Bordeaux En Primeur 2011: Pauillac Overview & Top Picks

11 April 2012
Author: Jeannie Cho Lee

Compared with the other appellations on the left bank, Pauillac was among the most consistent in 2011. The top wines are, not surprisingly, the classified growths from great terroirs. The style of this vintage in Pauillac is lean, focused and dense. There is none of the flesh of the 2009 and the weight of the 2010. Even when the flavours and tannins taste ripe, there is a leanness to the wines, partly from the fact that most properties had about one degree less alcohol in the wines.


For most properties, it was the Cabernet Sauvignons, Cabernet Francs and the Petit Verdots that shone this year and for the grand vin, the percentage of Merlot found this year is lower than average. This is not a friendly vintage since the tannins are dense and quite aggressive in many wines, but the best wines have sufficient depth to suggest it will open up and reveal its array of flavours with time. More than one vigneron compared it with the 1986 which took time to come around but is drinking beautifully now.


Below are my top twelve picks of wines from Pauillac listed in the order of highest to lowest ratings.


1) 2011 Château Lafite-Rothschild, Pauillac, Bordeaux, France
This is a classic, fairly restrained Lafite with delicate layers of flavours. The wine is reserved at first sip, but it does open up in the glass (after about 10 minutes) to reveal blackberries, violets and spices. This year, there are more savoury, earthy characters that may be reminiscent of 1986 in its youth. The unique characters of top properties revealed itself this year and in typical Lafite style, this wine is incredibly refined, classy, reserved and subtle.(93-95)


2) 2011 Château Mouton-Rothschild, Pauillac, Bordeaux, France
In this vintage, Mouton is more restrained with greater delicacy, which is very much appreciated. Flavours range from ripe plums, cedar and sweet spices. Tannins are generous but well managed with a sweet, rounded and long finish. Mouton has managed to make a balanced wine with ripeness and no over-extraction. There is 1% less alcohol in this vintage than over the past several years with a very high proportion of 90% Cabernet Sauvignon (the second highest in past 50 years); there is 7% Merlot and 3% Cabernet Franc.(93-94)


3) 2011 Château Pichon-Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, Pauillac, Bordeaux, France
This is an elegant, classic Pichon Lalande with finesse and well handled ripe tannins despite its density this year. The palate is light though substantial with an attractive array of flavours — cedar box, fresh Chinese red dates and hint of violets. A classic, well balanced Pichon Lalande that will age well.(92-93)


4) 2011 Château Pontet-Canet, Pauillac, Bordeaux, France
2011 Pontet Canet much less dense than previous vintages with subtle layers of flavours and gentle, delicate expression of fruit. Already approachable, very soft and supple on the palate. The beauty of this vintage for Pontet Canet is the velvety, refined texture of its tannins; very well handled in this challenging vintage. Gorgeous perfume with a welcomed delicacy in this wine. This is an earlier drinking vintage compared to 2009 and 2010 but no less pleasurable.(92-93)


5) 2011 Château Clerc Milon, Pauillac, Bordeaux, France
There are spicy notes in this wine which has some 50-year old Carmenere in the blend this year (1%) since it was ripe enough to include it. Clerc Milon has just over 5 hectares total. Spicy aromatic notes with great lift and wonderful concentration in mid palate and finish. It is a powerful Pauillac with 40% of Merlot on clay and limestone along with gravel. Clerc Milon has 40 ha planted on 247 plots!(92-93)


6) 2011 Château Lafite-Rothschild- Carruades de Lafite, Pauillac, Bordeaux, France
This is a delightful Carruades that is more open and exuberant than the grand vin. According to Charles Chevalier, the Estate Manager, there was too much rain in August and unwanted botrytis so selection was key to their success. Since Lafite doesn’t have a dedicated parcel in the vineyard for the Carruades when the grapes are picked, it is not certain which wines will go into the grand vin or 2nd wine. The tannins on this wine are velvety and generous supporting a flavour profile that ranges from fresh Chinese red dates to cedar and cassis. A well crafted, balanced wine that will age well.(91-93)


7) 2011 Château Latour- Les Forts de Latour, Pauillac, Bordeaux, France
The nose on the Les Forts is closed but the palate makes up for any restraint on the aroma. The tannin texture is refined and supple with plush blackberry, cedar flavours. The wine shows poise and balance. According to Frédéric Engerer, the wine has been evolving and was more expressive in February 2012 (a few months this tasting). The Les Forts is 61% Cabernet Sauvignon and 35% Merlot.(91-93)


8) 2011 Château Pichon Longueville Baron, Pauillac, Bordeaux, France
Full, opulent and generous wine made from the older vines of Cabernet and yields of only 30hl/ha. Plush and very seductive with bright cherry and cassis fruit with a hint of cedar. Tannin levels were astonishingly high and Pichon Baron managed it well with less extractive techniques. This vintage is not as concentrated as the previous two but it is well made and balanced with potential for long-term ageing.(91-93)


9) 2011 Château d’Armailhac, Pauillac, Bordeaux, France
This full bodied and generous d’Armailhac is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon 57%, Merlot 28%, Cabernet Franc 13% and 2% Petit Verdot. The tannins while being plentiful and firm are velvety and plush in texture. The palate shows off an array of savoury flavours and blackberry fruits that are layered and fairly long. A balanced wine with complex flavours and minerality.(91-92)


10) 2011 Château Batailley, Pauillac, Bordeaux, France
This is wine displays the gentle handling of many producers who were successful in this vintage. The style is medium bodied with vibrant flavours including plum and violet notes. The tannins are very well handled for this vintage and the flavours are quite long.(90-91)


11) 2011 Château Duhart-Milon, Pauillac, Bordeaux, France
This is a svelte Duhart-Milon, quite different in size and dimension compared to the previous years. The aromas are attractive with spicy and floral notes as well as fresh black berries. Duhaurt Milon in this vintage displays great linearity with lovely aromatics. The tannins are well handled and the length is fairly long.(90-91)


12) 2011 Château Lynch-Bages, Pauillac, Bordeaux, France

This is a very dense Lynch Bages with firm, generous tannins which have been very well handled. Flavours are polished and layered with a fairly long finish. Flavours of blackberries, plums and fresh Chinese red dates mingle here. This wine will require several years for the tannins to soften but it shows good ageing potential.(90-91)