In 2011 the summer came in spring and the autumn in summer. Harvesting began early at the end of August. The season produced lighter reds. Pure fruit, lively energy and light, finely-grained light tannins with a fresh lift to the end of the palate. A very approachable and charming style. A very Burgundian vintage. Much more typical than the great, but rich 2009.
In common with the 2011 whites, the natural balance is one of medium alcohol, sweet fruit and moderate, but fresh tasting acidity. In these lighter wines there was nothing to mask the terroir when I tasted the vintage out of barrel in the summer of 2012. So five years on (spring 2017) how are they faring?
Domaine Taupenot Merme in Morey-Saint Denis and Domaine Montille in Volnay brought some of their 2011 wines to London for a tasting entitled ‘Burgundy Rocks,’ hosted by Stannary Wines. The idea, I assume, was that the terroir should be clearly apparent in these 2011 wines, although the domaines will have used different approaches to achieve this.
Both domaines are organic. Romain Taupenot converted the estate in 2001 when he took over. “It’s earth and heart to me,” he remarks, but sadly he relinquished organic status in 2016 in the face of difficult conditions. Montille pushed through.
Romain remarks, “I like purity. Purity of flavour and a transparency of character. I’m a lazy winemaker (by which he means ‘hands off’). The wines have 7-9 days cold soak and I do not use stems.” The subject of whole bunch or de-stemmed rose almost immediately. When I first reviewed the vintage in 2012, many vignerons reported pulling back on whole bunch as stems could be a touch green. Most were careful with punch down as pips were also green. It was not a vintage to go looking for extraction, but with care the tannins are light and elegant.
Domaine Montille uses whole bunch, although not on vines under twenty years old. They are quite happy to use green stems. “Our stems are green,” says Gautier Roussille, who is Etienne de Montille’s right hand man. “They may taste a bit herbal, but if they were brown, you would get a more woody resin note. We want to allow the stem to work with the juice, but not to press and extract from the stem.”
Using stems does require Montille to lightly filter the wine before bottling as stems can give some haziness, admits Gautier. However Romain also filters if he sees any turbidity as this “will disturb the fruit.”
So we tasted six wines. Did they show good terroir character? The tasting notes follow. There is also a film in which Romain explains the idea of terroir and describes the terroir and the style of village wine in Gevrey-Chamberin, Morey-Saint-Denis and Chambolle. For the premier cru he describes Gevrey-Chambertin, Bel Air, as this is a particularly nice parcel. As for Grand Cru, Domaine Taupenot have parcels in the Charmes and Mazoyères. Both can be labelled Charmes-Chambertin, but he chooses to make them separately as the terroir and wine are different. He explains more in the film.
In brief these Premier Cru 2011s are at a good stage for drinking now and over the short to medium term. As mentioned it’s a lighter vintage which was always quite approachable. It’s a bit like 2007, but with more substance. The best approach to tannin was a cautious one. The most successful wines have lighter tannins and these tannins are mellow and nicely silky in the wine. At this point in time the premier cru are on a cusp between fruit and more developed characters, which is a good ‘place’ for this vintage.