You can really find out what a winery is made of by the wine they make in tough years. Some years in Bordeaux, like 2001, are looked upon more favorably a decade later in relation to the initial assessment. When it comes to the overall quality of wines in Bordeaux’s vintage 2011, it can be almost guaranteed that no such thing will happen. What an awesome surprise, then, to find a wine so admirably well-crafted in this vintage. The 2011 CHATEAU TROPLONG MONDOT Saint-Emilion works wonders in a much-maligned harvest season due to an early spring, hot summery weather that arrived too soon and brought upon drought conditions and record heat, which then transitioned to a late summer that was one of the coldest in decades.
Troplong Mondot has been modernizing their vineyard practices as of late—that is, implementing more natural, organic and biodynamic methods, which is leap years in progressiveness considering that the Bordeaux region as a whole lags behind virtually the rest of the world in the transparency of their practices—and this adaptiveness of the Chateau appears to be reaping large dividends. Having tasted through the Troplong Mondots of each vintage from 2009 to 2012, there is a breathtaking range of expression from year to year, while the wine manages to never lose its core identity (what one would call the Chateau’s “house style”). To achieve this remarkable consistency in quality and diversity of expression requires adaptability, innovation, consummate skill, confidence and artfulness. In other words, all the qualities that a leading technology company like Google has. Or, all the qualities of a master filmmaker like Ang Lee. Looking at Lee’s body of work to date, he moves with ease from directing Sense and Sensibility to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon to Hulk to Brokeback Mountain and to The Life of Pi. It’s a vast range of expression, but the core style of the artist is at the center of it all. That is Chateau Troplong Mondot.
The 2011 Saint-Emilion, 89% Merlot, has immense fruit character. There’s concentrated flavors of cassis and blackberry, with an accent of black olive tapenade, to bring about a gorgeously silky, opulent wine that’s strikingly bold but impeccably balanced and structured. In warm, open vintages like 2009 the Troplong Mondot is one of the most massive, viscous and velvety Bordeaux on the planet, so the fact that in 2011 it is so triumphantly silky is all the evidence needed of the estate’s adaptability and, might we add, cunning. Truly, what a brilliant achievement in 2011, and a Bordeaux wine that should provide plenty of thrills and surprises in every future vintage. –J.M.