2011 Burgundy: A snapshot via the Wines of Bouchard Père and Fils and William Fèvre
On March 12th, Woodman Wine & Spirits hosted their annual Bouchard/Fèvre new Burgundy release tasting at the RCYC clubhouse in Toronto. Considering the wide range of wines offered, from village to grand cru, this always provides a nice snapshot of the vintage. All of my reviews are now posted on WineAlign (see below for links).
Following are some general observations on the vintage as gleaned from the tasting, and from a brief interview with Luc Bouchard, on hand as usual to present the wines.
According to Bouchard, 2011 is a “very approachable vintage, producing wines with nice fruit balance, more open and not as tight as the 2010s at the same stage. But this doesn’t mean that they won’t age”. I believe they will age, but will show best through the mid-term, until the end of the decade for most cuvees.
Budburst was several weeks earlier than the norm, but poor weather during flowering led to uneven crop loads. In some vineyards, leaf plucking was essential to open up canopies to promote ripeness and reduce disease pressure; other sites required green harvests to drop excess fruit, while some parcels had been already naturally reduced. Despite a relatively cool growing season, harvest got underway on the 29th of August, the second earliest start after the notoriously hot vintage of 2003. Bouchard’s aim was to preserve acidity and freshness, a feature that reappeared throughout the tasting.
Côte d’Or White Wines
While the 2010s are considered ‘classic’, very tight and focused, and the 2009s considerably fatter, softer and riper, 2011 falls somewhere in between. Wines displayed more acid than the 2009s, yet are more open and aromatic at this stage than the locked up 2010s. Aromatics are fresh and particularly floral, with great energy and tension, as well as minerality in the top sites. These are good restaurant wines, and for collectors who don’t want to have to wait ten or more years to enjoy.
I found that most from top village level and up are still 1-3 years away from their optimum drinking window, but are not in any case wines for long term cellaring. Bouchard says they remind him of the 1992s, “because of the generosity and transparency”. I found that the top wines showed deceptive power and length – the frame seems light and lean, but flavours have remarkable staying power on the palate.
Top Pick: Domaine Bouchard Pere & Fils 2011 Chevalier-Montrachet Grand Cru ($383)
Smart Buy: Domaine Bouchard Pere & Fils 2011 Puligny-Montrachet Villages ($70)
Côte d’Or Red Wines
In general, reds from the Côte d’Or are light, relatively lean, fine-grained wines with classic structure and elegant styling all around, for mid-term cellaring. They lack the flesh and depth of the really top vintages, but I think these will show considerably better within a couple of years and enjoy thereafter a relatively short window of prime enjoyment before the fruit fades. They have more fruit and richness than the 2007s, and a structure similar to the 2010s, but again, like the whites, are more open-knit and enjoyable even at this early stage.
Reds from the Côte de Beaune, especially Beaune itself and Volnay, appeared to be particularly successful. The traditionally more rustic appellations like Nuits, Corton and Pommard are rather burly and angular, and will take a few more years to settle out, but again will remain on the firmer side, absent cushioning flesh.
Smart Buy: Domaine Bouchard Pere & Fils 2011 Chambolle-Musigny Villages ($67)
2011 is a lean, tight vintage for Chablis, with significant acidity and pronounced mineral character from the top sites. It’s certainly not a full and fleshy year like 2009 or even 2006, but the wines have excellent tension and energy, and like the Côte de Beaune whites, an underlying driving mineral seam that lingers unexpectedly long on the palate. An unusual green/pyrazine character marks a few of the cuvees, but is well managed chez Fèvre.
Village wines are open and more or less ready to enjoy, while 1er crus will benefit from another 1-2 years of integration, and the top kit, 2-4 years. Mid-term cellaring, to the end of the decade is recommended, with only the very best (Les Clos, Preuses) worth keeping beyond that.
Top Pick: Domaine William Fevre 2011 Les Clos Grand Cru ($117)
Smart Buy: Domaine William Fevre 2011 Vaillons 1er Cru ($52)
All Wines Reviewed:
Côte de Beaune red
Côte de Beaune White
All in all, 2011 Burgundy is for fans of ‘classic’ vintages. For more information about the availability of these wines, please contact : Woodman Wine & Spirits
John Szabo, MS