Merlot: First taste of 2011 Bordeaux wines from the Right Bank

When I taste wines like this, I’m reminded why we all fell in love with Merlot. Years ago, that is. Before it got stupid, before it got flabby and boring. Bordeaux’s Right Bank wines are the best examples of this.
Without getting into detailed tasting notes, I can say that these wines are consistent: tasting the wines now and those from a few years ago shows once again that these chateaux are true to their own styles, whether it’s a blockbuster vintage or not.
Circumventing the big show of barrel tastings in April, this month some of Bordeaux’s Right Bank wineries came to New York with their new and recent vintage wines. Held at the French Consulate, it was a big draw: a club-like line to enter, in mid-afternoon on a weekday – and that was just for the media.
Last year I went to the rigorous, day-long Cercle Rive Droite tasting in Bordeaux. This year my tasting in NYC was a little more relaxed, with only a few dozen participants on hand. As you might already know, 2011 was a difficult year, and I was curious to see what the wines were like. Or rather, what they seemed like they would be like in the future.
Fortunately, the chateaux owners had also brought some recent vintages to taste the barrel samples against. What I found was remarkable consistency. A 2011 barrel sample tasted next to 2008 of the same wine was heading in the same direction, with similar fruit, spice and other characteristics. The winemakers had pulled it off; no need to fear the 2011s.

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