Without doubt, the Rhône valley has experienced a trio
of very good vintages in 2009, 2010 and 2011 but each
one has its own character and style. The 2011 is a more
forward vintage than its predecessors, with its bright fruit and supple tannins giving wines of great pleasure both when drunk in their youth and in the medium term. They do not have the fierceness of many 2009s, nor the firmness of the 2010s but by choosing, as we have done, only the best growers who harvested
individual plots of vines at optimum ripeness, kept yields low and carefully selected their fruit, 2011 has produced wines that are simply delicious.
The 2011 growing season was marked by unexpected fluctuations in temperature. An unusually warm Spring was followed by a cool early Summer, with rain in
August followed by soaring temperatures that
continued through September up to the harvest. The warmth of Spring brought a uniformly successful
flowering promising an early harvest and a bumper crop.
Cooler temperatures in June/July brought eventual harvest dates into line with 2009 and 2010 however, and following August rains vigorous green harvesting was used by the best growers to keep yields in check and maintain good levels of concentration. For many, the warm fine September brought about much needed late season ripening but even then fine judgement and a keen eye were key when choosing when to finally pick.
In summary; 2011 was a vintage where growers had to work hard in the vineyards to produce high quality wines but one which repaid their efforts in full.
While there are some places in the Northern Rhône that have had a troubled time in 2011 this is most
certainly not the case with everyone.
The wines from Côte Rôtie and St Joseph for instance are every bit as bright as last year but will be drinking a good few years sooner (perfect timing I would say as we wait for our 2009s and 2010s to mature) while the Hermitage are still deep, bold and fruit-driven.
The northern whites are every bit as good as the reds they offer a style almost perfectly suited to the vintage, with great purity and depth.
Personally, I really enjoyed these Southern Rhône 2011s and will be shouting about a third stellar vintage in many of the appellations.
Two key words that cropped up time and again, as with the North, are fluidity and suppleness. The 2011s are again not as concentrated as the 2009s or 2010s but this is to their credit; they posses a beautiful roundness, great
aromatics and supple tannins.
The Southern Rhône reds can be characterised as charming and elegant with superb purity of fruit.
Those of Châteauneuf-du-Pape have the ever present power behind them but still show great clarity and ease.
As you will have noted, 2011 in the Rhône is a vintage where it is important to do as the best growers
themselves did, and choose carefully, this we have already done, not only the best growers but also their best wines. It is worth pointing out that our 2011 offer is, as a
result significantly reduced this year. In addition, some producers, such as Tour St Michel, chose to produce fewer cuvées while many others left it to us do the hard selection.
Pricing in the Rhône is always a key point and the
consensus from our growers is that their prices will change very little, if at all against their 2010s. This
combined with a slightly better exchange rate means that we may be looking at some of the best priced wines to come out of France in some years!
As well as keen prices, the 2011s show a great overall balance and will be drinking within the first five years after release, a good thing if you already have 2009s and 2010s taking up space in the cellar waiting to mature.
To summarise 2011 is a perfect follow-up to 2009 and 2010 as they will drink far sooner without affecting the immediate quality (some will even be drinking as soon as they land) and as always with the Rhône, wines from the top growers will always sell out early so En Primeur buying is still very much advised.