En primeur: The 2021 vintage for Burgundy

2021 has produced pretty, medium-bodied wines. The whites are aromatic and fresh, while the reds are fragrant with light structures of ripe tannins and soft palates.

Burgundy 2021

It’s a floral, fine-boned vintage with average alcohol levels. Built on a smaller frame than the warm trilogy of 2018, 2019 and 2020, it is however harmonious and well proportioned. As ever, in the most challenging years, the best growers, and the older vines, have performed well above the average level. Also, as in all years of moderate ripeness, it’s a vintage to trade up where you can. The hierarchy of the crus is respected and, as one moves upwards from Bourgogne and village to premiers and grands crus, the more favourably exposed sites produce the most successful wines.

Alas, volumes are very small: some wines were not made at all, or were assembled together with others to produce workable quantities.

The weather: yields reduced by frost

After the severe frosts during the nights of 6th-9th April, down to as low as -8˚C, yields were reduced to approximately 10-40% of a normal crop for whites and 40-60% for reds. The season was often humid with considerable pressure of mildew and a small amount of botrytis (rot). The best growers combatted these well. A warmer than average June and September allowed the small crop to catch up and ripen successfully.

Burgundy 2021

White wines

The white wines are more floral than fruity, with a firm mineral core and fresh, balanced acidity. They are of moderate ripeness, similar to 2010, and riper than say 2000 or 1998. The chardonnay had already budded around 2nd April before the frost of 6th-9th April severely reduced the size of the crop. Meursault was the epicentre with some yields as low as 10% of a normal crop. The vines were seemingly in shock after the frost with leaves appearing much later than usual, delaying ripening, which may explain their cool and bright character. These are wines to enjoy in the medium term.

Red wines

Pinot noir budded around 12th April, later than the chardonnay and after the frost, especially in the cooler Côte de Nuits, where most of the pinot noir is planted. This meant that it fared a bit better than the chardonnay, but was still badly affected. The 2021 red wines have a similar level of ripeness to the 2014s, and are more mature than the 2013s, 2010s and 2008s. They are medium-bodied with a mix of red- and black-fruit aromas which are already very appealing. The tannins are slight yet ripe. I find that higher levels of tannins can temporarily depress aromas until they soften, so the lighter-framed 2021s have expressive aromas and will be attractive early and in the medium term.

Toby Morrhall

Society Buyer

Toby Morrhall

Toby has been a Wine Society buyer since 1992, and covers Burgundy, Chile, Argentina and Uruguay.

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