2011 Bordeaux Wine: Detailed report, Barrel tasting notes added
2011 Bordeaux Wine Vintage Summary with harvest information, vintage characteristics, buying tips and links. For a series of detailed interviews with growers and owners from chateaux all over the entire Bordeaux wine region: 2011 Bordeaux Harvest Reports, News, Interviews and Photographs.
Tasting notes, ratings and reviews for the top 250 wines will be published later today, or starting Tuesday, April 3.
2011 Bordeaux… A vintage of selection…
All agricultural regions enjoy, or suffer from, the capricious vagaries of Mother Nature. For Bordeaux, 2011 was one of the more difficult growing seasons in recent history.
Things started off normal. After the cold, dry winter faded, spring arrived. But far too early. Bud break took place at the end of March. In fact, by the time April rolled around, much of Bordeaux was enjoying summery conditions. April was hot: the second hottest April on record since 1900! May was almost as hot and dry, which brought about an early flowering.
The first half of the year was one of the warmest periods enjoyed by the region in six decades! However, accompanying the warmth was very little rain. The drought conditions were exacerbated by a heat spike in June that caused serious problems due to lack of water in the vineyards. Many growers suffered as grapes were ruined by sunburn. Cabernet Sauvignon in dry soil was hit the hardest.
By the time the Bordeaux weather usually warms up, things changed again. This time it was worse. In July, the warm, dry summer conditions that had been taking place since February reversed direction. July became one of the coldest months in over three decades!
While some rain fell at the right moment, offering nourishment for the vines for many growers, fears of rot were not uncommon. For other growers, the rains were too little, too late. Producers who had enjoyed back-to-back stunning vintages with 2009 and 2010 were faced with a myriad of choices, all of which requiring extensive work and selection in the vineyards.
If that wasn’t enough to cope with, a massive storm slammed in the Northern Medoc, September 10, causing some estates to begin their harvest earlier than anticipated and further reducing their yields.
August 17 marked the start of the harvest for the white wines. This was, on average, about two weeks earlier than usual. September 5 saw the first picking of merlot-wine-grapes-flavor-character-history/”>Merlot. This was followed one week later by the Cabernet. Depending on the vineyard, most of the harvest was concluded by late September or early October.
2011 will be known as one of the earliest harvests in history, competing with 1893 for that record. Producers that were willing to ruthlessly discard unripe or damaged berries were able to make good wine. Yields are low. Interestingly, a greater percentage of the harvest was relegated to the Grand Vin in 2011, than in 2010 or 2009. Yet the total amount of wine is less in 2011. This is due to greater selection taking place, problems encountered with the younger vines, the development of rot and damage caused by drought and hail.
For some chateaux, they set records for the smallest yields in their history. Others had to go back to 1961 to find a year with such low yields. Low yields are a positive sign because it leads to concentrated wine. At this moment, it looks like vineyards planted on water retentive, clay or limestone terroir produced the better wines from the difficult vintage. Selection was paramount for growers. Fruit from old vines, which reach deeper into the soils, helped as well, as young vines suffered.
What does this mean for the red wines? This is a good, but not great vintage with some nice wines. There is more red fruit than black fruit. You will not find dark flavors than you will experience in higher-alcohol, riper vintages like 2010, 2009 or 2005. You’ll taste more cassis and cherry and less blackberry or liqueur. Very little licorice or other ripe sensations appear in the wines.
2011 Bordeaux wines are in general, fresh, bright, aromatic and show more acidity than the previously mentioned vintages. The wines are less concentrated in flavor this vintage when compared with recent years like 2009 and 2010. However, the wines are ripe. Because they are lower in alcohol, you have less of a voluptuous feeling in the mouth. The problem with many wines is too much extraction and wood. Using the same techniques in 2011 that were practiced in 2010 will not return good results. Those wines feel dry in the mouth. Most of the wines can age, but 2011 Bordeaux is not a vintage to cellar for decades. Similar to 2001 Bordeaux, many of the wines will start drinking well between 5 and 10 years after the vintage. 2011 Bordeaux shares another commonality with 2001 Bordeaux, a myriad of chateaux from Pomerol produced outstanding wine. Due to their low production, the high level of quality coupled with strong demand, Pomerol is the only appellation to consider buying as a future. 2011 Bordeaux is also another excellent year for the sweet Bordeaux wines of Sauternes and Barsac as well as being strong for the white wines of Bordeaux.
To buy or not to buy? That’s the question. Buying Bordeaux wine comes to down price and quality. Every chateaux owner and director know prices need to come down. How far they will drop is the question. Most owners and directors feel their wines are priced fair. It is their neighbors that need to give the biggest discounts. For the wines to sell through to consumers, the wines need to take a big step back in price. I’d like to see reductions from 2010 drop by 40% to 50% for many properties. Based on numerous conversations, that is unlikely to happen.
With all that in mind, 2011 is not a vintage to invest in, which means it’s not necessary to buy the wines as futures. You can buy the wines when they hit the stores. 2011 Bordeaux is a year made for drinkers. When it comes to pricing, some vintages favor the chateaux. Other years, the consumer sets the price. The 2011 futures campaign will be a mini war between the owners, who want the most money, and the consumer, who will rightly demand the lowest possible price after spending so much money to buy 2009 and 2010 Bordeaux wine.
In this difficult, uneven vintage, some estates are going to outperform others. 2011 Bordeaux is not a vintage to buy blindly. A few more important points you should consider when thinking about what wines to purchase. What might happen in 2012? Of course it’s far too early to know. But as of early April, 2012 already bears some resemblance to 2011. The winter was one of the driest on record. There is very little water in the soil at the moment. But a repeat of a vintage similar to 2011 is possible. From October 2011 to March 2012, Bordeaux received about 300 mm of rain. That is the same amount of rain that fell during the same time period the previous year. The amount of rain has decreased. For the same period, over the last 10 years, the average amount of rain was 500 mm. For those of you that like statistics, over the last 30 years in Bordeaux it rained on average 128 days per year. Today it’s closer to 88 days per year.
It’s April now and very warm in Bordeaux. If the region does not receive adequate rain to help feed the vines, the vines will be stressed and might not gain phenolic ripeness. You also need to add into the equation that if the region does not receive enough rain, there could be even less wine than we saw in 2011!
If 2012 turns out similar to 2011, 2009 and 2010 could become even more collectibe as consumers and collectors with a thirst for the best wines will want to own even more of those already legendary vintages. It is our opinion that in time, due to the unique, opulent style of the wines, coupled with the extraordinary number of 100 Pt wines, according to Robert Parker, 2009 Bordeaux will become the most collectible vintage in history. But that’s a fun conversation best suited for another day.
Great read. Thanks Jeff.
So it looks like Pomerol has four years of great run (2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011). With the high prices we are seeing for the Pomerols of 2009 and 2010 and uncertainty regarding the pricing of 2011, are there any 2008 Pomerols worth another look? I think a lot of them are selling at less than half price of 2009's. The truth is I bought zilch for 2008 Bordeaux.
Last edited by Peter Lin; 04-03-2012 at 09:03 PM.
Peter... There are some very nice 2008 Pomerol's worth buying. I have not tasted many of this trip. Do you know how to search for them on the main site?
2011 Cos D’Estournel Blending 65% Cabernet Sauvignon with 33% Merlot and a dollop of Petit Verdot, the wine represents 36% of the production. To achieve the highest level of quality for the Grand Vin, the estate reserved more fruit for Pagodes de Cos than usual. This is the smallest amount of Cos produced since 1991. With a nose of Asian spice, black cherry liqueur, smoke, gravel, earth, truffle, vanilla and fennel, this refined, pure, fresh cassis, filled wine ends with clean, spicy, cassis and blackberry in the finish. 93-95 Pts
2011 Les Pagodes de Cos is made from 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Merlot. Earth, spice and black cherry scents, medium body and a fresh, plum and cherry finish are found in this wine. 89-91 Pts
2011 Cos Blanc is blended from 67% Sauvignon Blanc and 33% Semillon. Production has recently increased to 500 cases, which is about double the previous level production. With a cloudy appearance, this unfiltered wine opens with lemon, lime, grapefruit and stone aromas. Fresh citrus, pineapple, nut and apple are found in the long finish. 92-94 Pts
Jeff Leve With a difficult growing season like 2011, what was the main benefit for you with your gravity cellars?
Jean Guillaume Prats “The use of the gravity, coupled with the ability to quickly cool down the grapes, which retards oxidation, allowed the fruit to maintain maximum aromatic freshness. Due to the fragile condition of the fruit in this vintage, the ability to handle the grapes as little as possible allowed us to achieve purity and definition in the wine”.
Jeff Leve Did the September hail storm force you to pick earlier than you liked?
Jean Guillaume Prats “Yes. We harvested 5 days earlier than we originally anticipated”.
Jeff Leve How did harvesting earlier change the character of the wine. Could you have waited longer?
Jean Guillaume Prats “Waiting the additional time might not have made any difference. What happened was during those days, the weather was cool, humid and lacked sunshine. The fruit might not have obtained more development”.
Jeff Leve Does that make 2011 the earliest harvest on record for Cos d’Estournel?
Jean Guillaume Prats “You have to go all the way back to 1893 to find an earlier harvest!”
Jeff Leve Were you surprised that you picked your Cabernet Sauvignon before your Merlot this year?
Jean Guillaume Prats “Even though it was only by one day, this was the first time we harvested the Cabernet before Merlot”.
Jeff Leve How much sorting did you need to do with 2011 Cos d’Estournel?
Jean Guillaume Prats “The big difference in sorting 2011 versus other recent vintages is in 2011, entire parcels were deselected. Merlot on gravel soils were also deselected as well as much of the Cabernet Sauvignon under the age of 30. The last time we had this little wine was in 1991”.
Jeff Leve Why did you decide to show your white wine for the first time during the April tastings this year?
Jean Guillaume Prats “Production is up to about 6,000 bottles. With enough wine to sell, it makes sense to show it to the trade”.
Even though I was able to retaste 2009 Cos d’Estournel in Los Angeles in bottle a few weeks ago, it did not take much coaxing to to get me to try it again.
Chateau Cos d'Estournel
2009 Cos d’Estournel – Shiny ink in color with purple edges, with only a splash decanting, the perfume explodes with a drawer full of spices, smoke, coffee bean, incense, truffle, blackberry, blue fruit, vanilla, clay, earth and liqueur scents. Intense, the wine is packed and stacked with flavor. Powerful, pure and mouth filling, the wine coats your palate with layers of pure black and blue fruit, licorice and spice. This wine offers a beautiful expression pure fruit, balance, harmony and perfectly ripe tannins. The wine has changed since it was first tasted in barrel. The layers of baby fat have morphed into a beautiful, complicated wine. 100 Pts
2009 Pagodes de Cos – Earth, cassis, blackberry and spice scents open to a medium bodied, fresh, cassis and spice filled wine that would compete with many better-known, more expensive classified growths in a blind tasting. 93 Pts
2011 Montrose From a blend of 63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc and 3% Petit Verdot. 100% of the vines were affected to some extent by the September hail storm. As the hail was mostly small stones, only 2% of the harvest was lost. Yields were low due to the problems caused by sunburn and a lack of water with the Cabernet Sauvignon as well as the loss suffered from the hail storm. Deep in color, earth, cedar wood, mineral, clay, crème de cassis scents lead to a full bodied, concentrated, masculine, tannic, brawny wine filled with ripe cassis and bitter chocolate. 91-93 Pts
2010 Le Dame de Montrose – 72% Merlot and 28% Cabernet Sauvignon produce a wine that starts with earth, stone and cassis scents. Medium bodied, soft textured and round, the wine ends with a creamy blackberry finish. There is a hint of green in the end notes. 88-89 Pts
I also had the chance to taste the 2009 Montrose in bottle. Having tasted in barrel, I was looking forward to seeing how the wine showed, when it was finished.
2009 Montrose – Opaque in color, coffee, licorice, chocolate, plum, blackberry and ripe cassis in the nose lead to a massive, fleshy, ripe, dense, opulent, mouth filling wine. Fresh, ripe and powerful, the long cassis, blackberry and spicy cassis filled finish remains in your mouth for 50 seconds! Due to the incredible density, structure and concentration found in this vintage of Montrose, lay this down for 15-20 years and you’ll have a legendary tasting experience. 98 Pts
2009 Dame de Montrose – Licorice, smoke, coffee, blackberry, round, sweet, soft and filled with ripe black cherry, herb and fresh blackberry. 92 Pts
2011 Bordeaux wine tasting notes, ratings and reviews for St. Estephe.
2011 Bordeaux is complicated in St. Estephe. The water retentive, clay terroir helped the vines in this drought plagued vintage. Unfortunately, the severe, September hail storm caused damage to certain vineyards. That forced some chateaux to harvest earlier than they had planned as fears of rot development quickly became a real possibility. Extensive sorting was required in the vineyards and cellars. Due to hail damage that affected some sectors more than others, at some estates, blends were altered this year as well. The assemblage depended on which variety suffered the most. Damage did not take place equally in every vineyard or parcel. Some chateaux were hit harder than others. But it helped shape the style, character and quality of the 2011 vintage for St. Estephe.
For detailed coverage with interviews from numerous chateaux on the weather and harvest conditions shaping the 2011 Bordeaux vintage: 2011 Bordeaux Harvest Reports, News, Interviews and Photographs
2011 Le Boscq – 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot and 5% Petit Verdot, the wine offers, earth, cedar and spicy cassis, medium body and a bright, cranberry, cassis finish. 87-88 Pts
2011 Cos D’Estournel Blending 65% Cabernet Sauvignon with 33% Merlot and a dollop of Petit Verdot, the wine represents 36% of the production. To achieve the highest level of quality for the Grand Vin, the estate reserved more fruit for Pagodes de Cos than usual. This is the smallest amount of Cos produced since 1991. With a nose of Asian spice, black cherry liqueur, smoke, gravel, earth, truffle, vanilla and fennel, this refined, pure, fresh cassis-filled wine ends with clean, spicy cassis and blackberry in the finish. 93-95 Pts
2011 Les Pagodes de Cos is made from 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Merlot. Earth, spice and black cherry scents, medium body and a fresh, plum and cherry finish are found in this wine. 89-90 Pts
2011 Cos Blanc is blended from 67% Sauvignon Blanc and 33% Semillon. Production has recently increased to 500 cases, which is about double the previous level of production. With a cloudy appearance, this unfiltered wine opens with lemon, lime, grapefruit and stone aromas. Fresh citrus, pineapple, nut and apple are found in the long finish. 92-94 Pts
2011 Cos Labory – Lead pencil, smoke, stone and black cherry scents, round tannins and a fresh, black cherry finish. 89-91 Pts
2011 Le Crock - A blend of 4% Merlot, 37% Cabernet Sauvignon and a whopping 17% Petit Verdot set a record for the estate for the inclusion of Petit Verdot. On average the blend contains closer to 5%. The wine reached 13.5% alcohol. This is due to the September hail storm that slammed into Le Crock damaging a large portion of the Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot found in the vineyard. Deep in color, with a spicy earth- and red berry-dominated nose, the wine is tannic, fresh, ripe and strong, ending with sweet, round cassis. 89-90 Pts
2011 Haut Marbuzet Blending 50% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc and 5% Petit Verdot, the wine reached 13.4% alcohol. Aged in 100% new oak for 12 months before being moved to one year-old barrels to finish the aging. Only a small percentage of the vines were damaged by the September hail storms. They were forced to pick some of their Cabernet Sauvignon vines a little earlier than they would have liked for fear of rot. Ruby in color with oak, clay, earth and wood in the nose. Round, sweet dark berries in the mouth, but there is a woody, dry sensation in the finish. This is the 50th vintage for the owner. 85-87 Pts
2011 Lafon Rochet – Deep in color with coffee, smoke and black cherry scents. Ripe tannins and sweet, ripe black cherry and plums are found in the round finish. 90-91 Pts
2011 Lilian Ladouys – From an assemblage containing one of the highest concentrations of Merlot in the appellation at 70%. The remainder is made from Cabernet Sauvignon with deep color and a perfume of licorice, coffee and black cherry. This medium-bodied wine has fresh cassis in the finish. 87-89 Pts
2011 Meyney – From a blend of 55% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Petit Verdot. The wine reached 13.7% alcohol. The wine will be aged in 35% new oak. Damage to various degrees took place to almost 80% of the vineyards, due to the September hail storm. Coffee, blackberry and earthy aromatics, medium bodied with ripe tannins, cassis and spicy black cherry in the finish. 87-89 Pts
2011 Montrose From a blend of 63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc and 3% Petit Verdot. 100% of the vines were affected to some extent by the September hail storm. As the hail was mostly small stones, only 2% of the harvest was lost. Yields were low due to the problems caused by sunburn and a lack of water with the Cabernet Sauvignon as well as the loss suffered from the hail storm. Deep in color, earth, cedar wood, mineral, clay, crème de cassis scents lead to a full-bodied, concentrated, masculine, tannic, brawny wine filled with ripe cassis and bitter chocolate. 91-93 Pts
2010 Le Dame de Montrose – 72% Merlot and 28% Cabernet Sauvignon produce a wine that starts with earth, stone and cassis scents. Medium-bodied, soft-textured and round, the wine ends with a creamy blackberry finish. There is a hint of green in the end notes. 88-89 Pts
2011 Ormes de Pez From the seam technical team as Chateau Lynch Bages in Pauillac, blending 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 41% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc ad 2% Petit Verdot. The wine will be aged 45% new oak. 45 hectoliters per hectare, down about 5% from 2010. Earth, licorice, blackberry, oak and mineral essences. Medium/full-bodied, fresh, black raspberry with bitter chocolate notes in the finish. 88-89 Pts
2011 de Pez Cassis, wood and earth. Medium-bodied with a soft, earthy, bright cassis finish. 88-90 Pts
2011 Phelan Segur 55% Cabernet Sauvignon and 45% Merlot, which is the same as the plantings found in vineyards, produce the blend. The wine reached 13.5% alcohol. Oak, leaf, pepper, mineral and cassis aromas open to a medium-bodied, round, chocolate- and cassis-filled finish. 89-91 Pts
15% of the Phelan Segur vineyards were damaged by the September hail storm. Fortunately for the property, most of the damage occurred to vineyards which were not planted with vines, as those plots are in the process of being
replanted. The worst of the damage took place with the Merlot vines. Due to the damage to the vines, yields were down about 10% from the previous vintage.
2011 Tronquoy Lalande – 47% Cabernet Sauvignon, 42% Merlot and 11% Petit Verdot make up the blend, which represens 56% of the production. Blackberry, jam, earth and black cherry scents, medium-bodied, bright, cassis-filled finish. 87-89 Pts
From what I've read so far, no need to buy anything....
Jean Charles Cazes Lynch Bages
2011 Lynch Bages 72% Cabernet Sauvignn, 23% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot are found in the blend, which reached 13.2% alcohol and will be aged in 75% new oak. Yields were 45 hectoliters per hectare. Deep in color with a perfumed filled with coffee, blackberry, chocolate and tobacco, there are ample fresh and bright cassis flavors found in the finish. 91-93 Pts
Jeff Leve What was your biggest fear during the growing season?
Jean Charles Cazes: “It was clearly rot and mildew”
Jeff Leve What did you do to combat that?
Jean Charles Cazes “We deleafed enough to help with the sanitary conditions and made sure there were not too many bunches per vine. It was also important the bunches were evenly spread on the vine. This helped keep the bunches clean, which avoided mildew”.
Jeff Leve In in this difficult vintage, what variety did you have more problems with?
Jean Charles Cazes: “Cabernet Sauvignon suffered more from the drought than the Merlot, which did better because their clay soils held more moisture. This allowed for better development in the Merlot”.
Jeff Leve Was this an early harvest for you at Lynch Bages?
Jean Charles Cazes “The harvest took place 10 days earlier than usual”.
Jeff Leve Did you use optical sorting?
Jean Charles Cazes: “We employed optical sorting for the first time in 2011. I am undecided about employing the technology in future vintages yet. The new destemming technology had a much more important impact! The destemmer removed approximately 60 kilos of unwanted material from our 180 liter tanks”.
2011 Lynch Bages Blanc – Blending 65% Sauvignon Blanc, 12% semillon and and 22% Muscadelle, the wine opens with grapefruit, honeydew melon and spice, finishing with a long, fresh, clean, bright, wave of lemon, citrus and lychee nut. 89-92 Pts
Chateau Ormes de Pez tasting notes will appear with other Bordeaux wine from St. Estephe.
2011 Pichon Comtesse de Lalande– A record-setting amount of Cabernet Sauvignon was used in 2011 for the assemblage with 78%. The remainder was taken up with 12% Cabernet Franc, 8% Merlot and 2% Petit Verdot. The wine will be aged in 60% new oak and reached 13% alcohol. Deep ruby in color, floral, cocoa, cassis, tobacco, olive and hints of mocha scents make up the perfume. Medium-bodied, fresh, bright, crunchy, cassis and boysenberry are found in the finish. 92-93 Pts
2011 Latour – Crafted from an assemblage of 84.5 % Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot and .5% Petit Verdot, this vintage represents just 34% of the production. 3% press wine was added to blend, which half of what’s normally included in the assemblage. The estate continues its march towards biodynamic farming. At this point, 62 acres are farmed using biodynamic techniques. The eventual goal of Chateau Latour is to become completely biodynamic within a few years.
Dark ruby in color with purple accents at the rim, the perfume offers wet forest floor aromas, cassis, cedar wood, spice, earth and blackberry. Subtle, refined and elegant, this finesse style of Latour is long, clean and pure. Lacking the concentration of 2010 or 2009, this stylish Latour is long and filled with pure, spicy cassis in the fresh finish. 94-96 Pts
2011 Les Forts de Latour – Blending 61.5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 3% Petit Verdot and a tiny portion of Cabernet Franc, the wine represents 43% of the production. Deep ruby in color with scents of truffle, cassis, earth and blackberry, this is fresh, bright and vigorous in the mouth. The wine ends with clean cassis and spice. 90-92 Pts
2011 Pauillac de Latour – Produced from 62.5% Cabernet Sauvignon and 37.5% Merlot, this wine represents 23% of the production. The third wine of Latour is deep ruby in color, with cedar, earth and cassis on the nose. Fresh, spicy cassis and cherry in the finish. 88 – 90 Pts
I was able to taste 2009 Chateau Latour in bottle on this trip as well. If one wine from Medoc deserved more than 100 Pts, this is the wine!
2009 Latour – Inky dark, ruby in color, Complex aromas of truffle, cedar wood, cassis, blackberry, blueberry, smoke, cherry wood, tobacco and forest floor. The wine coats your mouth with pure silk, and velvet intensity. Incredibly lush and opulent, layers of sweet cassis, black cherry, plum and blackberry coat your senses. Beautiful, fresh and pure, with a finish that remains and builds for over 90 seconds… there was no way on earth I was going to spit this wine out. It was so good, I wanted to cancel my remaining appointments for the day and drink the entire bottle, peacefully relaxing in their vineyards. . And it was only 9:00 in the morning! 100 Pts
2011 Pontet Canet Produced from an assemblage of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot. Deep ruby in color, with scents of coffee, licorice, truffle, smoke and blackberry. The wine is fresh, pure, clean and filled with spicy cassis. Compared to recent vintages, this is a round, approachable, refined style of Pontet Canet finishing with silky, cassis and spice. 93-95 Pts
Jeff Leve How much less wine did you produce in 2011?
Alfred Tesseron “The production of the 2011 is close to 25% less than it was in 2010”.
Jeff Leve Is the lower volume due to low yields?
Alfred Tesseron “It was not just low yields. It had a lot to do with the size of the berries, which were very small and concentrated”.
Jeff Leve Obviously, 2011 required extensive sorting and selection. How much of the yield was relegated to Les Hauts de Pontet, your second wine?
Alfred Tesseron “Not much. By placing more of the fruit in Pontet Canet, consumers get a better idea of what each vintage really tastes like. Because every vintage tells a different story, and we want the wines to taste like the vintage, we do not make a lot of our second wine”.
Jeff Leve What previous vintage would you compare your 2011 Pontet Canet with?
Alfred Tesseron “Perhaps it’s closest to 2008. This is due to the taste and character found in the wine”.
Jeff Leve Now that you’ve earned your first 100 Pt score from Robert Parker, and other chateaux are following your lead with biodynamic farming, what is the next step for you at Pontet Canet?
Alfred Tesseron “The goal at Pontet Canet is to do more than make the best wines possible. We want to make sure we continue producing wines in different styles, according to the vintage characteristics. Sameness is boring.”
Jeff Leve Do you see yourself as a winemaker?
Alfred Tesseron “No. I am not a winemaker. My team members are not winemakers either. As most of the work is done in the vineyards, we are growers. Our success and achievements at Pontet Contet are due to our efforts in the vineyards, not the winemaking. At the end of the day, our goal is to produce unique vintages of Pontet Canet that are for drinking, not just for wine tasting”.
2011 Lafite Rothschild – Produced from a blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Merlot. Spice, blackberry liqueur, licorice, earth, graphite and gravel scents lead to a full-bodied, structured wine with ripe, powerful tannins, freshness and good concentration, the wine ends with a bright, elegant, cassis-filled finish. 95-96 Pts
2011 Carruades de Lafite – 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 39% Merlot, 3.5% Cabernet Franc and 2.5% Petit Verdot produced a wine with scents of forest floor, cassis and black cherry. Medium bodied with cassis, spice, black olive tapenade and bright sensations. 88-90 Pts
2011 Duhart-Milon 75% Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% Merlot make up the blend. With a perfume of black cherry, smoke and lead pencil, the wine offers ample, fresh, chewy Cabernet flavors and cassis. 92-93 Pts
We spoke with the director of Lafite Rothschild, Charles Chevallier about the estate, their wine making, the harvest and his taste in wine.
Jeff Leve: Do you have a favorite style of vintage for Lafite Rothschild?
Charles Chevallier: “I prefer drinkable vintages of Lafite Rothschild that will age. For lunch, I enjoy younger vintages at 10-15 years of age. For dinner, I prefer older wines with more complex aromas and flavors.”
Jeff Leve – I could be wrong, but I am assuming you do not drink Lafite Rothschild on a daily basis. For regular dinners at home, what wines do you enjoy?
Charles Chevallier: “My tastes remain very French. I like a wide variety of wines. Recently, I had a nice Entre deux Mere. I am very fond of Sauternes with dinner”.
Jeff Leve – With 110 hectares currently in production, what is the average age of the vines used in Lafite Rothschild?
Charles Chevallier: “While the average age of the vineyard is 40 years, our oldest vines come from a small parcel that is 123 years old!”
Jeff Leve – In total, what percentage of your vineyards does that represent?
Charles Chevallier: “Less than 1% of the vineyard is that old”.
Jeff Leve – What is your replanting program at Lafite Rothschild?
Charles Chevallier: “On average, between 1% and 1.5% of the vineyard is replanted every year”.
Jeff Leve – Some journalists and consumers claim Bordeaux has lost its soul. The wines have moved too far in the modern direction. Do you think older tasters from a few generations ago would recognize the wines of Lafite Rothschild?
“Charles Chevallier: “I do not agree with that. There has been a lot of progress and evolution in the vineyard work, but the wines are similar in style. A few years ago, I attended a vertical featuring 120 vintages of Lafite Rothschild. The tasting was in Brazil. That tasting made it easy to see a line from the past to today. Tasters from previous generations would definitely recognize the wines”.
Jeff Leve – What are the biggest advances and changes made at Lafite Rothschild since you started with the property in 1983?
Charles Chevallier: “The major changes at the chateau are seen in more difficult vintages. We also have a greater understanding of the malolactic process.”.
Jeff Leve – Is this primarily from the aromatics, texture or flavor?
Charles Chevallier: “Lafite Rothschild is found more in the nose and not in the mouth”.
Jeff Leve – Continuing to look back in time, when the classification took place in 1855, what was the blend in those days?
Charles Chevallier: “Blends were not that much different than they are today. Cabernet Sauvignon was always the most important varietal in the vineyards. Malbec and Carmenere were planted in small amounts. They were eliminated after phylloxera.”
Jeff Leve – What portion are you farming using organic methods?
Charles Chevallier: “100% of the fertilizers today are organic. During the fight against mildew, we use the minimum amount of chemicals to take care of the health of our vineyards”.
Jeff Leve – “Chateau Latour is starting to use biodynamic farming and Chateau Pontet Canet is certified as Biodynamic. Would you ever consider biodynamc farming at Lafite Rothschild?
Charles Chevallier: “Not at Lafite Rothschild”.
Jeff Leve What is your opinion of optical sorting for Lafite Rothschild?
Charles Chevallier: “We prefer to rely on 300 to 400 experienced people who use their two eyes. The machines are efficient. The result is technically fine. But we prefer people who know how to pick what we are specifically seeking from each vintage. This allows us to harvest one grape at a time, if that is our choice”.
Jeff Leve – What qualities are you seeking in the berries when you decide to harvest at Lafite Rothschild?
Charles Chevallier: “Part of the complexity in Chateau Lafite Rothschild is the mixture of the grapes picked at different levels of ripeness. Machines go too far in the selection. Optical sorters would produce a less complicated and more standardized style of Lafite Rothschild than we are looking for”.
Jeff Leve – What is the biggest change you’ve made in vineyard management techniques over the past decade?
Charles Chevallier: “More time is spent in September to control the maturity of the vines and fruit. Most of my time is spent eating and tasting grapes in the vines”.
Jeff Leve – During fermentation, you use wood, stainless steel and concrete vats. How do you decide what goes into each vat?
Charles Chevallier “The determining factor is the parcel size. Our largest vat is wood, which holds 300 hectoliters. Our steel vats are 220 hectoliters.”
Jeff Leve – What about your concrete vats?
Charles Chevallier: “Our concrete vats are new. They were used for the first time in 2011. They are small and range in size for 40 to 100 hectoliters. Concrete is used mostly for our Merlot parcels”.
Jeff Leve – How much of your vineyards damaged by the September hail storm?
Charles Chevallier: “Only 4 hectares”.
Jeff Leve – Did the storm cause you to harvest earlier than expected?
Charles Chevallier: “We started to pick 2 days earlier than we originally anticipated”.
Jeff Leve – What details can you tell me about your new winery project in Penglai in the China Shandong province?
Charles Chevallier “I am not involved in the Chinese project. My previous assistant, Eric Kohler, is managing the winery. Currently, the cellars are not yet built. They are planting 25 hectares of vines”.
2011 Grand Puy Lacoste – Using 78% Cabernet Sauvignon and 22 % Merlot in the blend, thewine will aged in 75% new oak. Yields were 40 hectoliters per hectare. The focus this year was on sorting for the 2011 vintage. Pickers were given sheets with nine different photographs of unripe berries they were to avoid placing in the basket. Grand Puy Lacoste used two tables to sort in the cellars. The wine reached 13.3% alcohol. Earth, cedar, cassis, forest floor scents, medium body, soft tannins and a crispy, fresh, cranberry and cassis finish are found in this wine. Drink this while waiting for the 2009 and 2010 Grand Puy Lacoste to develop. 90-92 Pts
2011 Haut Batailey – Blending 72% Cabernet Sauvignon with 28% Merlot, the wine will be aged in 60% new oak. Cedar wood, crème de cassis, green forest scents, medium bodied with light textures and a bright cassis finish. 88-90 Pts
The market on both sides, consumers and chateaux are aware that for 2011 Bordeaux wine to sell through to merchants and buyers, prices must come down. How far prices should drop is always the question. With in-demand vintages, the ordinary course of events is a long, drawn out sales campaign that starts with petit chateaux offering their wine first. That is followed by smaller classified growths and concludes with The First Growths, Ausone, Cheval Blanc, Lafleur, Le Pin etc. More importantly, the wines are offered for sale after the most widely read publication in the wine world releases their tasting notes and scores. The comments of Robert Parker sets the demand, price and tone of the campaign.
That was not the case with 2008. Chateaux released their wines at a discount before Parker published his report. Once again, the market might breathe a sigh of relief.Chateau Mouton Rothschild will come out with their wine at a 50% discount from 2010 at 250 Euros, ex chateau. With luck, this will set the tone for the campaign with message being, offer the wines for sale promptly, at a healthy discount from 2010.
2011 Mouton Rothschild With a large percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon at 90%, coupled with 7% Merlot and 3% Cabernet Franc, this deeply colored wine offers boysenberry, coffee, truffle, smoke, blackberry, earth and black cherry. With ripe tannins and plush sensations, this classic, opulent, stylish, concentrated vintage of Mouton Rothschild ends with deep blackberry and spicy cassis. 94-95 Pts
2011 Petit Mouton 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Merlot create the blend. Flowers, spice, coffee and blackberry, this medium-bodied wine has a soft, approachable black cherry finish. 88-89 Pts
2011 Aile d’Argent Blanc – The nose is filled with fresh, zesty lemon, green apple, grapefruit and stone. Full bodied, rich and packed with ripe, crisp, refreshing citrus, the wine was produced from a blend of 60% Sauvignon Blanc, 38% Semillon and 2% Muscadelle. 91-93 Pts
2011 d’Armailhac From a blend of 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Merlot, 13% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot, the wine opens with espresso and blackberry scents. Medium bodied, fresh, charming and easy to like, the wine ends with fresh cassis. 89-91 Pts
2011 Clerc Milon Blending 54% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc and equal amounts of Petit Verdot and Carmemere, the nose delivers lead pencil, earth and cassis. This polished Pauillac ends with a fresh, bright cassis and mineral sensations. 90-91 Pts
2011 Pichon Longueville Baron utilized a blend of 82% Cabernet Sauvignon and 18% Merlot. The wine reached 13.2% alcohol. The wine will be aged in 80% new oak. The assemblage for 2011 Pichon Baron features one of the highest concentrations on Cabernet Sauvignon found in modern times at this Pauillac estate. Ruby in color, Smoke, truffle, earth, cassis, vanilla and tobacco scents are found in the perfume. Medium bodied, ripe and soft, there is a fresh, vibrant feeling in the wine, ending with fresh, crisp, cassis flavors. 92-93 Pts
Jeff Leve With a difficult year like you had in 2011, what extra work did you need to do in the vineyards?
Jean Rene Matignon “We conducted a light green harvest in late June, early July and in August, we removed more leaves”.
Jeff Leve How much extra sorting was required for the 2011 Bordeaux vintage?
Jean Rene Matignon “In the vineyard, we hired 100 pickers. We also experimented with optical technology, which uses infrared spectroscopy to measure the phenolic intensity of the berries. This helped us a lot at Pichon Baron”.
Jeff Leve “Are you still using satellite imagery to help with your vineyard management?
Jean Rene Matignon “No. It was not as helpful as we would have liked because the images were taken in July, which was too early for us.”