Producers are hesitant to declare a vintage Champagne will be made in 2006, but most are pleased with the quality so far. Wines are showing clean aromas, rich fruit and promise finesse and balance.
The 2006 vintage was distinguished by an unusually dry and sunny June and July – promoting excellent flowering and good, steady ripening – followed by a rainy and humid August which threatened to obliterate the early-summer promise; growers suddenly feared mildew and botrytis.
But September brought more sun and heat, and a protracted harvest unfolded under ideal conditions – sunny days and cool nights – from 8 September (Chardonnay in Sézanne) to 2 October in Mailly.
A few thunderstorms at the start of July resulted in isolated hail damage, but since there was none of the variable ripening of Bordeaux nor the rot of Burgundy in 2006, the appellation brought in its maximum allowed yields of 13,000 kilos/hectare.
Grapes attained optimal physiological maturity and thanks to cool September nights retained a good balance between ripeness and acidity.
The Chardonnays combine richness with freshness, and both Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier were picked with minimal botrytis – any affected grapes were sorted out.
Acidity levels are a little down on normal, averaging around 7g per litre. It’s possible winemakers will ncrease Chardonnay percentages to balance the richer style of the year’s Pinot.
Too early to say. Vintage Champagne cannot be released until a minimum of three years after the first January following the harvest (ie 2010 for the 2006 harvest).