The winter 2005/06 brought good quantities of rain and snow for the first time in 52 years! Spring was cold and delayed the bud break a bit but this was compensated quickly later. Flowering passed in May without problems in good weather conditions. A short heat wave early July with temperatures above 40°C did not affect the vineyards too much. Later in July, temperatures returned to normal 30 – 36°C and vineyards looked just great. Yield reduction was in process during the whole July, one of the most important and time consuming tasks in the vineyards. The goal is to reduce the number of grapes to allow the remaining fruit to reach the best possible intensity in flavour and taste, as well phenolic ripeness.
A rare rainfall 2 weeks before harvest helped the (unirrigated) vines to resist water stress. The second heat weave of this year started with the harvest and temperatures hit 40°C during the day and 25°C during the night, for about ten days.
Grape picking started 23rd August and ended 14th September. The extreme heat made us rush to finish grape picking. Grapes in younger vineyards (with still low density canopy) risked to shrink to raisins. Sugar levels raised quickly. Thanks to a big effort of all the grape pickers, we managed to bring in all the grapes at the right time. All grapes were cooled down before the strict selection on conveyor-belts by hand. Only perfect grapes made it into the fermenting vats were they went trough a cold soak before fermentation. This is to improve flavour intensity. Fermentation proceeded as usual, all wines fermenting to dry within two weeks. Most wines were extracted another 2 – 3 weeks on skins to improve tannin structure.
2006 was certainly not the easiest harvest to handle. The heat during harvest increased the ripening process more than we would have wished. But it is interesting to see, how different each year is. Every vintage has its own character, which is marked by the climate and our work in vineyard and cellar. Year by year we improve our process as we learn from the experience we made. By now (April 07) the wines are big and bold, but still too young to detect the finesse. The flavours are pure, indicating an easy fermentation. Aragonez, which probably suffered most from the heat, seems to be more on the red fruit than in cooler years. The most interesting lots are those ones with mixed grapes in fermentation. Perquita-Cabernet (47/53%) has a fantastic perfume and surprising minearlity – this is to watch. Touriga-Alicante (66/34%) is a blockbuster with cedar-wood, coffee, caramel and black fruit. Time will be again the tool to shape these wines, and of course the composition of the blends in one year.