Chateau Yquem: 2006 Harvest chronicles, 2006 vintage, Bordeaux wines, Sauternes Barsac


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Harvest chronicles at Yquem


> It is totally premature to assess the quality of the vintage at this early stage. Nevertheless we find interesting to read the producer's reports on recent harvests and how they evaluate the potential of their 2006 Bordeaux wines.

> Chateau Yquem -  Francis Mayeur 


Chateau YquemThe 2006 harvest at Chateau d'Yquem - Sauternes - Barsac

Weather during the growing season at Chateau Yquem:
Overview of the weather during the 2006 growing season and a look at the harvest as of 10/09.

2006 will be remembered as a year of very strong contrasts at
Chateau Yquem
A very harsh winter at Chateau Yquem (the 10th coldest since 1897) was followed by a brutal rise in temperature in spring and summer. Maximum temperatures in July and average temperatures in May, June and July were the hottest in the past 110 years. 

The weather changed abruptly in august, with nearly record lows this time... However, the roller coaster ride was not over yet! This period was at Chateau Yquem followed by a new flare-up of warm weather in September, which turned out to be the 4th hottest in over a century.

Precipitation during the 2006 growing season, on the other hand, was strictly normal until the month of august. 

There were nevertheless violent showers in September with 150mm of rainfall. This was the 4th wettest month of September ever recorded. 

These odd ups and downs unquestionably had a direct effect on vine development at Chateau Yquem, which starded off remarkably (a full 2 weeks) early due to the summer heat wave, despite a relatively late bud break.

This weather, at  Chateau Yquem, with average rainfall, but above-average temperatures, created a threat of mildew and powdery mildew that had to be dealt with immediately, at the risk of losing the crop as well as the vine leaves.

The Harvest chronicle at Chateau Yquem: 
After more than 12 days of rain in the last two weeks of August, the grapes reached full physiological ripeness on Septembre 1st, and botrytis cinerea was able to start working its magic under ideal conditions.

There was a heat wave during the first 10 days of Septembre (8 of which were over 30°) without a drop of water. This was ideal weather or concentrating the grapes at Chateau Yquem.

We were able to pick from the 6th to the 9th of September, and sugar levels easily reached 20° potential alcohol for many Sauvignon blanc grapes and some Semillon.

After this very auspicious beginning, we were faced by a very fragile, risky situation.
In fact, the harvest at Chateau Yquem can be divided into three equal parts at this phase of the vintage: 1/3 perfectly botrytised and already picked grapes, 1/3 golden, but not yet concentrated grapes, and 1/3 grapes ruined by sour rot (because of the arrival of fruit flies due to the heat). The weather became extremely complex at this point. Three tropical storms that "died" off the coasts of Ireland and Portugal brought heavy, unpredictable rains in their wake. These alternated with gusts of warm south by south-east winds.

This made it very challenging for the wine making team at Chateau Yquem to go on harvesting. We needed to rush out and pick between showers to take maximum advantage of the enormous potential of grapes grown on clay soil. We did not lose precious time in plots that were too early-maturing, which we left to the fruit flies.

A second wave of picking took place from the 11th to the 13th of September, and a third from the 21st to the 23rd of that same month. These grapes came from plots at Chateau Yquem combining concentration, finesse, and fruit despite some 150mm of rain which fortunately mostly fell at night. Meanwhile, on the 18th and 19th of September, we did an in-depth "cleaning job" of plots largely ruined by sour rot.

The fate of the rest of crop hinged on the way the last depression of the season developed from the 23rd of September onward. At this stage, the entire crop of Chateau Yquem was ideally botrytised, but was still missing 2-3 degrees of pontential alcohol inorder to bi up to Yquem's standards. 

Eleven mm of rain on the 24th and 7mm on the 25th wracked out nerves, and we pinned all our hopes on a window of opportunity in the middle of the week, waiting another day for the grapes to become perfectly concentrated.

We started to pick again at Chateau d'Yquem on the 27th. Plots with clay soil produced superb fruit on the 4th wave of picking, and we the started another wave on the later-ripening parts of the vineyard. The main forecast on the 30th of September miraculously arrived much later, on the 3rd of October. We were thus able to finish the 3rd and 5th waves of picking with fully-desirable concentration.

There was another pause from the 4th to the 8th of October before we did a final wave of picking, covering the entire estate of Chateau d'Yquem, lasting until the 12th of October. This brought in grapes with very high sugar levels. 

2006 was a typical Sauternes vintage. After 20 days of picking spread over 6 weeks, this was an average size crop for Yquem. The wine is very rich and powerful, reflecting an unusually hot supper despite the capricious weather and risks encountered along the way. 

Francis Mayeur - Chateau d'Yquem

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