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2011 was a difficult roller-coaster ride for Bordeaux winemakers with unpredictable fluctuations between hot and cold temperatures. A cold and dry winter was followed by a hot spring, a cool and cloudy summer, and a dry and hot fall – except for the massive storm that hit mid September. In all – it was a really tough year to make great wine.
Spring was hot and dry. Bud break happened really early (at the end of March). It was one of the hottest April’s on record and May was similarly hot. Flowering occurred very early. There was no rain throughout the spring and conditions were bordering on drought.
Summer started hot and dry. Grapes were hit hard as the hot weather continued into June. Cabernet Sauvignon on dry soils was hit the hardest. Then in July everything changed and it got very, very cold.
Rain arrived in the fall but brought with it concerns about rot. A huge storm hit mid-September forcing some chateau to harvest early which reduced a small crop even more. 2011 was one of the earliest harvests on record with whites harvested starting mid-August and reds harvested starting late August. In order to make good wines – brutal selection was required and the result was that overall yields are very low for 2011.
This was a difficult year – but it was still possible to make good wines provided that the style of wine making matched the natural conditions. Those that try to make deep, extracted, and concentrated wines of structure from a vintage like this are playing with fire. The early harvest could mean green tannins and when those are extracted and concentrated it could spell problems for the wines (both in the short term and the long term). Acidity and freshness should not be a problem for this vintage.
Thanks to all our negoce who provided insights on the vintage.
For the best 2011 vintage report I have come across – visit The Wine Cellar Insider.