En Primeur Bordeaux 2021

The Bordeaux 2021 vintage primeur campaign has now kicked off here at PMFW!

The 2021 Bordeaux vintage at a glance
*Intense aromatic complexity in both red and white wines
*The best wines are balanced, elegant and fresh, with lower alcohol levels
*Highs are seen across both Left and Right Banks
*White wines – including a small amount of sublime Sauternes – are particularly exciting
*Pricing looks to be stable

There’s no doubt that 2021 was a challenging vintage. Key sources mentioned at times unfavourable weather conditions, sometimes low yields and unusual blends. These difficulties have been largely overcome, through astute vineyard management, a hawkish eye on the harvest date and sensitive élevage (the ‘rearing’ of the young wine).

Despite the challenges, we’ve evaluated what Bordeaux has to offer, and handpicked the best fine wines of the 2021 vintage, so our members can anticipate savouring something new and exciting in the near future.

Bordeaux 2021 – ‘the miracle vintage’
Thankful to have harvested healthy grapes at all, many winemakers have been thrilled at their resulting quality. Said one, “I hated the grapes during harvest, and I fell in love with them in the tank”. If life gave them lemons, Bordeaux winemakers made the best of it, with stoic determination to ‘make it work’. This pragmatism, rather than a lament for perfection, is evident in the excellent En-Primeur buys from 2021 – if you have the right connections[KP1] .

Freshness and drinkability (buvabilité) abound within this elegant vintage. For those Châteaux who experienced favourable weather conditions, grapes and terroir that coped better, or more easily managed vinification processes, their wines will be appreciated. It’s likely these can be enjoyed earlier, compared to more robust vintages, though again several winemakers point towards their ageing potential given their acidity, balance and tannic structure.

Red grape varietals and aromas
Calling 2021 a ‘Cabernet vintage’ would play down some incredible Merlots. As an early-flowering grape, thin skinned Merlot is susceptible to frost, with many grapes either water-heavy come harvest, or not surviving at all. We’re also seeing the occasional great Petit Verdot and Malbec in the mix.

Aromatic intensity, with dramatic, perfumed noses is a high for both reds and whites. A long, warm summer and cool nights let grapes ripen slowly. In adequately ripe harvests, a gradual build-up of aromatic nuance delivered identifiable grape and terroir markers in the glass. These conditions also retained acidity, giving freshness and vibrancy and, for the reds, a looked-for slow build-up of phenolic ripeness, creating smooth, integrated tannins.

Bordeaux’s promising dry and sweet whites
Whites are consistently excellent, displaying ample freshness and clarity on the palate, with the aromatic complexity typical of the long ripening period. Pessac-Léognan and Graves produced wines that are enjoyably drinkable. While some are piercing and acidic right now, top picks from the Right Bank and Médoc regions are set to deliver in the bottle with the softening influence of ageing.

Sauternes was the most in peril, with weather simply not playing ball and a 50% down on usual quantities. Against Mother Nature’s odds, some winemakers have nonetheless achieved sublime feats, producing wines that are fresh, bright, sweet and succulent.

‘We’re back to Bordeaux’
Several winemakers referred to the 2021 Bordeaux vintage as a ‘modern classic’ and likening production to the cool, fresh, lower alcohol wines of the 80s and 90s, except with increased precision and refinement. This equilibrium reflects a marriage of time and dedication in the vineyards and advanced technology in the cellars.

Unlike 2016 and 2018, this isn’t an opulent or ostentatious vintage. Instead, it’s elegant – with exciting acidity, lower alcohol, balance, and its terroir and grape signatures evident in the glass.

At Peter Maude Fine Wines, we have secured some of these exceptional bottles through our discerning selection and enduring connections.

Bordeaux 2021: vintage comparisons
While some winemakers have referenced 1996 and 1999 as potential Left Bank associations, 2021 is widely considered to be better than 2011, 2013, and even 2017. It’s also drawn comparisons to 2008 En Primeur, which offered many tight and unyielding wines that opened up beautifully with cellaring. As in that year, ageing will be key to enjoying this varied vintage to its fullest.

Small but well, if not perfectly, formed. To secure a selection of the Bordeaux 2021 wines En Primeur for yourself, subscribe to our newsletter here.

Thanks to Georgina Hindle in ‘Decanter’ for her extensive commentary on the Bordeaux 2021 vintage, some of which we’ve drawn from here.