2021 Bordeaux En Primeur

A Triumphant Classic

Hétérogénéité – ‘the quality or state of being diverse in character or content.’

There can be no sweeping statements about the 2021 vintage in Bordeaux – it varies from commune to commune and property to property. The cool blue fruit, finely polished tannins and crisp freshness remind us of a 1998 Grand Puy Lacoste tasted a few years ago. Super-classic and super-enjoyable. With winegrowing and winemaking much improved since then, this is a modern-day remake of the classics we all love and still enjoy today…

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It’s been three years since our team were able to taste the latest vintage in Bordeaux and we couldn’t wait to return this spring to taste the 2021 vintage. Tasting is always an important part of the job, but in 2021 it is crucial. The growing season saw such an array of weather patterns and threats to the vines, affecting every property and vigneron differently, so it’s impossible to make any generalisations on such a heterogeneous year.

The Wine Advocate’s William Kelley notes that despite the obstacles in their way, ‘the region’s best producers, however, have taken all these challenges in their stride…. The best 2021 reds are better than anyone could have dared to hope… [and] the finest set of dry whites since 2017’. This is a vintage for the vignerons and the choices they’ve had to make throughout the season. Many triumphed and many great wines have been made.

Because of the challenging growing season and the influence this has had on the resulting wines, it’s important to choose carefully. Our thoughts on the vintage below, along with our opinions on the wines once released, will hopefully enable you to make those decisions confidently.

 

THE GROWING SEASON

  • 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. It 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. 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.
  • Finally, late summer sunshine arrived in late August and continued 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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THE WINES

The Reds

Lower alcohols ranging from 12% to 13.5% is, for many, a welcome return to classic styles of yester-year. Our team found reds with incredible precision, freshness and minerality and where balanced with ripe, cool fruit and silky tannins, there are scintillating wines that show off the terroir of their appellations far more clearly than they have done in recent warmer vintages.

The Whites

The longer 2021 growing season suited the Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon perfectly, as they were allowed to fully ripen into September and weren’t harvested early to retain freshness. More consistent than the reds, they show vibrancy and beautifully intense aromatics that we’ve missed for the last few years, as well as beautiful texture and richness.

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SUMMARY

Where the Châteaux price the releases will determine whether the wines sell – at this stage it’s difficult to say where that will be. Uncertainty in global financial markets suggest properties should price conservatively. On the other hand, properties are quick to point out that their costs on resources have increased by 25% or more and that Bordeaux, and fine wine in general, is enjoying something of a resurgence.

2021 is a return to classicism and we loved it. There are genuinely exciting and thought-provoking wines. Because of the lack of consistency across the vintage, it can’t be held in as high a regard as 2018, 2019 or 2020. This is a different vintage to those, with different traits (they do say variety is the spice of life) and where wines show balance and ripeness, they are well worth considering.

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We expect the releases to start in earnest over the next fortnight and last until the end of June. Fair pricing should come in somewhere between the 2019 and 2020 release prices. If you’d like to express interest in particular wines, send us your wish-list, or to set a budget for the campaign, please email [email protected]. We will keep our fine wine database up to date with all of the releases we feel are important – if you would like to sign up to the fine wine releases please click here.

Although our 2021 Bordeaux tasting on the 26th May has now sold out, we have created a waiting list – please click here to email our events team and add your name to the list. If you’re new to En Primeur you’ll find detailed information in our article ‘What is En Primeur?’

Davy's Wine Merchants

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