And the latest is...
23 June - all good things
This afternoon's release of the stunningly elegant Le Pin marks the end of the 2021 Bordeaux en primeur campaign. Now is the time to scoop up those last cases you have had your eye on. Thank you for reading. Same time next year?
We are almost at the end of the campaign. Today we have the exquisite Vieux Chateau Certan, a stunning success, and a clear contender for wine of the vintage. Alexandre Thienpont told us he planned a longer elevage than usual, with a lower proportion of new oak.
I was smitten as soon as I tasted Figeac, comfortably a contender for wine of the vintage, and released today. 2021 was their first vintage in their new winery, and it is a stunning success. It is also heavily oversubscribed and we can currently only offer the second wine, Petit Figeac. Also from St-Emilion we have the opulent, dark-fruited Pavie-Macquin, and from Pomerol, La Conseillante.
This morning we have the release of the Clarence Dillon wines. The consensus is that Haut-Brion is a strong contender for wine of the vintage and the critics heap praise upon what looks set to be a relatively long-lived red of precision and grace reminiscent of some of the greats made here 20 years ago or more. Its sister chateau La Mission Haut-Brion is well capable of matching it. The 2021 is a wine of finesse and breeding and a certain austerity. As usual, it doesn’t have quite the early charm of Haut-Brion – but nor the price tag.
2021 marked the first vintage of 100% biodynamic farming at Domaine de Chevalier. While the Bernard family have produced another stunning red, it’s the white that steals the show this vintage – one of the best in a very strong vintage for the whites.
The first release this morning is the flagship property of Bernard Magrez – Pape-Clement. Staying in Pessac, Carmes Haut-Brion has been on an upward trajectory since the arrival of Guillaume Pouthier and is currently one of the most in-demand wines in Bordeaux.
Then over to the right bank, first for Valandraud, the original ‘garage wine’, then for Helene Garcin’s Pomerol, Clos L’Eglise. Next we have L’If where, for the first time, Guillaume and Alexandre Thienpont worked the vineyard and oversaw the vinification. The quality is transformed from their early years here and this is highly recommended.
After lunch we are in Pomerol for L'Eglise-Clinet, and St-Emilion for Beau-Sejour Becot. Juliette Becot and her husband Julien Barthe took over at Beau-Sejour Becot in 2017, and with the help of consultant Thomas Duclos (who has also been working his magic at Canon) the style here has softened. We've been hugely impressed with our tastings; this is a wine of depth, transparency and energy, and the price remains very fair.
Haut-Bailly was not the only chateau showing off a new cellar this vintage, but by some distance it struck me as the most tasteful. But the single most striking thing I saw in any cellar this year was the army of ‘terracotta warriors’ at Durfort-Vivens. In 2017, Gonzague Lurton introduced two amphorae to his barrel cellar. He liked the finely-polished tannins these amphorae gave the wine so much that he now has 150 amphorae. They recede into the distance in his cellar where there were once rows of barrels. Given how well Durfort-Vivens has turned out, I suspect we may be seeing more cellars go this way.
The critics seem to be unanimous that Margaux is one of the wines of the vintage, and we humbly concur.
An early start for St-Julien, with the Triaud family wines Saint-Pierre and Gloria. 2021 was the first year for Saint-Pierre under conversion to organics, accomplished in the teeth of the challenging vintage conditions. Being organic is not as easy in damp Bordeaux as it is in dry Burgundy!
This week begins with the first of the first-growths to make an appearance. Jean-Emmanuel Danjoy was uncompromising in his pursuit of quality and spared no quarter in taking in only the best fruit to make 2021 Mouton-Rothschild. The result is a Mouton more marked than ever by the character of its Cabernet Sauvignon, at a property where Cabernet has always been in the driving seat, in a vintage when Cabernet excelled. Cabernet is also king at Cos d'Estournel, a property that wowed us in 2021; the blanc is a contender for white of the vintage. And from St-Emilion, Larcis Ducasse has been favoured by the vintage, which has brought lift and freshness to complement the ripe fruit and heady floral aromas.
We are back in Margaux first thing this morning for both Lascombes and the impressive Giscours. Pauillac has Pichon Baron for us, and St-Estephe gives us Basile Tesseron's last-ever harvest at Lafon-Rochet.
The afternoon brings us Henri Lurton's exquisite Brane-Cantenac, released at a discount on last year.
We're expecting a big day today with some important releases. Ausone is straight out of the gates, followed fast by the 'Dragon Boat' wine Beychevelle. The challenging circumstances of the 2021 vintage made it a very difficult year to transition to organics, and Nicolas Glumineau sometimes wondered about throwing the towel in and postponing till next year. But he persevered, took the hit where yields were concerned, and a much-reduced volume of Pichon Lalande is released today. Then the beguilingly aromatic Leoville Poyferre: `Despite the low yields, we sacrificed juice for quality`, Sara Lecompte Cuvelier told us.
After lunch we are back in Margaux for d'Issan. It is one of the Medoc's oldest properties, continually producing wine since the 12th century - but recent vintages have seen a whole new lease of life. And St-Estephe gives us another property on the rise - under the guiding hand of Veronique Dausse, Phelan-Segur is way better than it used to be.
By mid-morning, we have Nicolas Audebert's great pair Rauzan-Segla and Canon, and from Pomerol, Jeremy Chasseuil's fabulous Feytit-Clinet. Also from Pomerol, Beauregard, while St-Emilion gives us La Gaffeliere.
The day kicks off with one of the great terroirs of the Medoc, Montrose, and its close neighbour, the often-overlooked Meyney. Also making an appearance, Pauillac's Grand-Puy Ducasse. The Mouton stable gives us another great expression of a complex terroir in its Clerc Milon.
This afternoon sees us back in Margaux for much-improved Cantenac-Brown, before heading down the road to Pessac for Latour-Martillac, where the white is an especially nice proposition in this fresh, vibrant vintage. Then it's a trip over the water to St-Emilion for the very well-located Barde-Haut (look it up! it neighbours Troplong-Mondot, L'If and Pavie Macquin) and, from the Cheval Blanc stable, the perfumed, expressive Quinault l'Enclos.
This morning we are back in Pessac for the serious, distinguished de Fieuzal. And from St-Emilion we have Troplong-Mondot. This is a property transformed from only a few vintages ago. It has always occupied prime propert atop the St-Emilion plateau; the arrival of Aymeric de Gironde from Cos d'Estournel in 2018 has allowed that terroir to shine through. And from Pauillac, mighty Lafite.
I'd been expecting a bit more lèse-majesté from the Bordelaise while the United Kingdom was otherwise occupied celebrating Her Majesty's Platinum Jubilee. In the event, there weren't that many releases over the end of last week. St-Julien gave us the fresh, supple Lagrange. The dapper Count Stephan von Neipperg released his d'Aiguilhe, Canon-la-Gaffeliere, Clos de l'Oratoire, and La Mondotte. Pomerol gave us Gazin and Fronsac gave us La Vieille Cure. From Margaux we had Prieure-Lichine, and Pessac pitched in with Carbonnieux and Olivier.
Today France is closed for Whit Monday, so it will be a chance for us to catch up with other things!
And just when I thought my day couldn't get any busier, we are back in Pauillac for the much-loved Grand-Puy-Lacoste.
And if all that weren't enough, St-Emilion has given us Jean-Antoine Nony's structured, stylish, delicious Grand Mayne; 'elegance without excess'.
Pauillac comes out to play. Lynch-Bages has been owned by the Cazes family since the 1930s, and the Cazes play the long game, with generations of work and investment pushing Lynch into the top league. This is the second vintage made in their huge new cellar, where 80 gravity-fed tanks enable a more precise, parcel-by-parcel approach to vinification. In 2021, Lynch is all about elegance and finesse. Current co-proprietor and General Manager Jean-Charles Cazes notes that despite the modernity, their aim is very much a traditional Bordeaux wine – just even better.
Talbot hits the tracks this morning. It used to be a reliable but perhaps not very exciting chateau, but in recent vintages, under the guiding hand of Jean-Michel Laporte ex of Chateau Conseillante, it has been proving how good its terroir really is. Also from St-Julien, François Xavier Maroteaux has made a lovely Branaire-Ducru, in defiance of all the vintage's challenges. From Margaux, we have the Perrodo family wines: third growth Marquis d'Alesme, increasingly sleek Labegorce, and their more recent acquisition Tour de Mons, which gets some very good notes for an inexpensive Margaux, and is worth considering. And while we're on the subject of value propositions, from the Haut-Medoc we have Senejac.
Back to Margaux in the afternon for Siran.
The Mouton stable jumps into the fray with the ever-impressive Armailhac. From St-Emilion, we have Le Prieure. Recently welcomed into the exclusive Calon-Segur stable, this is in the words of Jane Anson, 'one to watch, without a doubt'.
From Margaux, the lovely Marquis de Terme this morning, 'the best wine from the estate I`ve tasted in many years,' according to Neal Martin. Also from Margaux, Malescot St-Exupery, and from Pessac a property I have a soft spot for, Malartic-Lagraviere.
Good morning. Bordeaux open for business again, to a slightly slow start after the Ascension Day holiday. This morning we open with much-improved fifth-growth Pedesclaux.
Today is Ascension Day and France is closed for business. We expect a pause in releases till next week. Bon weekend!
A few significant releases to kick off this morning. From Pomerol, we have Nenin. On the other side of the estuary, from St-Estephe we have the Cazes' family's Ormes de Pez, and from St-Julien and the Las Cases stable, we have Clos du Marquis.
After lunch we are back in St-Emilion for the perennially popular Laroque.
First out the door this morning are Palmer and Alter Ego. With biodynamic production making vineyard management more tricky in an already tricky vintage, volumes are low on Palmer. These have been followed by Haut-Medoc Sociando-Mallet.
This morning sees the release of the Barton stable Leoville, Langoa and Mauvesin Barton. Always one of the most popular wines en primeur, Leoville Barton is released at a substantial reduction on its price last year. It is a lovely vintage for the Barton wines, with their new winery having enabled a more parcel-by-parcel approach to vinification, and St-Julien having swerved the frost that caused problems at many addresses elsewhere. Also this morning, bell-ringing for the release of 2021 Angelus.
Monumental and elegant: this morning sees one of the grandees of the left bank, Leoville Las Cases. And there was me, not even sure if Friday counts as a working day in France. From St-Emilion we have the Vauthier family's La Clotte.
And it's out! Cheval Blanc is one of the finest wines we tasted in Bordeaux, and one of the contenders for wine of the vintage. Released today, it has become the only sell-out wine of the campaign so far. Also this afternoon, we have had the Lorenzetti family's charming, very good value St-Estephe, Lilian Ladouys.
It has been quiet on the release front thanks to ProWein in Dusseldorf, which ends today. However...
This morning sees another of our all-time favourite Bordeaux properties release. Angludet has always been a fine ambassador for the elegant, aromatic style we associate with Margaux. Owner, resident and winemaker Ben Sichel lives and breathes Angludet - and it’s all change here. Ben likes to joke that the decision to go entirely over to biodynamics was as much about his own health as that of the vineyard (although he may have had second thoughts given the extra work involved). And after exhaustive trials in 2018, he has invested heavily in amphorae. He argues that the exact proportion of wine he chooses to raise in amphorae will depend on the character of the vintage, but in the 2021 vintage half was raise in amphorae, with the balance going into a mix of new and old barrels.
Duhart-Milon lies on the same Pauillac terroir as its neighbour and mother ship Lafite (fine gravel and black sand over a bedrock of limestone). It has turned in an impressive 2021, very redolent of the august neighbour. Down south, frost and mildew decimated yields in Sauternes and Barsac. But what wine the chateaux here did manage to make are glorious, combining high energy with intense aromatics. Today we have had La Tour Blanche and Coutet.
Neal Martin knows the score
The significant release of the day is Neal Martin's vintage report. As entertaining and informative as usual, key points include:
- A 'complex and turbulent growing season'
- '2021 was one of the most difficult to assess since my first primeur back in 1997'
- 'The headline is that 2021 marks a welcome return to a classic style of Bordeaux in terms of lower ripeness levels and less alcohol'
- 'There are no thrilling wines that set the pulse racing or have "future legend" written over them - it's not that kind of vintage'
- '2021 offers a bevy of outstanding dry whites'
- '2021 is an antidote to the run of hot vintages and for that it should be welcomed, its shortcomings and fallibility perhaps part of its charm and intrigue' .
9 May 2022
And they’re off! 2021 Bordeaux got underway this morning with the release of perennial Uncorked favourite Batailley. Where many properties suffered difficulties with frost and mildew in 2021, neither struck here. Frédéric Castéja has made a classically proportioned Batailley. It is very claret: cassis, plum, cedar and tobacco. It is also released more cheaply than any other Batailley vintage on the market. Here’s hoping this early release sets the tone of the campaign!