We’ve just returned from six weeks in France. Three of those weeks were in Bordeaux, where we’ve never seen the city looking so vibrant. Massive street projects that had been initiated in 2019 were completed. Restaurants are bustling with customers and hotels fully booked. It felt like a celebration!
During our stay we were able to visit 45 estates, on both the Left and Right Banks. There too we discovered remarkable changes. In the past two years — in spite of challenges with the pandemic — many estates have completely renovated cellars and vat rooms. In many cases the updating was extensive with off-the-charts technological wizardry added as well.
At Château Lynch-Bages, after five years and an undisclosed amount of money, a massive glass and steel reception center has been completed, along with a gravity-flow wine cellar and vat rooms which house 80 stainless steel tanks. Truly spectacular!
Cellars at Château Palmer have also been completely updated and feature enormous foudres made with “organic Austrian wood.” A new facility to design and create organic treatments and infusions is also in the works. We found similar construction sites at both Châteaux Pichon-Baron and Haut-Brion – more reports to come.
Another visually stunning renovation is Château Haut-Bailly’s new winemaking facility which integrates a technologically revolutionary cellar with a “natural green roof”. The end result is a magnificent landscape that seamlessly integrates the surrounding the vineyards. Véronique Sanders, owner of Haut-Bailly told us: “We wanted to create the winery of tomorrow but we also wanted to keep the aesthetics and preserve the spirit of the place.” Mission accomplished!
Château Troplong-Mondot is sitting pretty these days. The estate at the highest point on the Saint-Émilion plateau, has also seen significant new investment since French insurance group SCOR purchased the property. An extensive overhaul has not only updated, but doubled the size of the winemaking facilities. One of the most impressive features is the sleek new cellar, with spectacular 12 meter (40-feet) high ceilings, which — if you’re seeing them for the first time as we were — can instantly induce vertigo. “I feel like James Bond each time I walk through,” Ferréol du Fou, Estate Sales Director told us, as we followed him out on a glass catwalk over the barrel room. And, as if that’s not enough, the Château restaurant, Les Belles Perdrix, just received a Michelin star.
And not to be outdone, Château Figeac’s new winery allows for an entirely gravity-driven vinification process and has increased the available space from 1,600 square meters (17,000 feet) previously to 5,000 square meters (54,000 feet). A separate vat room is dedicated exclusively to research and development.
RIGHT BANK RE-CLASSIFICATION
Speaking of Château Figeac, the property is at the center of speculation regarding the upcoming Saint-Émilion Re-classification. Currently, only Château Pavie is classified as Grand Cru Classé “A” since Châteaux Ausone, Cheval Blanc, and Angélus announced they were not submitting applications for the 2022 classifications. Their inaction is a protest against the new requirements, which include social media presence and oenotourism — all of which have little to do with wine quality, they say.
Meanwhile, Figeac and Troplong-Mondot are top contenders to be promoted as Grands Crus Classés “A”. Château Bélair-Monange, — also currently surrounded by cranes, cement trucks and architects — is thought to have a good shot as well. The fact that the Moueix family, who manage Pétrus, also own Bélair-Monange, can only help the status of the estate.
BORDEAUX 2021 EN PRIMEUR
After an absence of two years, the Bordeaux Primeurs — always a gala event — felt like an all-out party! The festivities were even more in earnest, since 2021 was an especially trying vintage. Vineyard managers had every kind of pestilence thrown at them, from record-breaking frost in the spring to heavy summer rains and mildew just before harvest.
Fortunately, the precision in viticulture and winemaking is at an all time high in the region — the enormous new investments are paying off. Estates have a variety of tools at their disposal, from drones, to high-tech labs to multi-sized vats. Also helpful in 2021 were experiences with frost in 2017 and mildew in 2018. We heard numerous discussions about the different kinds of frost (black versus white), along with the different techniques to deal with them.
The end result is wine of excellent structure and balance, pretty fruit, tannins that are present but not dominant and overall wines that offer a long finish and complexity. The lower alcohol (13% is average) is a bonus, as it represents classic Bordeaux — unlike recent vintages.
Critics have been pretty stingy with 2021 ratings, however. Neal Martin and Antonio Galloni didn’t score any estate over 98-points, while William Kelly (now critiquing Bordeaux for Wine Advocate) and James Suckling awarded only one potential 100-point score to Château Ausone.
Because ratings were quite high for 2018, 2019 and 2020, they may have taken this opportunity to rein in the scores. Regardless, we think it’s a mistake – wines like Châteaux Pontet Canet and Pavie are rich, supple and elegant. Pichon-Baron is another standout.
By our judgment, there are many successes, including Châteaux Montrose, Rauzan-Ségla, Haut-Bailly, Smith Haut Lafitte and Canon. These wines will drink easily in the next few years and provide tremendous pleasure. Also appealing for collectors — prices are a bit less than last year.
In the end, Bordeaux wines and the entire region not only survived the pandemic, but pulled off an impressive renewal — truly better than ever!
A quick reminder: our daughter-in-law Victoria Norman of Double P Imports is now in charge of Bordeaux Futures. She can be reached at email@example.com.
For those of you still waiting for the 2019s, many of them have landed. We expect our final shipments for the entire vintage by the end of summer. As with so many products these days, there have been endless logistical problems and delays.
Currently, we’ve just received an enormous selection of aged Bordeaux, with numerous verticals and best-in-the-nation pricing. As always, all items are linked and can be ordered on line. If you have questions or need futher assistance, write firstname.lastname@example.org or call 850-687-1370.
2010. WE-97. $158.99
2017. DC-93. $45.99
Château Lafite Rothschild
2005. DC-100 JS-100. $1,079.99
2006. WE-96. $959.99
2008. RP-98. $999.99
2009. JS-100. $1,089.99
2010. WE-100. $1,089.99
2012. WE-96. $969.99
2015. WE-100. $899.99
2016. DC-100 JD-100 JS-100. $1,059.99
2017. DC-98. $739.99
Château Mouton Rothschild
1990. DC-94. $599.99
2006. WE-97. $634.99
2008. DC-96. $649.99
2009. RP-99. $899.99
2011. JS-96. $599.99
2014. JS-99. $569.99
2015. JD-99 JS-99. $649.99
2017. JS-98. $1,167.99
2018. JS 94-95. $34.99
2018. DC-100 RP 98-100. $798.99
2018. JD-100. $389.99
Prices here are so low we can’t list them online. Please email email@example.com or call 850-687-1370. Quantities are very limited. First come first served.
2019. Continuum Red Blend. JS-99. $249.99. 3 bottles
2019. Dominus Red Blend. LPB-100. $284.99. 6 bottles
2018 Colgin Cariad. AG-100. $549.99. 3 bottles
2018 Colgin IX Syrah Estate. JD-100. $369.99. 3 bottles