Bordeaux En Primeur 2011: Sauternes & Barsac Overview & Top Picks

18 April 2012
Author: Jeannie Cho Lee

After tasting over 40 sweet wines from this vintage, it is clear in my mind that the sweet wines were the most successful wines of 2011. Consistency is very high across all the sweet wines regardless of classification and the level of concentration thanks to pervasive botrytis, was also very high. It was not an easy vintage however and before botrytis spread rapidly in the vineyards in early September, many top chateaux made their first pass in August to remove grapes that were not healthy. Some vineyards had sour rot and this entailed dropping grapes that were affected.


Botrytis spread very rapidly in early September following showers and morning mists during the first ten days of the month. Most sweet wine producers had much fewer passes to make in the vineyard since botrytis was prevalent making the harvest period shorter than normal. Berenice Lurton of Chateau Climens who made sensational wine this year said 2011 was a vintage with “chaotic episodes.” These sweet wines possess freshness from the cool summer, concentration from botrytis and amazing finesse.
Below are my top 35 picks of wines from Sauternes and Barsac listed in the order of highest to lowest ratings.
1) 2011 Château d’Yquem, Sauternes, Bordeaux, France
Layered, voluptuous wine with great precision and very long finish. Same sugar levels as 2010 and in similar style with lifted acidity. Classic, majestic Yquem crafted to age for decades.(95-96)


2) 2011 Château Climens, Barsac, Bordeaux, France
Tasted 8 different barrel samples harvested between 8-28 September. Fine, complex, elegant. Final blend under the deft guidance of Berenice Lurton will no doubt create another great vintage for Climens.(94-96)


3) 2011 Château Doisy-Daëne, Barsac, Bordeaux, France
True to house style, there is lifted flavours of intense marmalade and dried mango with refreshing acidity. Fantastic concentration, finely textured sweetness and excellent length.(95-95)


4) 2011 Château de Fargues, Sauternes, Bordeaux, France
Great density and unctuous texture that is classic Fargues. Generous, full-bodied, with layers of flavours ranging from dried apricots to sweet honeysuckle and marmalade. Very long, layered and beautifully made.(93-95)


5) 2011 Château Raymond-Lafon, Sauternes, Bordeaux, France
Delicacy and detail here displaying the dedication and talent of the Meslier family. Flavours are refined, pure and complex; wine possesses both finesse and charm. Very successful year for this under-valued chateau.(93-95)


6) 2011 Château Rieussec, Sauternes, Bordeaux, France
Departing from its usual unctuous style, this vintage displays great purity and lifted, elegant flavours. Great concentration of flavours and amazing complexity. Exotic fruits and floral notes are typical of Rieussec. A precise, detailed wine with a long finish.(93-95)


7) 2011 Château Suduiraut, Sauternes, Bordeaux, France
Opulence meets fresh acidity. Unctuous on the palate and heavier than its classic style with 150gm per litre of residual sugar, but the firm acidity balances the sweetness well. A powerful wine that will age for decades.(93-95)


8) 2011 Château Caillou, Barsac, Bordeaux, France
Generous, rich, concentrated palate with sweet marmalade and crème caramel flavours. Sweet but not cloying. Fairly long with wonderful acidity. A great value Sauternes.(93-94)


9) 2011 Château Coutet, Barsac, Bordeaux, France
Great density and concentration with subdued acidity this year which is unusual for Coutet where one expects raciness. Rich, honeyed and unctuous. Fat and chunky right now but the depth and finish shows promise.(92-94)


10) 2011 Château Doisy-Vedrines, Barsac, Bordeaux, France
Perfect combination of generous flavours, lifted aromatics and freshness. Despite its power, the palate feels fresh and lively, ready for another sip. 150gm per litre residual sugar with nearly 14% alcohol! Very successful vintage that is denser and sweeter than the 2009.(92-94)


11) 2011 Château Clos Haut-Peyraguey, Sauternes, Bordeaux, France
Fleshy and dense, this is a concentrated style with notes of sweet pineapple and dried mangos. Its density is well balanced by acidity and the finish is very long. A lot of promise in this wine when it loses its baby fat.(92-93)


12) 2011 Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey, Sauternes, Bordeaux, France
Polished, intense with lifted flavours of marmalade and honeysuckle. Very focused, pure and elegant with enticing aromatics. Love the refreshing acidity and finesse in this wine.(92-93)


13) 2011 Château de Malle, Sauternes, Bordeaux, France
Gorgeous aromatics and lifted flavours of honey, caramalised orange peel and Thai jasmine. A balanced, refined Sauternes with refreshing acidity. Very successful de Malle.(92-93)


14) 2011 Château Broustet, Barsac, Bordeaux, France
Lovely floral aromatics with delicate, focused flavours. Combines both elegance and concentration with silky sweetness. New owners are really lifting this wine to new heights.(92-93)


15) 2011 Château Filhot, Sauternes, Bordeaux, France
A denser, richer Filhot this year filled with wonderful concentration. Crème caramel and dried apricot. Sufficient acidity to carry the richness and very long finish. A great value Sauternes making tremendous improvement of late.(92-93)


16) 2011 Château Rayne-Vigneau, Sauternes, Bordeaux, France
Lovely aromatics with floral notes, ginger and marmalade. Layered flavours with wonderful freshness in the background. Balanced, focused, well crafted Sauternes.(92-93)


17) 2011 Château Guiraud, Sauternes, Bordeaux, France
Elegant, refined style, typical of Guiraud. Silky sweetness with finely woven flavours and long finish. Combines finesse with depth. Delicate yet intense, the wine possesses breeding and immense drinkability.(91-93)


18) 2011 Château La Tour-Blance, Sauternes, Bordeaux, France
There is freshness as well as depth here with long finish. Focused, linear and refreshing, in keeping with its style. More purity and less creamier in texture versus the 2009.(91-93)


19) 2011 Château Myrat, Barsac, Bordeaux, France
Generous flavours with racy acid backbone. Good concentration with purity of expression and nice clarity of detail. Concentrated without heaviness and fairly long finish. Rich, intense but well defined flavours.  Great improvements in this property over the past decade.(92-92)


20) 2011 Château Nairac, Barsac, Bordeaux, France
Generous floral and herbal flavours bring an extra dimension to its profile. Refreshing palate with wonderful clarity, typical of Nairac with the Sauvignon Blanc component expressing itself this year. Good concentration and fairly long.(92-92)


21) 2011 Château Romer, Sauternes, Bordeaux, France
Wonderful richness and roundness in the mid palate. Not unctuous but with good intensity, liveliness and delicacy. Wine with much finesse that is sadly often over-looked.(91-92)


22) 2011 Château Sigalas-Rabaud, Sauternes, Bordeaux, France
Great poise and balance. In keeping with its recent style, the flavours are complex, delicately layered, backed by crisp acidity. For a gentle wine the finish is very long.(91-92)


23) 2011 Château Lamothe, Sauternes, Bordeaux, France
Pure, focused, vibrant flavours. Wonderful layers from dried chrysanthemums to pineapple and sweetened ginger.  Silky texture. Fairly long length.(90-92)


24) 2011 Château d’Arche, Sauternes, Bordeaux, France
Good concentration, sweet generous style. Ripe tropical fruits and dried orange peel notes. Balanced, generous with good length.(91-91)


25) 2011 Château Lamothe-Guignard, Sauternes, Bordeaux, France
Great improvements made by the Guignard brothers. There is good concentration and sweetness supported by firm acidity. Balanced, poised with fairly long length. Another under-rated Sauternes offering great value.(90-91)


26) 2011 Château Haut-Bergeron, Sauternes, Bordeaux, France
Wonderful depth and length in this wine with an unctuous, rounded mouthfeel. Balanced wine with dried apricots and sweet, tropical fruits supported by firm acidity.(90-91)


27) 2011 Château Rabaud-Promis, Sauternes, Bordeaux, France
Less successful than in the past two vintages. Intense pineapple and marmalade notes with fresh acidity. Focused, balanced and well-made with good length.(90-91)


28) 2011 Château Bastor-Lamontagne, Sauternes, Bordeaux, France
Fresh lively style typical of this property. Tasted twice, one bottle showed very well while another was dumb. This year there is more richness in the mid palate than usual. Elegant and focused.(89-90)


29) 2011 Château Cantegril, Sauternes, Bordeaux, France
Made by Denis Dubordieu and true to form, it is very floral with lively aromatics of honeysuckle and ripe apricots. Lifted flavours from firm acidity. Good length, balance and freshness.(88-90)


30) 2011 Château Liol, Sauternes, Bordeaux, France
Elegant style with concentrated botrytis notes. Layers of attractive flavours including honeysuckle, sweet caramelized ginger and orange rinds. Good purity of fruit with nice length and depth.(87-89)


31) 2011 Domaine de l’Alliance, Sauternes, Bordeaux, France
Wonderful concentration with ripe pineapple, dried apricots and marmalade. Good depth and length with nice clarity of expression. Poised and confident wine.(87-89)


32) 2011 Château La Clotte-Cazlis, Sauternes, Bordeaux, France
Good concentration for an unclassified Sauternes with firm acidity. Pineapple and tropical fruit flavours. Focused, moderate depth and moderate finish.(86-88)


33) 2011 Château Suau, Barsac, Bordeaux, France
Balanced, well made with refreshing acidity. Flavours are focused but lacks concentration. Elegant style with moderate length.(86-88)


34) 2011 Château Latrezotte, Sauternes, Bordeaux, France
Good richness in the mid palate with fairly simple tropical fruit flavours. Well made but lacking in depth and length.(85-86)
35) 2011 Château de Veyres, Sauternes, Bordeaux, France

Intense ripeness with good acidity but lacking in depth. Overt, fairly simple flavours. Early drinking style.(85-86)