Petit Cantenac 2011

This wine is made from beautifully ripe Merlot combined with a little Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc and has an intense deep black cherry red colour with a very fresh rounded and complete first expression.

On the nose it shows a powerful and pronounced mix of scented aromas of rich jammy ripe damsons and black cherry fruit flavours that develop into more complex notes of forest floor, moss, spice and toasty characters as well as a hint of liquorice and menthol that integrate well with a pleasant layer of smoke and leather over further spicy characters to provide an attractive combination.

On the palate the wine is soft and seductively supple with a generous well balanced length and an elegant aromatic persistency and freshness where we find more blackberry and blackcurrant notes, tobacco leaf and grilled oak with hints of leather, vanilla and softly refined ripe tannins that led to a long persistent finish.

It will drink well from 2014 onwards but will also continue to develop and evolve in the bottle and reward careful cellaring. Drink 2014-2020.

Vineyard: 2.2 hectares

Grape variety: 80% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc

Harvest: 100% by hand on 13th and 14th September

Winemaking: Saignée, fermentation and maceration

Ageing: 30% in new French Oak and 70% 2nd year French Oak barrels for 18 months

Alcohol by volume: 13.5%vol

Residual sugar: < 2 g/l

Production: 9,000 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.

Bright lively crimson. Scented red fruit aroma smells invitingly fresh with good length. Cabernet Franc really lifts it.”

Jancis Robinson MW