Tuesday, January 28, 2014

2006 Review: Champagne Vintages: 1995...1996...2002...2006?

Region: Champagne
Grade: B+

Producers in Champagne speak with enthusiasm about the 2006 vintage, largely due to a growing season full of contrasting but well-timed weather changes and excellent conditions during harvest. Although most producers are hesitant to declare that a vintage Champagne will be made from 2006, all are pleased with the quality they have seen thus far.

The weather in April and May was mild, with an unusual amount of rain, but sunny weather and higher-than-average temperatures during June promoted excellent flowering. A few thunderstorms at the start of July resulted in isolated hail damage in certain parts of Champagne, but otherwise the month was one of the hottest and driest on record, helping the grapes ripen quickly. The weather took a dramatic turn in August, with three rainy and humid weeks worrying growers.

"At the very end of August most of the early summer promise [in the vineyards] was about to disappear," said Olivier Krug of Champagne Krug, "when both the sun and heat came back for three weeks, leading to a marvelous crop."

Frédéric Panaiotos, enologist at Veuve Clicquot, said that this "nearly perfect" weather during harvest "resulted in an excellent ripening process." The grapes attained optimal physiological maturity and developed a good balance between ripeness and acidity. Chardonnay in particular did very well, although both Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier were picked with minimal botrytis, which was sorted out.

After initial tastings of the 2006 base wines, Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon, technical director at Louis Roederer, said, "Early tastings are highly promising, showing clean aromas, rich fruit and a finesse and balance rarely seen at this early stage."

Overall, consumers can expect that the 2006 vintage will be an important component in high quality non-vintage wines for the next several years. "Even if I find it too early to say whether it will be a vintage year or not for Krug," said Krug, "I can already say that 2006 will be a very pleasant year to blend. It is indeed a year of character."

—Alison Napjus


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