Category Archives: Bordeaux 2011

Bordeaux 2011: An Insider’s View

I wrote this article for the trade magazine, Harpers Wine and Spirit, for the April 2012 issue.

Gavin Quinney, a grower in Bordeaux and contributor to Harpers Wine and Spirit, has tasted the top wines en primeur since the 2000 vintage. @GavinQuinney on Twitter.

The 2011 harvest at Pontet Canet

There are only two types of vintage in Bordeaux these days, it seems. “Best ever” (2009 and then, arguably, 2010) and “Better then expected” (2008 and now, 2011). Most of the wine trade and press who attended the annual primeur tastings in early April agreed that the 2011s showed better than everyone thought they would. And, of course, that prices would have to be lower for the wines to sell as futures.

How does 2011 rate?

2011 is not a great vintage for red Bordeaux but it is a good vintage – and a very good one for dry whites, and an excellent one for Sauternes.  I don’t think it’s comparable to any other recent vintage but qualitatively, for the reds, I’d put it well below 2010, 2009, 2005 and 2000 but above 2007, 2004, 2002 and most 2003s (excluding the northern Médoc). It sits somewhere alongside the 2008s and 2001s, depending on the region and the Chateau, and has more charm than 2006.

One plus point about 2011 is that most of the leading Chateaux produced 2011s that typify their terroir, their style, and the vintage. It may not have been a normal growing season in Bordeaux but the wines, for the most part, are faithful to their origin.

’It’s good to return to an Atlantic vintage, after two Pacific ones,’ said Denis Durantou of L’Eglise Clinet in Pomerol. ’With less alcohol.’ Keep reading

Bordeaux 2011: The Weather Compared to Recent Vintages

At the end of September 2011, I wrote about the unusual 2011 harvest in Bordeaux. Some people out there like to see the nerdy stuff, so I put together my weather charts for Livex, the Fine Wine Exchange. Here’s my article that appeared on their site in March. (For my other fascinating articles on the Livex blog, search ‘Quinney’).

As the trade and press prepare to descend on Bordeaux for the annual en primeur tastings in late March and early April, here are my weather charts for the 2011 season compared to recent vintages.

A summary of what happened in the vineyard:

1. Early budbreak, very warm spring, drought until July.

2. An up-and-down summer.

3. Low threat of mildew early on but risk of rot later.

4. An early harvest under September sun.

5. Picking dates a gamble between ripeness and rot.

6. Sorting and selection were key.

7. Quality and yield vary from one estate to another. Keep reading

Bordeaux 2011: How was it?

I was asked by Gemma, the News Editor at Harpers Wine and Spirit, for my thoughts on the 2011 vintage before the trade and press tastings here in the first week of April. Here was my reply.

Even though I live and breath each vintage in Bordeaux, it’s foolish to try and predict how each Château’s wines are going to show from barrel, especially with such an up-and-down year as 2011.

No-one is going to claim that 2011 is a better vintage than, say, 2009. Apart from me, that is – I lost 80% of my crop to hail in May 2009. (So did hundreds of others, for that matter.) But for the great wines, 2011 sits in the shadows of 2009 and 2010, despite the dry and sweet whites from last year showing real promise.

There are some key factors about 2011.

We had a very early budbreak and then a summer-like spring, so the vines flowered about three weeks early in May. By the beginning of July, after a bone dry period of four months, the development of many vines had become blocked through lack of rain. July and August were then up-and-down – at times hot and humid, at other times cool and rainy.

The year will go down as a very dry year, with just 270mm of rain from March to September, compared to the 30 year-average in Bordeaux of 430mm. But in July and August we had around 150mm of rain compared to a norm of 100mm, so a glance at a weather chart will show that it was an upside-down season – dry from March to June and again in September but wetter in the summer. Weird. Keep reading

Bordeaux 2011: A Year of Living Dangerously

After two great Bordeaux vintages, 2011 has been a year of living dangerously. “It’s complicated,” Christian Moueix explained when I asked what he thought of the millésime, as his team picked in St-Emilion. If one of the most respected winemakers thinks it’s hard to generalise, it might be foolish for the rest of us to rush into snap judgments.

Let me try and explain what’s been going on in the Bordeaux vineyard this year, and forgive me for the amount of detail. My fascinating weather charts will follow later (updated for 2011 here).

Here’s a summary:

1. Early start, warm spring, then drought.

2. An up-and-down summer.

3. Early harvest, September sunshine.

4. When to pick: balancing ripeness with the risk of rot.

5. These magnificent men (and women) and their sorting machines.

6. Volume 5% up overall but yields vary from one estate to another.

7. Finally, a Tweet showing how the growing season compares.

Keep reading

Hail Forces Early Start for Lafite as St-Estèphe Takes a Battering

This article appeared on the Liv-ex Fine Wine Market blog and in ‘Inside Information’ on

Gavin Quinney reports from Bordeaux on an unscheduled start to the harvest for one of the world’s most famous estates, and the severe misfortune that fell on an illustrious neighbour.

Lafite's parcel in St-Estèphe, 3 Sept

‘It’s an early vintage, and not an easy one,’ said Charles Chevallier, the Director of Château Lafite-Rothschild, as he checked the Cabernet Sauvignon from their parcel in St-Estèphe in his new harvest reception area. He certainly never thought that he’d be bringing in this late-ripening variety exactly one week before the Médoc Marathon, when over 8,000 runners in fancy dress pass through the vineyards on the second Saturday of September. (In 2010, they started picking their Cabernet on 4th October.)

Unlike this coming Saturday, this is no laughing matter – even if the locals can’t resist a bit of black humour. “They can start the pruning at Cos d’Estournel, because there aren’t any leaves left on the vines,” was the gag made separately by two tractor drivers – one at Lafite, the other at Château Montrose to the north.  Neighbours, as well as nature, can be cruel. Keep reading

2011 Season: 3 Weeks Early

An early start to the growing season, then lovely weather for the all important-flowering in the vines – three weeks ahead of usual – seems a little too much of a good thing.

p1030068_2Now what we need is a little divine intervention for some much-needed rain and, with any luck, no natural disasters. We have, after all, had one or two catastrophes strike in May (hail, 2009) and June (hail, 2003).

Budburst kicked off early this year, towards the end of March.

Keep reading