Bordeaux 2021

Bordeaux 2021
Already so much has been written on the 2021 vintage in Bordeaux, that I am not going to dwell in too much depth on the very difficult climate conditions that were the making (and sometimes breaking) of this vintage. Picture the battle of David and Goliath – the producers of Bordeaux struggling against the elements that Mighty Nature threw its way and it will give you an idea of the drama; the efforts; the hard work; the rays of hope; the lighting of candles in the vineyards at four o’clock in the morning to stave off the frost; the fight against mildew, rot and disease; the welcome rays of summer sunshine and warmth; the nail biting decision as to when to start picking; the constant checking of the elements – storms, wind, temperature differences – and then put that epic struggle against the continuing Covid pandemic with its doubts and its fears; its constant need to wear masks and limit exposure; the challenges of finding pickers who were willing to come harvest the grapes and the risks necessary to wait to harvest until the grapes were perfectly ripe. The 2021 harvest was exhausting both mentally and physically and Bordeaux certainly has not been challenged like this for several years.

And yet, to go back to the image of David and Goliath, Bordeaux producers have learnt important skills over the last decade or so: they are kinder to their soils, nourishing them and trusting them in a way that was unthinkable in the 20th century; they are protecting the biodiversity and the microbial life in the soil; they are learning to prune the vines so that their sap flows freely through their branches; they are shading the fruit from the sun and opening up the canopy when the north wind blows its Nordic freshness onto the sweating grapes. Growers are more in tune with nature and as Veronique Sanders said in her harvest report, the key word for 2021 was “humility”.

We joked during harvest time when we saw the low alcohol levels, that this would be a 20th century vintage and certainly there are wines on the Left Bank which make us nostalgic for the fresh, minty, Cabernet character of the 1980s (Merlot in the time of climate change is making Left Bank producers very wary). We loved the juice that leapt out of the grape skins not displaying jammy, compoted flavours but the cool, autumn tastes of wild blackberries and sloes. We knew that we should respect that character that the vintage gave us: infusion rather than maceration; wetting the cap of skins rather than pumping over the musts; choosing to age the wine in barrels that had already been seasoned by the wine of the last harvest which had leached out their tannins. We took much more time making these wines than usual and this patience was rewarded when the wines slowly unfurled in the barrel to reveal balance and elegance.

There is a great deal of affection and pride in Bordeaux for the 2021 vintage – the ugly duckling who defied the odds and emerged as a graceful swan, although in several cases with pitifully small yields. As Nature finally smiled on us by giving us a beautiful Indian Summer, we hardly dared talk about the fact that the wines reposing in their casks were actually rather beautiful. These are wines that suit our style, our DNA, at Thienpont Wine. We love wines with character and individuality which speak about their soils and the men who tend them. During the En Primeur tastings we loved their graceful accessibility. Many of these wines will be ready to drink long before the rich vintages such as 2016, 2018, 2019 and 2020 can be pulled out of the cellar. Yet we promise you that you will be charmed by them for the next few decades to come.

As always, we prefer to give you our tasting notes, written by Alex and Fiona during the En Primeur tastings rather than to copy the notes of the international wine critics. We believe that this gives you a more personal insight to the wines and for those of you who have followed us for several years, our love for freshness, poise and refinement is the driving force behind the wines we like to follow. Wine is subjective, sensual and sensitive – sometimes infuriatingly so. Yet it is this ethereal quality which makes it so fascinating. Please feel free to contact any of us to talk about the 2021 futures or if we can help you put together a portfolio of En Primeur wines.
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