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2011 Bordeaux Barrel Tasting

How is the new vintage shaping up? James Molesworth is tasting in Bordeaux for two weeks to find out. Check out his tasting notes and daily blogs

James Molesworth
Posted: March 26, 2012

Following the classic-quality 2009 vintage and the potentially even more impressive 2010 wines, Bordeaux châteaus have a tough sell ahead as they prepare for their first official unveiling of the 2011 vintage. France’s most famous wine region got thrown a few curveballs during that growing season, leading to uneven quality, and consumers will need to choose wisely to find good deals.

The year was full of ups and downs—an early, hot spring followed by a cool, cloudy summer, with August rains that encouraged the development of rot. Luckily, warm, dry weather arrived in September and lasted through October, giving careful vignerons a chance to make excellent wines, some of which will reward cellaring. (Read more about the 2011 harvest.)

Early impressions of the young wines, which are still aging in barrels in the château cellars, indicate that the 2011 red Bordeaux feature a slightly snappy profile that contrasts with the lush fruit of 2009 or the well-integrated structure of 2010. The dry whites and the sweet wines of Barsac and Sauternes look promising.

Later this spring and summer, the producers will offer their 2011s for sale en primeur, as futures, for delivery in about two years, after the wines are bottled. Buying wine futures ensures you secure the wines you want—often at the best possible price (as long as strong demand causes prices to rise later).

However, in the case of 2011, don't expect much appreciation in value. The 2009 vintage had been the most expensive ever—until 2010 immediately topped it. Since 2011 can’t compete with either of those, prices may come down somewhat. We’ll find out just how much in late April and early May, when châteaus typically begin to formally release their prices to the trade.

How can buyers know which wines are worth acquiring as futures? Many members of the wine trade will visit Bordeaux this spring and taste the young wines for themselves. But most consumers don’t have that option. That is why Wine Spectator is sending our team to the region. We try to be the consumers’ advocate, giving independent evaluations to help you make good decisions.

To do that, senior editor James Molesworth will be visiting top châteaus this coming week, blogging about his visits and sharing notes on the wines. (Any wines tasted non-blind at châteaus will be clearly indicated.)

Over the following week, he will conduct blind tastings of more than 300 additional barrel samples that Wine Spectator requested from the region’s most recognized names and noteworthy, but less familiar, properties. Organized by tasting coordinator Nathan Wesley, the tastings will be held in rented space in a facility capable of storing barrel samples properly to preserve their freshness.

Scores and tasting notes for all the wines tasted will be posted here, with a full report on 2011 Bordeaux slated for the June 30 issue of Wine Spectator magazine. As these are unfinished wines, they are scored in four-point ranges (eg. 89-92 points) to indicate that the ratings are still preliminary. When the wines are released in bottle, they will be reviewed with their peers in blind tastings and given a final score. If you’re not already a member of WineSpectator.com, join now and be among the first to see all of our reviews.

James Molesworth's Bordeaux Blogs

April 10, 2012

Reflecting on 2011 Bordeaux, and Speculating on Prices
James Molesworth says the 2011 vintage is one of freshness and purity, but it's not on par with 2010 or 2009. He says it's the perfect opportunity for the top Bordelais to win back American consumers, by slashing prices in half.

April 5, 2012

Finishing Up on the Right Bank
James Molesworth wraps up his 2011 Bordeaux barrel tasting tour at Château Cheval-Blanc, where he finds a stunning 2011 d'Yquem. He also visits Troplong Mondot, Angélus and Pavie Macquin.

April 4, 2012

The Right Stuff: Crossing the River into Pomerol
Venturing east to Bordeaux's Right Bank, James Molesworth reviews the 2011 barrel samples at Châteaus Pétrus, Le Pin, Vieux Château Certan and Trotanoy. Plus, a preview of Denis Durantou's lineup at L'Église Clinet.

April 3, 2012

Rounding Out the Médoc
James Molesworth reports on some of his last stops on Bordeaux's Left Bank, beginning with a visit to St.-Julien's Branaire-Ducru, then St.-Estèphe's Montrose followed by Cos-d'Estournel, with 2011 barrel scores for Cos.

April 2, 2012

Mouton Worth Its Wait
A delayed harvest paid off for Bordeaux first-growth Mouton-Rothschild, with a potentially classic 2011 Pauillac. James Molesworth also previews the barrel samples from d'Armailhac and Clerc Milon.

March 30, 2012

Getting Dynamic at Château Latour
James Molesworth checks out serious upgrades underway at Pauillac's Château Latour and reviews the 2011 barrel samples from the first-growth and its second wine, Les Forts de Latour.

March 29, 2012

After the Storm, Lafite Has It Easy
The quick 2011 vinification at Bordeaux first-growth Château Lafite Rothschild went off without a hitch, and James Molesworth reports that the Pauillac estate has a potentially classic grand vin to show for it.

March 28, 2012

Down South in Médoc
Bordeaux Châteaus Margaux, Palmer and Cantenac-Brown met success despite a difficult 2011 growing season in the Médoc's southernmost appellation. James Molesworth offers scores and tasting notes for the 2011 barrel samples.

March 27, 2012

First First-Growths First
James Molesworth tastes a range of wines at Bordeaux's oldest first-growth, Haut-Brion, with scores and tasting notes for the 2011 reds and whites from the Pessac château and its second wine, La Mission Haut-Brion. He also visits Château La Garde.

March 26, 2012

A Sweet Arrival in Bordeaux
To kick off a week of château visits and blind tastings, in which he will evaluate hundreds of new wines from barrel, James Molesworth stops by Château Climens to see how the sweet wines fared in 2011.

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