You have to hand it to the Bordelais for their mastery of the message. A series of disasters throughout the growing season, alcohols up to 2% lower than the past few years despite widespread chaptilisation, and yet there is a chorus of praise comparing the wines to a modern-day 1996, or the graceful 2001.
Well I hate to break the mood, but the reality is that 2021 Bordeaux was the most challenging vintage since 2013. Overall, it is a far better year than ’13, with some excellent wines, but in too many cases you will find more pleasure elsewhere. And it looks like prices are not going to come down far enough to justify stocking up widely.
No doubt I will get plenty of stick from the trade for saying this. And having not long ago launched a website focused on Bordeaux, it is perhaps a little counter-intuitive to not score highly to ensure my notes are widely used to sell the wines. But while I love to give high scores to great vintages – you’ll find plenty of 100 points in 2009, 2010, 2016, 2019 – those scores are meaningless if I rate years like 2021 at the same level.
If you tasted those older vintages en primeur, you will know exactly what I mean when I say that some things are just obviously great from the first moment you put your nose in the glass. 2021, by contrast, is a year when you can find sculpted, juicy, balanced wines that will give great pleasure if opened at the right moment, but that will not reward being put into a cellar for decades. In general, you need to select carefully and read between the lines to find the real treasures. Here are 10 suggestions to get you started…