Bordeaux 2021: Perspective
I thought, given the fact that some wines are being released, that I should post some indication of when I will be publishing my reports on 2021 Bordeaux.
I returned from Bordeaux just over one and a half weeks ago. Since then I have been hectically typing, editing and proofreading. I will begin publishing on Monday next week in my usual format, starting with my introduction to the vintage – featuring Monsieur Propriétaire, of course – followed by my customary report on the weather and harvest, as well as some very broad overall impressions of the wines. After that I will move on to my region-by-region reports. The hectic pace will not soften as this weekend I head out to the Loire Valley for a few weeks, so I will typing and posting by night, travelling and tasting by day. I hope it works!
Before I say anything more about the latest Bordeaux vintage, I must quickly reassure readers that Monsieur Propriétaire is alive and well. He has fully recovered from last year’s spell in intensive care with Covid-19, and is today fitter than he has ever been. During my two weeks in Bordeaux tasting the primeur samples several proprietors asked after him – presumably they are friends – so I wanted to get this news out as soon as possible.
As for the wines, this latest vintage is an interesting one.
During a visit to Château Cos d’Estournel quite a few years ago, manager Aymeric de Gironde (who has since moved to take on Château Troplong-Mondot) said in response to my use of the word interesting; “it is a funny thing, the word interesting, because in English it can mean good, or it can mean bad. It all depends on how you say it”.
Readers probably already know that the 2021 vintage was one in which every possible viticultural challenge was thrown at the Bordelais. Many in the region told me they felt they were back in the 1980s or 1990s, with cooler and wetter weather than they have become used to in recent years, but they were thankful that today they have more modern technology to help them. Readers dreaming of a return to the Halcyon days of lower alcohol levels and more ‘classical’ acid-rich and tannic styles will welcome such news, but remember that alongside great years such as 1982, 1990 and 1996, those decades also gave us 1984, 1987 and 1997.
Looking across the board, 2021 is an average vintage, with many charming wines with delicate textures and soft tannin profiles which will drink quite well relatively young. In the context of the vintage they are remarkable successes, but let us not confuse triumph over adversity with greatness; these are not the great wines of a great vintage. Among them there are some high points, some very good wines, some of which feel like they have been made within the confines of the vintage, some which feel they have been pushed beyond it. Many people in the region deserve congratulations for what they have achieved. And there are few truly excellent wines, as in most cases that comment comes couched with “in the context of the vintage”. And there are certainly no really outstanding wines. Not among the reds, anyway.
I fear this message will be lost among the fervour of en primeur positivity, which is understandable. After all, we all enjoy wine, new releases have the power to excite, and we all want to find the good ones. But some perspective has to be maintained.
Now I really must go and continue with my scribbling; those Pessac-Léognan notes aren’t going to edit themselves. For more detail on 2021 Bordeaux, sign in next week (from Monday – there will be no Weekend Wine reports over the next few weeks), to get reacquainted with Monsieur Propriétaire, and his new Russian friends.