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2011 BURGUNDY – THE SURPRISE VINTAGE

 

Accompanied by Underground contributing editors and good friends, John Brincko and Geoffrey Troy, I have just returned from Burgundy where we visited many of our long time favorite Burgundy producers and a few new ones. This continued the 31 year trend of visiting and tasting Burgundies from barrel which began in 1981.

The weather conditions in 2011 were erratic and difficult. There were a lot of things that had to be done in the vineyards during the spring and summer to assure the best grapes at harvest. Generally, the weather conditions in 2011 were like 2007. And for the red wines, like 2007, there is likely to be greater variability from grower to grower than usual. But the wines of 2007 and 2011 are very different. The 2007 Red Burgundies were variable and the wines generally lack the intensity and balance to be great. And, although a few great wines were made in 2007, the vintage really does not compare with the vintages that followed – 2008, 2009, and 2010. Therefore, after the 2011 harvest last year, the opinions from producers were guarded and just a few were cautiously optimistic. Now after one year in barrel, the first impression of the 2011s is a big surprise.

The best wines of the 2011 vintage are succulent, lush, and intensely fruity and are unlike any of the most recent vintages (to read the article on the 2010s click here  [1] and to read the article on the 2009s click here [2]).  The 2011s are characterized by lower acidity than the 2010s and an enticing roundness that gives them undeniable charm. And, while they may be overlooked by some after the great 2009 and 2010 vintages, this is a mistake. The wines are uniquely delicious and beautifully balanced. One wine maker speaking of the 2011s (his 26th vintage) when asked to what vintage he would compare the 2011s, simply replied “2011 is like 2011”. Fair enough. It is unique to me as well.

But, I would say that for me and several other producers, there is some correlation with 2000 which I have long believed to be underrated. The 2000 Red Burgundies have great elegance and have been delicious to drink from the very beginning. And, while it is true that they do not have the depth or intensity of many succeeding vintages, the 2000 Red Burgundies are lovely and continue to be delicious to drink today. The 2011s have the same characteristics, but with more fruit, depth, and richness. Making early assessments of Burgundy tasted from barrel is tricky to be sure (to read how Burgundies are tasted from barrel click here [3]). But, my guess is that 2011 Red Burgundies will be delicious to drink right after release and will evolve for another 20 or more years. In that sense they may be like the 1985s where the wines were soft and lush from the very beginning and have never gone through a down period in their 25 or so years of evolution. In many vintages, Red Burgundies can close up a few years after bottling and go through a long period of evolution before becoming fully mature. During this period, some begin to question if they will ever come around (think 1996 and 1988). This was not the case with the 1985s and I do not think it will be the case with the 2011s. This will make the vintage very appealing to all Burgundy lovers. And, it should be especially true for novice drinkers who may not appreciate the vintages that close down and require years of aging before reaching their optimum period for drinking (to read my article “A Simple Explanation of Burgundy” click here [4]).

The wines from 2011 are being bottled now and this will continue into 2013. Given the nature of the vintage, many are being bottled earlier than usual to preserve the fruit. The 2011s will begin to appear on the market over the course of the next few months and new releases will continue throughout next year and into 2014. A full report on my visit and notes on the 2011 Burgundies tasted will follow soon. You will not want to miss it. There are many stunning 2011s to put on your shopping list to watch for as they are released.

 

In Vino Veritas,Sig

John Tilson