Burgundy 2011 – Early joy

The problem with big wines is not just that they are expensive, but also that it’s always too early to drink them. In the home of really big and very expensive wines, in Burgundy, customers are regularly disappointed by being told that they should forget about any current vintage for at least a decade. Basically, anybody who reaches for a corkscrew before that will never know what kind of treasure they wasted. However, it seems as if times are changing, even in Burgundy. For one thing, the crop has been low for years. In the meantime, beside the big and expensive names, outstanding and affordable newcomers have arrived. Thirdly, coming as it did after two monumental vintages, 2011 was a year that even winemakers wouldn’t claim to be for eternity. From the point of view of the customer, it’s easy to see the positive side of the trend: a hundred times more early joy for cheaper, as opposed to later regret for expensive prices.

Burgundia Burgundia Burgundia Burgundia Philippe Pacalet Thibault Liger-Belair David Croix

Capricious seasons

2011 set the winemakers off on a precarious rollercoaster ride. Spring was summer and summer was spring. When it was finally summer, then the hail came, and quite a lot of it. Following the harvest in 2011, Aubert de Villaine, estate manager of Domaine de la Romanée Conti, wrote this in his harvest report: "Ever since I started making wines in Burgundy – and this is already my 46th harvest – never have I had a better understanding that the success of a vintage depends on luck and taking risks."

It all started after the cold winter, when summer arrived in April. Budding started with the temperature soaring above 30 Celcius, and the shoots grew at almost a visible pace. Accordingly, it was decided that if no disaster were to happen, there would be an early harvest. The nice weather lasted as long as May. In June it was rarely really warm, and July and the first part of August became cool and wet. Then the heat came in mid-August and the ripening accelerated. On the 26th, only a few days before the planned beginning of the harvest, the unthinkable happened: it rained for three days. The berries swelled and the risk of fungal infections threatened. Luckily, drier weather followed, and during the last days of August and the first days of September, the harvest could be started everywhere. The crop is about the average of the last five years; 14 per cent more than in 2010, and 11 per cent less than in 2009.

 

The vintage with a model’s body

2009 was made unique by the ideal weather, the 2010 vintage was lifted to surprising heights by the yield control (sparse bunches, tiny berries). In 2011, the quality was threatened by the rain, the hail and fungal infections. The latter remained at a manageable level, the previous ones had a defining role in that lower alcohol, light, fruity, ready-to-drink wines were born. Based on the reviews, it seems that 2011 was “not a big, only a very good” vintage. The wines are not as heavy as the 2010s and are not as exotically round as the 2009s. However, they are even more tasty. They are fruity, appealing, elegant, and last but not least, they are very drinkable even now. After the voluptuous 2009s, and the athletic 2010s, the 2011 is a vintage with a model’s body: we could easily fall in love with it, but with our current sense we would only start a long-term relationship with the 2010s and 2011s.

 

Our winemakers said the following about 2011:

 

Philippe Pacalet:

"2011 is a vintage that has the sunny aspect of 2009 combined with the freshness of 2010. The harvest was one of the most precocious of the last 30 years – it started on August 28th! Due to the hot weather, sugar maturity was restricted to a reasonable threshold, which allowed phenolic maturity to reach a very good level and for acidity to be retained. The result is a gourmand wine with much freshness and minerality."

Thibault Liger:
"One interesting thing about this harvest is that it happened during summer, which it is quite unusual for us. So we had marvelous sunny days in the vineyards, which was very different to the usual fresh and sometimes rainy days at the end of September."

David Croix:
"The 2011 vintage is an unusual one in the sense that we picked very early, starting in August. The wines are pretty with a lot of freshness and red fruit. It’s not a vintage with very long ageing potential, but it will bring lots of pleasure in its youth."