Bordeaux Vintage 2011 - Primeur Tastings 2012

Heterogeneity is the key word for the Bordeaux Vintage 2011, and therefore heterogeneities were the smiling faces at this year's primeur week - due to the weather: Hot spring, dry July, more rain than usual in August and a heavy thunderstorm on the 1st of September, partly with hail, made the parasites happy and the harvest very tricky, says Olivier Berrouet, since 2008 Pétrus winemaker (on the photo together with his father Jean-Claude, who oversaw 44 vintages of Pétrus before retiring in 2007).
Olivier Berrouet: "In June we thought we could harvest end of August, but with the heavy rainfall and less than 100 hours sunshine on the average we had to postpone our harvest. In the end we finished at 22nd of September. Our grapes were very tannin concentrated; they had ten percent more tannin than in 2010. During vilification we tried to preserve the fresh aromas of the berries and not to push the aromas over the limit. I think 2011 is a very classic vintage, more than 2010."
Indeed the glass of Petrus 2011 which was offered by both of the Berrouets during our visit showed good fruit, acidity and a respectable merlot flesh. "This wine has less alcohol than the last vintage, could be like Vintage 2001, but we need nine more months to make a more precise prediction."
On the left bank there was also an enormous discussion about the date of harvesting: "In general we decide to harvest when the berries are slightly overripe, just slightly. And then we don't do anything", says Philippe Moreau, the new appointed winemaking director of Château Pichon Comtesse de Lalande, who replaced Thomas Do Chi Nam, who joined Château Margaux as a technical director. An important question for us, said Moreau, is whether we want the typical green veggy paprika aromas of the Cabernet or should we go after the new school? The answer is quite obvious with the 2011: The Comtesse likes the characteristical aromas of the Cabernet.
In the end, one could taste it through a great deal of degustations, there was this 2011 red wine heterogeneity in the mouth - which means also big difference in quality. And because the prices are going to fall with this vintage there is a good chance of worthy bargains: If you can't afford a Comtesse go buy the wine of Château de Pez from Saint-Estèphe. Talbot from Saint-Julien offered remarkable fruit and tannins, and Pauillac's Château Grand-Puy-Ducasse showed an interesting mix of coffee and berry taste.
If you can't afford Château Margaux or Palmer, the degustation of the whole Margaux appellations presented some interesting alternatives: Château Desmirail has power, slight oily taste very good drinkable - and was much better than usual; noteworthy Siran with a very good fruit and strict tannin structure, Monbrison (chocolate) and Kirwan, which gets better every year - and there is a big discussion whether this due to their inoculation method which results in a malolactic fermentation before the end of the alcoholic one.

But the most promising surprise at the Primeur 2011 was the white wines - sec and Sauternes. Because of the fresh August the white grapes accumulated good acidity and fresh fruits; one could taste this during a remarkable presentation of the most Pessac-Léognan appellation wines - not only the Grands Crus - at Château Olivier: Look out for Château Brown, La Garde (salty fruit, more on the heavy side), the very straight Canteleys, De La Solitude with, like always, the dominant notes of the Sauvignon grape, Roche-Lalande (something for muscat lovers) and Le Thil Comte Clary gets a star for excellent fruit and drinkability.

Then there were the white Cru Classés, a very different league, the premiership, and worth mentioning are: Château Bouscaut (concentrate and elegant), Couhins (very straight and steely), Carbonnieux with retained elegance, Couhins-Lurton with lot of citrus aromas, Château Malartic-Lagravière with wild citrus aromas and a good acidity, Château Pape Clément with, like always, a lot of exotic flavor, Latour-Martillac (very soft, mild) and last but not least the wine blanc of Château Olivier which followed in 2011 his predecessors of 2009 and 2010: very discrete, on the sashay side of life, very good for people who like to drink.


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