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Neal Martin delivers Bordeaux 2021 verdict

  • Lafleur and Château Haut-Brion Blanc topped Neal Martin’s scores. 
  • He said the 2021 was ’an antidote’ to the recent run of hot vintages but was full of shortcomings. 
  • There was high praise for the severely limited quantities of Sauternes. 

Vinous has published Neal Martin’s Bordeaux 2021 report. He called the vintage ‘enticingly fallible’ with many aspects that he admires while also drawing attention to its many faults and shortcomings. 

As with Jane Anson, who released her scores earlier this morning, he did not award any potential 100-point scores. 

‘There are no thrilling wines that set the pulse racing or have “future legend” written over them,’ he said, though there are wines which ‘stand as testament to the effort and skill of winemakers and vineyard teams’. 

Nonetheless, even the best wines and pre-prepared pitches had their limitations, and he noted that some comparison tastings with 2019 or 2016 wines, ‘merely confirmed that it [2021] does not rank with the greats’. 

As has been the case with other reports, Martin said this was not a vintage that suited either the Left or Right Bank over the other. 

His report therefore focuses on different aspects of the wines from their colour to aromas, balance, tannins and complexity. 

Questions over longevity 

One of the areas he tackled was how long the 2021 wines might age. He said there would be wines ‘whose evolution in bottle will be fascinating to monitor’ and that more than one vintage written off at birth had ‘go on to defy predictions’. 

Then again, for those wines that failed to reach good levels of ripeness, ‘their dry, herbaceous and coarse finishes consigning them to short lives with only a modicum of drinking pleasure’. 

The market 

Looking ahead to the market for the 2021 vintage, Martin said that questions over price reductions caused occasional awkwardness. 

Through a combination of the rising cost of dry goods and pressure from less-than-sympathetic shareholders, ‘it became clear that most will resist a decrease in price and will try to keep them as close or equal to 2020 prices’. 

Top scores 

Lafleur and Château Haut-Brion’s white wine were the recipients of Martin’s top scores – both have been highly rated by other critics too. 

He said that in the Lafleur the Guinaudeau’s had ‘conjured not just one of the finest Pomerols of 2021, but one of the finest Bordeaux wines’, while Haut-Brion Blanc he said was ‘undeniably’ showstopping’. 

Also highly rated were Château Cheval Blanc (‘one of the stars of the Right Bank’), Pétrus, Chateau Calon-Ségur and Chateau Margaux. 

Despite the ‘clutch of splendid wines’, Martin concluded that it was clear this was not a vintage to rank alongside 2010, 2016 or 2019 and there are ‘swathes of wines that do not pass muster’. 

It is a vintage that passes as ‘an antidote’ to the recent run of hot vintages which ‘should be welcomed’. Not every estate reached the level either he or they might have hoped but, as he finished, ‘you can’t win ‘em all. But there is no harm in trying’. 

Our Bordeaux En Primeur 2021 page contains everything you need to know about this year’s campaign. You can also sign up for our daily En Primeur email alerts using the form below.      


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