Welcome to Mr.Wheeler’s Bordeaux 2021 En Primeur campaign. The following represents our view on the 2021 vintage and the best wines to buy, many of which now released with more yet to come. This view comes from our expert team having tasted well over 200 hundred wines, many several times, both in Bordeaux and here in the UK.
We have also considered the detailed reviews of major wine authorities such as at Vinous.com, JancisRobinson.com, Decanter.com and those of Jane Anson. However, we believe these are still no substitute for the many in-situ tastings and thorough investigations we’ve done and made ourselves.
As you’ll see from our vintage report below, Bordeaux 2021 offers the collector a refreshing contrast to its recurring flushes in warmer, more opulent vintages. Here, one finds instead a more classically styled elegance, pronounced freshness, and overall structure to promise much ageworthiness.
So, whether you’ve bought en primeur before, we invite you to explore the range we’ve assembled thus far and to discover which of these wines will make either great additions to your current collection or indeed become your first step toward creating a new one.
Bordeaux 2021 Vintage Report
‘A refreshing return to cool vintage classicism’
Following the trio of ripe, opulent vintages that was 2018,’19 and ‘20, 2021 is a cooler year in Bordeaux and a return to the classic structures (albeit more gently extracted) aromatic lift (and lower alcohol levels) of the 1980s and 1990s. Both dry and sweet whites are fabulous.
A challenging season in the vineyard with May frosts affecting yields and a rainy, late September demanding management for those in search of concentration in the merlots. Salvation came in the form of three glorious, unexpected weeks of dry and sunny weather in October. This allowed those with the ambition (and financial means) to delay picking and on leaving their cabernet sauvignons and francs on the vine longer to produce wines of excellent intensity and structure, yet with impressive poise.
So here we see for ourselves once again the impressive improvement that’s been made over many years in the collective capacity of growers and winemakers to deal with climatic adversity. The level of quality that can be found in the most successful estates is, in fact, much higher than we had from initial expectations.
As a result, 2021 is described stylistically as having a certain ‘cool vintage classicism’ (or, more accurately, a ‘cool summer classicism’), one which for many will be a welcomed contrast to the warmer vintage density and structure we’ve become accustomed to.
Choose judiciously and a few cases of 2021s in your collection will deliver tremendous drinking pleasure. We’ve tasted over 250 wines between our week in situ and subsequent tastings in our office, so my colleagues and I are perfectly placed to help you navigate this unique vintage.
‘Sleek, lifted, aromatic cabernet; vibrant, intense whites’
Difficult conditions for merlot saw percentages of cabernet sauvignon ramped up in many grand vin assemblages. Nevertheless, throughout St-Estèphe, Pauillac, St-Julien, Magaux and Pessac, wines show true, ‘classic modern’ characteristics: sleek, crisp, vibrant, lifted red fruit and a focus on freshness, purity and aromatics. Lower levels of alcohol will further endear lovers of classically styled Left Bank wines.
By contrast, they were conditions making for dazzling white wines, which in 2021 show intense acidity, vibrancy and aromatic complexity in abundance.
Sauternes, though severely affected by frost and hail, still enjoyed an excellent development of noble rot in ripe grapes, one which had higher acidity compared to previous vintages.
‘Fresh, silky and bright merlot’
Although conditions were no easier, wines here have arrived fresh, silky, bright and elegant, and as expected, more on the red end of the berry spectrum. There is more subdued concentration and richness mid-palate, yet still ample flesh and purity to make these very interesting prospects with more ageing. St-Emilion shows good colour and strong aromatic profiles, with intense floral, red berry, and often quite savoury characteristics.
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