Bordeaux 2011

Another vintage that surprises on the upside!


I was recently able to taste through a broad selection of 2011 Bordeaux at this year’s ProWein event in Dusseldorf, Germany . For more information on ProWein, an annual trade only wine fair please refer to my brief write up which can be found here:  Why You Should be Going to Prowein.
I was really looking forward to this tasting. Not only do they have a fantastic selection of wines on offer, it’s well organized and the crowds, while formidable, really only prevented me from tasting one or two wines that I had hoped to sample. All told I was able to taste through almost 60 wines, affording me a clear idea of the style of the vintage, which in short, is lovely in a light, fresh style that made for some juicy, elegant wines.
Following on the heels of two vintages considered to be of excellent quality, the 2011s had a lot to live up to, and they do. While the two previous vintages were more about power and richness, the 2011s are more about brightness and perfume. The wines offer a return to what I hope for in Bordeaux, and provide for wines that will be attractive earlier than their older counterparts. Even though the character of the vintage allowed for these more accessible wines to be produced, some producers opted instead for more power than finesse, a mistake in this problematic vintage.
It is curious that I use that word: problematic. the wines of 2011 are a testament to where the wine industry has come. Two decades ago these wines would in all likelihood have been much less successful. 2011 was a difficult vintage for growers. Spring was hot, summer was cool, rain came in waves, ften when it was not ideally needed particularly the deluge close to harvest in mid September. In the end the vintage was saved by a perfectly fine, steady, long harvest season. The results, influenced by the stresses on the vines, include small berries, low yields, and conditions that perhaps favored the later ripening Cabernet over Merlot. 
Given the low yields and small berries one might think that this would have been a vintage well suited to the production of powerhouse wines, and this thoughts was obviously shared by some winemakers as well, but it seems to me that the most successful wines of the winetage capture the brightness and purity that seem to ultimately be the vintage’s character. red fruited and fresh, with acids being as important as tannins, these are not small wines, but they are juicy and fresh.
Ultimately the biggest problem facing Bordeaux may not be the weather, but rather the financial climate. These wines, while less expensive than their 2009s and 2010s, have benefitted from significant price increases over prior vintages. That doesn’t mean that value are not to be found, just that they have become more difficult to find. It is in many ways a fascinating vintage. There doesn’t seem to be a strong preference for one appellation’s wines over another’s. There is no truly special spot in 2011 and thus consumers are presented with the opportunity to browse around the region for great values. 
Great values of course are relative. My top 8 wines are all above $75 in the futures market, but there are plenty of wines in the $35 to $50 range that are very close in quality to the top wines. Even that of course seems to be a substantial sum of money to spend on a bottle of wine, and of course it is, but in today’s market these wines do represent fair value and some of the wines really are gorgeous. I’ve built a list of wines below that were my standout favorites, and you might notice that it is not simply a list of the highest scoring wines. Instead it is a list of the wines that real resonated with me and provided me with what I am looking for from a Bordeaux wine. In many cases I prefer these wines to their richer, more powerful, probably longer lasting, and yet less classically Bordelaise versions from the “better” vintages on 2009 and 2010.
I had been hopeful that these 2011s, given good vintages in 2012 and 2013, might end up being discounted once they hit our shores. Unfortunately given that 2012 and 2013 where far from easy, the 2011s are starting to look like good values already given the propensity for price increases in good vintages and modest retrenchments in the bad that forms the Bordelaise pricing model. Many of these wines are still available at their original futures offering prices, seeing as the 2011 futures program was very possibly the worse received rollout of a new vintage in memory. If you love Bordeaux it is well worth considering some of these top wines at the prices they are currently fetching. While I don’t see significant price increases for these wines on the horizon, I do see the few offerings at the original prices slowly being brought up. 
So here’s the bottom line. 
2011 is better than originally forecast.
The wines are bright, fresh, juicy and red fruited; Classical.
Following vintages will ensure that prices remain rather firm.
Buying 2011s carefully and selectively will yield well priced treasures for future consumption.
For my palate the ‘best’ vintages no longer offer me what I’m looking for in Bordeaux, 2011 on the hand can do just that.

1 2 3 4 5 next

Top 2011 Bordeaux tasted 3/14

Clos Fourtet (2012)
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Chateau Canon (2010)
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Chateau Bon Pasteur Bordeaux Futures (2010)
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Château Beychevelle St.-Julien Pre-Arrival (2012)
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Langoa Barton (2013)
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Château Kirwan Margaux Pre-Arrival (2012)
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Langoa Barton (2012)
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Château Saint-Pierre (2012)
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Grand Puy Lacoste Pauillac (2011)
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Château Trottevieille (2011)
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Château la Pointe -Subskription (2010)
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Cos Labory St Estephe (2009)
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Château Maucaillou (2012)
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Château la Louviere (2012)
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Château Monbrison -Subskription (2012)
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Mentioned in this article


  • Snooth User: JonDerry
    Hand of Snooth
    680446 3,144

    Totally agree on '11 Canon
    Was the star of the show for me at UGC...

    May 06, 2014 at 9:04 PM

  • Snooth User: kactuskath
    875637 76

    What was the overall opinion of when this vintage will be ready?

    May 07, 2014 at 2:25 AM

  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 238,748

    Tough to say since the wines span such a broad range of styles but in general it will not be a terribly long ageing vintage, though I prefer my wines on the mature side. For the most part the wines should be wonderful on release and then will probably begin to peak around the 5 to 8 year mark and drink well for two decades.

    May 07, 2014 at 8:41 AM

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