Bordeaux 2011: The Games People Play

Bordeaux 2011 En Primeur

Some people play politics, some play football. Then there are people who visit a windowless concrete cellar and taste hundreds of wines in what looks like a nuclear bunker. They play the game of Bordeaux En Primeur.

This is how we spent yesterday.

Unlike the day before, where we visited superstar Chateaux complete with moats to cross, today was a practical assessment of the vintage in more clinical conditions. If yesterday, was part luxury PR campaign and part analytical tasting, today was all about the liquid.

After tasting over a hundred wines we began to form a few questions:

1. Is Bordeaux 2011 a wine for the long term?

There is simply no hard and fast rules about Bordeaux 2011, other than there are some good wines and not so good wines.

The key to tasting en primeur in years that are spared the “Vintage of the Century” hype is to think about the fundamentals in each glass – the definition and depth of the fruit, the tannins and the structure – and judge each wine on its merits.

The best are very good indeed, though perhaps wines that will peak in 10 rather than 20+ years.

2. How high will Robert Parker score the wines?

A lot of these wines don’t show the intense fruit that typically characterises a 100 pointer. There are fewer glossy show ponies than in previous en primeur campaigns. The alcohol levels are lower, the tannins more prominent and the fruit a little less obvious than in recent years.

If Parker drives a Bordeaux market that is increasingly focused on the investment end of the market, then perhaps 2011 will be a vintage for drinkers?

3. How much will they cost?

Everyone knows prices need to fall and the general consensus amongst the Bordelais is the prices will come down. Although one chateau owner said the prices will be, “between 2008 and 2009” – which is a bit like saying choose a number between 0 and 100!

If they are priced as highly as 2009 and 2010 then it will be a real shame – there are some very good drinking wines and they deserve to be drunk, not to be locked away in a Swiss bank vault.

Last night, we had dinner at the very fun Brasserie Bordelaise in downtown Bordeaux. Sitting with us was a wine buyer friend from the United States who challenged us with a game: if you could only have one case per year from one commune for the next ten years, what would it be (not including first growths and if money no object)?

It’s the game you have to play when buying Bordeaux. Think long term, be honest to your instincts about what you love and, invest wisely in your future drinking.

Juel Mahoney
4th April 2012

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