Earlier this month I spent a day and a half zipping around Bordeaux’s top châteaux talking to producers about the just-picked 2022s. Even with some ferments not yet finished, it’s already clear that this was an extraordinary year. Anyone on social media will remember the frosts that arrived in April and the summer’s fires, with hot and dry conditions throughout – but, despite these challenges, it looks set to be a blockbuster year. As you can see from the picture above at Cheval Blanc, the vines (at most addresses) were still green and lush in early/mid-October, which is remarkable considering the year’s conditions. The only possible fly in the ointment is acidity, with the year’s notably low malic acid levels and generally high pH. Read my full post-harvest report – with thoughts from Noemie Durantou Reilhac at Eglise-Clinet/Vignobles Durantou, Philippe Bascaules at Ch. Margaux, Pierre-Olivier Clouet at Cheval Blanc and Guillaume Pouthier at Les Carmes Haut-Brion – at frw.co.uk/editorial, here.
Between studying for the MW and work, it’s been a busy year. The last few weeks have seen stops in Tuscany, Bordeaux, Rioja and Burgundy – and there’s much to report on. For now, here’s an update on jottings that you might have missed.
- Bordeaux 2021: With primeurs week back with a bang this year, I spent an enlightening and exhausting 10 days exploring the 2021 vintage and Bordelais hospitality. It was a fascinating year to explore and there was a surprising openness from producers when it came to the challenges of this tricky season. From my first thoughts to a full report and guide by commune, I wrote extensively about it. Maligned by some of the critics, I think it’s a remarkable result given what they faced. These may not be the most age-worthy wines, but I think there’s a lot of pleasure to be had if you know where to look.
- Tate & Lyle: Inspired by Bordeaux, I took a look at chaptalisation – something that returned to the forefront in Europe in 2021. Suddenly young producers were having to learn how to master this age-old technique to craft wines that had sufficient alcohol (and everything that comes with that – more here). It’s a nerdy read, but fascinating to see the difference of opinion – and taste the results.
- A South African interlude: Ahead of the latest release, Klein Constantia arranged a fantastic vertical tasting of their iconic sweet wine at Trivet (my first visit, and the food was exceptional). I’ve always had a soft spot for the wine and it was interesting to taste so many vintages. Perhaps some were a little disappointing, but the trajectory is inspiring, with brighter acidity, precision and balance. Read my spotlight on Vin de Constance on FINE+RARE.
- Burgundy 2021: After a whistle-stop three days in the region, here are my initial thoughts on the vintage. So far, it’s hard to offer a firm view. There is so much more to taste and explore and I can’t wait to get out there later in the year to delve into it fully. At the moment I am a little concerned about the varying quality of reds, although there’s promise in the whites. More to follow later this year.
Find all the above articles on frw.co.uk/editorial
With Bordeaux en primeur, life has been busy to say the least. Alongside my initial thoughts and growing season report, I’ve tasted as much as I could of the vintage and penned an overview of Bordeaux 2020, based on the wines and many conversations with the region’s vignerons. It’s a fascintating vintage to dig into, and one that I think has produced some excellent wines that fit neatly with my palate (a little more restrained, elegant and fresh than some other top-rated years).
In amongst it all, and just before his Vinous report on Bordeaux 2020 was due to be published, I sat down (via Zoom, of course) with Neal Martin. Despite my best efforts, I got no early titbits on his view on Bordeaux 2020; I did however get to dig into his back-story, how he approaches writing, why his passion for music matters, and the tricky business of access in the world of fine wine. You can read the full feature here.
Last but not least, this week the Guild of Food Writers named me the winner of their 2021 Drinks Writing Award. I can barely believe it given the very stiff competition in the category from the fabulous Fiona Beckett and Lily Waite (founder of Queer Beer): do check out their excellent work.
I’m hoping to get back to some restaurant reviewing and other feature-writing: more to follow soon…