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Critic Robert Parker has awarded only one potential 100 pointer in his provisional scores for the 2011 vintage.
Ausone was awarded 96-100 points, while Lafite was awarded only 90-93 in the estate’s worst performance since its 88 points in 1993.
The scores were described on Twitter as “incredible” and “making a lot of sense”.
Lafite’s poor scores echo Liv-ex’s merchant round-up which pointed to the estate as the“disappointment of the vintage”.
Parker described the vintage as “much better than I first thought and could turn out to be close in overall quality to 2001 and 2008”.
However, having been criticised for scoring 2008 higher than it might have deserved, Parker has clearly been careful to be stricter with his scoring this year.
On the Left Bank, Margaux led the way with a score of 94-96, followed by Mouton-Rothschild on 93-96.
Other good performers included Latour, Pontet Canet, Ducru-Beaucaillou, Léoville Las Cases and La Mission Haut-Brion all on 93-95 (+).
Haut-Brion scored 92-95 and the majority of the super seconds, flying thirds and Lafite, fell into line by scoring solid but hardly spectacular ratings between 90 and 94 points.
The Right Bank did not do much better. Ausone has possibly triumphed this year as its score almost matches its 98-100 points for 2010 and its release price and reaction to it will be worth seeing.
Meanwhile, Cheval Blanc, Le Pin and Vieux Château Certan scored 94-96 each, l’Eglise-Clinet and Angélus scored 92-95 and Pétrus fared as badly as Lafite with its 90-93 score.
Some of the best scores, arguably, went to Sauternes where Yquem led the field with 96-98, followed by Climens and Doisy-Daëne with 95-97, Coutet with 94-96, Suduiraut on 93-95 and Rieussec on 91-93.
These scores are in quite clear contrast to 2010 where, although high scoring was hardly profligate, four of the first growths (not Margaux), Pontet Canet, La Mission Haut Brion, Ausone, Pétrus and Beauséjour Duffau-Lagarrosse all gained a potential 100 points and scoring was much higher all round.
This week is likely to be busy for releases and it will be interesting to see if the scores will prompt the Bordelais to lower their prices further than has been the case so far.
Parker’s scores clearly show the difference between the two vintages in quality and hopefully will show the Bordelais that to price 2011 as if it were 2010 or even 2009 is utter folly.
Parker even said in his report, “if prices don’t drop, I don’t think there’s a market in the civilised world that will buy these wines”.
As if to prove his point, Cos d’Estournel released high and failed spectacularly to take off and its chances are unlikely to be much improved with a score of 90-92 (its 2008 has a 92+ score), meanwhile Cantemerle which released at its 2010 price and has received an 88-90 score (its 2008 is cheaper and has a score of 88) is probably sailing quite close to the wind as well.
Ausone owes its unique quality and longevity to a magic marriage of situation and soil. The steep slopes of the vineyard are arranged like an amphitheatre, facing southeast, which gives perfect exposure and maximum protection, and the soil is a mixture of clay and sand on limestone. When old vines and the ability to pick the entire vineyard quickly, due to the small size, are added to the recipe the result is something special. Ausone grows in bottle in a highly individual way, expanding and becoming more ample, although always retaining its scent and finesse.
Ausone has only 7.3 hectares of vines and its vineyards (Merlot 50%, Cabernet Franc 50%) flourish on a steep, south-east facing slope, protecting them from cold north winds and westerly rain. Those vines at the top of the slope thrive on limestone (the `St.Emilion plateau') whilst those further down benefit from a clay/loam topsoil (the 'Côtes').
Ausone struggled during the 1950s and 1960s, but with the hiring of new régisseur Pascal Delbeck in 1976, the estate returned to producing wines worthy of its outstanding historic reputation. Recently Ausone has been at the very peak of its form and with the ubiquitous Michel Rolland now acting as consultant, it is now producing ultra-rich, lush, exotically fruity wines that require a minimum 10 years of bottle ageing.
History Château Ausone is a very old property with medieval historical significance. In it's more recent history, the wines from the château suffered from lower quality and a lessened reputation in the middle of the 20th century. Ausone began to return to it's historical positon of greatness with the hiring of Pascal Delbeck in the 1970's. Delbeck was in charge of Ausone beginning with the 1976 vintage. As of 1995, he no longer played a role in the winemaking but remained in charge of the vineyards. The property had been owned for generations by a partnership of the Dubois-Challon family and the Vauthier family. In the mid 1990's, the Vauthier family gained sole ownership of Château Ausone. Alain Vauthier controls all aspects of the winemaking. He began using Michel Rolland as the consulting wine-maker beginning with the 1995 vintage
Château Ausone is a Bordeaux wine from Saint-Émilion appellation, one of only two wines, along with Château Cheval Blanc, to be ranked Premier Grand Cru Classé A.
Ausone takes its name from Decimus Magnus Ausonius (310-395 CE), a statesman and poet from Bordeaux who owned about 100 acres of vineyard, and it is believed by some that Château Ausone stands upon the foundations of his villa.
Placed on the western edge of 11th century village Saint-Émilion, with elevated vineyards facing south on steep terraces in ideal situation, Ausone was one of a few wineries who escaped the terrible frost of 1956, unlike neighbours like Cheval Blanc who lost several years' vintages and in some cases suffered destruction of vines.
Château Ausone is a very old property with medieval historical significance. In it's more recent history, the wines from the château suffered from lower quality and a lessened reputation in the middle of the 20th century. Ausone began to return to it's historical positon of greatness with the hiring of Pascal Delbeck in the 1970's. Delbeck was in charge of Ausone beginning with the 1976 vintage. As of 1995, he no longer played a role in the winemaking but remained in charge of the vineyards.
The property had been owned for generations by a partnership of the Dubois-Challon family and the Vauthier family. In the mid 1990's, the Vauthier family gained sole ownership of Château Ausone. Alain Vauthier controls all aspects of the winemaking. He began using Michel Rolland as the consulting wine-maker beginning with the 1995 vintage.
Vineyard soil: limestone
Production area: 7,3 ha
Grape varieties: 45% Merlot and 55% Cabernet Franc
Average age of vines: 50 years
Harvest method: hand picked
Winemaking: The fermentation takes from 21 to 35 days
Ageing: in 100% new oak barrels for at least 18 months, sometimes for nearly 2 years depending on the vintage
The 2011 vintage is not easy to handle.
Smith Haut Lafitte not only makes great white and red wine from Bordeaux in Pessac Léognan, they are also at the cutting edge of technology. They were one of the first Bordeaux wine producers to begin using optical sorting, which came in handy with the difficult 2011 Bordeaux harvest. Fabien Teitgen, long-time general manager, joined us for a long detailed conversation about what happened at Smith Haut Lafitte for the 2011 Bordeaux vintage.
“In my opinion, 2011 is balanced with a low pH and a medium alcohol level. So for those who picked at the right time, their wines will be balanced, with good concentration and good freshness. This vintage is not so easy to handle. »
Château Cos d’Estournel, Saint-Estèphe, began its 2011 Bordeaux harvest on Monday, September 5.
Jean Guillaume Prats told us that 2011 set a modern record for an early start to their harvest at Château Cos d’Estournel. He added: “It was the second earliest harvest on record. To find an earlier date, we had to go back to 1893! » Although the precise date to begin picking was not set in stone, the original plan was not to begin their Bordeaux harvest on September 5. But due to a ferocious storm that swept through the region, the massive 2011 Bordeaux storm hit the northern Médoc, any hope of waiting has gone out the window. “We had initially planned to start around September 9, with the young vines. After the storm, we gave ourselves time over the weekend to assess the situation and make the appropriate decision: wait and see how it will evolve in the coming days depending on the weather. We are “lucky” that this vintage is extremely early. The damage in terms of phenolic maturity of the grapes should be very minor. If it was a later year, like 2008, 2009 or 2010, the effects would be much worse.
" said Prats
The day starts before sunrise
Château Haut Brion and Château La Mission Haut Brion began harvesting their young Merlot vines on August 29. It’s early for the First Growth domain. To give you an idea of when Haut Brion started picking its young Merlot vines in 2010, September 8. In this vintage, the harvest continued until October 9.
Between the two properties of Pessac Léognan, with red and white grapes to pick, they have a busy schedule. Harvesters begin their day working on the grapes for their Bordeaux white wine, often starting their day before sunrise.
Jean-Philippe Delmas explains why they harvest early in the morning: “The goal of picking white grapes early in the morning is to ensure that the fruit stays fresh. This helps the berries retain their unique, fresh flavors. This year, we picked our white grapes between 7 a.m. and noon. The reason is that at this time of the day, the skin is dry. There is nothing left of the dew of the night. »
Château Lafite Rothschild began harvesting Cabernet Sauvignon from their northernmost plots, located not far from Château Cos d’Estournel, on Friday September 2. 2011. This is one of the first harvests recorded for the property. You will read quotes from many Bordeaux wine producers that 2011 Bordeaux, for many châteaux, will be their earliest harvest on record since 1893! However, producers located in certain districts of Bordeaux have brought forward their harvest calendars even earlier than expected.
Due to the enormous deluge and rain in the northern Médoc, centered near the border of Pauillac, Saint-Estèphe, to avoid possible rot problems, many châteaux in this vicinity decided to start picking sooner than they had originally planned. The most notable property is the famous Premier Cru, Château Lafite Rothschild. It is possible that the storm, which dropped half an inch of massive rain in a twenty-minute period, caused flooding in Lafite Rothschild's cellars.
“With our 2011 harvest, we harvested earlier because the cultivation of the vines was earlier than usual, due to the very hot spring. But the ripening weather conditions in summer were cool and cool, so the wine is of a cooler style than a late vintage. The pleasant weather conditions at the end of August and September were very good for phenolic maturity.” Fabien Teitgen from Château Smith Haut Lafitte.
Bordeaux 2011 /The earliest harvest recorded since 1893