Outstanding vintage in which ideal weather conditions and reduced yields created fragrant, full-flavoured wines with refreshing acidity and moderate alcohol levels.
The vintage was characterised by early budburst, less-than-rampant canopy development and sparse berry set. Bunches were loose and grapes small. More northerly appellations were ahead of the south, where a severe winter with half average
rainfall reduced yields and stalled development.
Mild weather continued until mid-August, allowing steady, even ripening, though coolish temperatures kept sugar accumulation in check. Then a mini heatwave in late August saw sugar levels soar ahead, and some parcels of Merlot were harvested swiftly in early September.
Further south, ripening was less advanced and the arrival of cool afternoon breezes and fog later in the month allowed growers to cherry-pick as grapes achieved optimum sugar/acid balance. Some delayed until late October and harvested amid sporadic rainfall, most notably in Sonoma and Napa.
A consistently impressive vintage across all appellations, with the cool, dry weather providing ideal ripening conditions for Merlot – allowing the grapes to slowly accumulate sugar whilst retaining high acidity. And the loose clusters helped keep the grapes healthy. The only real variable was harvesting times, with some Merlot being picked up to six weeks ahead of other sites. Duckhorn Vineyards, for example, picked Merlot in northern Napa’s Calistoga early in September and in Carneros late October.
Growers who picked early claim excellent extraction of colour and flavours and only moderate alcohol. But later harvests, too, have ripe, juicy flavours and good acid balance. Beautiful aromatics are also typical. The vintage’s small berry size has concentrated flavours and fragrances generally.
Overall yield was down 9% on 2006, though some growers report much higher reductions (up to 35%).
Limited tastings so far, but look out for O’Shaughnessy (Howell Mt, Napa Valley), Pahlmeyer (Napa), Plumpjack (Rutherford, Napa Valley), Duckhorn Vineyards, Shafer Vineyards (Napa Valley), Kunde Estate (Sonoma Valley), Schug Carneros Estate,