2011 red Burgundy first impressions

Whilst I was in Burgundy I tried a range of 2011 reds in cask and I will report on my impressions of them at this early stage in life. I’ve been doing it for donkey’s years but tasting red Burgundy the summer after harvest can be an extremely exhausting exercise. I will try to limit myself to comments about the wines’ more clearly-expressed characteristics. However, I’m sure you realise that drawing conclusions from wines so far from the bottle, let alone maturity, requires some informed imaginative interpretation.

Pinot Noir vines in Morey-Saint-Denis

Let’s get right down to the nitty gritty: Yes, you guessed it, it’s another fine vintage for red Burgundy. The primary character of the wines that had passed beyond the quaquaversal state (around malolactic fermentation) was that they were joyously drinkable. On tasting them I became progressively settled in my view that 2011 red Burgundy will provide the kind of moreish drinking pleasure that will always make you wish you had another bottle ready to pop and chase after the first when it’s been happily ingested.

Although 2011 is a fine vintage of gratifying wines, they are not as profoundly great as the 2010s. As far as vintage similarities go I’d say they had similar but more concentrated fruit than the 2007s with an acid/tannin interplay that brought to mind the 2001s. That’s an attractive allotment of attributes.

The wines are considerably lighter in style to the two previous vintages. Where the 09s have voluptuously fleshy scale and the 2010s are sculpted but be-muscled male gymnasts, 2011 has produced ballerinas of callipygian elegance.

Fruit is almost always ripe but fresh and vivacious. This liveliness is augmented by the good acidity levels and present (but not excessive, dry or tough) tannins giving one the impression that the wines are charged with energetic life. This vim and the delightfully delicious fruit are what make drinking these wines such an unashamed act of jovial titillation.

The grown-up wines will mature with style, the best will develop and improve over the long term. However, I would feel fine frolicking in a fair few when fresh to favour their fun-loving, frisky features. There is really no need to be too enthusiastic in your cellaring regime. With these deglutition is delight from the moment you get your hands on them.

I should point out that I tasted at some of the best Domaines in the Cote-de-Nuits, so the wines I’m basing this on are at the top of the quality ladder; they’re likely to taste good. My spies warn me that lesser growers who don’t take as much care in the vineyard can show slight hints of greenness to the tannins. I looked and looked for this in all the wines I tried and didn’t detect a hint of it.

With that last proviso in mind, and that I have stated this isn’t the supremely finest of vintages, my advice would to be buy from producers with a track-record of quality who take good care of their wines and vines. In some vintages you can almost buy any appellation with the knowledge it’ll be ripe and charming enough; you high-grade with 2011 red Burgundy, I fancy.