Helen’s blog

Thoughts and tastings from Helen Savage, wine writer.

Bordeaux 2011 – the Crus Bourgeois

The weather during the 2011 growing season was again marked by extremes: an exceptionally mild spring, an early harvest, grapes that were raisined in a June heat-spike, a spell of cool wet weather in July and the threat of rot as harvest approached and some hail damage just before harvest. And yet it seems that many of the wines have come up smiling, but careful selection was essential.

My time during primeurs week this month was limited so I concentrated on one or two tasting where I might get a broad overview of the harvest. In particular, I homed in on the Cru Bourgeois of the Médoc, which cover not only the Médoc and Haut Médoc appellations but also Listrac, Moulis, Margaux, Pauillac and Saint Estèphe. As these are the kind of wines most of are likely to be able to afford to drink it seems sensible to focus on them – there is more than adequate coverage of the big names elsewhere.  I also attempted to focus on the wines often seen on the UK market. I’ve already written a note about Lalande de Pomerol (13 April).  I can’t resist some big names, so I tasted Michel Rolland’s portfolio before finishing with a brief indulgence in the esoteric range of biodynamic wines under the Biodyvin banner. Altogether it was hardly a representative sample, but has the merits of covering a lot of different terroirs and winemaking styles.

At this early stage, the common factor that unites all these wines is an attractive fruitiness, good balance between acidity and ripe tannins, no great concentration, but no lack of depth. It seems likely that they will be ready for drinking quite early in their development, but like other fruity, balanced vintages, they may well show a tenacious capacity for development in the bottle. It is certainly no fault that they display more elegance than raw power, though 2011 hardly seems like a return to claret of old – winemaking has moved on and other growing season was quite like this.

Here are my notes on the Cru Bourgeois (blends were given for most, but not all châteaux):


Château La Branne 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 48% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot

Vivid aroma of ripe cassis and brambles. Forward, juicy fruit, with soft tannins.

Château La Cardonne 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc

Very deep and very perfumed – pure, rich and balanced. Good acid and length and great perfume in the mouth (I was so taken with this, that I came back to it right at the end of my tasting, and confirmed my notes. It was every bit as exciting as the first taste.)

Château David 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, 5% Petit Verdot

Quite deep. Very ripe fruit – perfumed cassis. Chunky and rich with quite firm tannins.

Château Greysac 50% Merlot, 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot,

Not so deep. Deep, fresh cassis aromas. Quite chewy and chunky with market acidity.

Château Grivière 58% Merlot, 33% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Cabernet Franc

Quite deep. Big, fresh, plummy Merlot fruit to fore. Big, grippy tannins, but ripe fruit.

Château Livran 60% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon

Medium deep. Rather closed. Chunky and lean with rather sour acid (as if the malo was not complete).

Château Loudenne 52% Cabernet Sauvignon, 43% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc

Deepish. Creamy, ripe black cherry fruit. Firm and rich – a big mouthful with plenty of power, length and fine, ripe tannins.

Château Les Ormes Sorbet 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 3% Petit Verdot, 2% Cabernet Franc

Hugely deep and dense. Big, riper concentrated, herby fruit, a little leaner in the mouth, cassis-flavoured and fine.

Château Patache d’Aux 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc, 3% Petit Verdot

Deepish. Big, rich, black cherry and cassis fruit. Chunky, chewy texture with ripe tannins, length and a fine finish.

Château Plagnac 66% Cabernet Sauvignon, 43% Merlot

Quite deep. A rich concentration of ripe cassis – Cabernet fruit, matched by a big chunky Cabernet flavour a lot of power, and seemingly alcohol too, but surprisingly soft acidity.

Château La Roque de By 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 50% Merlot

Good depth. Sweet, creamy, concentrated fruit – quite delicious, with liquorice: rich, long and balanced with quite high alcohol?

Château Tour Saint-Bonnet 50% Merlot, 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Petit Verdot

Very deep indeed. Intense, but freshly perfumed. Powerful, with real depth of flavour – lovely crunchy cassis, with juicy acidity and a long liquorice finish.

Haut Médoc

Château d’Agassac 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot

Deep and dense. Herby and fresh, with a slightly green, herbaceous character. A little short.

Château d’Arcins

Deep coloured. Quite a spicy alcoholic aroma, then chunky, rich and spicy, with quite soft acidity.

Château Balac 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc

Deep coloured. Nose a little closed, but shows quite a good concentration of ripe fruit, which is chewy, chunky and balanced by crunchy acidity.

Château  Barreyres

Very deep. A lovely perfume of red and black fruits, then a big savoury palate, a creamy texture, and ripe, but quite marked tannins.

Château Bel Air 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot

Very bright colour. A big, stalky, green pepper-scented nose. Deep and quite chewy, though also a bit green and austere.

Château  Cambon la Pelouse 52% Merlot, 44% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Petit Verdot

Big and bright. A richly ripe aroma of perfumed black fruit. A chewy texture, ripe tannins and quite a savoury finish.

Château Cissac 62% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot

Deep coloured. A big, ripe, creamy, black cherry aroma, but then a little raw on the palate, with chunky tannins, but also good length – it shows the early promise of Cabernet.

Château Duthill 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Merlot

Deep and purply. A lovely, herby perfume of red and black fruits – complex, but fresh. Big, black and chewy in the mouth with no lack of power.

Château Larose Trintaudon 55% Merlot, 45% Cabernet Sauvignon

A little lighter than most, with a light, slightly stalky nose. Fresh in the mouth, but also again, a bit stalky.

Château  Liversan 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, 5% Petit Verdot

Quite deep. A green, herby, stalky nose, then a stalky lean palate with rather hard tannins, but also quite perfumed in the mouth.

Château Puy Castéra 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Franc, 1% Petit Verdot

Fairly deep. Perfumed, lightish red fruits with some herbaceousness. More rounded on the palate. Quite long and fresh and a good balance, but no great depth or complexity.

Château Ramage la Batisse 50.39% Cabernet Sauvignon, 43.37% Merlot, 3.43% Cabernet Franc, 2.81% Petit Verdot

Rather pale rim. .Ripe scented  fruit. Fresh, with quite lifted acidity, but a rather green finish.

Château Sénéjac 48% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Merlot, 11% Cabernet Franc, 4% Petit Verdot

Medium deep. Attractive, rather light, red fruits bouquet. Richer in the mouth with liquorice and quite firm tannins.


Château Fonréaud

Medium deep, scented red fruits, quite elegant and creamy, then juicy and attractive with chunky tannins

Château Lestage

Good colour – bright and deep. A big, bright, elderberry bouquet, then a chunky falvour, with lifted acidity and slightly raw tannins. A bit short.

Château Reverdi

Deeper than many. Ripe, though a bit closed. Chewy, chunky fruit. A bit raw, but with depth and promise.


Château Caroline

Fairly deep and bright. Red fruits nose, though a bit closed. Perfumed in the mouth, with red fruit and plum flavours, juicy acid, rather dry tannins.

Château Duplessis

Fairly deep. Elderberry-like nose – slightly green and stalky, which follows in the mouth. Although the tannins are raw, a perfumed red fruits finish bodes well.

Château Dutruch Grand Pougeaux 54% Merlot, 42% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Petit Verdot

Light colour. A fresh raspberry nose, attractively perfumed, but light and a similarly light, juicy flavour.

Château Gressier Grand Pougeaux 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 50% Merlot

Medium deep. Ripe bramble and cassis aromas then juicy, slightly stalky fruit. By no means a heavy-weight, but quite attractive.

Château Moulin à Vent 65% Merlot, 33% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Cabernet Franc

Deep. A big elderberry nose leading to ripe, chewy, fruit with quite high acidity.


Château d’Arsac 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot

A fine deep colour. Elegance and concentration combine in a finely perfumed aroma. Fleshy ripe fruit with liquorice, quite soft tannins ; good length.

Château Mongravey 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc

Deep and concentrated. Powerful and concentrated though a little closed. Very Cabernet – lots of structure. Ripe but a wee bit short.

Château Paveil de Luze

Fairly deep, perfumed and fresh, brambly fruit. Sweet and rich and quite powerful with soft tannins.

Château La Tour de Bessan

Fairly deep. Again, perfumed black fruit. Quite juicy, but ripe with tannins.

Château La Tour de Mons 55% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Petit Verdot

Impressive colour, then ripe, creamy, bramble-scented fruit with depth and complexity. A very good structure, with ripe, fresh fruit and lingering chunky tannins.


Château Fonbadet 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot

Impressively deep. Concentrated, sweetly ripe blackcurrant fruit. Typically Cabernet – big, weighty, rich and long.

Château Haut Bages-Monpelou

Fairly deep. Fine, perfume of bright fruit. Balanced, but chunky, with a rather dry finish.

Château Plantey 55% Merlot, 45% Cabernet Sauvignon

Deep. Big, ripe, fine cassis and bramble fruit. Juicy acidity – fresh and a little chunky.


Château Beau-Site

Deepish. Big, powerful elderberry nose. Strong, rich and slightly earthy with firm tannins.

Château Le Boscq 60% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Petit Verdot

Deepish. Ripe and rich – very brambly but on the nose in the mouth.

Château Clauzet 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 3% Petit Verdot, 2% Cabernet Franc

Good deep colour. Perfumed cassis, with green hints. Clean, earthy and ripe with chewy tannins.

Château Le Crock 53% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot, 9% Petit Verdot, 5% Cabernet Franc

Deep. Quite a powerful cassis aroma – concetrated and ripe. Ripe and fine, with ripe fruit. Plenty of power, St. Estèphe earthiness  and length.

Château Petit Bocq 50% Merlot, 49% Cabernet Sauvignon, 1% Cabernet Franc

Quite deep and bright. Rich cassis and bramble aromas. Freshg, clean fruit with quite marked acidity, chewy tannins and plenty of fruit.

Château Saint Pierre de Corbian 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 50% Merlot

Very deep. Big, creamy black cherry fruit, with cardamom – a little earthy. Big chunky wine with lots of ripe tannins and underlying richness of fruit.

Château Tour de Pez 60% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot

Big and deep. Very fine nose with real concentration and perfumed black fruit. Good and rich with a long, fine, perfumed aftertaste.


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