Bordeaux 2021 Primeurs: St Emilion Grand Cru Classé

In the second of my three St Emilion reports I come to the many châteaux ranked at the grand cru classé level. While my prior St Emilion report demonstrated that those properties one step up the classification, largely blessed with favourable terroirs and deep pockets, did fairly well in 2021, some of them producing wines which seemed to transcend the difficulties of the vintage, the story at this level is somewhat different. Here the results of the various trials endured during 2021 are tangible, and we return to wines of true heterogeneity.

Bordeaux 2021

Of course, we are looking at the wines of a very heterogeneous group of châteaux here. Just about the only things that unite them are the appellation and classification printed on the label, and – with one or two exceptions – their use of predominantly Merlot over Cabernet. Some are well positioned financially, with wealthy backers, while others are getting by on a shoestring. Some have great clay and limestone soils, perhaps the most desirable of the region’s terroirs, while others are planted on gravel or even sand. A number of them enjoy a natural protection from frost, by virtue of their elevated positions, often tucked away in little corners of the St Emilion plateau, rubbing shoulders with grander names. Others, however, are fully exposed out on the plain.

You get the picture.

No wonder the heterogeneity of the 2021 vintage shows so strongly here. There are wines worth considering at this level, but also wines which do nothing but speak of the trials of the vintage, and bring little joy. Buyers should tread particularly carefully here.

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