2011 red Burgundy
As so often in recent years, 2011 proved to be a tricky and challenging vintage for growers, yet the wines mostly turned out well. The reds are aromatic and fresh, with considerable purity of fruit. What they lack is some depth, weight, and complexity. The best wines have balance rather than power, and should be enjoyed in the medium term. Some Village wines are already approachable.
Spring was warm, and flowering was early, at the end of May, promising an early harvest. Then the climate started playing its usual tricks. The early summer was cool, but then in late June temperatures soared, and the heat spike caused sunburn on exposed bunches. July was cool, actually cooler than April, and hail on July 12 smashed into the southern Côte de Beaune and the Côte Chalonnaise. In late July the weather improved and it stayed warm into August, but storms and more very hot weather later in the month both slowed the maturation and caused some dilution within the grapes. Mildew followed. Growers wrestled with the crucial decision on when to harvest. On the Côte de Beaune some were picking in late August, and in the Côte de Nuits the harvest was under way in early September. Much depended on the health of the grapes and on the strength of the skins and thus their resistance to disease. This could vary from site to site, domaine to domaine. Sorting was essential.
It became clear that the grapes were indeed ripe, but at relatively low sugar levels after the uneven summer. Many domaines chaptalised lightly. Yields were down by 20 to 30 percent, which aided ripening, but not as low as in 2010. It was already clear that the red wines would be light on tannin, and that extraction during vinification needed to be careful. There was a tendency to retain more stems so as to give the wines more structure and grip. When the fermentations were completed and producers assessed the results, they were often led to compare the wines to the 2007s, but the consensus was that they were a bit bigger and richer than 2007. Acidity levels were average.
At the top level there are some exceptional wines with ample structure and persistence, and the remainder of the wines from top terroirs have charm and finesse, alongside moderate weight of fruit. Very good wines were made in both Côtes , but the Côte de Nuits has the edge, as the wines generally have more fullness and depth. Hail in the Côte Chalonnaise led to many disappointing and unripe wines from that zone. Some critics were tempted to overrate the vintage, however, declaring it to be superior to 2009, but it’s doubtful that many would still hold that view. The wines are enjoyable and accessible, reflecting their terroirs well and also expressing the house style of the various domaines and negociants.