Burgundy 2021: a wine-grower’s vintage

Our team strolling between tastings in Burgundy

When we got back from our first trip to Burgundy to taste 2021 in September, I was a bit worried. It was a fleeting visit, tasting only a handful of reds, but some of them were thin. Some village wines tasted better than Grands Crus. How was I going to muster the enthusiasm to write thousands of words about a bad vintage?

After a week in November fully immersed in the year, I was delighted to know that wouldn’t be a problem. Those early visits were perhaps unfortunate, producers who hadn’t fared as well with their reds, but the wines have also clearly benefited from additional time in barrel.

From a year that asked everything of wine producers, testing them with frost, hail, rain and endless disease, the resulting wines are a marvel. The crops may be tiny, but the whites (as they were in September) are brilliant, tight and taut with stunning concentration. The reds are old-school Burgundy, pale and perfumed with low alcohols and tannins, ethereal and elegant. They’re wines I want to drink endlessly.

Read my full overview of the vintage, and a breakdown of the year by producer on frw.co.uk/editorial.


Catching up

A shot from a recent trip to Rioja: this is one of the vineyards used by CVNE for Imperial

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

The magic of miscellanea

The view down over Clos Saint-Denis

One of the most joyous things about my job is getting to write (and commission others to write) on such a range of topics. True to form, it’s been a few months since I got round to sharing my latest jottings, and putting them together for one “article dump” highlights the variety.

First up is a personal favourite, delving into the unexpectedly fascinating and murky realm of the world’s most treasured tuber: white truffles. I spoke to Rowan Jacobsen, the author of a new book on the topic – and a tale of his own journey of discovery, as well as a real-life trifulau about the truth behind the white gold shaved over your fresh pasta. Read the feature here; Jacobsen’s book, Truffle Hound, is out now – and worth every penny.

Just before my nose led me down the truffle trail, I managed to make it (post-Delta, pre-Omicron) to Burgundy to taste the 2020s. My first overseas excursion since my trip to taste the 2019s, it was unsurprisingly brilliant to be somewhere else, let alone tasting such an extraordinary vintage. As with last year, I was heavily involved in the FINE+RARE coverage of the vintage – all of which you can find here, including our overview and a breakdown of the year by producer.

Last but not least is a piece about a producer I first came across visiting Australia in 2018, the fabled Bass Phillip – an estate that made some of the best Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, I was told. I trawled shops seeking out a bottle I could afford to taste, but no such luck. Last year, I got to try the wines for the first time, just as the estate changed hands, with the legendary Jean-Marie Fourrier taking the reins from Bass Phillip’s founder, Phillip Jones. I sat down with the Burgundian to talk about the project, one that has been made far from easy by Australia’s stringent border controls in the face of Covid. Read the full feature on FINE+RARE Editorial.

Here’s to an ever more eclectic selection of stories in 2022.

Empties of note


Highlights from the last month’s worth of recycling


I love Syrah. Two consecutive nights yielded two extraordinarily different wines. The first was my inaugural taste of Piedrasassi, a Santa Barbara producer focusing on cool-climate Syrah. It’s a collaboration between the talented (and I assume incredibly busy from all the pies he has fingers in) Sashi Moorman and Melissa Sorongon. I’m keen to try more after tasting their entry-level PS Syrah – a touch of brett (which wasn’t to everyone’s taste) added interest to the juicy fruit. The next night I rustled through my wine rack and dug out a bottle of 2010 Tildé, St Joseph from Pierre Jean Villa – offering intensely ripe fruit but enough acidity and spicy, meaty notes to be deliciously quaffable.


I don’t drink much Burgundy (I don’t have the money), but this month someone shared some superb bottles with me. The highlight – the bottle that made me wish I could afford the stuff – was a 2005 Pommard, Rugiens, 1er Cru from JM Boillot. Enchanting, complex, structured and silky – it was extraordinarily good. My budget, meanwhile, was limited to a totally different face of Pinot: intensely smokey, much simpler yet superb Toreye Spätburgunder from Eymann. A bottle of rather aged yet fascinating Premier Cru Chablis – 2003 Les Lys from Daniel-Etienne Defaix – also fell into my hands this month (ok, I ordered it at the ever-excellent 10 Greek Street). It’s at the end of its life but going down in a delicious dance of honeyed, rich, almost exotic fruit, minerality and smoke.

There should always be Champagne

I moved house and the main priority – on a sweltering day – was to ensure that we had cold Champagne to enjoy once we had sweated all our boxes up two flights of stairs. The Champagne in question wasn’t really Champagne – it was serious, serious wine: Larmandier-Bernier’s 2008 Vieille Vigne du Levant, intense, saline and mineral – an almost Manzanilla-like power. Just the ticket with takeout pizza.

Ribolla Gialla

Yeah, California does great Pinot, Chardonnay and Cabernet – but it’s also full of people working with funky grapes, putting them on the map. Napa-based Matthiasson’s 2014 Ribollia Gialla is one of those rare really good orange wines. Two weeks on skins, 20 months in barrel produces a rich, concentrated, oxidative yet tropical, mineral yet fruity maverick of a wine. Just enough tannin to make it an incredible food wine. I should have decanted it, as it was even better and more expressive the second night. Its maker, Steve Matthiasson, is a viticultural king in California – a consultant for more vineyards than I can name, and a real pioneer. He is just one of the many people revolutionising farming in California (and, as it happens, you can read more on that theme here).