Why on earth would I buy Bordeaux 2021?

by Jack Chapman

why buy bordeauxI feel like these blogs have become something of a confession of late, so here’s another one. As much as, when we visit Bordeaux, I’m acting in a professional capacity (something many of you will know I’m just about capable of…) to taste, evaluate and communicate a vintage to you, I’m also secretly really just figuring out what I want to buy.

I always buy something at En Primeur. Call it an obsession, an affliction – I just call it good fun. It’s always good to look back and be able to think of the moment in your life when you bought them and compare that to the moment when you drink them. Shoving the nostalgia aside though, I always buy because there’s always something good to be had. Yes, prices can be a bore and if you take a totally objective standpoint (points are this, price is that), then it becomes a rather binary, if somewhat sterile exercise, but, if you can focus on the particular merits of a vintage and rationalise it to both your taste in Bordeaux and your collection, it becomes a totally different and more fun exercise.

2021, what’s the point?

I’m not going to use the word unique here – all vintages are unique. The wine is an expression of how all the tiny pieces of a puzzle, from soil, wind, rain, rot, sun, yeast, oak, temperature… Have come together. What I would say about 2021, and why I will be buying some 2021, is that it’s different. Outside the norm.

This is the first time I can recall routinely coming across wine with alcohol starting in a 1 and ending in a 2. Whilst that in itself isn’t enough to find a vintage appealing, it is a rather nice departure from the hot trio we’ve had. In fact, the alcohol levels were reported by most as being the lowest in a couple of decades.

I’m rather too young and sadly not routinely drinking well enough to make more than passing comment on the idea that this is like the wine of the 70s or 80s. From what I’ve tasted, there’s a resemblance, but there’s nothing hard or harsh about the 2021s. Whether it’s the late summer saving the season, or developments in wine technology, the fruit is just that much more present and giving.

Vineyard Bordeaux

The emotion side of things

I really liked some of the highly aromatic, red fruited, snappy and well-structured wines. I also love a statistic and a bit of science, so here goes – Château Margaux reported the same chemical structure to their wine as the 2019, bar alcohol. That means all the elements which make it up, including IPT (Indice de Polyphenols Totaux, not Insurance Premium Tax – more or less an index for tannic quality and quantity) were the same.

This leads to quite an interesting question. Do you like your wine more ‘Parkerised’ and big, or more restrained and subtle (I’ve no idea which critic to peg this second statement next to)? There’s no wrong or right answer to this – to be honest with you, I like both, depending on my mood, but one thing I do know is that more of what I own falls into the former court, simply because it has become the norm.

Why I’ll be buying some 2021

Every collection needs something rich, dark fruited and alcoholic to dive into when the mood takes you, but it also needs something perfumed, red fruited and light in alcohol to enjoy. Much like each vintage being composed of pieces of a puzzle, so is my wine collection, and this, I feel, is a very valuable piece.

2021 Bordeaux En Primeur Browse