“In 2021, while the world was distracted by the battle against Covid, Mother Nature engineered a series of weather setbacks to negate the effects of global warming, thereby ensuring it was impossible to make overly alcoholic wine.”
That is part of what I wrote in my latest Sinophile column in the United Kingdom’s World of Fine Wine June 2022 edition.
(Please see a special offer – 30% discount – from the award-winning magazine at www.chngpohtiong.com/exclusive-30-discount-2/).
“Bordeaux 2021 is a winegrower’s vintage, one in which the vineyard requires a lot of attention,” Jean-Philippe Delmas
After a mild winter, budburst was early, beginning of March. Unfortunately, a severe spring frost followed in early April and caused devastation not just in Bordeaux but throughout the vineyards of France. There was heavy rainfall in May and June followed by warm temperatures which triggered mildew. August warmed up but was followed by cool nights. Rain fell again in September and many a chateau harvested before its onset even though the grapes were not so ripe.
Those chateaux that waited after the rain to harvest have produced exceptional wines.
“Classic” is the most widely bantered descriptor of Bordeaux 2021.
The reference is to an age when it was common to chaptalize in Bordeaux (and Champagne), and even when ripe to very ripe, Bordeaux was only around 12° alcohol. The 2021 vintage is today considered a classic, lighter vintage of Bordeaux around 13° alcohol.
Taste has changed just as climate. Today’s taste prefers warmer, thicker wines.
Jean-Philippe Delmas of Chateau Haut-Brion and La Mission Haut-Brion sums it up best the challenges 2021 presented.
“Bordeaux 2021 is a winegrower’s vintage, one in which the vineyard requires a lot of attention.”
“With such a vintage, you need to help the vineyard, to help the maturity, to take care not to extract too much,” Erich Kohler
Erich Kohler of Chateau Lafite-Rothschild and Duhart-Milon is on the same wavelength.
“With such a vintage, you need to help the vineyard, to help the maturity, to have to be more present even though we are always present, to take care not to extract too much.”
The dazzling aromatics of the best wines – their persistence of fruit and vivacity on the palate – are utterly beguiling. Their enthusiasm and energy are impatient to leap out of the glass. Where is this jet-propelled freshness coming from?
Philippe Bascaules of Chateau Margaux reveals the mystery.
“The freshness is not given by the acidity but by the lower alcohol, 13°. The pH is the same in 2021 as in 2020.”
“The freshness is not given by the acidity but by the lower alcohol, 13°. The pH is the same in 2021 as in 2020,” Philippe Bascaules
Welcome to Bordeaux 2021!
The most exciting, aromatic, ripe – but not over-ripe – intensely vibrant wines of the last 10, perhaps 20, years!
WINE OF THE VINTAGE RIGHT BANK
Vieux Chateau Certan
Richness of fruit and tannins clothed in satin. Intensity and persistence are stalked from start to finish by amazing freshness. VCC did not suffer from the spring frost in April and treated against mildew before its onset. “Cabernet Franc does not like excessive heat. It flourishes when there is a long dry ripening season with fresh nights such as in 2021. Another great year for Cabernet Franc is 2011,” Proprietor Alexander Thienpoint. The harvest began on 24 September and did not finish until 6 October 2021. The blend, as informed by Alexander and son Guillaume Thienpoint, is 65% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Franc and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. 13.2% alcohol.
THE OTHER TOP WINES
Chateau Cheval Blanc
Together with Vieux Chateau Certan – its neighbour just across the border into Pomerol – Cheval Blanc is the other sensational success of the Right Bank. So much richness of intense red blue fruit, finely textured tannins and unforgiving freshness: like standing beneath a waterfall. Cheval Blanc 2021 will gallop into a very long, epic future. Dominated by 52% Cabernet Franc, 43% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. Technical Director Pierre-Olivier Clouet is absolutely clear “2021 is the vintage of Cabernet Franc”.
Rich blue and black fruit immediately corralled by rich dense tannins and freshness. A force of Nature.
La Mission Haut-Brion
Intensity of red blue fruit and silky tannins. Incredibly fresh. La Mission never fails to charm.
Violets and pristine purity of red/black fruit seamlessly melded into the silky tannins and persistent freshness. Lafite is Lafite!
Chateau Leoville Barton
Big Sibling Leoville is more ripped (than Langoa Barton). The deeper blue black fruit is more dense and intense. So too the richer, more persistent, but uber fine tannins. Long, lingering freshness.
The most floral Margaux I can remember. Violets, peonies and roses. A delicate sweetness of fruit that is intense, persistent and tensioned. Very fresh and long.
Chateau Mouton Rothschild
Ripe red blue fruit with the most refined, silky yet rich tannins. I don’t recall Mouton being so arresting and disarming – even though the wine is so intense – at such a youthful juncture.
Jean-Rene Matignon retired in May 2022 after 36 years at Chateau Pichon Baron
Chateau Pichon Baron
Violets, blueberries and blackcurrant cassis of unimaginable density for the vintage. Roll Royce sweet tannins. Epic freshness. This amazing result confirms the importance of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc in 2021. The blend is 88% Cabernet Sauvignon and 12% Merlot. A spectacular parting gift from Technical Director Jean-Rene Martignon who retired last May 2022 after 36 years at Pichon Baron.
Chateau Pichon Comtesse
Floral red blue fruit so ripe, dense and persistent there is a sweetness to the fruitiness. Silky tannins to add to all that overwhelming finesse and freshness.
Violets and blackcurrant cassis. Rich, ripe fruit and suave tannins. An incredible success for a very challenging vintage.
Good things come to those who wait. The harvest started on 22 September and did not finish until 17 October at this Margaux Second Growth. Blue black fruit, and a whiff of liquorice and spice. Silky tannins. Great harmony and freshness.
Chateau Clerc Milon
Ripe mulberries and boysenberries. Very fine tannins and incredible freshness. The journey of fruit to structure and vivacity is seamless.
Domaine de Chevalier
Violets and smoky dark blue/black fruit of intensity. Tannins are just as intense. So too the long freshness. The white is always among the top. Domaine de Chevalier Rouge is just as impressive and represents one of the best value-for-money Bordeaux.
Violets, blueberry, cherry fruit seamlessly balanced with fine, elegant tannins and bracing freshness. Medium-plus bodied.
Carraudes de Lafite
Much like the grand vin, scented violets and elegant fruit harmoniously balanced with the fine tannins and humming freshness.
La Chapelle de la Mission
Violets, succulent, juicy red fruit carried by ripe tannins. So lively. Bewitching! The most charming wine of the vintage!!
Le Clarence de Haut-Brion
Blue and light black fruit with a whiff of vanilla. Richer, riper than La Chapelle de La Mission.
Vibrant, lifted, enthusiastic fruit that is seamlessly woven into the fabric of the tannins and acidity.
Les Griffons de Pichon Baron
Ripe blueberries and ripe capsicums. The ripeness is pin-point, not over-ripe. On the contrary it is a salivating ripeness where the freshness is in constant competition with it. 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 44% Merlot and 11% Petit Verdot.
Ripe and rich blue black fruit including currants. The tannins are very suave. The freshness completes the harmony. An historic property, D’Issan even has a moat.
Violets with ripe fruit that has a lot of purity and which is seamlessly balanced with the silky tannins, freshness and 13% alcohol.
Rich smoky dark fruit with equally opulent tannins. Round freshness. A very masculine Lagrange.
Chateau Langoa Barton
Violets and beguiling red blue fruit that, for Langoa, is unusually up-front. Impressive intensity and density. The tannins are seamlessly woven into the fruit. Hallmark freshness of the vintage.
Chateau Leoville Poyferre
Violets, vanilla, rich blue black fruit with accompanying rich crisp tannins. Lots of freshness. Oak a bit in front of the fruit.
Chateau Malartic Lagraviere
Blackcurrants with a whiff of violets. Seamless, the fruit, structure and lively freshness. What a return to great form at this Pessac-Leognan estate
Pavillon Rouge de Margaux
Floral, red blue fruit in complete harmony with the tannins and riveting freshness.
Violets, vanilla, red blue fruit that is ripe and rich. So too the tannins and freshness. Oak a bit in front of the fruit.
Le Petit Cheval
Although in the shadow of grand vin Cheval Blanc, Petit Cheval 2021 is a great success in its own right. The fruit has density and intensity and the tannins are silky even as they are rich.
Red blue black fruit with a floral note and minerally aspect. The challenges of the vintage allowed a narrow window to bring in the harvest which was achieved in three days. A lighter Petrus that still commands poise, harmony and wonderful freshness.
Chateau Le Pin
Le Pin is of course a pure Merlot. Annual production is between 4,000 and 6,000 bottles. No Le Pin was bottled in 2003 and 2013. Cherries and capsicums seamlessly in harmony with ripe crisp tannins.
Reserve de la Comtesse
Scented. Violets, red blue fruit of intensity. The tannins are almost creamy! Such is the quality of the fruit, Managing Director & Chief Winemaker Nicolas Glumineau employed up to 14% of pressed wine.
Les Tourelles de Longueville
Red blue fruit and vanilla. Structure a bit ahead of the fruit and this is probably because the wine is slightly too cool when tasted. 66% Merlot, 28% Cabernet Sauvignon and 6% Cabernet Franc.
Le Comte de Malartic
Red light blue fruit in delicious harmony with freshness and elegant tannins.
L’Esprit de Chevalier
Whiff of flowers. Ripe, lifted blue fruit with ripe crisp tannins. Very fresh.
Red fruit, including raspberries, and whiff of vanilla. A grip of tannins on the finish.
Hang time fruit that is a touch over-ripe. The oak is also a bit upfront.
Le Petit Mouton
Quite reductive, tight and closed. Difficult to assess. To retaste another time.
Tasting the 2021 Bordeaux Futures in May 2022 was a great opportunity to catch up with Chateau Margaux Managing Director & Chief Winemaker Philippe Bascaules who continues to be Director of Winemaking at Napa’s Inglenook, the estate owned by the Coppola Family