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.
Tight but showing nuanced plum, olive, floral and herbal aromas. Rather smooth, polished and powerful in the mouth but with terrific depth to the fruit and limestone minerality on the palate. This really has masses of fruit that are fresh and crisp wrapping up in a tight finish that is plush with soft tannins, turning a bit creamy and very seductive on the long finish. 94pts
Fine on the nose with a hint of blueberry, a subtly smoky, almost chalky nose with, light, bright, berry and herb stem notes. This is vibrant and elegant in the mouth, all juicy fruit, already quite expressive with real finesse and power without weight, finishing up with just great follow through with fresh tannins in the finish. A wine that already deicers but promises to improve and age very well indeed. 94pts
Pretty on the nose with a hint of olive, blue flowers, jammy black cherry fruit, and nicely nuanced slightly nutty oak, a bit new worldy but still Bordeaux. Fresh and bright in the mouth, this opens with huckleberry/blackberry fruit that's almost a bit bitter in a very sinewy, elegant style. Another wines that shows real power without too much weight with great spice on the long finish. 93pts
Deep, elegant and complex on the nose with a sophisticated blend of nutty oak, fresh fruits smoky herbs all in balance. Relatively filling in the mouth and supple though with plenty of stuffing, the fruit is fresh but a bit tight, though this does show some nice fresh berry and floral inner mouth perfumes, and dry red fruit on the firm finish which shows great length. Very successful. 93pts
Elegant, hightoned and floral on the nose with herbal complexity already accenting the red fruit, this has a very fine and balanced nose. Rigid, slightly austere and upright in the mouth, there is elegance and subtlety on display here with fresh, bright fruit, transparent and bright. I love the intensity of the fruit which comes with only modest power leaving one with a lacy well balanced structure built on ripe tannins that linger on the long, elegant finish. 93pts
Tight on the nose with mineral, shoe polish, leather and nutty wood aromas that are fresh and precise. This is tight and yet surprisingly open, though thus is more about structure than fruit today. It shows fine freshness and good clarity gaining red currant notes on the palate in a rather austere way, turning to black currant on the back end, and through the moderately long finish. Very typical of L-B. 93pts
Smooth, powerful and with rather attractive black currant fruit that is perfumy on the nose. Rich and yet fresh in the mouth, with sticking inner mouth perfumes, this is a bit simple today, offering up plenty of nuanced fruit, wood spice and hints of herbal and sill tones all wrapped up in well balanced yet firm structure. A wine for the cellar and very well balanced if a bit folded in on itself today. 93pts
Tobacco and briar and oily wood on the nose then coffee beans and rusty red fruit add layers and detail. Elegant and fine in the mouth, with fresh fruit of modest scale underpinned by mineral and dried herb, herb stem character. This has very fresh tannins, a pretty fresh wine overall that is elegant with good fruit on the palate. It does finishes on the small side, and while I was going to say short but this has plenty of subtle length. 92pts
Pretty on the nose, and while the oak is a bit prominent, this has lovely nuanced herbal and nutty, almost cooked vegetable beet root and parsnip aromas. Tight and light on entry, there's terrific substance here but you really have to coax it out, there is great vibrancy to what is here, and it comes of as very classic, and while it probably won't be terribly long lived, this will be fascinating to follow, ripe tannins but plenty of them support good length on the very fresh finish. 92pts
Light, high-toned and yet with a sweet edge to the decidedly herb tinged fruit on the nose. This is cool, compressed, elegant and focused in the mouth; not a big wine but classic. There is a real sense of delicacy here, and lovely purity and transparency on the palate leading to a long, ripe finish covered with soft tannins and juicy acids accentuating the red fruit flavors. 92pts
A bit funky on the nose though with lovely integration to the smoke tinged and lightly spiced, crushed berry fruit. Tight on entry though very well balanced, this opens slowly and never fully reveals itself though one can see the fine integration, depth and power here with mineral notes emerging on the backend along with lots of ripe, slightly dark and slightly leathery fruit. Long, light, elegant and floral on the promising finish. 92pts
Fine focus on the nose with a hint of nutty oak over mineral, smoke, and faint fruit aromas all come together with fine focus. Light on the palate, yet superbly transparent with very subtle hints of leather, herb, and gravel accenting fresh, crushed black currant fruit that doesn't dominate the palate. This is all nuance and finesse today with fine length and pinpoint tannins. 92pts
Olive, herbal, and graphite come together on this classic Bordeaux nose aging gentle hints of smoke and oak with air. A decidedly happy wine, smooth but tight, with nice mineral tinged tannins, plenty of ripe fruit, and classically proportioned with small tannins that are a little austere and steamy. There's a hint of cocoa and almost jammy red currant fruit on the long, light, fruit driven finish.Not a powerhouse but a great little wine. 92pts
Stemmy, herbal, and with classic black currant fruit on the nose this showily nicely nuanced and powerful yet with a sense of restraint, showing off late arriving coffee cream toasty oak spice aromas. Classic austere, restrained Bordeaux in the mouth, with excellent balance, this has good depth, though perhaps just a touch soft, there are nice lacy tannins, and while this closes upon the mouth it finishes with great length and subtle nuance. Not a powerhouse but lovely. 92pts
Stemmy, herbal, and a bit mineral on the nose with hints of older wood. Fresh, bright and tight on entry, the fruit here is really attractively fresh and bright, nervous even, with fine complexity and attractive blue fruit/blue floral notes in the mouth. Fresh and fruited and long, this really unfurls on the finish. 92pts
A bit plummy and gaining white chocolate and coffee tones on the nose, though this smells rather fresh with nuanced floral and herb notes adding detail. Fresh up front and well fled with red cherry fruit. This is smooth and has a rather natural feel in the mouth, polished but not worked over, allowing the wine to retain nice clarity on the palate, even if this lacks some focus today, but with time that should come, finishes very well, again fresh and bright with fine tannins. Comes off as rather honest wine. 91pts
Very perfumed and rich with minerals and lots of brushy, dry fruit topped with nuanced smoke notes on the nose. Bright, focused, austere and classically Bordeaux on entry with great fruit on the palate. This is a little nervous in the mouth, with bright red fruits and grapey nuance underpinned by powerful, ripe, if small tannins. Finishes with good perfume and length, this is lovely and shows great inner mouth tension. 91pts
Quite perfumed with cocoa, wood spice, plum and a hint of spiced dried fruit all pronounced on the open and complex nose. A little spicy on entry then this turns fairly rich and moderately firm in the mouth with a palate impression built on a fine tannic structure. This has a lacy steel frame, transparent but firm if slightly pliant, and the fruit today is a bit front loaded, but this finishes with elegance and power. 91pts
Earthy, smoky and compact on the nose which remains quite reticent. While very fresh in the mouth, this remains austere at the same time, showing incipient complexity and a nice elegance with fruit that is red and fresh. The tannins are ripe and the wine finishes very freshly with long, pure red currant fruit. Already showing attractive complexity this will be lovely. 91pts
A bit funky on the nose with bushy dried herbs, gravel, and dark fruit aromatics that are attractively fresh. Tight on entry, this classic Bordeaux, a bit of over ripeness lends its truffle note here but this has structure and rich fruit, if being slightly one dimensional in the mouth today. The backend shows more intensity with black fruit that shows some and mineral notes leading to a powerfully fruity, but not frooty finish. This is a bit short today but you can feel the substance and promise in the mouth. 91pts
Deep and a bit oily and inky on the nose with aromas of black fruit and dusty gravel This has that sweet savory aspect to it with a base of nutty oak,, a really powerful and complex nose. Powerful on entry as well but but tight and a bit austere and blocky in the mouth. Tight and promising today but not showing terribly much in the mouth today, this finishes tight and a bit chunky with nice black currant fruit. Has a lot in reserve. 91pts
Pencil lead, dried herbs, a hint of grass come together on the elegant and refined nose. In the mouth this is a bit tight but has a graceful feel to it. The ripe tannins are lacy but firm, and it remains transparent in the mouth, it's not built on power, but on purity, making it a bit underwhelming today perhaps but this has terrific potential over the midterm if this is your style. 91pts
Olive, cedar, and a fairly heavy carriage of pencil lead oak on the nose which is tight complex and above pay grade with enough stuffing underneath to carry it well. Powerful on entry, and a bit extracted perhaps, showing notes of graphite, oak and fresh fruit in the mouth the mouth. A powerful yet elegant wine, a bit of a beast in fact though with a fairly long fresh finish, and lovely firm tannins. A winner. 90pts
Deep, black olive, black fruit, and sweet toasty oak come together on the nose. This is powerfully built, it lacks some energy on the mouth, and the fruit shows a hint of truffly ripeness, but it is smooth, supple and with a powerful, long yet slightly disjointed finish. this really sticks on the palate and is packed with lots of rut and well managed tannins. 90pts
Big fruit on the nose, deep and rich smelling, with floral and spicy aromas that are almost middle Eastern spicy. Smooth and big in the mouth, this lacks a touch of stuffing for its size, and may grow into itself buts remains a touch one dimensional today. There is lots of fruit today, and this is rather tough and tannic at that, so there is a lot of promise especially with the very rich yet pretty fresh backend that shows a hint of truffle spiciness and finishes firm and precise if a touch short. 90pts
Smoky and rich on the nose with dried herbs and integrated wood in a rather big yet focused style. Attractively complex on entry, this is smooth, rich with fruit, very polished with a hint of olive to the deep black currant fruit. A moderately powerful if very fresh this shows lovely fruit in the mouth and finishes with some extracted inkiness, though this remains bright. 90pts
Tight little nose that shows almost floral perfumes and small red fruit and a bit of herb. Tight but balanced in the mouth with fine ripe tannin and mineral notes supporting elegant, fresh, and bright fruit that is particularly clean and fresh on the finish. Not a powerhouse but well balanced and seductive with good length. 90pts
Smoky, oaky, and deeply aromatic showing some smoldering herbal and faint black currant complexity. Open on entry, and while not terribly complex, this is fresh and bright with gently austere tannins. Showing a bit of nuance on the backend, then finishing with great freshness and purity of fruit, this is lovely. Not an imposing wine but seductive. 90pts
Perfumy, quite floral and rich on the nose with some darkish fruit that's carrying some obvious oak but it's pretty well integrated but still a bit new worldly. Smooth, fairly powerful and quite dark in the mouth, this has some deep, almost over extracted but still quite fresh wild berry fruit in the mouth. the fruit is a bit front loaded and the tannins do crush the backend but they are fresh tannins that should resolve well, and the wine does show some lovely inner mouth perfumes through that modest finish. A lot of promise here. 89pts
Perfumed on the nose with black fruit that shows some oak spice.On The palate this is a bit simple and a touch hard but with good purity in a lighter style:, very fresh clear and bright in the mouth with lovely purity of fruit. While a bit smaller scaled this shows nice detail not he palate and fine inner mouth perfumes with ovally small berried fruit that shows fine persistence over the moderately long finish which shows nicely integrated tannins as well. 89pts
Low aromatics are soil driven and slightly herbal, though showing attractive complexity already. Medium light modes with austere, red currant and raspberry fruit in the mouth, this is elegant if strict in the mouth. A classic little Bordeaux, with tannins that start out austere but softens in the mouth and show attractive ripeness. 89pts
Stone on the nose and maybe a little moss and hints of grinding coffee beans all embedded fine floral notes and subtle crushed berry fruit.This is firing on all cylinders, it's perhaps a touch lean or dilute but fresh with firm but well judged wood tannins, a bit soft on the backend this lacks the focus and snap of the best of the vintage but does show attractive, plump fruit, fine soil driven nuance and fairly big tannins that are ripe and help to flesh out the finish. 89pts
Tight on the nose but slowly revealing gorgeous aromatics, austere of soil and earth with well judged and not at all intrusive oak Fresh and austere in the mouth but even at this early stage this shows finesse and elegance and great detail in the mouth. Not a powerhouse nor particularly fruity this is simply classic Bordeaux 89pts
Attractive depth on the nose which reveals tobacco, briar and aromas of fruit that are a bit on the wild side. Showing big crushed berry fruit on entry, this is rich and plump with fine tannins. Polished, very civilized with a bit of power to it, though the finish is soft an elegant. Texturally this is quite appealing, and there is attractive depth of fruit, it just lacks a bit of detail in the mouth. 89pts
Nutty oak is a bit heavy on the nose, though there is plenty of jammy fruit to support it it remains vanilla tinged. A bit austere on entry, focused, rather powerful and frankly tannic with dry tannins spreading across the palate. You can sense the stuffing here and there's a hint of bitterness on the palate that offers a nice counterpoint to the seethes. This turns somewhat perfumed fruit in the mouth, though it remains a bit tough and short. Surprisingly so. This seems to be well equipped to improve in the bottle. 89pts
Smoky, tight and fairly fruity not he nose with quite fresh black cherry, black currant fruit with a thin veneer of oak and some herbal detail. While a bit lighter styled in the mouth this is fairy tannic, yet fresh in the mouth. Not terribly expressive today, this shows a bit of mineral on the backend, and turns a little tough and short on the finish but with great fresh black currant fruit. time should be kind here. 89pts
Toasty oak, nutty oak, nuanced oak greets the nose layered over black plummy fruit and coffee/mocha notes. This is fairly bright on entry, then it turns a little compressed in the mouth, a bit tight but verging on elegant on the palate. There's some attractive fruit here but it lacks a bit of height in the mouth, though it does show some attractive nuance. the finish reveals rather big black fruit flavors, and while this finishes on the short side it does seem to have all the pieces in place to improve in the cellar. 89pts
Smoky and a bit twiggy and stoney on the nose with red fruit and rust. This is curiously a touch sweet almost on entry the this turns firm and a bit mean for a moment before showing the ripe fruit of the nose again, vacillates between ripe fruit and fairly aggressive mineral notes, and while this is a touch lacking in substance it does promise to develop well if it gains some weight, which I expect it will. 89pts
Tight and reticent on the nose, which shows assertive nutty oak a bit heavily. Smooth and easy going in the mouth, this has good black currant and an attractive bit of truffle accent note in a style that is plump and fresh but this lacks some mid-palate complexity. Really lovely, easy going texture is attractive. 88pts
Limestone and grape seed aromas greet the nose which is nuanced and detailed. In the mouth this is a bit firm and chewy though with an innate sweetness to the grippy fruit. It feels a bit extracted on entry, then thins out a bit on the palate, but with attractive blackcurrant fruit and firm minerality, finishes with great refreshing tannin. 88pts
Leather and raw meat pop on this hard, dry and gravelly nose. A bit rigid in the mouth, this is powerful with dark fruit on a medium bodied scale, A bit chewy and firm in the mouth, here's nice herbal nuance, lots of power for its size, particularly on the backend, and a slightly rustic and raw nature, but with really attractive follow through. 88pts
Dried earth, dried herbs, and brushy woodland aromas come tougher on the savory nose. In the mouth this is super fresh with red fruit and mineral flavors all in a smaller scaled wine. A bit simple, though with lovely transparency in the mouth, this displays good purity to the red currant fruit. A relatively gentle wine in the mouth, this toughens up a bit on the modest finish. It seems to be very expressive of the vintage and feels quite honest. 88pts
Focused with stemmy herb and truffle nuance on the nose, with a bit of shoe polish yielding to fancy toasty oak and vanilla top notes. A bit dry in the mouth with wood tannin, though there is plump black fruit that shows some candied accents mostly covering the tannin on the palate. Fairly seamless but lacking some detail, there's a core of hard candy, black cherry fruit that leads to a dry short finish. A bit unbalanced and possibly too tannic for the simple, candied fruit. 88pts
Subtle on the nose with aromas of dried flowers, fresh fruit,leather, oak, and dried herb seeds come together not he rather classic nose. Lighter styled in the mouth and both fresh and elegant with nice purity to the fruit which has a nice mineral overlay on the palate. The tannins really emerge on the backend, this is not a big wine but a compact and slightly dense wine, a bit extracted and tough with tannins that are a bit raw and clip the finish. This should improve but the tannins might remain a bit angular. 88pts
Lovely with herb and earth on the nose, then bit of mineral, in a classic style and with attractive complexity. Fresh, juicy and very refreshing in the mouth, not an ager but perhaps over the shorter terms this offers sweet red berry fruit and well balanced if modest structure. 87pts
Sweet and smoky on the nose with nice underlying earth tones though a fair amount of oak. Medium full in the mouth thus shows lots of brightness to the fruit Fine grained tannins are well balanced, and while this won't make old bones but has plenty of satisfying blackcurrant fruit, though this remains a bit on the youthfully woody side today. 87pts
Smoky, mineral and herb laden aromatics are very classic bordeaux. Smooth on entry, this thins out a bit in the mouth remaining lighter bodied and not too tannic with both fruit and inner mouth perfumes that arrives late in the mouth. A touch astringent on the finish with delicate flavors of lingonberry and red currant. A short to mid-term ager. 87pts
A bit herbal on the nose with the oak slightly prominent at this stage. There's good acid here but this starts out on the palate a bit soft, roundish. Nice complexity in a fairly savory style, this offers modest scale with classic Bordeaux proportions and a fine core of black currant and black berry fruit supported by dry fruit tannins and finishing with some woody tannins. 87pts
Shoe polish and leather dominate the tight and inexpressive nose. While this is a bit easy going, smooth, and moderately rich in the mouth it lacks some detail early on the palate, though it does gain a little olive accent to the berry fruit on the backend, it remains mostly details and a bit anonymous with a bit of a coffee cream finish. texturally attractive for those looking for supple, plush wines. 87pts
Leafy, bright and fresh on the nose with berry aromas in a lighter scale. Very fresh, pure and easy going in the mouth with good fruit that shows a touch of herbal nuance. rather small scaled but well balanced and easy to drink. 86pts
Smoky, stemmy, and quite herbaceous on the nose with some smoked paprika and dried bouillon aromas. Soft, juicy, and simple in the mouth though with bright, fresh blackberry fruit that carries an innate seethes. Right and fresh with an innate sweetness to fruit. Showing fairly ripe and a bit fruitcake spicy. 86pts
Less ripe on the nose, complex but savory with a hint of coffee sweetness but overall rather herbal. Lighter styled, and a bit tight in the mouth with some fruit showing but this feels austere in the mouth and without much flesh. Dry, with some fresh fruit on the finish but then turning quite dry again. 85pts