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2011 Burgundy Preview: Refinement and Balance at Bouchard Père & Fils

Christophe Bouchard's 2011 lineup of Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays includes potential classics from Chambertin-Clos de Bèze, Montrachet and more
Photo by: David Yellen

Posted: Feb 13, 2013 10:30am ET

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.

I tasted a fine range of 2011s at Bouchard Père & Fils. The wines here have become more refined since they began fermenting and aging them in the new winery on the outskirts of Beaune with the 2005 vintage.

"The style of wine from 2011 depends on the work you did in the vineyards," said Christophe Bouchard, the firm's managing director. "If you organized the harvest according to maturity, parcel by parcel, you got good phenolic maturity and ripe fruit."

"For us the essential problem was to preserve the fruit in an early year. We began the harvest on Aug. 29," he added.

The malolactic conversions were very long here, with the last one finishing in July. Therefore, some wines were bottled, but others were blended in tank and awaiting bottling. Most of what we tasted comes from Bouchard's own vineyards. I have noted where it is purchased fruit.

The premier cru Savigny-lès-Beaune Les Lavières shows fresh cherry, berry, and spice flavors, starting out elegant, then the structure emerges, but overall it has fine balance and length (86–89).

The Beaune du Château comprises seven different premier cru parcels and generally represents very good value, though I don't have prices for the 2011s yet. Aromas of cherry, strawberry and spice introduce an elegant red, firm, with well-integrated tannins and fine length (87–90). Beaune Teurons is very precise and focused, delivering cherry and strawberry flavors on a firm, linear profile, ending with nice tension and length (88–91).

The Beaune Clos de la Mousse is less forthcoming on the nose, but displays density in an elegant way, with concentrated fruit and a long finish. It's more square and compact than the Teurons (88–91). The Beaune Grèves Vigne de l'Enfant Jésus put it all together with a beautiful nose, rich cherry, currant and mineral notes, an intense yet refined red, harmonious and long (89–92).

The remaining wines were all tank samples.

Bouchard's Volnay Caillerets Ancienne Cuvée Carnot will be bottled later this month. It offers pure floral, cherry and spice flavors, well-constructed, yet with richness and a solid grip on the finish. It's very minerally, almost chalky in its intensity (88–91).

Built for the longer haul, the Pommard Rugiens reveals rich cherry aromas and flavors, matched to a dense and tightly wound frame. Minerally and firm, with muscular tannins but also fine complexity (89–92). There's a little less Le Corton this year because Bouchard pulled up some Pinot vines and planted Chardonnay. It shows smoke, animal, spice, earth and cherry aromas followed by rich, sappy, sweet fruit, all backed by serious tannins. A powerful, persistent example (89–92).

There was nice contrast between the elegance and finesse of the Vosne-Romanée Les Beaux Monts, with its intense, ripe cherry and berry notes (88–91) and the fleshy, dense Vosne-Romanée Les Suchots, full of saturated black currant and black cherry flavors and brooding tannins (88–91).

The Echézeaux comes from the En Orveaux lieu dit. It featurs pretty strawberry, raspberry and cherry fruit on a supple, juicy frame, finishing concentrated and long (90–93). Bouchard sources its Clos Vougeot from two parcels, one high on the slope next to the château and one lower next to Vosne-Romanée. Despite rich, ripe, black cherry fruit, smoke and spice flavors, this maintains freshness on the finish, where dense tannins reign (90–93).

The Bonnes Mares Domaine exhibits an intense nose of black fruit, licorice, spice and mineral. Rich and mouthfilling, yet balanced, it's lively, with great tension and length on the back end (91–94). The Chambertin-Clos de Bèze is from fruit purchased under long-term contract and harvested by Bouchard. More reticent in aroma and flavor, peppery and spicy, with a firm, vibrant structure and very well-integrated (92–95).

Bouchard's whites have all been bottled, most by the end of December.

The lovely Meursault Les Clous is full of white flowers, honey and peach flavors, on a very expressive, rich and mouthcoating profile (87–90). The Beaune du Château reveals a touch of coconut, giving way to pear, spice, pastry and stone fruit flavors, all fresh and long (87–90).

The Meursault Genevrières, very aromatic, shows herbs, apple and flowers in a rich, open yet structured and tense frame, with fine length and lingering chalkiness (88–91). It was more accessible than the austere, stony Meursault Perrières, with its lemon and pastry notes. It was racy, firm and steely, a superb white, focused, intense and long (91–94).

The last white to be bottled, the Corton-Charlemagne is shy in aroma, hinting at citrus, pear and chalk. Slightly more generous than the Perrières, it evokes lemon and mineral flavors backed by ample acidity, finishing very long (91–94).

The Chevalier-Montrachet exudes white pepper, citrus and hints of apricot and other stone fruit aromas. Very rich yet fresh and well-defined, with flavors of peach, pear and mineral followed by a very long aftertaste (92–95). As good as that is, the Chevalier-Montrachet La Cabotte, from a half-acre parcel that is a continuation of Montrachet but is classified as Chevalier, was more exotic, featuring apricot and oyster shell notes, with greater intensity, richness, gras, but also a strong mineral component. It was very expressive and long. (94–97).

That left the Montrachet itself. Less expressive than La Cabotte on the nose, but explosive on the palate, it offers power, concentration and another dimension, expressing peach jam, honey and buttered pastry flavors, with a finish that seems to go on forever (94–97).

"The richness comes from maturity [ripe fruit], not from botrytis," said Bouchard of his 2011 whites.

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