2021 Bordeaux En Primeur – The Growing Season

As we always do, we’ve tried to give a concise picture of the growing season, looking at the key points. For a more in depth analysis, we highly recommend Gavin Quinney’s ‘Weather and Crop report’ – available here.

  • A mild, slightly damp winter between November 2020 and February 2021 led to early bud break in March – dangerous with the threat of spring frosts, which can destroy any early budbreak, sometimes drastically reducing yields.
  • European wine press is filled with images of candles in the vines as early April frosts sent temperatures on both banks of the river as low as -9’c, with sustained temperatures below -4’c.
  • Frost affected different Châteaux to varying degrees. As is often the case, properties on prime spots closer to the river suffered less – many with no frost.
  • Frost has affected quantity, not quality – with reports of yields reduced by 25% to 35%.
  • Heavy spring rainfall during May & June, 110% above the average, created ideal conditions for the threat of mildew, which can reduce the vigour and yield of the vine, as well as the quality of the fruit. Mildew is effectively controlled by the spraying of sulphur treatments, but where many wineries are now practising biodynamic farming, this isn’t an option.
  • Additionally, these conditions didn’t enable much water stress for the vines, a little of which is needed to help the vines produce top quality fruit.
  • Late June sunshine helped avoid fruit set problems seen in 2013 and 2017.
  • July & early August were relatively cool and uneventful, with temperatures and rainfall slightly below the 30-year-average.
  • Finally, late summer sunshine arrived in late August, helping complete the protracted veraison of the grapes (colour change and beginning of ripening).
  • Late summer continues into September giving the Cabernets the time they needed to reach full ripeness, while also helping to flesh out the Merlot, which is harvested earlier.
  • A much later harvest than the last three vintages, started in September and went into October – resembling a much more ‘classic’ length of growing season.

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