Chateau Margaux is coming off producing two stunning, back to back vintages with their potentially perfect 2009 and 2010 Bordeaux wines. With that in mind, and a new technical director, Thomas do-Chi-Nam, we asked Paul Pontallier for his take on the 2011 harvest that is currently taking place at Chateau Margaux.
JL: Is the 2011 Chateau Margaux harvest your earliest vintage on record at Chateau Margaux?
Pontallier: “2011 Chateau Margaux is the earliest harvest for Chateau Margaux since 1893, when the picking started on August 17th”.
JL: “Even though it is early, as the Sauvignon Blanc grapes are all in for Pavilion Blanc, does the 2011 Chateau Margaux vintage remind you of any previous Bordeaux vintage?
Pontallier: “Analytic parameters remind us of last year, 2010. But at that stage, for 2011 Chateau Margaux it is still quite difficult to make comparisons as a beautiful ripe grape is a beautiful ripe grape”.
JL: When did you begin to harvest the fruit for your 2011 Chateau Margaux?
Pontallier: “We started harvesting our early-ripening Merlots on September 6 and the Cabernet Sauvignon, September 15”.
JL: With your Merlot, did you start harvesting with the L’Eglise plot?
Pontallier: “We started with the very early ripening part of the lot next to it”.
JL: The 2011 Chateau Margaux harvest was at one time forecasted to be the earliest vintage since 1893. That eventually changed. What caused the harvest to move back?
Pontallier: “It is relatively easy to understand that the rather cool month of July influenced the maturation schedule”.
JL: While it’s still early, based on the growing season, what are your current impressions the 2011 Chateau Margaux vintage and wine?
Pontallier: “I’m very optimistic. We should be able to harvest perfectly ripe grapes in excellent conditions”.
JL: What effect does an early harvest have on the style of your wines and the level of phenolic ripeness in the grapes?
Pontallier: “It depends more on the weather, than on the early harvest. That said, when a vintage is very early, it means that the maturation period is warmer (August vs September) which is good for phenolic ripeness”.
JL: How would you describe the 2011 growing season at Chateau Margaux?
Pontallier: “It was hot and dry until early July. After that is cool and rather dry until early August when it became hot and moderately humid”.
JL: With the recent storms and the humidity, did you have fears of rot?
Pontallier: “Those storms did not hit us at all. We have no fear of rot”.
JL: With the difficult growing season, what type of yields do you expect?
Pontallier: “Yields could be as low as 28 hectoliters per hectare”.
JL: Do you plan to produce a 4th wine like you did in 2010?
Pontallier “It is very difficult to say for the time being. It depends on the quality of the lesser lots. Should they be good enough, we might not produce a 4th wine.”
Pontallier: “The experimentation of a technique makes sense on a long term basis. We started 3 years ago and we will continue for the years to come”.
JL: 2010 is known in part for the combination of high alcohol and low pH. What do you think 2011 will be known for?
Pontallier: “I don’t know yet. Alcohol might be a little lower. We’ll need to wait and see”.