The Tasting Panel magazine

May 2012

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Page 22 of 132

STEVEN SPURRIER'S LETTER FROM LONDON 2011 Bordeaux "A wine merchant's vintage." Such was the view given by Adam Brett- Smith, MD, of London's Corney & Barrow, to Decanter during the En Primeur week just before Easter. This was confi rmed to me by his senior buyer, Alison Buchanan, saying that as there was no investment market for the 2011s, the wines that C&B would be buying would be sold on their merits as wines to drink. What a relief! From the producer's side, Thomas Duroux, head winemaker at Château Palmer, whose vintage brochure announced that 2011 was the smallest crop at the château since the famous 1961, was equally direct: "It will be an early and quick campaign, for there is no real reason to buy the 2011s after 2009 and 2010, so this time the consumer must come fi rst." What a surprise! PHOTO: DECANTER So what has the consumer to look forward to? There is no doubt that the red wines of 2011 merit more serious consideration than those of the rainy 2002, the rather hard 2004, the edgy 2007 and the attractive but light 2008, but they can hardly compare to the ripeness of 2000, 2005, 2009 and 2010. Everyone agreed that it was the most het- erogeneous vintage in recent times, ranging from average to excellent for the reds, with dry whites of a high level and very success- ful sweet wines in Barsac and Sauternes. On the Merlot-dominated Right Bank, it is being compared to 2001, a year often wrongly over-shadowed by its predecessor, while on the Left it is recognised as a Cabernet vintage, like 1996 or 1986. Perhaps the greatest difference between 2011 and the two previous years is the modest levels of alcohol. The superb 90% Cabernet Sauvignon from Mouton Rothschild can in at just 12.9 abv. Cos d'Estournel, described often as "porty" in 2009, was a modest 13.5; Ducru-Beaucaillou, where Bruno Borie declared 2011 "the most expressive vintage we have ever made," just 13.1; and over in Pomerol, with Alexandre Thienpont declaring that "Cabernet Franc is back with a bang!", Vieux Château Certan was a refreshing 13.6. In 2010 there was hardly a wine of quality under 14 degrees, and 15 was not uncommon. Thus the red wines, whose fruit for the most part domi- 22 / the tasting panel / may 2012 nates the tannins, have refreshing character and many have charm that will make for early drinking, while the tannins will keep them going for longer. For the better Crus Bourgeois and the middle ranging Crus Classés and their equivalents from the Libournais, I would give most of the wines a drinking window of 2015–2025. As in previous years, I taste the Left Bank wines for Decanter and my col- league James Lawther MW tastes the Right Bank. Jeannie Cho Lee MW tasted the Sauternes and I do not have her notes to hand, but my own tastings showed wines of great vivacity and elegance from a short but perfect picking period from the 10th to the 28th of September. Below are, in James's and my view, the greatest successes from each commune. Médoc: Potensac. Haut-Médoc: La Lagune, La Tour Carnet, Sociando-Mallet. Listrac: Clarke, Fonreaud. Moulis: Chasse-Spleen, Branas Grand Poujeaux. Margaux: Palmer, Margaux, Rauzan-Ségla, Brane-Cantenac. St-Julien: Leoville-Las Cases, Ducru-Beaucaillou, Leoville-Barton, Leoville-Poyferre. Pauillac: Mouton-Rothschild, Latour, Lafi te-Rothschild, Pontet-Canet, Pichon- Comtesse, Pichon-Baron, Duhart-Milon. St-Estèphe: Calon-Segur, Montrose, Cos d'Estournel. Pessac-Léognan Red: Haut-Brion, Haut- Bailly, Domaine de Chevalier, La Mission Haut-Brion. Pessac-Léognan White: La Mission Haut- Brion, Haut-Brion, Domaine de Chevalier, Malartic-Lagraviere, Smith-Haut-Lafi tte. St-Émilion: Ausone, Cheval Blanc, Angélus, Pavie, Troplong-Mondot, Trottevieille, Canon-La-Gaffeliere, Larcis- Ducasse, Le Dome, La Mondotte, Vieux Ch. Mazerat, Valandraud. Pomerol: Vieux Ch. Certan, Lafl eur, Pétrus, L'Eglise-Clinet, L'Evangile, Le Pin, Trotanoy. This column appears in its original form in Decanter.

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