2011 Bordeaux — Winemakers Get a Wake Up Call
When discussing the 2011 vintage, “heterogeneous” is a word that crops up more often than winemakers would like. Between the weather and the resulting wines, there was very little consistency.
Winter was cold and dry, ideal for the vines, and spring was early and hot. Vineyards were ahead of schedule from the get-go. April was the second warmest in Bordeaux since 1900, and the high temperatures continued throughout spring — heat spikes in June even caused some sunburn and stress on the grapes. As the summer began, vineyards were still well ahead of schedule. Except for the lack of water in the soils and some stress from the heat, the season looked promising. In July, though, temperatures shifted, and cool, overcast weather swept in. What began as one of the warmest springs in almost 60 years was replaced by one of the coldest Julys in 30 years. The roller coaster didn’t stop though; August was wet and fall-like, while September reverted back to warm, summer-like conditions. Veraison was well ahead of schedule, and it became crucial to remove unevenly ripe bunches, mainly caused by the drought and stress of the June heat spikes and chilly July.
The 2011 harvest was one of the earliest on record—whites grapes began on August 17th and reds on September 5th. It was a particularly prolonged harvest for the reds, which finished between late September and early October.
Dry white wines are very good, and Sauternes and Barsac are potentially great. The reds are indeed heterogeneous — as variable as the weather was. Though they are far from bad, many wines lack the depth and concentration of the two preceding powerhouse vintages. Tannins are better than average, but alcohols are generally lower. These are not the vins de garde of a classic year.