Take a look at the reports from the French meteorological service (otherwise known as the Météo) for 2006 and you will find a story of summer heatwave, of extreme temperatures in July to match any that had gone before. This is of course surprising; after all, we’re all familiar with the record-breaking temperatures that were experienced in Europe during 2003….but in 2006? Surely not?
Nevertheless, despite our initial incredulity, these reports are not to be denied. They are based on regular measurements of temperature, rainfall and hours of sunshine made throughout the year, the data coming from a multitude of weather stations scattered across all France. And the pattern is consistent; all of these stations show that France was blessed with some very fine weather during July 2006. Atmospheric pressures were up, temperatures were way above the established thirty-year average (based on data from 1971 to 2000), the sun was shining and the rainfall was lower than the norm. In fact some temperature plots are rather more striking than those from 2003, the most memorable of recent heatwave years against which the 2006 data are often contrasted.
And so with a great vintage securely tucked away in the cellar, the 2005 Loire vintage having been wonderful on the whole, with the promise of some superb red wines in particular, it was only natural that here – as was the case with 2006 Bordeaux – the vignerons such as Eric Nicolas of Domaine de Bellivière (pictured above) had every finger and toe crossed in the hope that the good weather would hold, and that they would have their double whammy, two great vintages back-to-back.