Focus on: Vieux Chateau Certan 2011
Neal Martin Score: 96-98
Price: £1,150 per 12
Vieux Chateau Certan (VCC) needs very little introduction and in recent years it has been shooting the lights out. Its reputation as a superstar is confirmed yet it still seems to be going from strength to strength. This is clearly attributable to the stewardship of the popular and modest Alexandre Thienpont. The last ten vintages have averaged a score of 96 – that is remarkable in itself.
We have identified the 2011 as an excellent opportunity to achieve exposure to this magnificent estate at a really attractive price level (only the disastrous 2013 vintage is cheaper, and only just). The wine came to the market at £1,075 per 12 in 2012 and is now £1,150. Post release the price slid to c.£950 before moving up by c.20% between the between ’16 and ’18. The weak Brexit pound was responsible for c. 10% of that and in the last eighteen months the price has barely moved.
There is a reason for the cheap price, it was a difficult vintage and Mr. Parker scored the wine with a paltry 91 points. We think he’s got it wrong – and so do many others. Neal Martin scores it 96-98, James Suckling and Tim Atkin 96 and James Lawther MW 19.
The 2009 and 2010 vintages Parker scored 99 points and were presumably a bit more in keeping with his tastes. These vintages contained no Cabernet Franc, even though the vineyards are planted 70% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Franc and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. The 2011 contains 29% Cabernet Franc and as Neal Martin comments “this is more what I consider to be a classic VCC nose, unlike those previous vintages (’09 and ’10) that gives you everything up front, this is far more intellectual and enigmatic.... and are perhaps one day, even better ”. Not bad at half the price!
This chart uses only Neal Martin’s scores – if you believe in the critic, the data does the rest of the talking for you:
2011 was not a great Bordeaux vintage and suffered as it came behind the (over- priced) blockbusters of ’09 and ’10. En primeur was not working at all at that time and to add to the woe, timing also coincided with the ‘Great Wall of China Corruption Clampdown’ meaning the market was already in an unusual state of flux.
Pomerol is widely regarded as the appellation of the vintage. VCC ’11 has been described by some as wine of the vintage and by others as wine of the right bank. Either way, a slice of a potentially great VCC for under £100 a bottle has plenty of upside potential. The ’10 and ’16 are both in excess of £220 a bottle.
Here are Nick Martin’s comments following a 2011 dinner last year:
Vieux Chateau Certan 2011 is the last vintage - prior to 2018 - with a substantial percentage of Cabernet Franc in the blend at a whopping 29%.
Alexandre Thienpont believes this to be a great vintage but in a less exotic, full-on style than 2010 or 2009.
Yet it remains properly intense and rich, thanks to low yields of 37 hl/ ha that contributed to a wine with a high IPT count of 83 (phenolics that give structure and colour...the guts of a wine), rivalling the IPT levels of producers’ wonderful 2016s. Furthermore it’s vibrant and mouthwatering with a conventionally fresh ph of 3.50.
Whilst initially tight, VCC 2011 unfurls with 3 hours in the decanter, has a beautifully harmonious mid palate that evolves in the glass quite dramatically, and sports a finish that goes on and on. It can be consumed with great pleasure at a leisurely pace now yet will continue to improve over the next 20 to 30 years.
Cedar, a medley of briar fruit and griottes, a vein of intensely fresh orange, mineral earthiness and background spice notes are elements of a kaleidoscopic tasting experience that segues between the myriad nuanced flavours and makes for a thril- ling experience.
Tasted comparatively with a dozen other top 2011 Crus, the only wine in the line up that got remotely close to VCC’s complexity and overall class was La Mission Haut Brion.
Neal Martin’s tasting note from the Wine Advocate:
The Vieux Chateau Certan was cropped between 6th and 7th of September and from 14th until 20th September. That's what you'll read everywhere, although I was filming Alexandre when he was picking the final Cabernet around the 29th September! Cropped at 37hl/ha, it is a blend of 70% Merlot, 1% Cabernet Sauvignon and (yay!) 29% Cabernet Franc. It delivers 13.6 degrees alcohol with a total acidity of 3.5gms/L and an IPT of 83. After the Cabernet Francless 2009 and 2010, this is more what I consider to be a classic VCC nose and as Alexandre, unlike those previous vintages that gives you everything up front, this is far more intellectual and enigmatic with hints of mineral laden fruit, limestone and small dark cherries. It is beautifully defined yet distant. The palate is succinctly balanced with crisp acidity, exceptional balance and superb backbone. There is an undercurrent of masculinity, a saline tincture, cru- shed stone and a touch of dried herbs and yet these are just fleeting hints. It has enormous length and it is one of the very few that could be on the same ethereal plateau as the 2009 and 2010 and perhaps one day...even better. Tasted April 2012.
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