Allen Meadows, a.k.a. the “Burghound,” was seated directly behind me. It was a cool evening and my wife and I were dining at Ma Cuisine, the great bistro in Beaune. We had spent the day visiting domaines in the Cote de Beaune and the full-bodied, mineral 2006 whites were impressive. I expressed my enthusiasm for the vintage to Meadows, but he did not entirely agree.Some of the wines were flabby and overly ripe in Meadows’ opinion. My view had been shaped by tasting at only a handful of top domaines (Carillon, Bachelet-Monnot, Neillon, Jean-Claude Bachelet). Meadows had tasted a much broader range of wines throughout the region and his conclusion would be proven correct in future months. Many of the whites that arrived in the U.S. the following year were big, rich and full of tropical fruits. Some showed alcohol on the palate. The weather had been very warm in 2006 and the harvest date in the Cote de Beaune (9/18) was early. A large amount rain fell on the region in August after what had been a very hot and dry July. Warm temperatures and clear skies returned at the beginning of September and the sugar levels increased rapidly. Some growers picked early in the hope of obtaining significant acid levels in the grapes, while others waited to achieve greater ripeness. The best wines, most from producers who picked early, combine rich, powerful textures with strong mineral and acid structures.
At the time of the harvest, it was thought that 2006 would be remembered as a white wine vintage, but in retrospect, the reds were stronger then the whites. The vin rouge are consistent across the appellations and have no obvious faults. In contrast to the tannic, dark fruited wines of 2005, the 2006s have soft textures and intense, red fruit flavors. The harvest was also early in the Cote de Nuits (9/20), but the weather had been more difficult. Hail pounded Gevrey-Chambertin and Chambolle-Musigny, exposing many grapes. The wet weather in August raised concerns about rot, especially in the hail affected vineyards, and many growers harvested as soon as possible to avoid the risk. Severe sorting was necessary in the cellars to remove any diseased or damaged grapes. The hard work rewarded the best growers with aromatic, medium-bodied wines that are transparent on the palate. 2006 was overlooked initially because it followed a legendary vintage, but only 2002, 2005, and, perhaps, 2009 produced red wines as fine in the first decade of the 21st century.