Clos Cantenac 2011

Clos Cantenac 2011 is made from 100% fully ripe young Merlot from our 16 year old vines planted in just one south-west facing block and picked in absolutely perfect early morning conditions at the start of September.

The wine shows a deep dense cherry red, with a hugely appealing zesty and lively nose of blackcurrant, blueberries and raspberries with a lush aromatic range of fresh red berries, fragrance, Havana cigar, mocha, truffles, spice and a very subtle hint of graphite.

On the palate it displays the same smooth, lush and succulent bright red fruit, plum and black cherry flavours that spread right across the mouth with an impressive intensity of character that is both elegant and generous in delivery. It is deceptively soft with good weight and just the right amount of dryness to counter-balance the richness of the wine.

The wine is still very tightly coiled, but shows good weight, finesse and restraint with a fine structure and further layers of flavor that give complexity to the well balanced and uplifting purity and freshness of the fruit, with the juicy acidity and slightly chalky texture underlined by silky tannins and an extremely long elegant finish.

This has produced a very interesting and fine wine that will continue to develop for some years to come and will benefit from careful cellaring. Drink 2015-2025.

Vineyard: 1.3 hectares

Grape variety: 100% Merlot

Harvesting: 100% by hand

Winemaking: Saignée, fermentation and maceration

Ageing: Aged in 40% New French Oak and 60% 2nd year Oak for 18 months

Alcohol by volume: 13.5%vol

Residual sugar: < 2 g/l

Production: 6,000 bottles

2011 has been described by many in Bordeaux as ‘the year of living dangerously’.

The growing year started with a very early budburst in Bordeaux in late March, then a much warmer April and May than usual, indicating an early harvest, which was followed by fine weather during the crucial flowering of the vines in late May and early June, which also suggested a good crop size.

However, June was slightly cooler than the usual even despite a fearsome heat wave late in the month during which vines with exposed bunches of fruit risked severe sunburn and also some parts of Bordeaux were hit by hail.

In the four months from March to June, we had very little rain, only 85mm in total, compared to a 30-year average of 290mm, which might well have reduced the risk of mildew, but there was real cause for concern as the young vines suffered from a lack of water and heading into July, the development of many vines ground to a halt.

However, vines on the best terroirs, which naturally allow the roots access to just enough moisture in the sub-soils, fared better, but would be tested again, in a quite different way, when good drainage would be required during the sometime heavy summer rains.

In the vineyard our regular careful checks showed that the vines were at least three weeks ahead and that the harvest would probably start around 15th August but the overall feeling was that having experienced two very dry summers in 2009 and 2010, further drought could lead to serious problems.

Then at last some rain fell in the second week of July and refresh the parched vines, but then we had too much rain, with a 160mm falling in July/August compared to the 30-year average of 105mm. July was also much cooler than normal, but more rain in the middle of the month and then good sunshine at the end, assisted the grapes to change colour and so we were still well ahead.

August was a month of highs and lows, even if the temperatures were slightly cooler than the average, with rain at first, then chilly, then sunny and dry, then very hot and humid, heavy rain on 23rd, then sunny again. Some of the vines, with their timing already out of control starting growing new leaves, rather than concentrating on ripening grapes.

Then quite suddenly in the late afternoon of Thursday 31st August, there was another huge storm just to the south of St. Emilion and although we were not affected, many other properties towards the river at Branne were hit by hail. Early the next morning we did a tour of the vines and after careful further laboratory analysis, we decided to pick the younger Merlot vines. We started at 8am on Saturday 2nd September under clear skies and were finished by late afternoon without any problems.

After a further nail-biting ten day wait we finally decided to pick the older Merlot on Tuesday 13th and then the Cabernet Sauvignon and Franc on Wednesday 14th working all day and finishing late just as darkness was falling.

Our first impressions of the wines are very favourable and the results look very good indeed, with the fruit well concentrated and packed with good red and black fruit characters, an even roundness and finesse and quite delicate soft tannins at this early stage.

Instantly enticing. The flavour and tannins are more than enough to convince me that patience will be rewarded with a top drop.”

Olly Smith