Each April Bordeaux invites wine buyers and press from around the globe to taste its new vintage. This year Bordeaux 2006 was on show, and this report includes 200 detailed notes and scores for the wines I tasted.
The big question on everyone's lips this year is, of course, price. Last year's average rise across the Crus Classés was 70%, with three Châteaux raising their price on 2004 by 300%. Those that hiked prices by
100% or more (and there were many) may find it hard to persuade people that they need to buy this vintage unless they reduce quite significantly. Those that didn't gouge the price too much last year will probably find
followers more forgiving.
Estimates suggest many Châteaux are considering lowering prices by 20% or so, but time will tell. As always in recent years, the verdict on the vintage from Robert Parker will have an effect both on
the prices the Châteaux demand, and how many people are willing to pay them.
The other stories of this vintage are management of tannins, and getting enough flesh and charm into the wines. The nature of the weather in most of Bordeaux meant that 2006 is a year of moderate
to good fruit (except for left bank Merlot as a generalisation, which suffered badly from rain at harvest time) but really quite aggressive tannins and quite high acidity. Many wines display very "furry", rough tannins, and others a
chalky dryness. Either, if there is insufficient plumpness and flesh to the fruit, are a bit problematic, making a few wines slightly inky and a bit charmless. That's only likely to get more pronounced with time as it is more the nature
of the tannins and fruit that is problematic, not just their levels. Indeed, many wines show identical technical analysis to 2005, but taste very different.
Merlot skins where battered and bruised in many left bank appellations, and many châteaux used less Merlot than usual in the blend of the Grand Vin, using it more in the second wines. Château Marguax, for example, has
only 4% Merlot. From my tastings this year, second wines with one or two honourable exceptions, are not great buys.
Pomerol and St Emilion did very well generally, whilst of the left bank, there is less consistency. Botrytis was generally quite light in Sauternes, and there were some very successful wine in Margaux and Pessac.
There are excellent Pauillacs, St Juliens and St Estephes, but in all areas, picking and choosing carefully is the key.
Somewhat to my surprise, 2006 showed much better than I might have thought from pre-tasting rumours. It was undoubtedly a tough vintage - a 'technical vintage' were wine growers and makers had to be ultra-vigilent - and
quality is down on 2005 or 2000. But if prices drop significantly, there is no reason not to buy your favourite châteaux. Just do read my notes, and the notes of others, very carefully.
My tasting notes follow. Scores come with the caveat that these are unfinished wines that still have a year or more in barrel ahead of them.