Pauillac looks reasonably homogeneous at the cru classé level in 2011. There’s not the power and depth of fruit here as in 2010 nor the exciting ripeness of 2009. Middle-weight wines in the main, these feel a little compact, though the fruit seems to be there in most cases and there is plenty of chew to the tannins. Most need time in bottle to evolve. All the properties could have benefitted from extra ripeness but that’s largely the vintage speaking. That said Château Pichon-Lalande and Château Batailley stood out particularly for their harmony and finesse.
Château Grand-Puy Ducasse is a solid effort. It needs a few years to come together but all the elements are there. Xavier Borie’s Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste has purity and elegance but also needs time – five years minimum I’d say. Château Lynch-Bages and Château Pichon Longueville are both a little dumb at present. Longueville is currently the more closed of the two. They appear to have good levels of extract and fruit for the vintage but neither are exactly joyful at present. A decade in the cellar should sort them out though I expect the tannins will always have a bit of chew to them. I’ve been unduly curmudgeonly with their scores.
Château Haut-Bages-Libéral is a typically sappy effort. It has freshness and tension but there is no disguising that it is a bit on the lean side, though it will fill out to an extent in bottle. Château Lynch-Moussas is a forward, leafy number, for comparatively early drinking and Château Croizet-Bages finishes rather dry and is pretty modest.
Château Clerc Milon and Château d’Armailhac were missing from the line up this year and I didn’t have the benefit of tasting Château Pontet-Canet – a tremendous effort when tasted during primeurs – but it is no longer a member of the UGCB. Nor have I yet had the Pauillac first growths. Still my overall feeling, as elsewhere in 2011, is that this is only a vintage to buy if you spot a bargain. All the wines could do with some time to tame the tannin and soften [not itself a surprise given the high percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon in the blends and the qualities of the vintage]. Given that it’s difficult to see any immediate upward pressure on Bordeaux wine prices, especially with 2012 and 2013 in the pipeline, I’d say wait until later. Still a cursory look at prices reveals a few bargains. Château Batailley can be had for around £250 a case and Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste for as little as £300. These both look reasonable buys indeed all things considered, GPL especially.
In the long run whether this vintage ultimately turns out to be as good as 2001, the vintage to which it was being compared to by many proprietors during primeurs week eighteen months ago, remains to be seen. I didn’t have the opportunity to taste that vintage at the same stage. Still it would seem to me that the vintage here in Pauillac, as it stands now, lacks joy and excitement.
The following nine wines were tasted at the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux event in Covent Garden last month.
Mid depth; attractive fruit on the nose – blackcurrants, undergrowth; clean blackcurrant fruit on the palate; cassis tones; fruit evidently gently handled, tannins ripe but wine not extracted; medium bodied and harmonious. Good effort. Drink 2016- 2028. 89+
Mid depth; light blackcurrant tones with a little leaf; sturdy, spicy blackcurrant fruit tones but rather dry palate; unexciting and modest. Drink 2016-2021 85
Château Grand-Puy Ducasse
Mid depth; little dumb initially; sturdy, wet rocks; core of chunky blackcurrant fruit on the palate; good effort if less flattering and complete [at this stage] than Batailley. Firm-ish finish. Needs a bit of time to come together. Drink 2018-2028. 88+
Mid depth; wet rocks, stalky blackcurrants; some cassis; elegant on the palate with some intensity; there is tannin and grip to resolve – needs four or five years to settle but has the required purity. Drink 2018-2030. 90+
Mid depth; light spicy blackcurrant tones; more stalky blackcurrant fruit on the palate; quite tight and grippy at the end. Will settle but a lean style. Drink 2016-2026 86+
Deep looking; healthy gloss in the glass; resin, ink and blackcurrant; feels deep though is a little dumb aromatically; pretty dense palate – sturdy – with blackcurrant tones; chewy finish and overall backward and a little joyless for what is usually a fairly exuberant Pauillac. Needs time to knit. Drink 2018-2030. 89+
Mid depth; leafy blackcurrants – forward and attractive; easy palate with blackcurrants flavours and leafy tones; grip on the finish. OK. Drink 2016-2023. 86
Mid depth; pure blackcurrants; cream and resin; chewy blackcurrant fruit on the palate; little pinched at the end [probably just closed?] with tannin to resolve. Needs time. Drink 2018-2028. 89+
Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande
Deep looking; blackcurrant, undergrowth and pencil tones on the nose; good palate – blackcurrants, some stalky notes; elegance here with smooth tannins although there is some grip from the acid. Overall feels complete and elegant with more harmony than arch rivals Pichon-Longueville and Lynch-Bages. Drink 2016-2028. 90
Tags: 2011, Bordeaux, Chateau Batailley, Chateau Croizet-Bages, Chateau Grand-Puy Ducasse, Chateau Grand-Puy-Lacoste, Chateau Haut-Bages Liberal, Chateau Lynch Bages, Chateau Lynch-Moussas, Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, Chateau Pichon-Longueville, cru classe, Pauillac