The good, the bad and the ugly? A 2011 Claret, Mystere Wine Club, tasting.

Back to a wine post this week, you lucky people (I can already hear Mrs SF, J, my mum and Rachel – probably my readership, although I have my doubts about Mrs. SF and J –  snoring), and this time it’s claret.

The 2011 claret vintage got a pretty bad rap on release and has been viewed by many as at best a bit of a curate’s egg (some ok wines, but most not so much). It, perhaps, suffered from following the highly rated 2009 and 2010 vintages and being a tad (at least initially) overpriced, with the Bordalais looking to eek out the rewards of the previous two very good vintages by keeping prices high. Talk at the times was of a pretty mediocre vintage (bar from the sweeties) and one to, perhaps, pass on.

Freaky weather (too hot, then too cold and too dry – followed by hail and big storms) caused no end of problems for growers at all the wrong times and made it a really challenging vintage (except for the sweeties, with conditions very conducive for botrytis/noble rot).

10 years on the view of the 2011 vintage has somewhat ameliorated, but it is not regarded by any stretch as a good vintage or its wines to be collectors items.

At the Mystere Wine Club, we have a good selection of claret in our cellar (including some First Growths) and it is a tradition of the club to try claret vintages when they are 10, 20 etc. years old. Prior to the plague hitting, our 20 year revisit of the 2000 vintage brought some great wines into play, not least the simply glorious Chateau Angelus. A scheduled tasting of the 2010 vintage was postponed until 2022 due to the plague last year.

The line up for this 2011 tasting was a decent mix,

with an old favourite in the form of the ever reliable Chateau Leoville Barton in the mix.

Not being a huge claret drinker (pockets not deep enough to buy the stuff I know is good, but not savvy enough to know where the value lies – do really need to bone up more on Bordeaux), I was intrigued to see how good, bad or downright ugly these wines were.

Before I get into the wines, I am adding club scores to each wine for the first time and thought it best to explain how it works for context.

Each member (attending the tasting) votes for their top three wines on the night, with 3 points for your favourite, 2 points for 2nd place and 1 point for 3rd place.  Most points wins “Wine of the Night“.

The top 3 scoring wines based on all member votes at the tasting doesn’t always (actually more often than not) align with my view on the night.

So to the actual wines.

Wine 1 – Ch. Mauvesin Barton

A Moulis en Medoc wine, 2011 was when the Barton Sartorious family bought the place. The vintage comprised of a merlot (46%) dominated blend, with cabernet sauvignon (36%), cabernet franc (16%) and petit verdot (2%).

Nice colour to this wine, which is just starting to show signs of ageing. On the nose, there was red fruit and a touch of brininess. Felt a bit underpowered to me though.

On the palate, I found it quite astringent, weedy and thin. Not keen at all, even at its very low price (for Claret).

Points: 0.

PriceAround £15.

Wine 2 – Chateau Capbern Gasqueton

Moving to Saint Estephe, this wine is a blend of  cab. sauv. (74%) and merlot (26%). 

Nice dark opaque colour showing a bit of age.

On the nose, it was classic cab. sauv. with cassis, blackcurrant and graphite.

On the palate, it did not quite live up to the promise of the nose. What I got predominately was an odd earthy (almost ashy) quality, which made it quite drying in the mouth. Better than the first wine, but still nothing to shift the stigma generally attached to the 2011 vintage.

Points: 2.

Price: Around £20

Wine 3 – Ch. Haut Barges Liberal

One of the least well known Pauillac estates, this wine is a blend of cab. sauv. (70%) and merlot (30%) I think.

Showing signs of age on the rim,

this had a pleasant nose of cedar and blackcurrant, as well as cherry and a touch of spice. 

On the palate there was cherry and vanilla spice, as well as a touch of mushroom and a tarry edge to it. Still fair whack of tannins in the mix here.

Better than the first two, but still a bit lacking for me.

Points: 2

Price: Around £32

Wine 4 – Ch. Kirwan

I am a fan of Kirwan, which I think often punches above it weight (price wise, at least in the context of Margaux).

This wine is a blend of cab. sauv. (55%), merlot (21%), cab. franc. (15%) and petit verdot (9%).

Starting to show a bit of age in the colour,

I quite liked the nose. Not too in your face, but with pleasing notes of graphite, cedar and blackcurrant.

The palate, however, disappointed.  All a bit green and weedy, with tomato stem and a not particularly appetising inkiness (like when you have chewed a bic and it leaks into your gob). This was nowhere near the quality of other Kirwans I have tried.

Points: 3

Price:  Around £41

Wine 5 – Domaine du Chevalier

A step up in class, in theory,

with this cab. sauv. dominated (65% cab sauv,  30% merlot and 5% petit verdot) Grand Cru Classes du Graves number.

Rich colour to it showing a bit of age, 

with an initial quite perfumed nose of  blackcurrant and red cherry followed by mokka. Bit of a Black Forest gateau vibe to the nose here, which I really liked.

On the palate, I thought it had a quite elegant structure with nice smooth tannins, tobacco leaf and a touch of minerality. Nice length on this wine, with it lingering much longer than the wines that preceeded it. Plenty left in the tank ageing wise, I would say.

Would love to try this wine in a top vintage.

Points: 21 (2nd placed wine).

Price: Around £50

Wine 6 – Ch. Puy Lacoste

Moving to Pauillac, this wine is a blend of cab. sauv (78%) and merlot (22%).

It had a medium purple colouration with little sign of ageing.

On the nose there were pleasing meaty aromas, with graphite and liquorice then  coming through. This was followed by a touch of smokiness (bonfire) and leather.

On the palate, it did not quite live up to the nose. Nice smooth tannins, boozy (possibly bit too boozy) dark fruits and a nice finish, but just lacking a bit in terms of it all knitting together. Will it develop more structure over time? Not convinced to be honest.

Points: 15 (3rd placed wine).

Price: Around £57

Wine 7 – Ch. Leoville Barton

I am a big fan of this Saint Julien wine, which in my limited experience rarely fails to deliver the goods. As such I had high hopes.

Blend of cab. sauv. (80%) merlot (15%) and cab franc (5%), this wine had a rich dark colour.

On the nose, it was a touch shy initially but then blackcurrant and red fruit came through nicely. This was followed by vanilla spice, coffee and leather notes.

On the palate, it had rich dark fruit and good acidity, with silky tannins. Really nice structure to this wine with everything melding together nicely. Think it have a way to go before it is over the hill

Love this wine, which belied the poor reputation of the vintage. I had high hopes that the LB would shine and it didn’t disappoint.  I have a 1986 LB in the wine room that I really must get around to drinking.

Points: 35 (1st placed wine)

Price: Around £64

Wine 8 – Ch. Clinet.

Most expensive wine of the night, the Clinet is a blend of merlot (85%) cab sauv ( 12%) and cab. franc (3%).

Showing a bit more age in the colouration than LB, 

it has an odd nose that was quite muddy initially. This was followed by (cheap) milk chocolate (think Milky Way bar) and, as it sat in the glass, Christmas cake fruit and spice.

On the palate, it was very stalky, green and astringent.  If I hadn’t known better I would have said there was a hell of a lot more cab. franc in the mix than the stated 5%.

If am honest I think I would have picked this as a Loire red (and a not very good one at that) if had tasted it blind.

Very disappointing wine this, expecially when you factor in that it was the most expensive wine of the night.

Points: 6

Price: Around £75

The verdict

So did it live up to its mediocre (mixed bag at best) vintage billing?

Well certainly not as bad as the initial reports suggested, with some decent wines in the mix but some stinkers too (Clinet I am looking at you).

My top three wines were as follows:

  • 1st: Leoville Barton
  • 2nd: Domaine de Chevalier
  • 3rd: Grand Puy Lacoste

This (unusually) mirrored the view of the group as a whole, with the Leoville Barton a runaway winner.

As the title suggests, it seems this vintage is (at the current time) very much a case of the good (the Leoville Barton), the bad (the Mauvesin Barton – it was cheap mind) and the ugly (the Clinet – especially at the asking price).


The Mystere Wine Club is based in Cardiff and does monthly tastings (currently, with our new found freedom, at the Future Inn in the Bay) based on an annual membership fee and a cost per tasting.

I regrettably missed the December “Christmas” tasting,

which included a J.L. Chave Hermitage (serious big hitter wine that) and some lovely other wines 😍.

Next years tasting schedule looks an absolute corker!

If you want more information, drop me a DM on Twitter or instagram (details in bio) or make a comments on this blog post.



  1. Hi Tim,
    Could you please provide some more detail of the Mystere wine club.
    We briefly met at a Curado bar wine tasting prior to the dreadful Covid.


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