Wine Spectator senior editor Bruce Sanderson is blogging from Burgundy as he previews the 2011 vintage. Some of the wines he is tasting have yet to be racked, while others have been assembled in barrel but not yet bottled; consequently, scores are given in ranges as these are unfinished wines that will continue to be refined before being bottled.
The range of 2011s from Domaine Méo-Camuzet captures the purity and elegance of the vintage. They exhibit freshness, ripe fruit and tannins on slimmer, lighter-bodied frames due to lower alcohol levels.
"The growing season was deceptive. It was extremely easy until end of July and [then the first half of] August was not nice," recalled proprietor Jean-Nicolas Méo. "The vines suffered from mildew and the leaves were damaged and perhaps that's why the alcohol is not high. We had not sprayed much and that left the vines susceptible. There was also botrytis and we needed to sort a lot."
As a result, the Méo-Camuzet 2011s possess an unusual combination of low alcohol and phenolic ripeness. Méo noted that, with the exception of 2009, this has been the trend since the 2007 harvest.
A few of the 2011s were already bottled in January. Others were racked a second time (the first racking occurred at the end of August) and blended for bottling, while some cuvées were still in barrel.
"The problem we had with 2011 was that the malos were early and we protected with sulfur," said Méo. "They were so easy to ferment, so we used a higher-than-normal dose of sulfur, but they did not consume the sulfur like the 2009s did. So they are up and down in terms of how they are showing."
The malolactic conversions were finished by January 2012. Méo explained that with early malolactic the color and tannin molecules don't have time to bind. You tend to lose color and fatness. "It's a nice, pleasant, easygoing vintage. The fact that they were a bit aggressive early on [due to the sulfur], they were not showing their true nature," he said.
Here are some of the highlights from my tasting. As noted where appropriate, Méo-Camuzet also has a négociant label named Frère et Soeur.
Two northern appellations show how terroir influences the flavors and structure of Pinot Noir. The 2011 Marsannay (Frère & Soeur), in bottle, offers plenty of juicy cherry aroma and flavor, with an accessible structure, nice ripe fruit and moderate length (86–89). The Fixin Clos du Chapitre (Frère & Soeur) was racked for the second time and in tank for bottling. It reveals a much darker flavor profile of cherry, smoke, pepper and mineral, backed by a firm structure and long, persistent finish (87–90).
Méo's 2011 Vosne-Romanée was still in barrel, racked once at the end of summer. It comes mostly from Les Barreaux, a cool site high on the slope above Les Brûlées, with a small parcel from Aux Commune, between the village and D974. A very pretty nose of floral, strawberry and cherry gives way to spice on the palate in this delicate, balanced red with a very long, spicy finish (87–90).
The 2011 Vosne-Romanée Les Chaumes, also from barrel, displays some oak spice, cherry, smoke and clove flavors. Round and rich, it's more meaty and spicy. Very complex with fine length (89–92).
Next up was a pair of Nuits premiers crus. In tank, the 2011 Nuits-St.-Georges Aux Murgers exhibits black cherry and black currant notes on a more masculine, dense frame, finishing long (88–91). The 2011 Aux Boudots had also been racked into tank and it too, delivers dark fruit on a meaty, dense, tightly wound profile. It was a touch reduced and long, if a bit reticent now (88–91).
The first of the grands crus, Clos Vougeot, was still in barrel. Marked slightly by oak, it evokes black cherry, currant and spice flavors allied to a firm, lean frame. Elegant, fresh, persistent and very long (90–93). The Corton Rognets comes from 80- to 85-year-old vines. Macerated cherry and spice notes lead off in this plump, almost chunky red, yet it remains supple, with a long finish of black cherry and smoke. Though still in barrel, this is more together than the Clos Vougeot (90–93).
The following wines were all from barrel. The 2011 Echézeaux Les Rouge du Bas delivers a pretty nose of spice, flowers, cherry and wild berry. Very fresh, elegant and long, it's a classy Echézeaux, ripe and vibrant, with plenty of grip on the finish (90–93). The Vosne-Romanée Aux Brûlées offers very smoky aromas, slightly reduced, with black cherry underneath. Tightly grained, yet with supple, well-integrated tannins and fine length (88–91).
The 2011 Vosne-Romanée Cros Parantoux, from vines planted in the mid-1950s, shows pretty aromas of wild berry, spice and flowers. Generous on the palate, intense, complex, fresh and sappy, ending with a long aftertaste of berry and spice (91–94).
The Richebourg was the more reticent, cool and reserved of the two, with strawberry, cherry and spice flavors; refined, structured, yet restrained. A discreet red overall, and very long (91–94).
This is a fine range of 2011s that should reveal their charm and bright fruit flavors about six months to a year after bottling.