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Bordeaux 2011 In Bottle: Margaux

Written by JW. Posted in Bordeaux

IMG_1830 - CopyAs a commune Margaux 2011 was all-over-the-shop during primeurs week eighteen months ago. Just how are the wines now they are in bottle? Many have settled, some nicely, others not quite so well, and a number are as disappointing as they originally were. Margaux of course is a large and heterogeneous appellation with a wide variety of terroirs and blends but I’m not sure this explains the differences. For me it’s more the jumble of winemaking styles found here than in the other prestige left bank appellations.

The best are elegant and sappy with plenty of vibrant fruit. They have structure and acid to age and the tannins seem just round enough. The worst are sullen, chewy and tannic and I’ll be amazed if they make interesting old bones. The faults relate to over-extraction in a modest vintage and excessive use of oak. 2011 was also tricky in the vineyard with the roller-coaster growing season leading to much variation in fruit ripeness. Subsequently real diligence was required in the vineyard and then at sorting during harvest. Those that had any green fruit, or let’s just say lean at the least, would not have been in a good position to extract heavily. Some clearly have.

Once again Château Brane-Cantenac comes close to the top of my list when tasted against its peers. It’s perfumed and subtle with good length. There is sap here and bite to the tannins but overall it is harmonious. Château Desmirail has produced something typically forward and easy going. Château Angludet, normally a banker, has produced a rather slim, unexciting effort. Still it’s better than the extracted and over-cooked Château Cantenac-Brown. Château Dauzac is similarly overdone and Château Kirwan extremely tannic and puckering. The problems here seem to be heavy-handed techniques in the cellar.

Château Durfort-Vivens is sappy and vigorous, a pretty positive effort overall with spicy blackcurrant tones on the aromatics and palate. Château Ferrière is similar if slightly more bracing and ‘fresh’. Château Giscours is good and not overdone. There’s elegance to the inky fruit but depth too. Château Labégorce is pure and clean and should settle nicely in the bottle. It is elegant and not forced. Château Lascombes puts the cat amongst the pigeons. It’s a fascinating effort and seems to have come from a different vintage entirely. This is a seductive and saturated thing with oodles of Merlot fruit on offer by the looks of it. There’s plenty of extraction going here of course but it’s been gently handled and the grapes were clearly ripe enough and up for it. Despite the chew on the end I reckon this will settle well.

Château Rauzan-Ségla is currently a little po faced and serious. It makes me wonder quite how the wine will work out. There is intensity and structure here but hefty and rather chunky tannin. Château Rauzan-Gassies is a more modest effort but actually works a bit better at present. It’s fairly innocent enough and lacks the ambition of Ségla but there is good purity to the fruit in this uncomplicated effort. Chateau Siran is sappy and angular while Château Marquis des Terme feels very extracted indeed. Château du Tertre will probably be ok but it sang more loudly during primeurs week. The fruit is there but it feels a little austere and was a bit feral to begin with.

Summing up Margaux as a commune is always a bit difficult. If I’m being honest few of these wines provide the promise of unbridled joy down the line. It begs the question, one really hanging in the air on the left bank in 2011, about what’s the future for these wines. Will they eventually resemble 2001 or 2004 or are we looking at something more meagre like 2002 or 2007? It’s always difficult to tell with young Bordeaux. These wines may yet come round. Still there’s not a huge amount of excitement present in the wines now, so without the help of a magician, it’s unlikely to appear later. Nicely balanced and elegant wine is probably the best we can hope for. At the right price there’s nothing wrong with that. You’ll just have to pick carefully.

The two major omissions are Château Palmer and Château Margaux, two key wines. Château Palmer was particularly impressive during primeurs week – one of the wines of the vintage from yields lower than the legendary 1961. Neither are members of the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux [UGCB]. The following notes are taken from tastings put on by the UGCB last month in Covent Garden.

Château Angludet

Mid depth; spicy note, some blackcurrant tones; elegant palate; reasonably round and balanced; some grip and acid. Much more enthralling bottles of Angludet can be found in 2010 and 2009. Drink 2016-2021. 86

Château Brane-Cantenac

Mid depth; saturated at centre; violet perfume – yippee! Spicy blackcurrant tones alongside some coffee bean and mocha notes; complex with some undergrowth notes; blackcurrants, with spice and coffee tones; tannins have some bite but palate not too sappy and acid. Very nice length. Impressive for the vintage and the commune. Drink 2016-2026. 90+

Château Cantenac Brown

Mid depth; little dumb and closed; some leaf and spice; warmth on the palate with chewy fruit; bit short on the finish. Tannic at the very end and a bit dry. Closed and rather sullen at present. Drink 2016-2026. 86?

Château Dauzac

Deep looking; deep and inky aromatics; thick and extracted on the palate which leaves the impression of a rather chewy and tannic wine. Not much fun. Drink 2015-2025. 84

Château Desmirail

Mid depth, clearer at centre; spicy, tobacco nose quite full and forward; full and easy palate; nicely done given the vintage. Quick maturing. Now-2021. 86 

Château Durfort-Vivens

Mid depth; fresh and spicy Cabernet tones; quite lifted; spicy blackcurrant notes on the palate; fresh acid. Vibrant and elegant if high toned. Drink 2016-2026 87+

Château Ferrière

Mid depth; stalky notes; apples; blackcurrants on the palate; pretty ‘fresh’ in the sense of bracing acid and sap. Elegant and sappy. Drink 2016-2026. 86+

Château Giscours

Deepish colour; slightly nutty note initially’ certainly intense and inky; again inky palate with depth and chew. Vibrant and harmonious. Not over extracted. Fresh. Drink 2016-2026 88

Château Kirwan

Mid depth; spicy dusty nose, little dumb; angular stalky Cabernet on the palate; lots of acid here and tannin. Very puckering finish. Chewy at best. Disappointing effort to be honest. Drink 2016-2026. 84?

Château Labégorce

Mid depth; some depth; nicely clean and fruit driven on the nose; no tinkering, even some violet perfume along with blackcurrant fruit; clean entry to the palate; ‘fresh’ again – structure here and pretty boney and dry on the finish. Still achieves some harmony compared to much grander estates in the Margaux appellation. Drink 2016-2023. 86

Château Lascombes

Pretty dense and saturated lookinh; attractive nose, spices, ripe Merlot tones [55% Merlot, 40% Cab Sauv and 5% Petit Verdot]. Plump, ripe and almost fat [by comparison]. Fascinating effort. Lots of matter and extract. Chewy finish. Good fruit here though and should settle nicely. Drink 2016-2026. 89+ 

Château Marquis de Terme

Mid depth; jammy and lifted – even for an ’11; some earth; chewy and faintly exhausted on the palate; thick and overdone for me – for Margaux and for the vintage. Drink 2015-2022. 84

Château Monbrison

Mid depth; some violet lift with resin and ink; nice clean palate; fresh style; not that lean and boney. Elegant and not extracted. Drink 2014-2021. 87

Château Prieuré-Lichine

Mid depth; quite dark; some ripe qualities; wet rock and chocolate; leafy Cabernet Sauvignon on the palate; bit angular on the finish and chewy tannin. Drink 2015-2025. 86+

Château Rauzan-Gassies

Mid depth; some leafy blackcurrant tones; stalky fruit on the palate – uncomplicated but not forced or pushed out of shape; clean and clear fruit here. Some chew on the end but not a bad effort here. Are things finally on the up here? Drink 2015-2026. 86

Château Rauzan-Ségla

Deepish – saturated at edge; intense, inky aromas with some oak resin and chocolate; intense clearly but also pretty chewy and tannic on the end. Puckering at present and feels very extracted. Was one of the few promising Margaux’s during primeurs. Hopefully should come good but clearly needs time to settle and sort itself out. Drink 2018-2025 88?

Château Siran

Mid depth; stalky nose with some dusty notes; dusty tannic Cabernet on the palate; some spice but very grippy and angular on the palate. Needs time but pretty joyless again for me. Drink 2016-2023. 85?

Château du Tertre

Mid depth; earthy, slightly feral note; blackcurrants on the palate, some plushness and succulence; gutsy finish with a bite of acid. Lively and vigorous. Aromatics and palate disjointed currently. Little disappointing. Greater purity evident during primeurs. Drink 2016-2023. 86?

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