I’ve just returned from a week of wonderful weather, old friends and one of my favorite spots on the planet….Bordeaux!
Of course, the main purpose of my trip was to taste the 2021 ‘En Primeur’ on both banks as well as Pessac-Leognan. Reports had been mixed to say the least about 2021 and I came away very pleasantly surprised. This is a very different kind of vintage than the trilogy of 2018-2020
What is 2021 all about? Well that’s a tricky one…Just about everywhere I went I heard the same story. Frost and mildew presented challenges and a (proved to be incorrect) weather forecast of rain made some Chateau pick earlier than they wanted to. Amazingly many Chateau rolled the dice and ignored the weather person. Those who took risks and in many cases made very little wine fashioned some very beautiful throwback clarets.
Mother nature forced the hand of winemakers. Presented with much less Merlot than usual and lower alcohol levels… to make great wine required very gentle macerations and loads of hard work. I’m happy to say if you select carefully there are some great wines in 2021.
Many Chateau talked about this vintage as a “terroir” vintage. With less makeup and alcohol, I really found the classic differences between for example St. Estephe and St. Julien (where as in a vintage like 2018 this is more challenging). For many years now customers have been asking for lower alcohol Bordeaux. Well here is your chance! The wines do not taste lean or green and I really did not detect underripe flavors. I think this is a testament to technology and great winemaking. Years ago I do not think a harvest like 2021 would have produced so many good wines.
Should you buy futures in 2021? Yes, I think you should but you need to choose carefully. I plan on offering only the “blue chip” wines and from what I’ve seen early on pricing will be below 2020 which of course is a good thing. With the tough harvest quantities are going to be very limited on many of the top rated wines. I do not think these wines will need as much time as the above mentioned trilogy and in the context of other vintages these are far better wines than say 2011 or 2017. Some comparisons I heard from Chateau folk were 1996, 2008 and 2014. And hey-we all like those vintages (although I personally think 2021 is a bit different than these).
The campaign has just started but we already have some excellent releases. My pick for wine of the vintage-Cheval Blanc is out at a reasonable price and the beautiful Leoville Las Cases (Cabernet lovers dream!) was released today.
Look for more updates here as I reveal my top picks (although a big hint my other wine of the vintage has a heart on the label!) and please do not hesitate to email me firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
Most selections will come in wood six packs except for First Growths and top end St. Emilion and Pomerol which will be in three packs. Large and small formats are available upon request.
Two of the most exciting wines of the vintage released today. Angelus and Leoville Barton. Sadly I didn't have a chance to taste LB but I most certainly tasted Angelus and found it fascinating. With a very high percentage of Cab Franc (60%) it had a stunning nose and some of the finest "hidden" tannins I've ever tasted in a young Angelus. Superb wine
Many big wines have been added to the list as well as the always best-selling Laroque. Palmer is very limited in quantity but superb this year and Pontet Canet has crafted a fascinating wine of pure fruit and exceptional balance-This will end up being a heck of a wine!
My email box blew up this AM as there were quite a few releases. I loved the 2021 Branaire Ducru-it's a wine of prescision and finesse and the price is great as well. Lynch was excellent, pretty approachable for a young LB and you can't go wrong with the classic Grand Puy Lacoste. I like the pricing on this one as well!
The last few days have been very active. Lots of big names have released their 2021's and I expect some other big ones tomorrow. Here's some notes on what you should be paying attention to:
Lagrange - A great bargain. My time at this Chateau was eye opening-great winemaking and terroir here. My notes "very smooth with a beautiful texture. Very delicious today but this will be a sneaky long distance runner."
Lafite - Not much to say here. Very classic as always. The comparisons to 1996 for this wine are pretty accurate.
Rauzan Segla - Another home run from the hottest estate in Margaux. This has now become a wine that is a "must buy" EP as it usually sells out and the price always seems to go up.
Canon - Same as above! My notes- "very serious…red fruits, great freshness."
Troplong Mondot - Can't really call this a sleeper as it's an exceptional terroir made by an exceptional team. But I expect in the next few years it will start to be priced along the lines of Figeac, etc. my notes "13.5 Abv-lowest since 1999, medium weight and not overdone. Shows the density of the clay terroir as well as the purity of the limestone."
La Gaffeliere - This is one of the wines of the vintage and was very tough to get this year. It will sell out for sure!
Phelan Segur - A ridiculous buy at this price. Veronique and her team are on fire! My notes "silky, well integrated tannins with a very nice mid-palate and very pretty fruit."
Another big Monday of releases (and this past Friday was busy as well).
Here's the highlights:
Pichon Comtesse: Easily one of the wines of the vintage. Production down 70% so once it's gone that's it!
Mouton: this will be an outstading Mouton for sure. My notes "many layers, great texture with superb freshness and a very long finish. Unique spicy notes as well"
Larcis Ducasse: I always am a big fan of this Chateau. Elegant wines from one of the best Terroirs in all of St. Emilion. Very limited supply in 2021. my notes "86% Merlot 14% Cab Franc-dark fruited with impeccable balance. Quite delicious even today"
The campaign is winding down with tomorrow being most likely the last day. Almost all the wines are released (with the exception of Figeac, VCC and a few others) and there's quite a few exciting wines on the list for sure. Here's my highlights:
Clinet - I really enjoyed tasting the 2021 Clinet. With a high percentage of Cabernet it's a pretty unique wine with all that Pomerol style. My notes: 13% Abv. "Very soft and well-integrated tannins. Super aromatics"
Smith Haut Lafitte BLANC - A true "wow" wine. One of the wines of the vintage for sure (2021 was very kind to Bordeaux Blancs) My notes: "Palette coating, loads of texture good acidity and mineral notes. A real show stopper"
Larcis Ducasse - I always am a big fan of this Chateau. Elegant wines from one of the best Terroirs in all of St. Emilion. Very limited supply in 2021. my notes "86% Merlot 14% Cab Franc-dark fruited with impeccable balance. Quite delicious even today"
Calon Segur - Easily one of the wines of the vintage. Absolutely stunning… a big bravo to the whole team at Calon! My notes: "a very sensuous wine with super-pure fruit and loads of freshness. Approachable yet so super complex at the same time"
Carmes Haut Brion - Along with the Calon above, this is another "must buy" in 2021. Carmes has been nothing short of great recently and this may be one of the few 2021's that eclipses 2020 and 2019. My notes "almost Burgundian in style, such finesse and precision. Unique as always"
La Mission Haut Brion BLANC - My choice for best overall 2021 that I tasted. Expensive yes, but I'd put this up against any grand Cru white burg (and have you seen the prices on those lately?) my notes: "spicy with incredible freshness and a Meyer lemon undertone. Perfectly integrated oak. Knocks you off your feet"
With the addition of the outstanding Vieux Ch Certan last week, the list is now complete. Don't miss Figeac - easily one of the wines of the vintage as well….
Many of the top wines are limited in quantity so get your order in quick!
The 2021 Domaine de Chevalier was terrific both times I tasted it. Potent and driving, the 2021 dazzles with Cabernet Sauvignon intensity in its aromas, flavors and overall structure. Graphite, spice, menthol, spice, rose petals, mocha and flowers run thr...
The 2021 Le Dragon de Quintus is sourced from a collection of mid-slope parcels across the château's three main clusters of vineyards. It offers lovely depth and energy throughout. Dark-fleshed fruit, spice, leather and menthol are all laced together. Thi...
The 2021 Durfort-Vivens offers a compelling mix of Cabernet aromatics and notable textural richness. There's tremendous weight, depth and intensity here. Blueberry, lavender, sage, mint and tobacco come together in this potent, deeply structured Cabernet....
The 2021 Figeac was picked from September 21 until October 19 and matured, as usual, in 100% new oak. It has a very pure, elegant bouquet, the Cabernet Sauvignon imparting subtle pencil lead notes, blackberry and briar, almost understated at first but gai...
2021 Chateau Gruaud Larose St. Julien (Future ETA 2024)
The 2021 Haut-Bailly is a dark, rather somber wine. The aromatics alone are captivating, but there are strong savory inflections from the high percentage of Petit Verdot in this year's blend. This deceptively mid-weight Haut-Bailly has plenty to offer. Sp...
A candidate for the title of wine of the vintage, the 2021 Haut-Brion unwinds in the glass with aromas of rich red and black fruit mingled with notions of cigar wrapper, licorice, black truffles, loamy soil and burning embers. Full-bodied, deep and concen...
The 2021 is a super-classic La Conseillante the likes of which has not been made here in a very long time. A Pomerol of vibrancy and tension, the 2021 bristles with energy from start to finish. All the elements are so well-balanced. Aromatic and delineate...
Unwinding in the glass with aromas of dark berries and plums mingled with loamy soil, sweet spices, cigar box and licorice, the 2021 La Mission Haut-Brion is full-bodied, lively and seamless, with a deep, concentrated core of fruit framed by bright acids ...
The 2021 La Mission Haut-Brion Blanc has a much more nuanced bouquet than the Haut-Brion Blanc this year with scents of Japanese yuzu, crushed stone, apple blossom and a touch of elderflower. The palate is very well balanced with a fine line of acidity, t...