Vintage 2011

Technical specifications

Château Clarisse


Clarisse Vieilles Vignes




Sun being strongly present since the very first days of this month provoked a true bud break in the vines.  Young branches grow with a rare homogeneity visible by eye and the landscape is flooded by the green. The spring is here. Leaf-thinning, selection of the young shots, phytosanitary protection become vital as the hot weather settles down and soils dry up, get harder and make any mecanical work or combing the soil extremely difficult. The advance of the vegetation is truly impressive and we can almost bet that the first blossoms will appear at the very beginning of May. The avarage temperature rises above 16 degrees, which is usually typical for the month of May. With more than 300 hours of sunshine, this is an exceptionnal month of April, unseen since the year of 1982 !


After a homogeneous and grouped flowering, the beautiful promises of harvest are true for almost all parcells. The sun remains firmly present whereas the thunderstorms are constantly pushed back. The drought is beginning to remind about itself.  Gradually the leaves harden and become more dull. The grass of the soils, which often were not accesible to work on, now resembles the haymaking of  July. It’s summer before time!


It has now been seven months since the rainfall level has been below the seasonal norm. Luckily, it is not too hot and the nights are fresh. The thunderstorms are too weak and leave about 20 millimeters of water per month. Hardly enough to moisten the dust! The vineyard is very heterogeneous. Filtering, gravel or sandy soils are suffering the most. Their shoot is weak,  leaves by the branches lack pace, almost pride. This weak growth is also a symptom of a lack of sun. Not so much due to abundant grapes but due to the lack of leaves. A never seen ! June 26th and 27th bring the apotheosis of the heat wave, with temperatures approaching 40 degrees.


During the first days of the month, we visit each vineyard in order to find out the damage caused by the two hot days. The situation is sometimes dramatic. The defoliations, still fresh, give an image of desolation. Some vines have lost all their leaves. The exposed side of a brunch reveals dried grapes. The small grains, still tender, showed no resistance to the heat.  Some young shots seem almost dead. The vines with a sulfur coverage against powdery mildew are the most affected, as well as those situated on light, sandy or gravelly soils. Depression is at its highest. The vines which resisted the best to the heat are those of heavy and clay soils. We wonder at this time of the year if 2011 will not be the vintage of a lessen quality. Surprisingly, the weather is changing drastically and July turns out to be the coolest month over the last thirty years. The rain returns as well, with rains falling every day from the 16th to the 26th, leaving the memory of July, being gloomy and with little light.  The vine takes advantage of it to restore its health.

It heals, it grows again and the grapes develop a lot. Thanks to the advance of the cycle brought by the dryness of spring, the ripening is homogeneous and grouped. The vine seems to have heaven’s mercy upon it.


With a dozen of rainy days, we can consider this August as watered, but warm enough. In the second part of the month, the freshness settles gradually with nights being fresh. It smells autumn. The maturation is regular and slow, we badly need more leaves and the thread of mildew is imposing. In the vineyard, the situation is just the opposite of this spring. The 100 millimeters of water diluted the berries and vines of clay soils, until then resistant to the spring drought, now begin to suffer from the attacks of botrytis. Those, on the contrary, originated from light soils or soils of fine clays, have regained their beautiful appearance, and seem to wish to carry on the harvest ( or whatever is remaining of it) to the end of the cycle.


The first part of September is summery, with nights being rather warm. This badly suits the vines affected by botrytis, for which these are just perfect conditions. In addition, the soils are loaded with water and the situation is very contrasted. Each area needs to be mapped in order to understand its shortbacks and its strengths.  The possible approach then is to evacuate the stress and to plan a suitable, intelligent pickup, both in wisely choosing vintage dates and in the way to vinify vines with such different nuances. The whites will be picked on the 15th of September just as the harvest of early matured Merlot begins.

The year of 2011 will remain in the memories as a generally complicated vintage. We needed to have a bit of clay to make it work through the spring but not too much over the autumn. A vintage that rewards those who have had a good soil management for a long time beforehand, growing vines marked by strong and deep roots. The prophylaxis was sometimes more important than the load, which had to be adapted to the cycle and the quality of the foliage. The cellars had to be well equipped with sorting equipment, in the light of the vintage that could offer a lot of dry grains, wilted grains as well as rotten ones. Working with this vintage, the winemaker also had to consider the fragility of his grapes in order to adapt his vinification in regards of extraction.

Stéphane Derenoncourt