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Burgundy 2011: Decanter’s verdict

Burgundy 2011 is seductive, the best whites ‘pure and willowy’, the reds lively and charming, Jeannie Cho Lee MW says in her summing up of the vintage for Decanter.

Domaine de la Romanée-Conti

While Cho Lee’s conclusions are positive she does not dole out unstinting praise: she makes clear the vintage is ‘yin and yang’ – both reds and whites are not homogenous.

‘Lack of consistency is one of this vintage’s weaknesses,’ she writes in the March issue of Decanter, on sale on Wednesday 6th February.

Most producers, she says, ‘crafted light-bodied [red] wines that were charming and easy to taste from barrel’, but ‘2011 tested grower’s skills and experience and the wines range from sublime to thin and unremarkable.’

The whites were ‘a joy to taste’, with charm and balance ‘despite the challenging summer weather’.

The red 2011s are characterised by ‘lightness in body, shape and mouthfeel and the focus on purity’. Some communes did better than others. Beaune, for example, is ‘a mixed bag’ with some wines that are light-bodied and pure while others are ‘thin’, Nuits-St-Georges is similarly mixed, but Vosne-Romanée showed great consistency, producing wines with supple tannins and flavours that are ‘accessible even at a young age’.

The vintage report on the whites, published in the February issue of Decanter, and will be live on Decanter.com on Monday 4th February, states they’re capable of equal excellence – but they can also be ‘dilute and short’.

The Chardonnay crop was bigger than the very low Pinot Noir yield, and while Cho Lee tasted few whites that were dilute, there were some that were ‘thin and lacking in flavour’.

Philippe Prost of Bouchard encapsulated the balancing act such a light vintage demands of vintners: ‘In 2011 one needs to take care. Purity can be neutral, like crystal water.’

‘Taking care’ meant a good deal of work both in vineyard and winery. Harvest date was crucial, and almost everyone chaptalised to reach even 12% or 12.5% alcohol.

In Chablis, the cool summer meant vignerons had to work hard to achieve ripeness but the best wines have ‘clarity and minerality’. Village Meursault is ‘round and approachable… perhaps a bit easy’, but the best producers (Cho Lee namechecks Arnaud Ente and Guy Roulot) produced wines with elegance and precision. Puligny Montrachet was the most consistent, with ‘delicate, layered and aromatic’ wines: good value at every price.

Overall, across red and white wines, Decanter’s conclusion is that Burgundy 2011 is an early-drinking vintage with elegance and charm, the whites with great aromatic appeal and expressiveness, the reds with ‘a brightness to the fruit that recalls 2010 encased in a lighter body’.

Above all the wines are approachable. ‘Overall, the [red] vintage produced wines with lively aromatics, vigorous red berry fruit, clarity of site expression offering early-term drinking pleasure,’ Cho Lee says.

And one Chablis producer told Decanter.com at the London tastings in January, ‘this is a vintage that will please many palates. With its definition and fruit purity, even newcomers to Chablis will be seduced.’

Jeannie Cho Lee’s article on red Burgundy 2011 can be found in the March issue of Decanter, on sale on Wednesday 6th February.

Read Jeannie Cho Lee’s personal overview of the 2011 Burgundy vintage, exclusive to Decanter.com, here.

Stay tuned on Decanter.com for Jeannie Cho Lee’s 2011 White Burgundy vintage report on Monday 4th February as well as Jeannie’s top 25 Burgundy 2011 recommendations plus exclusive video interviews with some of Burgundy’s top producers.

Written by Adam Lechmere

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