South America 2006: Drink soon
Outstanding harvest for Argentina, producing really fresh, mouth-filling and perfectly ripe wines. More challenging for Chile, though wines are fresh, rich and well-balanced, if a little less intensely flavoured than 2005.
A cool, snowy, wet Argentinian winter delayed budbreak, while a cool, dry growing season – much less hot than previous years – extended ripening by 10-20 days, boosting flavours and retaining great natural acidity. The harvest was late and long with a dry March permitting growers to choose the perfect picking moment.
Similar pattern in Chile: a long, dry growing season with warm days and cool nights, followed by a protracted harvest – one to three weeks later than usual, with the rains finally arriving in April. Spring frosts affected Pinot Noir budding, while late spring rains tended to reduce budset and increase berry size – generally wines are less concentrated than the 2005s. Mostly, though, growers were able to able to pick at optimum ripeness.
Argentina’s Mendoza has achieved good levels of ripeness across all the reds, while at the same time retaining great freshness. Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec are the stand outs this vintage.
Good colours and round, balanced tannins are key features for Chilean wines, which tend to be less concentrated than the dense 2005s. Syrah from Elqui and San Antonio Valleys is particularly fine, as is Casablanca Valley Pinot Noir. Cabernet Sauvignon has wonderful natural acidity, length and elegance from throughout the Central Valley.
ARGENTINA, Mendoza: Achaval Ferrer; Alta Vista; Domaine Vistalba; Finca Sophenia; Pascual Toso. CHILE: Montes (Colchagua Valley); Casa Marin (San Antonio Valley); Matetic (San Antonio Valley); Cono Sur (Casablanca Valley); Kingston Family Vineyards (Casablanca Valley); Mayu (Elqui Valley); Vina Falnerina (Elqui Valley); Vina Valdivies (Lontue Valley); Amayna (Leyda Valley); Maycas del Limari (Limari Valley); Haras de Pirque (Maipo Valley).