An early start and the team arrived at Libourne on the right bank of the Gironde to gain a first impression of St Emilion & Pomerol’s 2011s. This was always going to be an interesting part of the trip. There were a few Chateaux from the previous two days on the left bank who had succumbed to over extraction thus losing their fragile sense of balance, freshness and finesse and the two communes that we were heading to have recently housed some of the biggest, alcoholic ‘fruit bomb’ culprits of them all!
Concentrating the vine by careful attention in the vineyard through green harvesting and avoiding a prolonged maceration in the winery is crucial here in order to retain balance and elegance in what climatically is a challenging vintage. As one grower put it, ‘summer arrived in spring followed by spring arriving in summer’. The intense heat that the region faced around 26th and 27th June dehydrated the vine to such an extent that the circulation of the sap either slowed down or in some cases simply stopped. Everything from then onwards was destined to happen in advance and the fate of the Chateau lay in the skilful hands of the grower.
Thankfully there are plenty of successes to report on the right bank and in a few cases there are handful of Chateaux who have made truly great wine. However the overall impression is that Pomerol has fared marginally better than St Emilion in 2011. The freshness, purity and balance that many of the Pomerol Chateaux displayed (not all I might add!) has resulted in some fine examples for the mid to long term and one or two cases, some truly profound wine that will compare favourably with the best of the previous two vintages.
St Emilion was a bit more of a curate’s egg in quality with some underwhelming examples that were slightly ‘green’ or unbalanced by aggressive tannins, however there are some that display lovely purity, freshness and balance. When they get it right here there are some delicious wines that are thankfully lower in alcohol than in 2009 & 2010 exuding plenty of finesse which will develop before the 2010s. Here are some of the picks from the right bank.
2011 Ch Canon La Gaffeliere
One of the real successes of St Emilion in 2011. Very precise with excellent levels of concentration. Beautiful, dense, dark core but quite elegant on the finish without a hint of over extraction. Intense and very well balanced.
2011 Ch. Grand Mayne
Rich, earthy, sweet core. Well endowed, succulent, a delicious concentrated palate that shows good balance. Great one for the cellar for mid-term drinking.
2011 Ch. Quinault L’Enclos
Intense bouquet of summer fruits with floral hints and liquorice. Quite vibrant with fresh acidity but lovely balance of concentration, silkiness and ripe tannins. Very charming.
2011 Ch. Le Tour du Pin
More closed on the nose than the Quinault L’Enclos. Vibrant fresh fruits particularly cherry, raspberry and cassis with subtle hints of spice and cocoa. More powerful on the finish.
2011 Ch. Cheval Blanc
(52% Cab Franc, 48% Merlot)
Complex, stylish nose but obviously quite restrained. Violet, summer fruits especially raspberry and black cherry. Emphasis on freshness and balance. Very elegant, silky and poised.
Le Pin’s brand new St Emilion venture – first release is 2011. Quite big and intense with lots of structure though not overbearing. Summer fruits, lovely freshness and quite delicious on the finish.
2011 Ch. La Croix de Gay
I felt Croix du Gay really got it right in 2011 in terms of encapsulating the best points of 2011. This wine has real elegance, concentration and depth and overall balance. Should be a terrific buy at the more value end of St Emilion for mid term drinking.
2011 Ch. Clinet
One of the successes on the right bank, Clinet’s exquisite balance is quite superb. Very intense and structured with beautifully ripe, refined tannins. Lots of harmony and class here. Plenty of freshness and everything seems to be in perfect check. Expect big things here.
2011 Ch. L’Evangile
Has weight, concentration & silkiness without appearing over extracted. The tannins are superbly ripe and there’s lovely balance between weight and freshness here. Quite delicious. 13.6% alcohol which is considerably down on last year and 2009.
2011 Ch. Petrus
Gorgeous weight, incredibly velvety, silky and refined. Beautiful floral nose, medium weight with dark plum, chocolate and truffle on the palate. Lovely elegant touch to it. One for the mid term I feel. A complex Petrus that’s perhaps in the style of 2008 or 2004.
2011 Vieux Ch. Certan
(70% Merlot, 29% Cab Franc, 1% Cab Sauv)
Most amazing nose, Rich violet, dark and exotic. Dense, concentrated and very intoxicating. On the palate freshness and very pure defined fruit. Really very intense. The palate unfolds exuding wonderful purity and outstanding balance. The finish goes on and on..quite spectacular. One of true “˜vins de garde’ from the right bank in 2011. This is outstanding and perhaps my favourite wine so far.
2011 Ch. La Conseillante
Conseillante shows considerable elegance in 2011. Very refined and the opposite of Gazin’s power and extraction. Quite lovely, and like the other successes this year, very well balanced.
2011 Ch. Le Pin
Super rich palate. Cherry liquor, coffee, dark chocolate, spice. Quite dense & concentrated with a sweet exotic, raspberry core. Seriously delicious!
2011 Ch. Tertre Roteboeuf
Wonderful concentration without appearing overworked. Rich, velvety with gorgeous texture. Dark chocolate, black cherry and raspberry. Quite wonderful poise and elegance on the finish.