By Juel Mahoney
“We three kings of Pomerol are…” Ben Collins sang as he walked between the vines from La Conseillante to Vieux Chateau Certan (VCC) from L’Eglise Clinet. Next stop, Le Pin.
What a difference a day makes. Today we are singing. Crossing the river from Bordeaux to Pomerol, we found a different story than that on the Left Bank.
The Right Bank has a clay soil which protects the vines during drought by trapping the water around the roots (the limestone of Pauillac had the same effect). When we asked about the adverse weather conditions of last summer, we were met with blank looks by some in Pomerol. For many on the Right Bank, 2011 is a normal vintage and business as usual.
Of course it is difficult to assess a vintage solely on how the superstar wines taste – but we certainly had fun trying.
“Of course it has a long finish, it’s the poshest wine in the world. What do you think the finish is going to be like?” Ben Collins snapped at Cheval Blanc, as we reached for the apocryphal stopwatch.
Cheval Blanc is a wine Ben takes personally: it is not only his favourite wine but counts many vintages among his closest friends. The standards (and the expectations) are high – and for this vintage, were met. There is a new tasting room (or chai) as big as Terminal 5 where even the vats look as desirable as handbags.
We sat on the roof in the sunshine and did not want to leave… especially after a glass of the excellent 2011 d’Yquem, which was too good to spit out. The dew on the vines sparkled in the spring sunshine around us.
Unfortunately we had to return to earth and get back to work. On to the larger tastings representing the communes of the Right Bank where it is easier to see a general pattern of the vintage.
Generalisations are always dangerous in Bordeaux, but increasingly we are seeing this as a Right Bank vintage. Where the Left Bank is more classic and restrained in style , the fruit on the Right Bank is richer and ripe. The good news is, if you enjoy wine with lower alcohol, you will prefer many of the wines from this vintage to the 14-15% beasts of, say, 2009.
To finish, a quick word about pricing. Everyone says they are coming down, the only question is by how much. The UK trade must be sounding like a stuck record to the Bordelais as we constantly make the argument of putting the drinking consumer first with significant reductions on the prices of 2009 and 2010. There are lots of nods and smiles, but the proof of the pudding will be in the eating.
Top 5 Right Bank (in no particular order):
1. L’Eglise Clinet
2. La Conseillante
3. Le Pin
5. Vieux Chateau Certan
Honourable mentions: Figeac, Canon La Gaffeliere, La Pointe, Feytit Clinet, Rouget, Fonbel, Simard, La Chenade and Les Cruzelles.
2011 is a vintage serious buyers really must taste for themselves.
Tickets are available (but selling like fast) to Bibendum’s Annual Bordeaux Tasting. 100+ Chateaux. Lots of 2011. Lots of older wines. Lots of winemakers. Wednesday, 9th May at Lord’s Cricket Ground, London. Don’t miss it.