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The wine-growing village of Flagey-Échezeaux lies in the " Plain ", so-called, between Vougeot and Vosne-Romanée in the Côte de Nuits. Facing east, the Grands-Échezeaux vines are a prolongation of Musigny following the North-South axis of the Côte, but more regular and less broken in their layout. At the bottom end, the " Climat " known as La Combe d'Orveau separates them from Musigny. The Échezeaux vineyards, for their part, divide the Clos de Vougeot from the Premier Cru vines of Vosne-Romanée.
Grands-Échezeaux and Échezeaux both date their Grands Crus AOCs from July 31, 1937. Like the Clos de Vougeot (from which they are separated only by a wall), they were founded by the monks of the abbey of Cîteaux and date from the 12th and 13th centuries. Their name derives from chesaux, a word of Gallo-Roman origin meaning a group of dwellings, presumably referring to an ancient hamlet.
Belonging geologically to the Jurassic (175 million years BC), the GrandsÉchezeaux vineyards are fairly homogeneous and lie close to the upper part of the Clos de Vougeot. Gradient: 3-4%. Soil: clay-limestone overlying Bajocien limestone. Altitudes: 250 metres. The Échezeaux Climats have more diverse soils (largely bajocien marls with pebbly overlay). Altitudes vary from 230 to a little over 300 metres (13% gradient at mid-slope). Up-slope, the soil is deep (70-80 cm). Gravels, red alluvium, yellowish marl, etc., make up quite a complex mosaic.
Red: its colour is ruby, shading towards the darker tones of magenta and purple. Its bouquet is redolent of animal, spice notes, underbrush, and prune, evolving with age towards musk, leather, fur and mushroom. When young, its aromas suggest rose, violet and fresh cherry. On the palate, there is a heightened attack and an agreeable balance between supple tannins and fully-rounded flavour. The dense texture and tight grain of these wines fully open after 4-5 years in the cellar.
Wines so powerful and full demand to be matched with dishes of the same calibre. Virile, four-sided tannins cry out for roast lamb, rib steak, or joints of game. Autumn and winter dishes in the right setting match the profound and meaty personality of these great wines : braised beef or pork, for example, or any other good red meat. Fine, whole-milk, soft-centred cheeses will also do them proud.
Serving temperature : 15 to 16 °C.
'We are beginning to get spoilt with all these fine vintages', said Lalou Bize in October 2011. 'We are very happy with our 2011s.' 'Much better than we had expected,' said Denis Bachelet. 'Lots of colour and fruit, together with good acidity and souplesse.'
Yes. It would appear that Burgundy has done it again. And if views are not quite as enthusiastic in Chablis and in the Côte Chalonnaise, at least in the Côte d'Or (and particularly in the Côte de Nuits) we have another big one to follow 2008, 2009, and 2010. Nature is smiling on the Burgundy lover.
Burgundy suffered the worst of its winter as early as the end of November/beginning of December. It was cold and grey, and there was quite a bit of snow. It continued cold but drier in January, but a little warmer in February and March, and then in April, just as in 2007, summer arrived with a bang. In temperatures which climbed into the low 30°s bud break started early and the devemopement of the shoots was rapid. One thing was already clear: barring catastrophe the harvest would be early. This fine weather continued into May.
June was pleasant enough, without being really warm, and July cool and wet. Even August, except for the occasional pair of days, lacked heat until the middle of the month. This came just when it was required, and while there were three days of wet weather just as the harvest was due to start in the Côte d'Or (August 24-26) these were the only periods of anxiety to worry the growers. September continued dry and warm, enabling the Hautes Côtes and other late pickers to finish their collection at their ease.
Of course rarely does a summer season go by without some hail damage somewhere in Burgundy. Rully has received the worst of it this year, being blitzed on the 8th of June, and then, and more seriously, on July 12th. Decimated is frequently an over-exaggerated term, but that is certainly what parts of the vignoble looked like. There were several frost attacks in Chablis in the spring, plus hail damage there too on 29th June, which has affected the size of the harvest in Fourchaume and neighbouring grands crus. Overall, it was wetter in Chablis that in the Côte d'Or – and it seems also to have been drier in the Côte de Nuits than the Côte de Beaune. Both these factors underlie the relative success of these three areas.
The white wine crop looks to be healthily-sized; if anything a little more plentiful than the average, growers talking about having produced 45 to 52 hectolitres per hectare in the Côte de Beaune. The fruit was healthy, pHs were around 3.10 - 3.15, and fermentations have been quite rapid. Some suggest slightly lower levels of alcohol than 2009 or 2010. Where red wines of equal reputation are made in the same cellar it seems that there is more satisfaction with the red wine results than with the white.
The red wines are even better in the Côte de Nuits. The crop is not large, there being less juice in the grapes than they promised, but this has led to added concentration. Alcohol levels are at a natural 11.5° - 12.5°, so the wines will not be too heavy. The colours are encouraging and there is plenty of fruit.
We need now (I wrote in November 2011) to wait patiently until the wines are tastable. Someone said to me long ago that you need to hold back and give the wines six weeks after the malos were complete before you can attack them with confidence. Only then, when the CO2 content has sunk to half, can you properly experience the mouth feel, the physical aspect of the wine.
One thing, though, is already clear. Two thousand and eleven Burgundy is a success.
Twelve months on, with the wines now well post malo and ready for tasting, what do we make of the 2011s? The whites are following a pattern which seems to have arisen in previous years: very pleasant, reasonably fresh, obligingly fruity, but without real backbone, depth and staying power. Drink them soon. Don't, I suggest, be prepared to spend the high prices today asked for premier cru Puligny unless you have tasted them first and are convinced they will be better in 2020 than 2015. Go for Rully instead.
The reds, lighter than the 2010s and less exotically rich than the 2009s, are delicious. They may not have enormous backbone, but there are many which have a delightful purity of Pinot fruit – and pure Pinot is one of the world's most seductive vinous aromas. They should not take too long to come round. But while delicious then, I do believe they will last, at least in the medium to long term. Yes, at least in red, 2011 is a success.
Prices are beginning to be released as I write. The high prices for the 2012s seen at the Hospices auction are bound to have its effect. But this seems to more evident among the already pricey, more fashionable wines and domaines. The polarization between simple (perhaps better rephrased as unpretentions) Côte de Beaune and Côte de Nuits grand and top premier cru is continuing. Many, particularly the white wine growers, have kept to their 2010 prices. More have raised their demands by five to eight percent, which means that British wine merchants can hold to last years prices, as the rate of exchange has improved. A few are increasing by 15 or even 20 percent as growers view the tiny amounts of 2012 in their cellars.
by Clive Coates MW: