Bordeaux 2011: An outright year for vintners

Thursday, 22. March 2012 | 08:03 Uhr | RED.YOOPRESS | WINE GROWING DISTRICTS
Reference: DECANTER | Translator: E.RENZIEHAUSEN
Merlot grapes grown on gravel are not nearly as good, and the Merlot grapes grown on sandy or muddy soils are outright disappointing

FRANCE (Bordeaux) - The first samples of the 2011 wine from the right banks in Bordeaux have confirmed the estimation of Denis Dubordieu, an oenologist and wine counselor. The wine is presenting itself in a manner that was to be expected regarding the bizarre weather conditions. The same thing Mr. Dubordieu noted in his annual report, where he is talking about „unforeseeable consequences”, mentioning the incredibly warm spring, the cool July, the rainy August and the Indian Summer.

According to Mr. Dubordieu, the clear winner of the 2011 vintage is the Merlot - provided the grapes grew on clay or limestone. So is the Cabernet Sauvignon, especially on gravel and limestone; the fine sweet wines out of Sauternes and Barsac grapes as well as the Pessac white wines are among the 2011 champions, Dubordieu says. “The Cabernet Franc is of extraordinary quality, unless it suffered from the capricious weather conditions”, Dubordieu estimates. Paul Goldschmidt, owner of the St. Emilion Grand Cru Classé Château Le Prieuré, agrees: “This was the best year to date for the Cabernet Franc”, Mr. Goldschmidt happily reports.

In 2011, Bordeaux experienced one of the strangest years the vintners can remember. After a way too warm spring with intermittently over 30°C, there was a long drought in summer with temperature peaks of over 40°C. In some places, the grapes were roasted on the vines - the result was a loss of harvest of about 20%. The Cabernet Franc and the Merlot grapes were somewhat better off because their leaves are bigger and were, thus, able to give more shade. Then, due to the rainy August, the grapes swelled, which led, in some areas, to a dilution of the aromas. This was followed, at the beginning of September, by hailstorms, which were devastating above all for the vineyards of St. Estephe.

“In many places, it was due to the soils that certain sorts of grapes held up better than others”, Denis Dubordieu explains. “The producers from the right banks, for instance, where clay and limestone dominate, were happy about the results of their Merlot grapes. However, the Merlot grapes grown on gravel are not nearly as good, and the Merlot grapes grown on sandy or muddy soils are outright disappointing.”

Though the producers from the right banks got off rather cheaply, they had to cope with a difficult vintage. There was a lot of work to be done in the vineyard and in the cellar, the grapes had to be selected accurately, and the tannins needed to be extracted carefully. “Those who tried to extract still more taste got dry wines”, Alain Raynaud, counselor of over 20 Bordeaux-based wineries, said.

“It was an outright year for vintners”, Héloïse Aubert, owner of eight châteaux, among them the St. Emilion Grand Cru Classé Château La Couspaude, summarizes. “The Merlot was very successful, provided the vintner was able to extract and to treat the tannins gently.” And Raynaud adds: “Yes, it was a strange year. At the beginning of summer, we thought of a disaster while the grapes burnt in the sun. The berries that survived, however, gained still more intensity.” (red.yoopress)

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