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Domaine De La Romanée-Conti - Vintage 2006

Aubert de Villaine wrote a summary of the 2006 harvest at Domaine de la Romanée Conti and through the courtesy of Wilson Daniels, the exclusive United States importer, I was able to obtain a copy. I think this is of great interest to all lovers of Burgundy and I would like to reprint a portion of it here. The report from the Domaine was written on October 19, 2006.

At the time of this writing, the vineyards, emptied of their fruit, had begun to change color. The villages were quiet again after the hubbub of harvest. The streets were filled with generous fragrances coming from the wineries where fermentations were proceeding. The birth of this new vintage is always a real pleasure to the senses.

The climatic conditions in 2006 were a little crazy and, at first, a great source of anguish before restoring, against all expectations, our optimism and confidence. In brief, what we experienced:

* A long, unusual heat wave in July that stopped the vegetative cycle of some vines. Although most of them displayed an amazing ability to withstand the stress.

* The coolest and rainiest August since 1986, favorable to botrytis that set in very early.

* After the unpredictable extremes of heat, cold and humidity, one decisive factor appeared that brought the vintage to a happy end: hot weather, without any rain, that lasted for the entire month of September (except for a stormy couple of days on the 23rd and 24th). These ideal conditions permitted the vineyards to efficiently use the water retained in the soil from the rain in August, therefore allowing the ripening process to accelerate greatly. In September, the sugar levels increased by almost 2 degrees per week at times, especially during the third week.

The harvested grapes were as ripe as in 2005. Botrytis reappeared during harvest on the stormy day of September 24. Luckily, it was too late in the season, and the episode was too short to cause damage.

Although the year was difficult, it gave the vigneron the opportunity to make great wines, as long as he or she had used the right means to harvest ripe grapes before the botrytis did too much harm first, Controlling yields was essential. The fine “Pinot Noir fin” that bears small clusters with small berries showed how its predominant presence is important in our vineyards, although it was still necessary to thin the young vines at the time of veraison. In such climatic conditions, only low yields could first allow the vines to fight the heat and later the attacks of botrytis, then to mature early - something that was necessary to allow us to harvest before the rain returned.

An ultra-meticulous sorting was crucial in order to eliminate the botrytised grapes. In the winery, Bernard Noblet’s team performed “haute couture” selection on the sorting table and put the finishing touches to the pickers’ work.

To summarize, the conditions were difficult in the beginning of the season, but excellent by the end, giving us the opportunity to bring in ripe, sugar-rich grapes.

We feel as though we adjusted everything as precisely as was possible. We harvested in the following order: Richebourg, La Tache, Romanee-Conti, Romanee-St.-Vivant, Grands-Echezeaux, Echezeaux. The yields of the red wines did not exceed 28 hl/ha. The Montrachet was harvested near the end of the season on September 26. The low yields and the ripeness of the Chardonnay grapes, gold and juicy, full of sugar and slightly botrytised - just what is needed - should give a great 2006 Montrachet.

The beginning of the fermentations were rapid and spontaneous, the vinifications proceeded without any difficulty. The vatting lasted, as usual, around 18 days. It is too early to give a definitive opinion about the quality of the 2006 vintage, but the first wines seem to meet our expectations.

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