In the 2011 vintage, both ends of the Rhône Valley saw success despite a less-than-perfect growing season. The wines arrive quietly—without the power and bombast of the richly ripe 2009s or the density and structure of the 2010s. Instead, the vintage delivers fresh, racy fruit flavors and textures, with the balance from lively acidity rather than forceful tannins. The best wines will age well, while many others will provide delicious mid-term drinking as you wait for the '09s and '10s to fully mature. Despite its lower profile, this is a vintage worth exploring. Wine Spectator's James Molsworth explains.