I arrived in the Rhône this afternoon to start my tastings in Châteauneuf, and two streaks were continued. The Southern Rhône's premier appellation has been on a streak of good vintages lately, which will continue with both 2006 and 2007.
Of course, I’ve been on a streak lately too: the travel jinx streak. I refrained from posting before I left in the hopes of breaking it. No such luck. My flight from JFK to Charles de Gaulle was two hours late, resulting in my missing my TGV connection and then arriving in Avignon several hours after initially planned. Undeterred, I headed directly to Daniel Brunier’s Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe, in Bédarrides.
A steady drizzle was falling and Brunier was shaking his head as he looked at the sky. Nearly 8 inches of rain fell during May, which isn't a bad thing, but it's been cloudy ever since.
“The rain came at the right time. The water is now there [stored in the ground] for summer. But now we need some sun,” said Brunier.
Crop set in 2008 looks to be on the small side, due to the wet and cool weather during flowering. Though there was a mistral at the end of May that helped dry the vineyards somewhat, the persistent cloud cover is starting to create some mildew pressures in the vineyards. But there’s a long way to go.
As for the vintages now in the cellars, both 2006 and 2007 offer more excellent wine. The 2006 vintage looks to be in the mold of 2004 and 2001: ripe and fresh, with good purity. The wines are forward and accessible, and should provide good medium-term drinking while the 2005s come around. Most vignerons are just bottling their 2006s now for release later this year. 2007 is dramatically different, with very ripe, dense fruit and structure, powered by the heady Grenache grape. Alcohols of 15.5, 16 percent or more were common, and some Châteauneuf growers petitioned for an increase in the amount of allowable residual sugars in their wines, to avoid having any lots rejected for the AOC designation (their request was approved over the objections of some other growers). It’s a move that has caused some debate in the appellation.
As one vigneron described it “2007 was perfect, you didn’t need to wait for 17 percent alcohol. You could’ve brought the fruit in at any time. But that is a fad now for some vignerons—big, powerful wines with a lot of sweetness.”
Balance will be an issue in 2007. There will be some spectacular wines, but there will be some over-the-top examples that might flatter when young due to their size and sweetness of fruit, but then struggle to age well. I’ll be visiting domaines here in Châteauneuf-du-Pape for the next few days before heading to other appellations in the south and eventually to the Northern Rhône, so check back in for more.
In the meantime, you can brush up with a quick read on the 2006 and 2007 harvest report cards from the Rhône, my early vintage analysis of the 2006 and 2007 harvests in the North, and some earlier commentary on the 2007 Southern Rhône vintage.
William Keene — North Carolina — June 17, 2008 6:41am ET
Bill Robinson — Calgary — June 17, 2008 3:54pm ET
John Osgood — New York, NY — June 17, 2008 4:14pm ET
James Molesworth — June 17, 2008 4:56pm ET
John Osgood — New York, NY — June 17, 2008 6:10pm ET
Jordan Harris — Niagara, Ontario — June 18, 2008 9:05am ET
David Wendt — June 18, 2008 4:52pm ET
James Molesworth — June 18, 2008 5:56pm ET
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