Bordeaux 2021 Primeurs: St Estèphe

Having upset the world order by publishing my notes on the white wines of Pessac-Léognan, Sauternes and Barsac first, we now return to some semblance of normality – if you could ever regard anything to do with the annual primeurs circus normal – with a report on the latest releases from the St Estèphe appellation.

In truth this seems like a pretty good place to start, having completed my run-down of the whites, because in St Estèphe we find some of the vintage’s more accomplished red wines. The best examples were tasting very well at this stage, and most notably there seemed to be a very true expression of each estate’s style and terroir. While none of the wines hit the heights I saw in 2018, 2019 or 2020 (or a number of other vintages) they seemed very true to their origins; Montrose tasted like Montrose, Cos d’Estournel tasted like Cos d’Estournel, and so on.

Bordeaux 2021

It is not all good news though. Far from it, in fact. Here in St Estèphe we see a theme emerging which will be continued through most of these reports on the red wines, and that is heterogeneity. Yes there are some good wines, but also many that seem to have missed the target in this most challenging vintage.

Speaking to Vincent Millet of Château Calon-Ségur it was clear that he had adapted his strategy to deal with the difficulties of the vintage, although seemingly not to deal with the frost. “There was no frost in St Estèphe”, he told me, although I am sure that depends on exactly where in St Estèphe your vines are; not everyone was so lucky. Although Vincent Bache-Gabrielsen of Château Lilian Ladouys said something along similar lines; “the problem was more the mildew than the frost”, he told me. The hard work for the first of these two Vincents came later in the year; “we were obliged to change the way we work in the vines, removing the leaves from both sides at the end of June to reduce the humidity around the bunches, and to expose them to the sun as we searched for maximum maturity”.

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