Information & scores : 2011 Northern Rhone

  • Indifferent 16/20

Vintage description 2011 Northern Rhone

After two years of high quality but small yields, vines were slightly more productive in 2011. A dull summer and an exceptionally hot, sunny autumn meant that the grapes harvested were healthy and ripe. According to Philippe Guigal, of the eponymous wine company, "2011 is a good year for Syrah, with soft, fresh tannins." The recipe for success in 2011 was quite straightforward: you had to be an excellent wine grower, be experienced enough to manage volumes and to harvest gradually at the optimum point. However, you also had to be a skilled vintner to carry out slow fermentations (extraction was straightforward) and assemble blends which are as well balanced as possible. In appellations such as Crozes-Hermitage and Saint-Joseph, the wines are very pleasant and should be drunk relatively young and fruity. In Côte-Rôtie, a few wines lacked maturity, but the well-maintained vines on the slopes yielded quite subtle wines, provided there was no over-extraction. Hermitage did not produce a great vintage with ageing potential, but the domaines which took a light touch approach to vinification produced some pleasant wines for early drinking.

As far as whites are concerned, 2011 in the northern Rhône in general and in Condrieu in particular was a "topsy-turvy" year, with summertime in spring and springtime in the summer! This state of affairs was not particularly serious for the vines, but made the wine growers¿ task slightly more complicated. It rained more than usual in July, which benefitted the vines during the onset of ripening. There were a few stormy spells in August and a smattering of hailstorms, but nothing too serious. Harvesting began in very early September and lasted longer than usual due to uneven ripening in the different appellations and even within parcels on the same domaine. Caution was required where yields were concerned and those who managed their vines in order to produce sensible yields harvested far riper grapes by paying very close attention to harvesting dates. One unripe area did not necessarily mean that others were not ripe either and changes could sometimes occur very swiftly. The fine weather made it possible to wait, moving from parcel to parcel. Good wine growers produced fruity, well-balanced wines, which are not overly strong.