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Bordeaux 2021: ‘The saved and the damned’

William Kelley’s verdict on Bordeaux 2021 offers a cautionary tale of a vintage ‘already in danger of being forgotten’, according to Liv-ex.

Château-Figeac, picture crédit Mathieu ANGLADA

William Kelley recently published his Bordeaux 2021 in-bottle scores in a report with the title The Saved and the Damned.

Kelley begins his account by noting that, as they were “released at high prices and soon overshadowed by excitement for the 2022s, the 2021 Bordeaux vintage is already in danger of being forgotten”. To his question: “How have the wines actually turned out?”, the answer is: slightly worse than was previously thought.

The critic scored 337 wines, 40 of them in the Bordeaux 500 and scored by him in barrel in 2022. On average, they were downgraded by 0.4 points in the most recent round of scoring. (Note: for wines awarded an in-barrel range in 2022, the mid-point of the score was used for consistency and fairness of evaluation).

Among these wines, Château Ausone 2021 had the most significant decline: initially scored 97-100 points in 2022 and subsequently downgraded to 94+ points. In his tasting note from 2022, Kelley identified Ausone as “a strong candidate for the title of wine of the vintage”. However, in the recent in-bottle tasting, he expressed uncertainty, stating: “I’m sure time will be kind to it, but I’m not quite sure it will ever realise the magical potential it showed in April 2022”.

Another notable downgrade was recorded by Château Calon Ségur 2021, which dropped from 95-96 points in April 2022 to 93 points in bottle. Kelley initially praised it as “a brilliant effort that will delight Médoc purists”, but in bottle, he noted that “it appears to have lost a touch of aromatic precision during élevage”, while nonetheless remaining “compelling”.

On the other hand, Château Montrose 2021 was scored 94-96 points in barrel back in 2022, Kelley already calling the wine “a brilliant achievement” at the time. The wine was upgraded to 97 points in bottle, the critic’s highest score in this report, even earning the title of “‘wine of the vintage’ in the Médoc”.

Fellow 97-pointers (also on the list of Kelley’s “Wines of the Vintage”) are Château Cheval Blanc 2021 and Château Haut-Brion 2021, which were initially scored 95-97 and 96-98 points in 2022 respectively.

Château Figeac is also one of Kelley’s “Wines of the Vintage”. The wine was awarded 94-97 points in 2022 and called “one of the highlights of the vintage on the Right Bank” at the time. The wine was scored 96+ points in bottle, with Kelley mentioning the wine “is performing brilliantly in bottle”.

Last but by no means least, Château Léoville Las Cases 2021 was scored 95-97 points in barrel, with Kelley calling it “one of the wines of the vintage”. In 2024, Kelley scored the wine at 96+ points and noted that “the 2021 Léoville Las Cases has turned out beautifully in bottle and clearly numbers among the very finest wines of the vintage”.

Where are the 2021s trading now? Kelley ends his report on a rather ominous note, stating: “Given the state of the market, what’s more, the 2021s are likely to be available at a discount in the next year or two.”

Looking at the secondary market trade of the wines above, it looks as if the critic’s prediction may well become a reality. Of the most traded 2021s over the last six months, those trades have been 18% below their ex-London release price on average and, on average, 8% below their current Market Price. Only two wines have a last traded price from the last six months that is higher. Château Beychevelle 2021 traded recently for £804 per case, 14% above its ex-London price, and Carruades de Lafite 2021 last traded for £2,120 per case, 7% above its release price of £1,980.

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