Four properties hardly constitutes a thorough investigation of St Estèphe in 2011 but given the vagaries of the weather, especially the disasterous hail storm on the eve of harvest, these properties at least appear to have wrestled a victory of sorts from the teeth of defeat. I was particularly impressed with the elegance achieved at Château Lafon-Rochet and Château Phélan Ségur. Chateau Ormes de Pez has turned in a typically sturdy effort. Chateau de Pez is a little angular at present but it’s not forced or over-extracted.
As 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.
You can’t turn to 2011 Haut-Médoc with the confidence that you can in say 2010, 2009 or 2005. Then pretty much all the prominent properties in this appellation, and more besides, really succeeded in these vintages. They remain very good buys, something underscored at this week’s Masters of Wine Institute tasting of the 2009s [more on which soon] and 2010 tastings this summer at Vinexpo. This can’t really be said for 2011. Compact on the whole, some are chunky and punchy, and while they have vigour these wines generally lack charm and aren’t available at a substantial enough discount to make them an appealing purchase. They may come round in the long run. If they do, great. Go and buy them then. And if they do I’d be amazed if they rise much in price in the meantime given the string of mediocre vintages currently in the Bordeaux pipeline.
Moulis and Listrac have produced a bracing set of wines in 2011. There isn’t the joy and flesh found here in 2009 nor the density of 2010. Still if you like your wines with chew and sap then these have something to offer. They could do with a little time to settle further, perhaps the wines of Moulis more than Listrac. There is elegance and harmony amongst the best if not a huge buzz of excitement.