Bordeaux 2011 En Primeur Blog #2

Monday, 2 April 2012 by Stephen Browett

Today we have focussed our attention on the Northern Médoc and in particular the appellations of St Estèphe, Pauillac and St Julien.

What is becoming very clear to us is that 2011 is a very mixed vintage. This is certainly not one of those years when wine-makers could let nature take its course. Far from it. There was a really challenging growing season full of complications and difficulties. It seems that those who had the biggest problems to face have vineyards in the Northern sector of Pauillac and the Southern part of St Estèphe.

François-Xavier Borie and the three wise men at Grand Puy Lacoste

Cos d’Estournel have made an excellent 2011 but not without massive sacrifices in the selection process. In order to make a wine up to the standards expected here, a huge part of the production that would normally find its way into the grand vin has had to be relegated to the second label – Pagodes de Cos. As a result of this draconian selection process there will only be 9000 cases of 2011 Cos d’Estournel. This is half the amount produced in 2009 and 2010 and a third of what they used to produce a decade ago. By contrast, there will be 21,000 of Pagodes which is consequently a very good second wine indeed.

Jean-Guillaume Prats and the Team at Cos d'Estournel

Just down the hill at Lafite, the production level is apparently normal but quality was clearly affected by the storm that forced them to start picking Cabernet Sauvignon on September 3rd – nearly a whole month earlier than normal. Indeed the entire crop was picked by the end of the third week of September which has resulted in a wine with lower alcohol and higher acidity levels than in recent vintages.

Jean-Charles Cazes at Lynch Bages

The best Pauillacs for us were from closer to the border with Saint Julien. After the great Pontet Canet that we tasted yesterday, we found excellent wines at their neighbours – Grand Puy Lacoste, Mouton Rothschild and Lynch Bages. Good value wine of the day has to be Château Batailley, a really lovely expression of Pauillac with classic cassis fruit interlaced with cigar box and vanilla spice. No prizes though for guessing that the star of the day was Château Latour. This is a strongly Cabernet Sauvignon wine (84%) with a concentration that is atypical for the vintage. Even from the Enclos itself, some 20-25% of the fruit was put into Les Forts de Latour. The grand vin represents only one third of the total production.

Frédéric Engerer at Latour

Tomorrow we will attend the “Union des Grands Crus” tastings which give us a chance to compare neighbouring Châteaux side by side in the same room. We will also try Châteaux Margaux and Palmer before leaving the Médoc and heading south to Pessac-Léognan and tastings at Haut Brion and its neighbours.

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