Tasting the Burgundy Vintage 2011

Why it's the 'surprise vintage' of Burgundy
Staff Writer

Photo Sasabune Omakase Modified: Flickr/erin/CC 4.0

I previously published a brief note on the 2011 Burgundy vintage where I called it "The Surprise Vintage." The weather conditions in 2011 were very unique even for Burgundy. Consider this quote from Aubert de Villaine, co-director of Domaine de la Romanée Conti, which was highlighted at the beginning of the Domaine De La Romanée 2011 harvest report dated Sept. 30, 2011:

2011: "Never more than this year  in spite of the some forty-six harvests I have experienced since my beginnings as a winegrower in Burgundy  have I felt and understood the importance of luck and gamble in the success or the failure in the face of a vintage."

The report went on to conclude: "Devattings have just finished. The wines are full of 'fruit.' They already show some seduction and deepness, but also a lot of finesse. 2011 should be more in terms of elegance and purity rather than of power, even though it is too early to give a definitive opinion."

By the time of our visit, we really did not know exactly what to expect in terms of the quality and balance of the wines. The 2011 red wines had been mostly compared a year earlier to the 2007s and the 2007s were variable. However, after tasting the 2011s, what we found were wines that were generally beautifully balanced and full of fruit. I think the best of the 2011 red Burgundies will prove to be better than the 2007s and many will compare favorably with wines from the past two vintages. They certainly do not seem to be as variable as the 2007s. Most of the 2011 ted Burgundies will have an early appeal and some people will say that they are wines to be consumed early. That maybe true. But, I would say that, while the 2011s certainly will be very enjoyable young, the wines will keep better than many would suspect. For the whites, it is less certain. There are some that compare favorably with the 2010s. But, I suspect most will be wines to drink relatively soon.

This report will concentrate on 2011 ted Burgundies tasted from barrel with a few notes on 2011 white Burgundies also tasted from barrel. The number of visits in this report is less than in prior years due to the difficulty in scheduling. We missed some of our favorites that we have historically visited and, hopefully, we will catch up with them this year. These include Domaine Liger-Belair, Domaine Ponsot, and Domaine Méo-Camuzet.  In recent years, Burgundy has gotten to be a very busy place with people from nearly every part of the world visiting. This year seemed particularly busy and it felt a bit like being at the United Nations!

Once again, the visits were mostly with the producers that we believe are making some of the best wines in Burgundy. As usual, we made a few changes. We added two visits (one with a producer that we visited many years ago and one that is new to us) and we did not re-visit one new domaine that we visited last year. We also tasted at a new negociant that we have visited the past two years, but found the 2011 wines not good and those wines are not reviewed here. Most of the producers we visited are ones with which we have a history of visiting and tasting from barrel for some 30 years.

Click here to find a refresher on what Burgundy is, and tasting notes from 30 producers.

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