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Bordeaux 2011 In Bottle: St Julien

Written by JW. Posted in Bordeaux

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There’s lots of freshness, structure and grippy fruit evident in the wines of St Julien now they are in bottle. 2011 doesn’t have the excitement of the two glorious vintages that preceded it. In fact it’s a bit of a freezing cold shower by comparison. What we seem to have are elegant, tightly structured reds that should work out OK in the mid-term but there is certainly a lot of grip and acid present in most of the wines just now. Perhaps more than any other appellation, save for Pauillac, [notes up next], these wines demand time in the cellar [though not too much time mind]. In five to eight years they should make reasonable medium weight wines though many will still be introspective and lean.

Of the ten wines shown by the UGCB last month, Château Léoville-Poyferré was head and shoulders the best of the bunch. It has put on richness and weight since its primeur days and there is plenty of depth and fruit on offer here. It is excellent in the vintage context. It is followed by very good efforts from Château St Pierre and Château Gruaud-Larose. St Pierre always shows great purity and this 2011 delivers it well. It should be good in five years or so. Château Grauad-Larose was also better than its peers. The impressive mid-palate richness on offer is a characteristic lacking in many other wines here in this vintage.

The Barton’s, Langoa especially, are extremely austere and need time to show their best, though they will always be lean I reckon. Château Gloria looks a vibrant, sappy effort – not even the 2011 vintage can quite suppress this estate’s cheerful demeanor. Château Talbot is reasonably good.

Château Beychevelle has jammy red fruit tones on the nose but the palate is hard with high acidity. It feels pretty angular. Château Branaire-Ducru is another property that felt austere and very backward at present. Château Lagrange also is tight and compact. Not a whole lot of joy here then.

Overall the question remains how much age these wines will take. Certainly they need time in bottle to soften and evolve, yet the fact that many are feeling a bit pinched and lacking in fruit doesn’t point to a great long-term evolution. Time will tell obviously but top wines apart, I don’t see any real reason to rush out to buy the rest. Let’s just wait and see….

The following notes were taken at the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux [UGCB] tasting last month in London. The major omissions are Château Ducru-Beaucaillou and Château Léoville-Las-Cases which aren’t members of the UGCB. As ever the notes are more important than the numbers.

Château Beychevelle

Mid depth; elegant blackcurrant cassis tones; some red fruits and jam; quite angular palate and high acidity which gives it a very grippy feel. Needs a few years but will probably always be angular and boney. Drink 2016-2026. 86

Château Branaire-Ducru

Mid red; wet rock, stoney notes; not wildly aromatic; blackcurrant tones on the palate but another austere effort with a dry finish. Not floating my boat. Drink 2016-2026. 86

Château Gloria

Nice depth of colour; some leafy Cabernet tones; pure and attractive palate; chewy but good blackcurrant fruit; grippy finish and chew to the tannins. Good effort though. Drink 2016-2026. 88

Château Gruaud Larose

Mid depth; lifted blackcurrants with some leaf, earthy tones and spices; even a little tobacco – attractive; palate good with blackcurrant notes again and nicely handled tannin. This is a good effort. One of the best so far from the commune. Drink 2015-2025. 90+

Château Lagrange

Mid depth; wet rocks; some blackcurrants; chewy palate with lots of extract and tannin. Very tight presently. Closed and compact. Needs time. Drink 2018-2028 86+

Château Langoa Barton

Mid depth – light at core; fresh blackcurrants; little fruit compote; clean blackcurrant flavours but distinctly fresh acid which gives the impression of austerity. Chewy finish and, I’m sorry to say, feels old fashioned. May come good but will always be austere. Lacks excitement and joy. Drink 2018-2026. 86

Château Léoville Barton

Deeper hue than Langoa with more depth; stalky blackcurrants with some wine gums; fresh and slightly compact palate; fruit currently subdued and backward – feels very tight and taut at present [acid]. Needs time. Drink 2020-2030. 87+

Château Léoville Poyferré

Deep and saturated look; lots of fruit and density on the nose as well as resin and ink; lots of fruit evident on the palate – bags of ripe blackcurrant fruit which is oak influenced but much more impressive richness here than in Leoville Barton. Tannins rounder and overall harmonious wine. Chewy tannins but lots of fruit here and good length. Heads and shoulders the best wine of St Julien on the day. Drink 2018-2030 92+

Château St Pierre

Mid depth; attractive blackcurrant fruit; some pencil and really rather full [one of the best St Juliens on the day]; clean blackcurrant fruit on the palate; very clean and pure. Complete. Good length. Drink 2018-2028. 90+

Château Talbot

Mid depth; some spice, little ink and resin; blackcurrants and some cream; chewy palate; little compact in the middle but reasonable length. Drink 2017-2026. 87

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