks before the harvest, the ripeness was high and the grapes perfectly healthy.

We started the plots of Domaine de Roally on Thurday September 27th, since the grapes already had a potential high degree of alcohol. The weather conditions stayed extraordinary throughout the picking, and the berries gained in concentration. We had to sort severely to preserve the high quality of this harvest, and were very exacting in the vines to eliminate the rot that was slowly gaining on the grapes.

After pressing, the hopes for a well-structured vintage are confirmed by the very high density of the musts. Alas, the corollary is that yields are really minimal, with around 30HL/HA in Viré-Clessé.

We have done a long débourbage (separation of solids and clear juice), over 4 days, to keep all the finesse of these very rich musts. The alcoholic fermentation typically took 2 days to start after débourbage.

In short, this harvest 2006 looks to be exceptional due to the ripeness of the crop, the wine should be complex with excellent aging potential.

M. Henri Goyard, who once again was kind enough to help me through this harvest, says that this is “a year comparable to 1986 in every respect.” (NT: Henri Goyard, previous owner and winemaker of Roally, considers 1986 one of the best vintages he ever produced.)

Everything Points to a Good Vintage in Mâcon-Charnay

Jean Manciat in Charnay-les-Mâcon on October 22

2006 will be remembered for chaotic weather, giving us surprise after surprise.

The winter was long and cold, with seven snow falls, and the vegetation started slowly, 10 days late over a normal year. After March 20th, things picked up with better weather, and by early May, the vegetation was at its normal stage of development. This did not last long, however, with the return of a humid and cold stretch until June 10th. Some of us turned the heat back on at home, and we did not expect the vines to flower before June 15th to 20th.

In another twist, summer weather came all of a sudden around June 12th, and temperatures climbed to 42/43 degrees C (107 to 109 F) in the sun (the vines are not in the shade, and neither are we when we work there!) Vines quickly started to flower, and within a week, around June 15th, everything was over. It was spectacular, a week before we were freezing in our heavy sweaters!

This type of weather persisted through June, with spikes reaching 48C (118F), reminding us of a recent summer very present on every mind, 2003. And July was relentlessly hot, the hottest month since 1943 in Mâcon according to the national weather bureau. We were already placing our harvest in late August…

Then August came, and we were convinced that since the grapes were way ahead, nothing much could make a difference. Well, this was not to be, and August was a catastrophe, cold and rainy. The local weather station registered only 5 days when the temperature managed to top 25C (77F), the average temperature for the month was 18.2C (64.76F) with 15 days of rain totaling 140mm – December 2005, January and February 2006, three months that should be rainy, totaled only 120mm!

So, once again, the harvest receded into the future. But, against all odds, early September was a repeat of June, with a complete turnover and an unprecedented jump of 2 degrees of potential alcohol in just one week. Instead of waiting we had to rush and start picking to avoid excessive degrees.

How did the vines react to these climactic extremes, with their sudden changes? Not too bad. In the spring, there was a threat of mildew, but June stopped that. The spring rains did not let oïdium get started, so we were able to minimize the treatments. However, many were caught off-guard in August, a month when usually one treats less, before going into the harvest. The rains re-started the threat of mildew, and we had to do preventive treatments again. Many plots were sick with mildew at harvest, but this did not affect the grapes, which are a lot less sensitive when maturing. The foliage, on the other hand, fell almost immediately after the harvest. This may affect the plants’ reserves of nutrients to resist the winter cold and other diseases. Otherwise, we had very few problems with insects, no grapes worms were present so we did not treat, and botrytis did not develop despite the August rains. It started in earnest at the very end of the picking season, around September 20th.

With the spectacular progression of potential alcoholic content, I rushed to start my harvest on September 10th, in the hope of keeping some freshness, fruitiness and acidity. I have several vats which are going to end higher than 14% of alcohol, my cuvee Franclieu among them. The fermentations are going better than expected, with a regular progression. Of course the very end may be difficult, but right now nothing is amiss.

The wines appear to be rather balanced; the “heavy” character of high alcohol that tends to mask aromas, a concern at harvest and at the beginning of fermentation, looks to have lifted off, and more complexity and finesse are emerging. The acidity levels are correct to good, the pHs relatively low but still higher than in 2005. Everything points to a good vintage.

Strong and Structured in Coteaux-du-Loir

Eric Nicolas, Domaine de Bellivière in Jasnières on October 23

At last, we have recovered a measure of calm after the harvest.

During the year, the weather was chaotic, alternating very dry, hot stretches (July) and cold, humid periods (part of June, August), in a see-saw pattern. On the whole, the amount of rain was quite low, and we had good weather at key moments, like the flowering. This made the growth cycle about 10 days earlier than in a normal year, despite all the stops and starts.

We had rain in September when the grapes were already ripe, and that stormy weather started gray rot in some plots. Luckily, with all the work we did before in the vines, with severe pruning controlling the yields and a small bud burst on all our vines, it was enough to sort on the young vines to make very good dry wines. The grapes in the old vines resisted rot better and were healthier.

Our white grapes were picked between 12.6% and 14.5% of potential alcohol, the red and rosé grapes were at 13%, very ripe at the end of the harvest. There is good balance and profile, thanks to the acidity level.

We picked between September 30th and October 17th, there was good ripeness but much smaller yields than in the previous two years. Since we did fewer treatments than in the past, we were all the more curious to vinify these grapes. The fermentations are going slowly, the wines seem strong and structured. We cannot wait to see if all our work will result in the mineral expression we hope for our wines.

Perfect Gamay in Fleurie

Alain Coudert, Clos de la Roilette in Fleurie on October 24

We had a good stretch in July, hot and dry weather that some called a heat wave, that was perfect for grapes. The maturation slowed down when the temperatures dropped in August, but this coolness was good for keeping everything healthy. The August rains also helped the berries fill up, and we achieved exceptional ripeness thanks to beautiful weather just before and during the harvest.

The bud bursting occurred on 04/20, 8 days late compared to 2005, and the latest date in the past 14 years. The winter was cold, the coldest since 1970, and the flowering started late, on 06/08, as in 1996 and 2004 but4 days later than in 2005; it went fast, though, and lasted 8 days only. We saw the first berries turning color on July 17th, but that was very variable, according to the amount of grapes on each vine and the soil itself (depending on the humidity retained by the soil and localized rains.)

A few attacks of mildew threatened in spring, were stopped by the hot dry wave, and reappeared at the end of August, but without adverse consequences. The August rains created a few spots of botrytis on the grapes, but they had no time to develop further.

The amount of potential grapes at budding time was large, and we had to do a big manual job with de-budding in the spring and green harvesting on July: a lower final yield helped achieve excellent ripeness.

We were planning an early harvest, at the very beginning of September, but we finally waited until the 11th to start. Under beautiful weather, the potential degree of alcohol went up everyday, and the average was 12.5% of alcohol. The acidity level is low, but, since it is the malic component that is low, this won’t unbalance the wine, and the pH is satisfactory.

After tasting our first vats, still full of CO2, we found a deeply colored, intensely red and above all very fruity wine. We find it a perfect example of Gamay of Beaujolais.

So, a fruitier vintage than 2005, and which reminds us of vintages 1997 and 1998.

Pretty Satisfied in Val d'Aosta

Franco Noussan, in St.-Christophe on October 24

I wanted to tell you a little bit about the 2006 vintage. We had a cold spring with some late frost then a very hot July in which the vines sped up to normal maturity and truly seemed to be in the same condition as 2003 (note: 2003 was an unusually hot season in most of Europe), but then in August came the cold again with little precipitation that stopped the quick maturation.

Finally in September in which it was warm, dry and sunny we had some scattered rain, the consequence of which some vines had to wait to be harvested in order not to compromise the vintage. I finished the harvest on the 21st of October with the Torrete. I am pretty happy. In terms of quantity it is comparable to 2005 with wines of slightly less alcohol than the previous year, but in my opinion more balanced with a more floral aroma. I will let you know soon when the analyses are done Here are some pictures of the grapes and the harvest….

A Contrasted Year Weatherwise in Beaujolais

Michel Tête, in Juliénas on November 6th

This has been a contrasted year in our region, when it comes to the weather patterns. The winter was long and cold, with the coldest average temperature (from November through March) since 1970.

The spring was humid, with normal temperatures, and explosive heat starting on June 10th, just when the vines were blooming. It continued to be warmer and warmer until the very end of July, and we had the hottest July since 1959. The vines’ and grapes’ growth was quick and the lateness observed in the spring was soon overcome. August changed this pattern, there was little sun and abundant rains that made us worry about the health condition of our grapes. Fortunately, in September things reversed again and balance and regular ripeness were achieved.

We started our harvest on Sept. 12th and finished on the 22nd. By harvesting by hand, we were able to sort in the vines, with one harvester supervising every batch as it was transported to the cellar. Apart from a big thunderstorm on the afternoon of Sept. 15th, the harvest went well, under perfect weather. We had no problem vinifying whole grapes, thanks to the balance in the juice between acidity, ph and polyphenols, and sugar amount of 12 to 13% of potential alcohol.

The maceration lasted 6 to 8 days, we pressed the grapes and the alcoholic fermentation went without problem. We did the last press on Sept. 29th, on Oct. 6th we were finished with the débourbage (racking that allows the sorting of gross lees and solid matter from the juice.)

On Oct. 16th, we did a light filtration to clarify the Beaujolais Villages. Almost all the red wines are done with their malolactic fermentation, but the white and the rosé are not done yet.

After tasting the first vats, we are very happy with vintage 2006, which is for us fruity and tasty, with a lot of finesse and soft tannins, deep color of brilliant ruby that is typically Gamay of Beaujolais.

After vintage 2005, which we consider a keeper thanks to its acidity level, its tannins and deep color, we think that 2006 is going to be enjoyable quicker, and be aromatic and elegant.

Exceptional Romo in Cheverny

François Cazin, in Cheverny on November 2nd

We finished the harvest in the first days of October. Everything went very quickly this year. The little bit of rain we got in the middle of September sped up the ripening process and almost all the varietals were ready to be picked at the same time. With our great team of harvesters, we managed to intervene in time in most of the plots.

This year, yet again, the sugar levels are breaking records. Most of the vats are still fermenting and have 14% potential alcohol. However, the wines will have better balance than in 2003 because of better acidity levels.

It will be a particularly good year for the Romorantin which we harvested from September 28th to October 4th. Exceptional quality but a very small yield (less than 30hl/ha).

Full Report from Etna in Sicily

Salvo Foti, In Etna, Sicily on October 15th

It is my opinion that before giving a justified assessment of the wines of this vintage we need to wait until all the grapes have entered the cellar and the fermentations are complete. Otherwise, one risks hawking an “exceptional bearskin” before the bear has been trapped!

We can give some generalized opinions of the grapes and the growing areas, understanding that each vine has its particular identity and different history even within the same year of production.

The climatic pattern for 2006 in Eastern Sicily is distinguished by a summer that was somewhat cool, with average rainfall until the end of spring. The rains arrived at the end of summer, if only of less than average quantity, lasting into the month of September. Between the end of September and the beginning of October conditions switched from brief rainstorms to days of full sun, practically like in summer.

In the first ten days of August there had been some days of intense heat and wind which, in some cases, caused damage. On Etna, in some areas, this unusual climatic event compromised the grapes (in some cases up to 30% of the grapes.) The grapes, in all areas, however, finished their maturation with sufficient levels of sugar and acidity.

Pachino e Monti Iblei: In this region of southeast Sicily the climatic conditions allowed for a late harvest. But the hot wind of those few
days in August accelerated the maturation of the non-native grapes (Chardonnay), which were harvested soon after the 15th of August. In the case of the native grapes (Nero d’Avola e Frappato), we did not anticipate an early harvest, but there was reduction in yields of around 15% less than last year. The Carricante was harvested the first ten days of September, the Nero d’Avola of Pachino between the 10th and 26th of September and the Nero d’Avola and Frappato in Monti Iblei at the end of September until the 1st of October.

The Regions of Etna: On the eastern and northern slopes, throughout the growing season, there was insufficient rain until the first ten days of October. This accelerated the maturation, if only a little, for both the native and non-native grapes. The Minella was harvested from different vineyard spots at the middle of September. The Chardonnay was harvested at the end of August and the Cabernet at the start of October at optimal sugar/acid balance. The harvest of the Nerello Cappuccio, Nerello Mascalese and the Carricante is scheduled for the 16th to the 26th of October. In almost all the areas of Etna, there is a reduction in harvest of 20% under last year.

Always a separate case, the southeastern Etna slopes (Monte Serra), where the very favorable climatic conditions and the particular disposition of the land permitted the maturation to go until the end of September, the harvest was done on the 28th and 29th of September. The Nerello Mascalese and the Nerello Cappuccio are analytically excellent.