Bordeaux 2021 Primeurs: Pessac-Léognan, White
The 2021 vintage in Bordeaux was one which saw the region’s vineyard managers make an abrupt about-face regarding their work in the vines. This was not the year for tending vines and making wine by rote. In 2018, 2019 and 2020 they cherished the canopy, the leaves protecting the grapes from sunburn, whereas 2021 was a year of frenzied deleafing to improve ventilation and exposure to the sun’s rays. In 2018, 2019 and 2020 you could sit back and watch the crop ripen on the vines, waiting for the right moment to pick, whereas 2021 was a year of manic green-harvesting, reducing the crop, and doing everything possible to help the vines bring the grapes to maturity.
The 2021 vintage was one in which you needed to be adaptable.
So too in wine-writing. Long-term subscribers will probably be familiar with the order in which I publish the many instalments of my annual primeurs report, starting on the left bank in St Estèphe, then proceeding down the Médoc appellations and across to the right bank, before finishing off with Pessac-Léognan and Sauternes. Not this year though; in the first of my region-by-region reports to see the light of day I begin with the white wines of Pessac-Léognan and Graves, a reflection of the great success enjoyed in this region in the 2021 vintage.
Before I get to the tasting notes it is worth considering briefly why this region has enjoyed such success this year. I heard many different explanations postulated during my weeks of tasting in Bordeaux, some of which were more plausible than others. First, and perhaps most obvious, the white varieties reach maturity inherently earlier than the red varieties, and so there was not the desperate struggle to eke out the ripening at the end of the season, as was seen with the Merlots and Cabernets. Also important, however, the cooler climatic conditions actively favoured the retention of acidity within the grapes, something which has been missing in the past three vintages. These two facets alone – ripe fruit and good acidity – suggest the 2021 vintage should be good for whites.