Bordeaux 2011 – Honest Claret

Three things became apparent at this year’s En Primeur campaign; the first was that one must judge 2011 as a standalone vintage, it does not possess the richness and opulence of 2009 or the concentration and tannic structure of 2010. The second was a reduced Asian presence. The third is that the defining factor in this vintage will be the release price.

The Vintage and Wines
The weather in 2011 saw a warm spring with an early budbreak and a drought until July causing challenging conditions in the vineyard. A lack of rain helped to reduce the risk of mildew but vines suffered and their development was slightly stunted. July, August and September saw some rain and finished with an early harvest with almost all reds picked in September.

As a result of the weather 2011 is a complicated vintage with much more variation amongst individual Chateau than the last 2 vintages. However, despite the ordinary weather conditions winemakers at large have created ripe, aromatic and deeply coloured wines, which posses good acidity and overall ripe tannin. The top Chateaux from the right bank fared well, particularly in the water-retaining soils of Pomerol, while as one might expect the top wines from St-Julien and Pauillac have largely performed admirably.

Overall production is low with Chateau Palmer in particular producing its smallest crop since their defining and hallowed 1961 vintage. 2011 is a classic year, representing good, honest claret.

The Market
Robert Parker’s first words on 2011 compared the vintage to 2001 and 2008, which would place it in good company. However, there is a division of opinion surrounding the vintage as a whole and we can fairly assume 2008 acts as the upper benchmark for the 2011 vintage.

Consumers and investors will not feel that this is a must buy vintage and will require a financial incentive to lock their money up for 2 years instead of buying already approachable vintages or ones with several years in bottle. 2008 was priced cheaply on release and generated fantastic returns, which helped to create great momentum for the next 2 years.

It is worth noting that the Chinese joined En Primeur for the 2009 and 2010 vintage and seeing no monetary appreciation they may ask themselves the question, why bother? The Bordeaux En Primeur campaigns are at risk of alienating a market that is now crucial to them.

There is hope!
Some journalists have suggested the First growths would release at 200 – 250 Euros per bottle, perhaps this is wishful thinking. Decanter stated they have it on good authority that one First growth was prepared cut release prices by as much as 50% compared to 2010. Lafite Rothschild have declared there will be a healthy discount, while Christian Moueix of J-P Moueix (Petrus) stated that ‘My top wines will be cut by 30% – 50%’. Of course pricing will depend on Parker’s individual marks and top performing Chateaux are likely to respond with elevated prices.

As Parker will most likely have the last word on this vintage we should finish with his most recent tweet ‘the 2011s were better than expected but unless prices fall dramatically-no serious market as “futures!’