2011 Vieux Chateau Certan Tasting Notes, Interview with Alexandre Thienpont


2011 Vieux Chateau Certan  Blending 70% Merlot, 29% Cabernet Franc and a drop of Cabernet Sauvignon, the wine reached 13.6% alcohol. At 37 hectoliters per hectare, the Grand Vin represents 70% of the harvest. With rich aromas of licorice, black plum jam, espresso, truffle, spice and incense, the wine is intense, fresh,  chocolaty, sensuous, powerful, long, silky and packed with sweet, ripe, pure and concentrated layers of plum, black cherry and spice. 94-96 Pts

Jeff Leve “How would you describe the 2011 Vieux Chateau Certan vintage?”

Alexandre Thienpont “2011 Vieux Chateau Certan comes from a year for lean cats… Meaning, small stray cats that can manage with the little offerings they can find on the street. In 2011, it was the same thing for the vines.”

Jeff Leve “Does the 2011 Vieux Chateau Certan remind you of any other year at Vieux Chateau Certan?”

Alexandre Thienpont “2011 reminds me in some ways of 1983 or 1988.”

Jeff Leve “At 29% Cabernet Franc in 2011 Vieux Chateau Certan, I know this is not a record. What vintage contains the highest percentage of Cabernet Franc for Vieux Chateau Certan?” 

Alexandre Thienpont “2003 has the largest percentage of 80% Cabernet Franc. That is followed by 1993 with 50%.”

Jeff Leve “Is Cabernet Franc more difficult to work with than Merlot?”

Alexandre Thienpont “Cabernet Franc is a gamble to grow. In some years it performs great, and in other vintages, it does not mature as well. Because of that variance, some vintages of Vieux Chateau Certan favor Cabernet Franc, while other years are better for Merlot, and in certain years, both varieties perform well. In 2011 Vieux Chateau Certan, Cabernet Franc did extremely well.”

Jeff Leve “Why was Cabernet Franc so successful in 2011 Vieux Chateau Certan?”

Alexandre Thienpont “In part, it was the lack of high heat spikes. Those spikes cause Cabernet Franc to suffer.”

Jeff Leve “What about the spikes in Pomerol that occurred in late June and July?”

Alexandre Thienpont “Short spikes help Cabernet Franc.  It’s the long spells of heat spikes that cause problems for the variety.”

Jeff Leve “How was the Merlot harvest for you with regards to 2011 Vieux Chateau Certan?”

Alexandre Thienpont “The Merlot is normal in 2011. It was good. But the Cabernet Franc is much better.”

Jeff Leve “What are the qualities that Cabernet Franc added to 2011 Vieux Chateau Certan?”

Alexandre Thienpont “Cabernet Franc gives breed, aromatic complexity and length. It helps build a more complex wine.”

Jeff Leve “Do you still have some Cabernet Sauvignon in Vieux Chateau Certan?”

Alexandre Thienpont “In reality, it is less than 1% of the vineyards today. It is just to say it’s there.”

Jeff Leve If it’s there just to say it’s there, who not replace it with more Cabernet Franc or Merlot?

Alexandre Thienpont “It can add a hint of complexity and flavor, similar to what salt and pepper add to food.  But it’s not much. It’s one cask out of 125 barrels.”

Jeff Leve “What special work did you do in the vineyards this year?”

Alexandre Thienpont “We green harvested in late June, early July. We performed de-leafing on the east side of rows only, and we removed bunches which had burnt or unripe berries in early July.”

Jeff Leve “With all the work during the year, how much sorting did you need to do in the 2011 Bordeaux vintage?”

Alexandre Thienpont “In 2010, our sorting tables were not so crowded. In 2011, they were quite busy.”

Jeff Leve “With four strong vintages in a row—2008, 2009, 2010 and now 2011—which year is your favorite for Vieux Chateau Certan?”

Alexandre Thienpont “It’s difficult to pick a favorite. I like them all. Each year offers its own unique qualities.  For today, perhaps it’s 2009. 2009 is the same wine as the 1950 Vieux Chateau Certan, while 2010 is like 1948.  For the future, maybe it’s 2011. 2011 will offer the most ability to age.”

Post your comments or questions now