So what's in a vintage chart? Too often, not much. Applying a single number or score to the wines of a region or even an appellation simply dumbs down all that's so fascinating about wine. Even if the 2006 vintage in the southern Rhone gets overlooked because it's bookended by 2005 and 2007, if you actually look under the hood at each microclimate-- each producer's approach to a harvest-- you can pretty much throw the chart out the window.
On our last visit to the St. Pierre estate in the southern Rhone a couple months ago, we were talking about Jean-Francois Fauque's 2006 Vacqueyras. The wine is deep purple: a huge mouthful of ripe, sappy Grenache (60%) and Syrah (40%), loaded with Chateauneuf-like aromas and length. This is a serious wine, with the kind of concentration and tannic structure that argue for a long stay in the bottle. Why did Fauque come through with such a muscular, succulent wine, when other producers of the appellation made 2006s that just didn't measure up to the 2005s and 2007s?
"In 2006," Jean-Francois told us, "it was very warm. We had warm days and warm nights. But all of our vines are on the plateau where the soil is deep, so the old vines had no problem finding the water reserves, staying healthy. We had huge concentration in 2006, and we trusted our fruit and let the wine make itself. The 2005 is superb, as is the 2007. But for us, this 2006, in its own way, may be the best of all."
This 2006 is a monumental effort; a blend of 40-year old vine Grenache and Syrah planted in the rugged galets roules landscape of the plateau, in the most precocious part of the appellation. Harvested to just over two tons of fruit per hectare, this beauty has immense concentration and density that speaks of those low yields. But the structure is all Fauque. The Bordeaux-trained enologist allowed for longer maceration in 2006, believing in the fine tannic structure of the grapes at harvest. He nailed it. This benchmark effort offers echoes of Chateauneuf.
Dark red in color, this wine has fabulous explosive aromas of deep red fruits, cassis and violets, with a hint of garrigue. It's big and rich on the palate with terrific velvet-like mouthfeel. Firm, ripe tannins on the finish argue for a long life in bottle, but there's plenty of opulence if you drink it now.
Serve this expressive red wine alongside roasted chicken with rosemary.
"One of the stars of the vintage, the 2006 Vacqueyras possesses a deep ruby/purple color, fabulous stuffing, a superb, full-bodied mouthfeel, and a long, heady finish displaying a classic Provencal combination of black fruits intermixed with lavender, garrigue, and forest floor. It should be consumed over the next 5-8 years."
92 points--Robert Parker, The Wine Advocate
"Deep purple color. Fabulous explosive aromas of deep red fruits, cassis and violets, with a hint of garrigue. Big and rich on the palate with terrific velvet-like mouthfeel. Firm, ripe tannins on the finish argue for a long life in bottle. As good if not better than many 2006 Chateuneufs. Drink now for its sheer opulence or age until 2020."
--WineAccess Travel Log, March 2009