The 2021 vintage in Bordeaux: a challenging year
Following three outstanding years, the 2021 vintage displays a very different identity compared to previous years. There are almost as many 2021 vintages in Bordeaux as there are estates, but overall the profile of the yielded wines boasts a fine expression, a lower alcohol content, a very fragrant aromatic bouquet and an exceptional freshness.
Throughout this vintage, three major episodes challenged the Bordeaux estates.
The unprecedented frost suffered on April 6th, 7th and 8th hit the vineyards at a time when the growing cycle was well underway and thus caused considerable damage in the most affected terroirs. However, Bordeaux was spared with a 30% lower-than-average loss compared to a 90% loss in harder hit regions such as the Northern Rhône Valley, Provence and some parts of Burgundy. Most of the major terroirs were spared.
The shifting weather conditions then persisted with wet and overcast weather until July. Having impacted the flowering period in some areas, the risk of fungal diseases settling on the grapes increased and necessitated daily monitoring and tailored measures.
Finally, during the end of September, the pivotal, most decisive moment was when to harvest. Light showers seemed to occur on a daily-basis, which prompted some winegrowers to harvest prematurely. Those who chose to wait were rewarded with an exceptional month of October, which enabled the grapes to slowly achieve a very pleasant ripeness level.
The weather conditions are in keeping with a good, or even very good, Bordeaux vintage. The average peak temperature during the summer months was slightly higher than in 2017 and 0.2°C higher than in 2014. The amount of sunshine was more or less identical to the 2017 vintage in Bordeaux. The rainfall that occurred during the summer season was inferior to the conditions that were recorded in 2014.
As you can see, 2021 is an uneven year. The impact of the weather conditions and microclimates, the soil drainage, the winegrowers’ decisions during the season, the date of the grape-harvest... from one estate to another, and even from one terroir to another, the quality of the wines varies tremendously. Let us be certain of one thing: yields are low therefore production is low, which is a sign of very high-quality wines as this vintage took time to reach full maturity. Indeed, a larger harvest would have prevented the grapes from reaching its current admirable ripeness level.
Many modest terroirs struggled to produce diverse wines. However, the fine terroirs greatly benefitted from the skilful know-how and technical facilities of many illustrious estates and these efforts played a crucial part in the production of these fine wines. Indeed, thanks to a limited harvest along with dry and sunny climatic conditions at the end of the season, the 2021 vintage showcases very pleasant characteristics and boasts a bold identity.
The 2021 Bordeaux vintage is often compared to a vintage from the last century. Following an array of sunny, colourful, warm and voluptuous vintages, the 2021 vintage in Margaux, Saint-Julien, Saint-Estèphe or Pauillac provides a fresh expression with a more "Atlantic" style. The 2021 Bordeaux red wines, especially in Pomerol and Saint-Émilion, are elegant and refined.
Although the 2021 vintage showcases fine, yet uneven, red wines, the Pessac-Léognan white wines and other iconic references in the Bordeaux Blancs Secs appellation boast an utterly exceptional quality. This record-setting vintage exhibits energy, complexity and length. Unfortunately, the quantities are very low.
Once again, the quality of both Sauternes and Barsac wines in particular is magnificent, thanks to an extremely ideal end-of-season that favoured the development of botrytis. However, these wines will be very rare, as some estates were not even able to produce any wine during this vintage.