The 2011 Bordeaux vintage is not a one-size-fits-all year, according to the Wall Street Journal, with investors advised to choose carefully in terms of preference and quality.
Bordeaux has suffered through very few bad years since the start of the century, and it is fair to say that there has not been a disastrous year for some time now. This is down to the sophistication of wine producers in the region, who work in the most advanced wineries in the world.
Contemporary technology has allowed for all processes from grape to glass to be carefully monitored and improved. From optical absorbance instruments and the like during picking, to immaculate, temperate cellars, production in Bordeaux is a well-oiled machine.
However, despite the technology and the expertise, the Bordelais understand that however much attention to detail they lavish on their vines, they cannot control Mother Nature. If she chooses to be unkind, there is only so much that can be done to reverse the effects on the harvest, which is what makes for the less spectacular, but still very good years.
It is also what creates the sporadic years. In some vintages, such as in '09 and '10, there is a wide selection of good wines that can be largely pigeon holed into noticeable categories. That doesn’t apply to years such as this, where the style and quality varies throughout the region considerably, much of which depends on how well the producers have handled the conditions and whether they took the right decisions at the right time.
Those who read it well will have produced wines with high tannins and a restrained, classic style. Pomerol has largely performed well, but even in this subsection, this quality isn’t uniform. Surprisingly it seems like the whites will be the standout wines of the year, with the harsh weather creating fresh acidity and good concentration.
In terms of quality, there are still numerous Chateaux that have made very good wines this year. Will Lyons from the Wall Street Journal has picked Château Lafite Rothschild, Château L'Evangile, Château Ausone, Château Palmer and Château Le Tertre Rôteboeuf, as being the top five of the harvest.
Others that performed particularly well are two Pomerol classics in Château Lafleur and Vieux Château Certan. Pavilion Blanc from Château Margaux is a notable wine, and Château d'Yquem from Sauternes is also worthy of note.
Many of the 'good' wines come from around Pauillac, with Château Mouton-Rothschild been the best of a good lot. There are also some good vintages produced around Saint-Julien such as Château Léoville-Las-Cases and Château Ducru-Beaucaillou.
Most producers will be honest about 2011, with Olivier Berrouet, director at Château Pétrus saying: "It's not a great vintage, I will not lie to you." But that is not to say there aren't some very good wines. In a winemaker's year, it is all about the decision making, which means picking at the ripe time and pruning in the vineyard to suit the weather conditions.
Attention has also shifted away from the reds slightly, with some noticeable white wines making an appearance in '11. Will Lyons said in the WSJ: "The unusual weather doesn't come without its benefits. It has been good for the region's sweet and white wines. The cool June and July has enabled them to achieve freshness, acidity and concentration. In Sauternes, there are some very good sweet wines, including Château d'Yquem, which is a standout."
In terms of dry whites, Domaine de Chevalier, Pessac-Léognan offers a very complex and austere wine, much like Château Fieuzal, Pessac-Léognan, which is a bit bigger and bolder than the former.
If you prefer a sweeter white, Château Guiraud, Sauternes has a great balance of sweetness and freshness, and Château Rayne-Vigneau, Sauternes has a great amount of acidity which makes it of noticeable quality.
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