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Bordeaux 2021 tasting notes: The Right Bank

By Simon Field MW |  June 17 2022

Bordeaux 2021 Right Bank
Photography by iStock / Getty Images Plus

Simon Field MW’s tasting notes from the Bordeaux 2021 en primeur tastings continue with wines from St-Emilion, Pomerol, Lalande de Pomerol, Côtes de Bourg, and Castillon-Côtes de Bordeaux.

Bordeaux 2021: St-Emilion

Château Angélus 1er Grand Cru Classé A

(60% CF, 40% M) 

SF | And so to the last Angélus under the label of Class A…. The division bell is ringing, and rumors abound as to why and where it may take us. Maybe a little tension is no bad thing in a classification, a little tension yes, but this may be game-changing… The vintage itself is described by Angelus as “l’inattendu,” a challenge after so many years of plenty… and the wine is historic in the sense that it is the first time when the Cabernet Franc component has exceeded that of Merlot… and by some distance. It is worthy of note that a significant part of the Cabernet Franc is aged in foudre (30hl) which again informs a style that is both subtle and hitherto somewhat elusive. The initial impression is very Cabernet Franc, even a Cabernet Franc from farther north (I am thinking Bourgueil); pleasantly leafy, spicy, and linear… so, maybe a little less generous and round than one might have expected (inattendu) but faithful, after all, to the personality of the vintage. With air and time in the glass, the Merlot makes its presence felt; the angular becomes gently creamy, the awkward takes on shape and harmony. This leaves one highly optimistic for the wine’s development… and the “surprise” was sign-posted, after all. 94-96

Carillon d’Angélus

(80% M, 20% CF) 

SF | Angélus offers three wines in the 2021 vintage; the third wine, pretty and almost approachable now, is called No 3, naturally enough. It has one bell on its label. The second wine is Carillon and has three bells on its label… Subliminal head-scratching apart, this is an agreeable effort. Cabernet Franc plays a more significant role than sometimes, and its delicate scent is to the fore; peonies, hints of lavender and spice. The organic approach made things difficult at times in 2021, it seems, with a significant proportion of the Merlot lost and repeated sorting through the process. The Carillon chimes in a minor key, yet its call resonates crisply and with a certain beguiling authority on the finish. 90-92

Château Barde-Haut St-Emilion

(80% M, 20% CF) 

SF | A pretty vineyard covering 17ha (42 acres) on meandering, gentle slopes. The wine itself defies such bucolic impressions and is fairly stern, its tannins stentorian, especially at the end of the mouth. On the mid-palate, the fruit is given freer rein and is ripe and composed; balancing acidity wraps up the ensemble; time will, we hope, do the rest… 89-91

Château Beau-Séjour Bécot 1er Grand Cru Classé

(85% M, 13% CF, 2% CS)

SF | According to technical director Jean de Cournaud, the vines were somewhat somnambulant early in the season, were largely spared the Spring frosts and were only “jolted to attention” by the June rains. Cold-maceration ensued, betrayed by the generous purple hue, then a winning freshness on the nose, behind that forest floor and red-berried fruit; a medium concentration and, while one is left to ponder the ethereal landscape, the perfume grows in the glass. Pleasingly understated. 90-92

Château Bellevue Mondotte Grand Cru

(100% M)

SF | A bijou vineyard (2ha [5 acres]) close to Pavie Decesse, but with a little more clay in the soil. Old vines, with an average age of 64 years, lend girth to this powerful and expressive wine, its heady profile and rich, velvety texture very much bearing the Perse imprimatur. 89-91

Château Berliquet 1er Grand Cru Classé

(61% M, 39% CF) 

SF | Clay-rich soils informs the house style which matches floral aromatics, with attractive crushed fruit and charm on the palate; now in its sixth year under Chanel’s decorative umbrella, the wine is suitably refined and elegant, with precision the watchword at every level. In addition, the wine, for the time being at least, is still reasonably priced. 91-93

Château Canon 1er Grand Cru Classé

(54% M, 46% CF) 

SF | For those who favor elegance in their St-Emilion (presumably a broad constituency) there is little need to look further than Canon, now firmly embedded a the very top of the qualitative pyramid. Less immediately seductive than its sister Berliquet, Canon builds and builds; flowers, red fruit, herbs and even hints of fennel and licorice all joining in, but with a deft weave and an engaging potential…the intimation of what is to come, the liminal intangible message that only the greatest wines convey, manifests itself here; a resounding reverberating Canon. 94-96

Château Canon La Gaffelière 1er Grand Cru Classé

(35% M, 45% CF, 20% CS) 

SF | 2021 saw an increase in the Cabernet brothers from 45% to 65%; a result more of their quality than any inherent problems with the Merlot, says Stephan, while admitting that the mildew stress was a constant source of anxiety…. but less so, if at all, for an especially privileged 60-year-old parcel of Cabernet Sauvignon, which adds backbone and grip; the floral aromatic and darker fruit are the inevitable but far from disagreeable bequest from this modest shift. 92-94

Château Cheval Blanc 1er Grand Cru Classé A

(52% CF, 43% M, 5% CS) 

SF | The “historical blend” of Cheval and the first since 2011 where the volume of Cabernet Franc exceeds that of Merlot. As the ‘DNA” of the house and with an average age of 42 years (some dates from the 1920s), the Cabernet Franc makes a magnificently eloquent statement about moderation, about history, and about identity. The statement is floral and generous, powerful yet supple; plums and cherries infuse the ensemble, and with time in the glass come tobacco, more spice, and a sense of harmony. The softly poised tannins are refined and engaging, the finish long and eloquent. Everything that one would hope for from the Right Bank of Bordeaux is here. 95-97

Le Petit Cheval Grand Cru 

(60% M, 7% CF, 33% CS)

SF | The relatively high proportion of Cabernet Sauvignon makes its presence felt here, with grippy tannins, described by Pierre-Olivier as “al dente”…. Be that as it may, this is a serious second wine, beautifully scented and with marked yet refreshing acidity. Needs more time. 91-93

Clos Fourtet 1er Grand Cru Classé

(90% M, 7% CS, 3% CF)

SF | An eloquent, limestone-dominated St-Emilion from one of the most traditionally beautiful properties in the appellation. The firm underlying acidity allows the ensemble to soar with a pleasing ethereal lift; violets and peonies on the nose, then a wealth of mid-palate fruit, with even a hint of mint by way of decoration. Complete and harmonious, happy in its skin! 90-92

Clos de l’Oratoire Grand Cru Classé

(80% M, 20% CF)

SF | Father and son, Stephan and Ludovic von Neipperg, are equally proud of their 2021 Clos de L’Oratoire; perfectly acceptable yields (36hl/ha) then 32 days of cuvaison, extraction as gentle as possible, and finally aging in 30% new oak. Marked acidity runs through the wine, with a bright ruby hue, grainy tannins, and an impressive but not overwhelming build on the finish, courtesy, no doubt, of the 20% of Cabernet Franc in the blend. A very pleasant medium-plus-term wine.  90-92

Château Côte de Baleau Grand Cru Classé

(90% M, 10% CF)

SF | Baleau, says Emmanuel de Saint Salvy of its owners Clos Fourtet, benefits from three almost equally significant soil types—limestone, clay, and sand—and it was only the lower, sandier plots that were affected by frost. The 2021 has a rich robe, and a generous, ripe fruit character; the alcohol appear quite marked on the finish at the moment, but the overall impression is favorable. 88-90

Le Dôme Grand Cru

(80% CF, 20% M)

SF | It is rumored that Thomas Duclos, the consultant enologist with a first-rate track record at Figeac and elsewhere, has subtly changed the style of Le Dôme. Very subtly, I should say. The numbers underwrite the style: a highish pH of 3.71 and 80% malolactic in new French oak… It used to be 100%, I suppose. Probably the least “unreformed” of the so-called garagiste wines (I am thinking Valandraud and, especially, Troplong Mondot here), Le Dôme nonetheless plays to its audience—from the deep purple robe, to the fantastically ripe fruit, most of it black and blue, one is lured into the stately pleasure dome. But is this Coleridge’s “milk of paradise”…? It may well be! 92-94

Château Figeac 1er Grand Cru Classé

(40% CS, 31% CF, 29% M) 

SF | Deep episcopal purple, darker and richer than one has the right to expect; encyclopedic aromatic, violets, plums, smaller red-berried fruit, then woodsmoke, soft spice, and a beguiling, almost savory backdrop, presaging a long and glorious evolution. Magnifique! 95-97

Château Fombrauge Grand Cru

(85%M, 15% CF) 

SF | A forward and attractive Fombrauge, less oaky than previously, the fruit thereby enhanced and lifted; raspberry, fig, and an elegant, rich mid-palate, the tannins ripe but not overly so, the structure well-suited to medium-term pleasure. 89-91

Les Grandes Murailles Grand Cru Classé

(100% M) 

SF | Protected by its eponymous walls, not to mention the body heat of the village itself, this photogenic plot (1.96ha [5acres]) has yielded a big-boned, self-assured 2021; the red fruit, coffee-bean scented, defers to a firm structure, with intimations of salinity on the finish, bracing acidity skirting the walls. 89-91

L’If Grand Cru

(79% M, 21% CF) 

SF | Located adjacent to Troplong Mondot, L’If covers 8ha (20 acres) on clay-limestone terroir, half of which have been replanted since the Thienpont’s first vintage a decade ago. A new project then, for the owners of Le Pin, an eponymous yew tree decorating the label and the bonus of dreams of Kiplingesque aspiration for the Anglophones. The 2021 really benefited, according to Diana Berrouet-Garcia, from defying the poor weather forecast just before harvest and waiting for the phenolic ripeness. The rain didn’t come, but the ripeness did, and the result is an attractive, damson-scented, structured wine of more than medium concentration with a fine, tapered finish and gently powdered tannins. 93-95

Château Laforge Grand Cru

(92% M, 8% CF) 

SF | Rich and seductive, with an intriguing aroma that recalls black tea or even gunpowder. Explosive on the palate, for sure, but gentle on the finish; billowing tannins, ripe fruit, myrtle, and blueberries come to mind, and then a soft landing. A pillow to harness the sweetest of dreams. 89-91

Château Larcis Ducasse Grand Cru

(86% M, 14% CF) 

SF | Southeast-facing, on a gentle slope. White clay and limestone conspiratorial, successfully thus, with the harvest brought in in the sunny first days of October; Merlot first, then Cabernet Franc. A distinct, almost coffee-bean aroma, exotic in several senses; the palate is leaner, tighter, hitherto a touch astringent. Intimations of a disconnect between the aromatic and the mouthfeel may overstate the case, but this one certainly needs to knit together a little more. 88-90

Château Monbousquet Grand Cru

(70% M, 15% CF, 15% CS) 

SF | Ferruginous soils dominate the 34ha (84 acres) at Monbousquet. The wine has reached an ABV of 13.67% without chaptalization and has been aged in 50% new oak. The nose is pronounced; dark fruit and a slightly smoky backdrop; in the mouth, there is depth and poise, attractive raspberry fruit to the fore, ripe tannins and balanced acidity in support. Very agreeable! 89-91

La Mondotte Grand Cru Classé

(85% M, 15% CF) 

SF | Stephan von Neipperg advises that his oldest vines (some of the Cabernet Franc dates from 1937) were unscathed by the frost and equally defiant in the face of the threat of mildew. A little less new oak this year, however (50% rather than 60%), and a lot of talk about the virtues of the low pH, courtesy the chalky soils. A bright, firmly structured Mondotte, ripe dark fruit aplenty, and then firm, slightly chewy tannins. A pot pourri nose, a whiff of sandalwood and bitter chocolate… and we are away; all looks set fair. 91-93

Château Pavie 1er Grand Cru Classé A

(52% M, 30% CF, 18% CS) 

SF | Deep ruby, brooding initially, then thinking better of it… A cascade of dark fruit and spice; plums, myrtle, and even a hint of tapenade; the voice of the limestone plateau resonates, elegant and crisp, holding its own despite the persuasive powers of the unusually high proportion of the Cabernets. Full-bodied, yes; foursquare, no; this wine will evolve with great dignity, revealing more of itself only gradually. 93-95

Arômes de Pavie Grand Cru

(50% M, 50% CF) 

SF | “Not really a second wine, as there are plots designated specifically for Les Arômes,” says Henrique, “but here you are at Pavie’s feet,” he adds, somewhat enigmatically. Genuflection or not, one should pay attention to the eponymous aromas, sweet and rich, and of course to the structure of the wine, heady in the house style, but with impressive and poised tannins and a real presence at the back of the mouth, courtesy of the high proportion of Cabernet Franc. 89-91

Château Pavie Decesse Grand Cru Classé

(88% M, 12% CF)

SF | Pavie Decesse is a small calcareous vineyard located to the southeast of the town of St-Emilion. Despite the 80% of new barrique, this 2021 is already harmonious, with all the components integrated, the acidity subtly guiding the shape of the ensemble; a little heady on the finish, but with an impressive tannic structure which underwrites potential. 89-91

Château Pavie Macquin1er Grand Cru Classé

(79% M, 19% CF, 2% CS)

SF | A most attractive and somewhat heterogeneous vineyard location, folded within the gentle hillocks beneath and behind the ancient town of St-Emilion. Cyrille and his father Nicolas Thienpont have been making this wine since 1994, its promotion to Premier Grand Cru earned six years ago. Cyrille describes the fleshy mid-palate generosity as “a wave of pleasure,” not with undue hyperbole. There is a slight sting in the tail, for now at any rate, as the Cabernets take hold with an almost-austere grip. When austerity and generosity join forces, as may well be the case here, then we are in the land of plenty. This one may just get there… 90-92

Poesia Grand Cru

(70% M, 30% CF) 

SF | A little less ethereal and dreamy than the name may suggest, more Byron than Wordsworth at the very least, this one is sourced from a homogenous 10ha (25-acre) plot close to Valandraud. Hélène Garcin says that it is her best property, the mere 30cm (12 inches) of topsoil ceding rapidly to a “roche mère” of pure limestone. The style is firm and fairly oaky (60% of new barrique) and there is a steady build on the palate from a somewhat reticent attack… the juxtaposition of complexity and intensity is impressive, the structural harmony beyond the whims of free verse. 91-93

Château Quinault L’Enclos Grand Cru

(59% M, 23% CF, 18% CS) 

SF | Described, somewhat ingeniously, by Pierre-Olivier Clouet as the Chambolle-Village of the extended Cheval Blanc family, Quinault l’Enclos certainly does not want for charm. The attack is rich and fruity; damson and plum to the fore; thereafter there are hints of nutmeg and clove. The tannic handshake is firm but welcoming and the finish composed. All very attractive. 91-93

Château Tertre Rôteboeuf Grand Cru

(85% M, 15% CF) 

SF | Tasting with the magus in the cellar is a wonderful experience. With a wealth of experience, François Mitjavile (who made his first vintage here in 1978) finds solace in a natural environment, the very fabric of which conspires to relativize the new oak barrels, which are nonetheless, and somewhat paradoxically, a key part of the wine’s make-up. “The cellar has lungs,” says Francois… In this anthropomorphic ambiance, his barrels do not look especially new and the wine is certainly not touched by their potential rigor. On the contrary, the prestidigitation has already taken place; the oracular terroir will not be challenged, especially not by any apparent inconvenience engendered by the vintage. My actual tasting note reads thus: “Fine dense purple robe; intense aromatic, flowery violets, from the slopes, then something approaching black tea, gunpowder even. 15% CF, not made for this soil, lends a heavy, dense, silky/velvety, almost chocolate texture—full-on, for sure, but entirely seductive.” I am pretty sure that I liked it!  94-96

Château Teyssier Grand Cru

(80% M, 20% CF)

SF | The Malthus house-style writ large, careless maybe of the vagaries of the vintage…. Magenta behind the deep purple; blueberry jam, toasty oak, velvety tannins, and an overall bearing that invites early appreciation. 88-90

Château La Tour Figeac Grand Cru Classé

(60% M, 40% CF)

SF | Pierre Blois, the technical director, advises that the estate’s adherence to biodynamic principles meant that the rigors of 2021 were especially tricky. Even the efforts of two mobile wind turbines were not enough to save some of the crop. Ensuing selection resulted in a painfully low yield of 15hl/ha, and an increase in the Cabernet Franc in the blend. The resulting wine is delicate, aromatically pure, and with medium concentration. There was no chaptalization here, and the wine, while less “profound” than sometimes, is very pleasant and will delight over the medium term. 90-92

Château Troplong Mondot 1er Grand Cru Classé

(85% M, 13% CS, 2% CF)

SF | In the shadow of the water-tower, which they hope one day to remove (a shame, says your scribe, recalling the gas towers at The Oval Cricket Ground in London), this is a property that has been revitalized since the arrival of Aymeric de Gironde in 2018. Less is more, for sure, but one must be a little careful in one’s definition of “less,” for this is a mighty generous wine, deeply stained with purple potential, succulent and sweet from start to finish… yet with grip, intimations of restraint, and bags of potential. Only 60% of the wine has been aged in new oak, with 15% in foudre, and 25% in one-year-old barrels. Silky and plush, yet refined and graceful, the grip at the back is almost saline; one is tempted to salivate, if one may use such a corporeal term. 93-95

 Château Trotte Vieille 1er Grand Cru Classé

(54% CF, 45% M, 1% CS)

SF | The complete overhaul of the buildings, nearly finished and nearly ready, finds a gentle echo in the wine itself, famously one of the more robust styles in the village. 2021 does not fit this description at all: “Roses, fig, hedgerow, Morello cherries, red berries, spice; crème caramel, bonbon anglais; fine and poised; polished, slightly sweet but in an agreeable style, a touch of chaptalization” … if I may be permitted to borrow the verbatim flow from my tasting book! 90-92

Dame de Trotte Vieille

(55% M, 42% CF, 3% CS)

SF | Slightly leafy on the attack, but not green; mid-palate this builds slowly but surely, the acidity quite pronounced, the finish firm. Plenty of potential from this solid second wine. 88-90

Valandraud 1er Grand Cru Classé
(90% M, 7% CF, 3% CS)

SF | To describe Jean-Luc Thunevin as “irrepressible,” in the sense of an unreformed iconoclast, is dramatically to undervalue one of the great thinkers of the appellation. The style is definitely modern, but far from overwhelmingly so, with the oak aging down to 22 months and the style completely harmonious with the more reflective and discreet tendencies of the vintage. Almost onyx-black, with inviting aromas of cassis and blueberry, expectation thus high and more than justified by the layers of flavor thereafter; but not only that, for there is a lightness of touch, the tannins cascading delicately, the fruit, as Jean-Luc would have it, “happy in its skin”; the skin of a composed yet eloquent structure. 93-95

Valandraud Blanc

(60% SB, 25% SM, 15% SG)

SF | First made in 2003, itself a challenge, the Valandraud Blanc is rare, with only around 4,000 bottles made every year. This is a shame—all the more so in a year when the more “Atlantic’ conditions gave a very fair wind to the white wines. This is not to say that the wine is light in any sense; on the contrary, it is wonderfully textured, the Sauvignon Gris adding an almost oily profile, which, when combined with the notes of tilleul, sour quince, honey, and briary, make this utterly delightful. A rare gemstone!  92-94

Vieux Château Mazerat Grand Cru

(90% M, 10% CF)

SF | Jean-Pierre Morgues rehearses in some detail the somewhat convoluted history here, which explains why Mazerat and Le Dôme effectively cohabit; a happy juxtaposition, with subtle differences in provenance and husbandry underwriting the distinct styles. Mazerat has more Merlot in the blend for a start (Jean-Pierre hints that some of the Cabernet Franc was saved for Le Dôme) and is a little more forward at this early stage of its life. The color is dark, a crepuscular patina at the rim, then persuasive of aromatic; mentholated fruit, hints of licorice, even a whiff of leather (all words that I have not used to describe the other wines of St-Emilion in 2021). The finish is a little austere at the moment, for all that. 90-92

Bordeaux 2021: Pomerol

Château Beauregard

(70% M, 30% CF)

SF | Vincent Priou and his technical director, Guillaume Fredoux, agree about one thing above all: 2021 was a struggle; there was no canicule in the lackluster mid-season, and their Merlot suffered from coulure, bringing yields down from 42hl/ha to something closer to 25hl/ha… At this point their mood changes and they describe the surviving Merlot as a “ball of silk,” extolling the serendipitous promotion of the Cabernet Franc. Not without reason, it seems; this is an attractive Beauregard, aromatically complex and with finely judged tension on the palate, the forward Merlot fleshy fruit held in check by both the more rigorous Cabernet Franc and its tannic support. Everything is nicely integrated. 92-94

Château Clinet

(75% M, 25% CS)

SF | Ronan Laborde maintains that he had to approach this vintage with “cold blood,” which sounds a little sinister, but maybe it means in a sanguine fashion if one considers the medieval humors. Whatever is meant, there is no denying the quality of this wine, one of the very few in either Pomerol or St-Emilion to include a significant quota of Cabernet Sauvignon. Phlegmatic or maybe sanguine pragmatism dictated the very gentle extraction regime and the slightly reduced aging. The wine is rich and powerful, but not in a fashion to recall, say, Le Dôme; it is more reserved than that, more nuanced than one may expect beneath the patina of 80% new oak. Black tea and loganberry, compote and a rich texture… yet, for all that, refined and very elegant. Fascinating! 93-95

Château Clos l’Eglise

(80% M, 20% CF)

SF | Close, unsurprisingly, to the church in the center of the ghost town that is Pomerol, and, equally unsurprisingly, adjacent to the vines of L’Eglise-Clinet, Clos L’Eglise is farmed over 5.8ha (14.3 acres) of some very expensive terroir. The Garcin-style (Hélène’s husband Patrice Lévêque is the enologist—it is good to have l’Evêque to make the wines at l’Eglise, I joke, and Hélène, thankfully, laughs), or at least the house style, is more on the oaky side, and this could be a danger in a less fulsome vintage such as 2021. The tannins are most certainly present here, but they do not entirely overwhelm. Hélène describes them as “the beast at the back of the room”—at the back of the palate, that is to say. The aromatic complexity, weight of fruit, and firm balance of acidity all conspire to reassure, however. This should build and build; a Brucknerian cathedral in the making, behind a steep spire of aspiration. 91-93

Château La Conseillante

(85% M, 15% CF)

SF | 2021 marks the 150th anniversary of the estate and the ongoing owners from the Nicolas family. The challenges of the year were met with a variety of strategies including leaf-cutting, green-harvest, modest chaptalization, and one of the latest harvests in the property’s history; the two last plots of Cabernet Franc were brought in on October 15. In addition, 7% of the crop enjoyed “vinification intégrale” in barrel, while the 3% showing the finest tannins were aged in amphorae. 70% of the wine was aged in new barrel, the remaining 20% in second fills. The air is filled with aromas of plums and soft spice, roses and blackberries; in the mouth, the attack is equally flamboyant but then it closes down a little, with a touch of grip, austerity even entering the equation. There is no risk of disharmony, though; just a little more time is needed for everything to knit together. The finish is reassuringly long. 93-95

Château du Domaine de L’Eglise

(100% M)

SF | Spared both the frost and the mildew, its central plateau location benefiting from good air circulation and robust soils, Domaine de l’Eglise was nonetheless treated gently during its upbringing; a touch of chaptalization, a pre-fermentation cold maceration, and a delicate extraction regime. The resulting wine is harmonious, with raspberry and red-cherry aroma, firm but not overbearing tannins, and, with a little time, a gentle creaminess mid-palate, which is attractive. 89-91

Château L’Eglise-Clinet

(85% M, 15% CF)

SF | The senior wine is located closer to the property, its leitmotif the oak tree in the vineyard rather than the angular steeple in the middle distance. The aromatics impress after a swirl; there is an immediate sense of something broader and richer than the younger sibling (this has had 75% of new barrique compared with the Petite Eglise’s 60%); it opens up beautifully… Naomie describes it as “un voyage dans le verre”… Supple, yet with tannins that are powerful, persuasive, powdery, all-embracing… it gets bigger all the time. Broad-based, generous, yet still restrained, almost polite; one senses the force beneath. The politeness, therefore, of one who knows that he or she is in the right. 92-94

La Petite Eglise

(90% M, 10% CF) 

SF | The 2021 is sourced from two small plots (one barrel’s worth) behind the church, whose steeple reminds me of Cornas—its wines less so! Aromatics of roses, plum, and soft spice, then a little more reticence masquerading as rigor; a touch shy, but this is a pleasingly precocious shyness, as one knows it will blossom. 89-91

Château L’Evangile

(69% M, 30% CF, 1% CS)

SF | 2021, it may be safe to venture, was not the easiest year in which to show off one’s full organic accreditation, and the team are stoical, sanguine even, about the difficulties encountered. The blurb is entitled “Decisions, decisions,” and the year is described as “the Hamlet vintage” (the indecisive Dane, one presumes, rather than the eponymous cigar). Be that as it may, it seems that the mildew danger posed more of a challenge than that of the earlier frosts. In addition, a little chaptalization was required for both the Cabernets, including the all-important 1% of Sauvignon. A valiant effort, for all that; the Cabernet Franc lends a pleasing floral aromatic and a certain gravitas to counter the exuberance of the Merlot. It has not quite knit together, but that can only be a matter of time.  93-95

Le Blason de L’Evangile

(84% M, 16% CF)

SF | The most conspicuous coat of arms on view here is that of the Domaines Barons de Rothschild, who own the property and who have made significant investments. The Blason is forward and fruity, approachable but a little short on substance; aging has assumed a somewhat experimental register, with, in addition to barrels of varying age, 15% aged in Taransaud foudre and 8% in amphora. The result is pretty and straightforward, if not quite, this time, the evangelist to herald the coming of the senior wine. 88-90

Château Gazin

(100% M)

SF | The affable Nicolas de Bailliencourt advises that the Cabernet Sauvignon was just not ripe enough by the end of September, despite the warmer conditions toward the end of the season. Therefore 100% Merlot, in the style of yore, he advises, and if that means softer, fleshier but with structural integrity and plenty of matière on the finish, then one may well start to feel a little nostalgic. 50% of new barrel was used, but the overall impression is of finesse and subtlety. 91-93

Château Lafleur

(54% M; 46% Bouchet)

SF | There is no panneau at Lafleur, but plenty of flowers, as one would expect. And suspended beneath an oak tree, a small green swing, of which Fragonard would definitely approve. Approbation for this wonderful wine, too; floral scented, softly powerful, an effortless triumph in this most challenging of years (Omri sums up 2021 with three words: “lack of sleep”). There is no pretence at Lafleur, no dissimulation; the wine is pure and honest, but one overlooks its latent power at one’s peril. Appropriately floral (rose petals and a hint of violet), the wine has a core of red and black fruit, a wonderful tannic integration, and a quiet intensity on the finish. A masterpiece of energy and persistence; the Guinaudeau family have every reason to be proud of this wine. 93-95

Château Nénin

(64% M, 36% CF)

SF | Sourced from vines on the plateau, a little elevated therefore, near to Trotanoy, its final blend settled early in December. This is a delight! Poised, elegant and beautifully fragrant; lavender, cassis, blood orange even; the relatively modest 35% of new wood seems just about right in this vintage and there are no issues with 13.31% of alcohol without chaptalization. Graceful and generous, this is a fabulous Nénin. Bravo! 92-94

La Fuge de Nénin 

(92% M, 8% CS)

SF | An experimental fugue, this, with up to 20% of the assemblage vinified in a combination of amphorae and the “turning globe,” an increasingly popular vessel, and one that I also saw at Trotte Vieille. A little more sand in the vines just above the magnificent Château, and a bright, lovely, and approachable wine; dense purple in color and forward of aromatic. A similar impression on the palate, but there is depth of structure here, too. 90-92

Château Petit Village

(65% M, 26% CF, 9% CS)

SF | Now under the same ownership as neighboring Beauregard, Petit Village looks set to maintain its own identity. The vines are right in the middle of the “golden triangle” of the Pomerol plateau. The triangle, isosceles in shape and 10ha (25 acres) in size, combines all three of the key varieties, its Cabernets up to 60 years of age. There is a nice contrast with Beauregard’s 2021, the latter more forward and open, this, classic plateau Pomerol, at the same tie flattering and rather tight, its power especially evident on the finish. Guillaume Fredoux maintains that the wine is both muscular and silky at the same time. One is disinclined to disagree! 91-93

Petrus

(100% M)

SF | I think that this was the only property I visited that did not hand out a fiche technique and/or a booklet detailing everything there is to detail. Instead, there was a fascinating debate with Technical Director Olivier Berrouet on how Cicero or his Greek counterpart may have appreciated today’s wine. The discussion is of relevance because it is in the context of analysis of the four cardinal virtues; for Olivier, Petrus captures the spirit of “temperance” in its purest definition. The wine is all that one could hope for in a wine; powerful yet ethereal, its dark fruit core leavened by perfectly poised tannins, a seam of delicate acidity running long and clean through the ensemble, its finish finely nuanced and tapered. High cheek bones and an inference of noblesse oblige? Up to a point… but it is humility and, once again, temperance, that are key, as is another of the four virtues: fortitude. A keeper. 95-97

Le Pin

(100% M)

SF |Un millésime hors du commun,” says the leaflet, leaving plenty of scope for interpretation. The contents of the glass are more precise, however, and tilt one toward the most positive translation. Delicate, aromatic, and supple, with pinpoint acidity and fine, poised tannins; a long way from a “garagsite” style, it has to be said. Of the eight cuves, only two holding fruit from the slightly lower plots have been chaptalized, bringing the ABV up to 13.4%. A brief cold-soak and then very gentle extraction. Diana Berrouet-Garcia advises that Jacques Thienpont is, with reason, proud of the results; less exuberant than the ’18 or the ’19, for sure, but with more cerebral dexterity as a result of a closer communion with the silent gravelly soil. 94-96

Château Rouget

(80% M, 20% CF)

SF | The Rouget fruit is sourced from impressive sites on and around the plateau of Pomerol, including those bordering both Trotanoy and Petit Village. The assembled wine had not seen chaptalization and comes in at just over 13% ABV; its mid-palate is maybe a little hollow, despite the influence of the Merlot, and on the finish there is quite a rigor, which dries things out just a little. A sound effort but lacking a little of the complexity found in some of its neighbors. 89-91

Vieux Château Certan

(77% M, 20% CF, 3% CS)

SF | Deep ruby, bright and energetic; Alexandre advises that it needs a few minutes to open up, and starts a discourse about Robert Parker, who used to stand where I am standing now. “He always came here specifically to taste,” says Alexandre, “but I never changed my style of wine… maybe that’s why he kept coming. I think we ought to have a statue to him in the village square.” I’m not sure if this is a joke or not. The wine, meanwhile, has opened up gloriously, with red and black fruit, spice, and a distinctive floral backdrop—iris or maybe violet. The palate is equally harmonious, surprising rich in the mid-palate, red and black fruits aplenty, then the grip of the youthful Cabernets, firm but in no way disturbing what has come before or what has yet to come. “Aromatic, fresh, and flavorsome,” says the fiche technique, accurate on every count. 94-96

Bordeaux 2021: Lalande de Pomerol

Château Les Cruzelles

(65% M, 35% CF)

SF | Bright ruby: lovely, lifted aroma, yellow fruit, energetic, with a freshness at the end of the mouth; one is impressed by the character of fruit, which is generous, but also by the grip at the end, rendered with fine, pin-point accuracy. One feels the Cabernet Franc calling us to order here. Gravel and clay join forces to promote this harmonious and finely wrought example, which has been aged in 50% of new oak. Cruzelles’ loyal following is richly deserved. 89-91

Château La Fleur du Boüard

(80% M, 15% CF, 5% CS)

SF | A fascinating insight into how a famous family, long associated with one appellation and one property (Angélus in St-Emilion), fare in another enclave, this time the up-and-coming Plateau de Néac, itself only 3km (less than 2 miles) from the Plateau de Pomerol. Work in progress, is probably the most concise answer; a radical new extraction method, which may be summarized as gravitational delestage (more details on request!) does not seem, to me at least, to have quite got the measure of this tricky vintage; a certain greenness runs though the ensemble. The quality of the fruit is somewhat obscured for the moment, the tannin/acidity matrix domineering. A little more time will, in all probability, soften the ensemble and allow the “true” texture to emerge. 89-91

Côtes de Bourg

Roc de Cambes

(80% CS, 20% M)

SF | Tasted from barrel at Tetre Rotebeouf, as is the François Mitjavile way, Roc de Cambes has tough competition pitched against the prestigious St-Emilion. Stylistic differences (clay and limestone here, slightly higher up and with a south-facing vineyard) are immediately apparent; the Roc presents a ripe yet sturdy profile, cigar box and even a hint of menthol lurking beneath; then bitter dark chocolate and a hit of oak. This one will take shape as its élevage proceeds; the raw materials are good (if a little raw at the moment) the architecture deftly constructed. 91-93

Bordeaux

Le Blanc d’Aiguilhe

(100% SB)

SF | Exceptionally low yields (19hl/ha) betray the rigors of the season and the work that had to be done. Sterling work on this evidence; an impressive attack, with aromas of grapefruit, peach kernel, and a hint of briary; then a fine weave of texture, the acidity servant rather than master in the final analysis. 90-92

Clos des Lunes Lune d’Argent 

(70% SM, 30% SB)

SF | Olivier Bernard’s venture in Sauternes—“another accent’ to both the Bernard story and, indeed, that of Sauternes. The dry wines are more approachable and provide an impressive foil, commercially and otherwise, to the vicissitudes of the sweet wine market. The topsoil here is maybe thicker, but still informed by gravel, with sub-strata of clay and limestone. The texture is broader, almost oxidative by temperament; orchard fruit, mid- to late-season, then tilleul and herbs, the citric undercurrent firm and resolute. Positioned relatively modestly, commercially at least, this is an intriguing addition to the Chevalier’s armory. 88-90

Château Grand Village

(75% M, 25% Bouchet)

SF | Made in the village of Mouillac, in the canton of Fronsac, the Grand Village gives us a petit insight into the Lafleur philosophy of attention to detail and respect for nature. All boxes are ceremoniously ticked here, including the one marked “value”: bright fruit, balancing acidity and freshness, and an attractive finish. Omri describes it in terms of “sapidity”—one of the few words that he is unable accurately to translate! 91-93

Les Perrières

(72% Bouchet, 28% M)

SF | “The Bouchet DNA of Lafleur transposed to the limestone terroir of Fronsac,” is how Omri summarizes this project, which was started in 2009, the intention being to assess the progress of massale plantings on a different soil; Lafleur being mainly gravel. A little ponderous in hotter vintages, Les Perrières comes into its own in the more temperate 2021, with fine-chiseled limestone tannins, fresh acidity, and a forward, red-fruit attack. Then come spicy, tobacco-infused notes, all along maintaining a lifted freshness. This is a beguiling and entirely fascinating wine. More please! 91-93

Castillon-Côtes de Bordeaux

Château d’Aiguilhe

(90% M 10% CF)

SF | Dense color and a very attractive blue-fruit nose; expectations are met on the palate, with pleasing, chalky tannins enrobing the ensemble. The relatively late harvest (second week of October for the Merlot) has maybe added complexity, and the élevage (30% in new oak) appears to have been well-judged indeed. 88-90

Château Alcée

(91% M, 9% CF)

SF | Alcée sits on a limestone plateau close to Château Montaubon. Cyrille Thienpont extols the soils: thin red clay then a limestone base. The 2021 is unusual; slightly smoky and dense, but behind that there is a core of ripeness, fine-detailed tannins, and an impressive texture. I shall be fascinated to taste this in a vintage that is less overtly “océanique”! Interesting. 88-90

Château d’Arce

(90% M, 10% CF)

SF | A 4.5ha (11-acre) property in the enclave of St-Genèse, virtually all limestone. A pretty, relatively straightforward wine (relative to the rigors of the vintage, that is), with a pH of 3.43 and natural alcohol of 13.5%. All very attractive: plums, red cherries, and the like; come hither, but not just yet, it says. 88-90

Château Joanin Bécot

(80% M, 20% CS)

SF | Julien and Juliette, representatives of the new generation at Beau-Séjour Bécot, have cut their teeth on this very elegant wine from the limestone plateau of Castillon. The extra latitude, albeit marginal, is reflected in the pretty aromatic of flowers and red berries and the elegant texture, its marked acidity failing to overwhelm the fruit, the overall impression discreet but pleasing. 90-92

Clos Lunelles

(80% M, 10% CF, 10% CS)

SF | Quite a blockbuster from the Perse empire, Clos Lunelles is located on predominantly limestone soils 6km (3.7 miles) to the east of Pavie itself. Two things stand out in the stats: first, the average age of the vines, an impressive 43 years; and second, the high alcohol in the wine, 14.4%, achieved, apparently, without chaptalization. This is all the more impressive as the vines are located at the highest point in Côtes de Castillon. A wealth of forward and accessible ripe fruit is the result, with medium-term pleasure assured! 92-94

 

Bordeaux 2021 coverage

Bordeaux 2021 En Primeur Review: Neo-Classic

Bordeaux 2021 Tasting Notes: Left Bank Part I

Bordeaux 2021 Tasting Notes: Left Bank Part II

Bordeaux 2021 En Primeur: Romance and Reality

Bordeaux 2021 Field Notes: Château Figeac

Bordeaux 2021 Field Notes: Vieux Château Certan

Bordeaux 2021 Field Notes: Château Pavie

Bordeaux 2021 Field Notes: Le Dôme

Bordeaux 2021 Field Notes: Domaine de Chevalier

Bordeaux 2021 Field Notes: Sauternes and Barsac

Bordeaux 2021 Field Notes: Pichon Lalande

Bordeaux 2021 Field Notes: Enquiring Minds

Bordeaux 2021 Field Notes: The Whites Have It

Bordeaux 2021 Field Notes: In the Cold Light of Day

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