THE 2006 MALTESE VINTAGE REPORT
A Bumper Crop
Vintage Report 2006
Usually, vintages in Malta differ very little from year to year – so they say.
The truth is that no two harvests are alike and the more one pays attention to the crop, the more one realises that even in Malta, with its benign climate for grape growing, the vine’s growth cycle can go through rather unusual climatic occurrences which will affect the plant’s physiology and consequently the vintage and resulting wines.
The 2006 vintage was exemplary in this respect. The first of a series of peculiarities was heavy rainfall when the island’s vignerons expect it least. In January 225 mm, (or about three times the Maltese national average for this winter month) precipitated. This was a very beneficial eventuality since the rainwater helped to flush down the accumulated salts (from fertilisers and irrigation)to the surrounding sea.
The heavy downpours in January were followed with an extended colder than usual winter. This extended the dormancy of the vines and helped build up a lot of useful carbohydrate reserves during an earlier than usual spring.
Unfortunately, the air temperature surged more than usual during early June from a comfortable 24 C to a stressful 38 C. This led to a disproportionate water and nutrient requirement on most plants which resulted in partial desiccation of the leaves and fruit, particularly on the most vigourous varieties and those grafted on less suitable rootstocks.
Then, on August 9th, a large area of Malta and Gozo received no less than 12 mm of rain, which at this time risked increasing disease incident at a time very close to harvesting. Luckily, during the storm, the wine changed to moderate northwesterly direction which helped dry the fruit and plants quickly and spore germination was reduced to a minimum.
The grape growers that followed the instructions of experienced viticulturalists compensated for these seasonal difficulties in the growing cycle of the vine and delivered a healthy and abundant crop.
Major Wineries Record
This year the wineries abstained from making public announcements regarding the quantities harvested or new plantings. It is unclear if by now the industry’s target of circa 1000 ha of land planted with vines has been reached.
The 2006 vintage turned out a bumper crop with ripe and sweet fruit. A heavier crop and bigger berries meant that, in general, the wines are less full-bodied. Especially, the later ripening red varieties, especially Syrah, were less expressive and not as deep in colour as usual. Some lovely rounded and soft Chardonnays are around and there’s some fine classic, french styled Cabernet to be enjoyed.
© Georges Meekers – July 2007