At this early stage of vintage 2011, some Bordeaux vintners are expressing relief that they haven't produced another great harvest this year.
It is not a universal opinion – Paul Pontallier at Chateau Margaux said the grapes he has brought in so far are ‘excellent’ – but some insiders are happy to report a good but less-than-stellar vintage.
‘After 2009 and 2010, 2011 brings us back to reality,’ David Pernet of consultants Sovivins said. ‘The gap between first and second wines is likely to be significant, but the best wines this year will be somewhere between 1996 and 2006 [in quality].’
One proprietor of a renowned left bank chateau told Decanter.com, ‘We need an ordinary vintage this year. The market would not stand another great vintage.’
He added that it was highly likely that the top properties would reduce their prices – ‘by 20% or more’.
Pernet, who works with estates all over Bordeaux, including Chateau Seguin and Pape Clement in Pessac Leognan and Clos l’Eglise in Pomerol, said in a Sovivins report that with such variable weather ‘there will be a range of wine styles across the region. Certain sectors have been affected by hail, others by the springtime drought, or the heatwave at the end of June.’
More recently, humidity in September has increased the risk of grey rot. ‘But despite this, other factors indicate a quality vintage: even flowering, prolonged and above-average water stress, and good weather conditions announced for the second half of the harvest.
This quality will be augmented by rigorous sorting both in the vineyard and chai. Many chateaux will ‘run off excess juice in the cellars to increase concentration’, Pernet said.
Consultant Eric Boissenot told Decanter.com: ‘This has been a labour-intensive year, and the best wines will have undergone vigorous sorting in the vineyard.’
Yields are going to be lower than 2010: Pontallier expects ‘around 10% lower than last year because of hail in the first weekend of June, and excessively high temperatures at the end of June.’
But, he added, ‘what we are bringing in is of excellent quality.’
Written by Jane Anson in Bordeaux, and Adam Lechmere