My Article: Bordeaux 2011 Tasting Impressions

March 30th, 2012

I have already tasted about 350 wines since I arrived in Bordeaux over a week ago, and I must say that I am impressed. It’s not that 2011 is a great vintage. It couldn’t be, considering the bizarre grape-growing season, and it followed two extraordinary vintages: 2009 and 2010.

However, most of the reds show very good fruit with intense tannins and bright acidity. They are racy wines with pretty perfumes and an underlying tannin backbone of breed. (I am tasting in Larcis Ducasse in the photo.)

The whites are exceptional – both dry and sweet. I found one wine that should be a perfect, 100-point wine: La Mission Haut-Brion Blanc. The Sauternes of d’Yquem and Rieussec are 95-plus wines.

I think that Bordeaux winemakers are some of the best in the world. They had an upside down growing season in 2011. The spring was like the summer with extremely hot weather and drought conditions. Summer was like autumn, relatively cool with some precipitation, and autumn was like summer again. Crazy.

Yet through meticulous vineyard management and precise harvesting, they picked excellent grapes. Those who didn’t try to work their wines too much through excessive macerations after the alcoholic fermentation made balanced and attractive wines.

I find it interesting that a large part of the 2011 reds have the same, or more, tannin content than 2010 and 2009. Most have close to the same acidity strength as 2010. But they don’t have the alcohol levels, meaning the fruit. They don’t have the flesh or fat of the 2010. That makes the difference. They are lanky compared to the voluptuous and structured 2009 and 2010.

I don’t think I will find any 100-point 2011 red wines in my list of close to 400 wines that should be posted on Monday on this site. But I am sure a handful of wines will be 95 points or more.

This means that 2011 is a very good vintage – and in some cases, with outstanding wines. It’s going to be a year that we Bordeaux lovers are going to enjoy drinking in the future.

I find it strange that many winemakers in Bordeaux say that it is inconsistent – or as many French château owners keep saying to me, hétérogène.

I don’t find the vintage like that. The hundreds of wines I have tasted have been very good to outstanding quality. Some have slightly hollow center palates or lack fruit concentration. Some are slightly too tannic and extracted. But some very good wines are out there from Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux to Pauillac.

This is a fascinating tasting trip, and I have tasted from barrel in Bordeaux for 29 years. Stay tuned.


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April 1, 2012

Do you thikn 30 years ago that given the same growing season the vinters could have produced the same quality wine as you are projecting?

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