2011 Bordeaux – in the Cellar

by Charles Lea

Selection, Selection, Selection, seems to be the new mantra on Bordeaux in recent vintages, not only in terms of grapes before the fermentations, but also in terms of the wines that ‘make the grade’ into each of the different cuvées that the property produces. In this regard a property like Pontet Canet, which used 80% of its crop in the Grand Vin, is very much the exception.

Next door at Mouton, only 50% went into the Grand Vin, with 25% going into Petit Mouton, and the rest being sold in bulk. They are now doing a very careful selection with vinification by each parcel of vines here, something that Philippe Dhallouin, coming from Branaire Ducru a few years ago, was amazed to find was not being done at Mouton at all prior to his arrival.

At Lagrange, Bruno Eynard is as maniaque about sélection parcellaire as he is about everything else, and he has the equipment to do it, having rebuilt the cuverie completely to accommodate a staggering 92 vats of differing sizes, which correspond not only to the different plots of vines but also to allow them to be subdivided again by the subsoil. He excitedly explained that one particular parecl which had always been vinified as one lot in the past had been split following investigative work they had done by digging trenches to see where the subsoil changed. The two different parts produce quite different wines, one of which had produced a spectacular result in 2010, but had to be excluded from the Grand Vin in the tricky season of 2011, and the other of which had not done so well in 2010, but had been one of the best cuvées in 2011.

Calon Segur is only 50% of the total production with much of the Merlot going into the Marquis de Calon for the second year running.

At Branaire Ducru, Jean-Dominique Videau explained the lengths they go to in the selection of what goes into the Grand Vin. This includes a barrel-by-barrel selection of the press wines. During the pressing the press wines are run off directly into barrel so that although they never press very hard, the first run barrels are necessarily different to those filled at the end of the process. This allows them to select from these barrels the ones that bring just the right amount of ‘stiffening’ (to the main part of the cuvée which is obviously the free-run juice).