Even though 2010 will be remembered as a reference for its steady and relatively moderate drought all along the vegetative cycle, 2011 did begin under similar auspices, with an extremely dry winter and spring, and elevated temperatures for March and April (3°C above average), and May (1,5–2°C above average).
As a result, bud-break came early and the vines grew rapidly.
Bloom also came early, and took advantage of the excellent weather conditions. Mid-bloom was noted around the middle of May, some three weeks in advance, making us think the harvest would begin around September 5th. As there was nearly no lag between the different varietals, the harvest was expected to run nonstop. There was, however, concern as to the possibility of the high temperatures which could occur during such an early harvest period.
June was rather cool. It brought some storms, with hail on the 16th, some very hot days (38–40°C) on the 26th and 36–37°C on the 27th, causing sunburnt grapes, as well as other plants (notably, our camellias). The drought attained an until then unknown intensity, and only the best soils could keep their vines from water-stress damage thanks to the deep root systems they allow. In fact, the intense drought and vacillating temperatures had already weakened the vines, making this period of time determinant for many Bordeaux vineyards.
The first grapes to change color (véraison) were seen on young vines near the end of June.
Beautiful weather arrived at the beginning of July, limiting the growth of the young berries, which is a favorable factor, before wet and cool weather descended for the second fortnight. This unusual summer weather lingered through the beginning of August, changing our expectations for the harvest. But beginning August 9th, after three gloomy weeks, came ideal weather, dry with cool nights.
Mid-véraison of the Merlot occurred on July 22nd indicating the harvest would start around September 12th. The 3-week advance the vegetative cycle had gained in early spring was thus reduced during summer.
The beginning of September saw some rain, which completed the ripening process, but by the end of the month a normal amount of sunshine had been recorded.
In the end, picking was early, beginning on September 13th. The fine weather remained with us, allowing us to leave the Cabernets on the vine to continue ripening under good conditions before picking them at their peak ripeness. The last Cabernets were brought into the cellar on October 3rd.
In sum, 2011 is an atypical vintage, with a very special climatical pattern, virtually the opposite of a normal one, with intense sun and drought at the beginning of the cycle, June and July rather cool, then a wet and cool ripening period. Nature teaches us once again its complexity, and demands our humility when confronting our perception of its phenomenons.
Fermentation progressed quickly, and our aim, as it always is, was to extract the very best from the grapes, avoiding any coarse or grassy characteristics.
When the Merlots were put into barrels, they were very supple, soft, straightforward and fresh; the Cabernets were very fruity, supple, complex and long with very elegant and lingering aromas.
The wines are reasonably dark, very purple. They show a dense deep nose of ripe black fruit, enhanced with spices. On the palate, they are silky at the beginning, with astonishing volume, finesse, softness, great freshness and very elegant, before a slightly closed finish.