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2006 Châteauneuf-du-Pape reds are intrinsically accessible and easy to drink. Perhaps they are not going to aspire to some of the heights first claimed, since they do not possess the structure for an extended and varied evolution. Two decades ago, this would have been a more irregular vintage, due to lesser standards of vineyard and harvesting care, but also due to patchy practices in the cellar. However, nowadays there are times when the destemming process does not actually help wines in vintages such as 2006. Providing the grower has been patient, and holds his or her nerve, then the presence of stems can certainly enhance the wine's structure. I think of the curvaceous, sunny 1985, which lived longer than people expected, when writing this.

So the wines do not all possess a frame or structure to allow an intriguing, varied evolution. Nevertheless, a word that crops up in my notes with some frequency is "balance". There is an ingrained harmony in the best wines. These will be good wines for the table - for eating out, due to their supple, open appeal. Within weeks of the fermentation ending, they tasted brightly, and there has not been a major change since then. Perhaps tannins have in some cases become a little more serious, a touch more evident - which is all to the good.

During 2008, their evolution has become less even, their nature having altered after the winter of 2007-08. There are now more brooding wines on show than before, which means that the vintage as a whole is less straightforward to taste and delve into than had been the case. We are also in that post-bottling phase when the wines tend to lie low. This wide context should be taken into account by potential buyers.

Of course, 2006 is a real counterpoint to the locked-up, broody 2005s. The Mods on their Vespa Scooters (the Vespa was launched in 1946 - fact) come whizzing along after the Rockers have noisily trashed the town - excellent 1960s analogies here, think Brighton. So the folks rejoice! Well, don't get carried away. Those Rockers have hearts of gold if allowed the time to show that side of their nature. Put away the best 2005s and be patient - a virtue that paid off in droves with the 1989, for instance.

I will be re-tasting the 2006 Châteauneufs in France before the end of the year. In the meantime here are some growers` comments on the vintage:


"For us at Solitude, 2006 is better than 2005. Not everyone will tell you the same story. 2006 is a bit richer in tannin and more profound, and expresses very much black fruits."


"Lots of Châteauneuf-du-Papes in 2006 have these fruit aromas, but the palate can differ - we had very whole berry fruit, in a very Grenache style rather than a terroir style in 2006. 2005 is more a terroir year."


"I found our Châteauneuf-du-Pape not bad - no more than that - at the start, but now in June 2008 I find it gaining as it matures."

****** Château Rayas 2026-31  
***** Domaine Chante-Perdrix 2021-24  
***** Domaine Charvin 2027-29 12/12, up from **(*), STGT
****(*) Château de Beaucastel 2026-28  
****(*) Château Fortia 2023-25  
****(*) Château de la Gardine Tradition 2022-24 12/12, singing, interesting
****(*) Château Jas de Bressy 2025-26 12/12, constant progress
****(*) Domaine du Pegau Cuvée Réservée 2030-32 11/15, enjoyable, local, true 2006
**** Domaine Pierre André 2022-24 12/12, STGT, traditional 
**** Henri Bonneau 2029-31 11/15, sparky, naked, unadorned
**** Château Mont Thabor 2021-23  
****  Château La Nerthe 2023-25  07/11, up from **(*) 
**** Clos des Brusquières 2022-24  
**** Clos du Caillou Les Safres 2022-24 12/12, frm ***(*), grounded, full
**** Clos des Papes 2031-33 11/15, big, stationary
**** Les Cailloux 2024-27  
**** Domaine Font de Michelle 2023-24 12/13, rising all the while
****  Domaine Lafond Roc-Epine  2024-26  12/12, sleek; mre local frm 2015  
**** Domaine La Millière Vieilles Vignes 2021-23 12/12 sturdy, trad, STGT
**** Domaine de Saint Siffrein Terre d’Abel 2020-22 12/11
**** Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe La Crau 2024-26  
***(*) Château des Fines Roches 2023-24 12/12, chunky, textured, oak
***(*) Pignan of Château Rayas 2021-24  
***(*) Domaine Paul Autard 2018-20  
***(*) Domaine Barville 2020-21 12/12, classic nose; spiced
***(*) Domaine de Beaurenard 2023-25 11/13, stable rating
***(*) Domaine de Cristia Tradition 2022-24  
***(*) Domaine Charvin 2022-24  
***(*) Domaine de la Charbonnière 2020-22  
***(*) Domaine Chante Cigale    
***(*) Eddie Féraud 2019-21  
***(*) Domaine Giraud Tradition 2023-25  
***(*) E.Guigal 2026-27  
***(*) Domaine de la Janasse 2023-25  
***(*) Domaine de Marcoux 2019-22  
***(*) Domaine de la Mordorée La Reine des Bois 2021-22  
***(*) Domaine de Saint-Paul 2023-15 12/12, rich, weighty, power  
***(*) Domaine de la Vieille Julienne 2029-31 11/15, spicy, very full-on
***  Domaine La Barroche Signature   2022-23  12/12, needs to fuse  
*** Cuvée du Vatican 2021-23 frm late 10, for mre local 
*** Le Vieux Donjon  2028-29 01/16 Brett, dn frm ****(*)


***** Les Cailloux Cuvée Centenaire    
***** Domaine de la Charbonnière Mourre de Perdrix 2024-26  
***** Domaine Font de Michelle Étienne Gonnet 2023-25  
***** Domaine Giraud Les Grenaches de Pierre 2025-27  
***** Dom Mathieu Vin di Felibre d'Anseùme Mathieu Castèll-N-Dóu-Papo 2023-25  
***** Mas de Boislauzon Cuvée du Quet 2025-27  
****(*) Clos du Caillou Les Quartz 2022-24  
****(*) Domaine Bois de Boursan Cuvée des Félix 2024-27  
****(*) Mas de Boislauzon Le Tintot 2023-26  
****(*) Domaine du Père Pape La Crau de Ma Mère 2024-26  
****(*) L'Accent de la Roquète 2024-26  
**** Clos du Caillou La Réserve 2021-23  
**** Domaine La Barroche Réserve 2023-25  
****  Domaine de la Côte de l`Ange Vieilles Vignes   2021-23   
**** Domaine Durieu Lucile Avril 2020-22  
**** Domaine de la Janasse Chaupin 2022-24  
**** Domaine de la Janasse Vieilles Vignes 2024-26  
**** Domaine Roger Sabon Prestige 2030-32 11/15
****  Dom de la Solitude Réserve Secrète 2021-23   
***(*) Château des Fines Roches Cuvée Fines Roches 2022-24  
***(*) Château Fortia Cuvée du Baron 2022-24  
***(*)  Château La Nerthe Cuvée des Cadettes 2024-26   
***(*) Clos du Mont-Olivet La Cuvée du Papet 2024-26  
***(*) Domaine Galet des Papes Vieilles Vignes 2021-23  
***(*) Domaine Giraud Les Gallimardes 2020-23  
***(*) Domaine du Grand Tinel Alexis Establet 2021-24  
***(*) Domaine Grand Veneur Vieilles Vignes 2024-26  
***(*) Domaine Grand Veneur Les Origines 2023-24  
***(*) Domaine Marcoux Vieilles Vignes 2021-23  
***(*) Domaine Mathieu Marquis Anselme Mathieu 2021-23  
***(*) Domaine Olivier Hillaire Les Petits Pieds d'Armand 2024-26  
***(*)  Domaine de la Solitude Cornelia Constanza  2023-25   
***(*) Domaine Pierre Usseglio Cuvée de Mon Aiëul 2021-24  
***(*) Domaine Raymond Usseglio et Fils Cuvée Impériale 2021-23  
***(*) Domaine Serguier Révelation 2021-22  
***  Dom de la Solitude Cuvée Barberini  2021-24   


After the strength and sometimes potent nature of the 2005 white Châteauneuf-du-Papes, the 2006s present greater ease of drinking and softer textures. Importantly, they possess sound levels of acidity, which gives them both an immediate clarity and a potential for second stage evolution. Thus there are many that are drinking well now, on a supple gourmandise, making them apt for a wide variety of foods, including spiced dishes and Vieille France sauced plats.

I sense a rustling in the undergrowth that I may no longer be about the only backwoodsman who extols the virtues of white Rhônes. After 30+ years, it has been a long journey to see these wonderfully food-friendly wines achieve some degree of recognition for their depth and with age, their complexity.

Let me quote from a tasting of the 1992 white Château Mont-Redon in June 2007, bearing in mind how difficult that vintage was, with a lot of rain at harvest time. With the family and the winemaker, Christian Voeux (now at La Nerthe), we discussed what to eat with this 15 year-old wine: "drink an old white Châteauneuf like this with scambled eggs and black truffles, or pigeon with a creamed morille wild mushroom sauce, or even grilled partridge - why not? With such rich wines, you can explore." Admittedly, these are dishes from Provence, although the straight roast partridge certainly isn`t. And we haven`t even mentioned fish, spices or rich rice dishes.

The oaked Châteauneufs of course carry more make-up, and sensitive oak handling is the greatest challenge many growers face - it is dead easy to be clumsy with the oak application, or smothering. The top names emerge to the fore in this regard, whereby the oak can add dimension and length. Note that two of my preferred 2006s come from Beaucastel and Rayas, where the sureness of touch with white wines has been established throughout my life as a wine writer. Experience is certainly an ace card here.

****(*)  Château de Beaucastel Vieilles Vignes   2021-23   
****(*)  Château Rayas  2022-27   
****  Domaine Pierre André 2016-18  
***(*)  Château de Beaucastel   2020-23   
***(*)  Château Jas de Bressy 2013-15   
***(*)  Domaine de Beaurenard  2015-16   
***(*)  Domaine de la Charbonnière 2012-13   
***(*)  Bosquet des Papes Cuvée Tradition  2013-15   
***(*)  Domaine Patrice Magni Cuvée Roussanne  2014-15   
***(*)  Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe La Crau    2022-24   
*** Château Mont Redon  2017-19   
*** Château de Vaudieu  2016-18   
***  Cuvée du Vatican   2014-15  
***  Domaine Chante Cigale  2014-15   
***  Les Cailloux       2019-22   
***  Domaine Giraud           2012   
***  Domaine de Marcoux  2014-16   
***  Domaine des Sénéchaux  2014-15   
***  Domaine Pierre Usseglio             2017-20   
**(*)  Château Cabrières          2018-21   
**(*)  Château des Fines Roches   2013-14   
**(*)  Château La Nerthe  2015-17  
**(*)  Clos des Papes  2018-20   
**(*)  Domaine de la Côte de l`Ange  2013-14   
**(*)  Domaine Mathieu Marquis Anselme Mathieu  2014-15