2021 Saint Julien Wines, the Vintage Report.
The 2021 St. Julien vintage did not begin life easily. And it got worse from there with excessive rain, frosts, mildew, uneven flowering, and a lack of sunshine. So, as you can see, 2021 Saint Julien is a true winemaker’s vintage.
The problems with the vintage really began April 7 and 8 when a cold snap brought freezing temperatures and the potential for frost. The following month, May was not any better as it was the coldest Mays in history, and to make matters worse, there was a lot allowing for the development of downy mildew. Flowering took place during a very wet June.
July was also quite wet and growers faced another outbreak of downy mildew. By this time, growers all over the Left Bank were concerned about the possibility of a disastrous 2021 Bordeaux harvest. But things turned around in the Left Bank by the end of August with rising temperatures and enough sunshine to produce an Indian Summer. Before picking took place, the appellation experienced three more rainy periods in September, 8-9, 17-19, (the heaviest rainy period), and only light showers September 24-25.
Harvesting began to take place from the middle of September for the young vine Merlot to late September for the remainder of the Merlot, finishing by mid-October for the Cabernets and the Petit Verdot all over most of the Medoc. For an extensive, detailed look at the weather that shaped the entire vintage in both, the Left Bank and the Right Bank: For a more detailed report on the weather that shaped the vintage: 2021 Bordeaux Growing Season and Harvest Report
2021 St. Julien Wines… The Wines
Tasting 2021 St. Julien proved why wines and vintages are produced in the vineyards and not in the news you read on social media. All the reports about the vintage were dire. Yet, tasting the wines showed that was not the case. True, 2021 was not going to give any of the recent vintages a run for the money. But for lovers of classically-styled Bordeaux, which focused on aromatics, red fruits, freshness, and crisp fruits on the palate that were low in alcohol, 2021 is a very good year.
The yields were as low as the alcohol levels for many growers. Yields were down 20-30% in some cases. On average, alcohol levels ranged from 12.5% ABV to not much over 13% ABV in most wines. Most of the wines have blends that were completely dominated by Cabernet in some vineyards as you can read in the tasting notes below. In fact, some wineries recorded the highest percentage of Cabernet in their wines in the history of the estate.
While the wines can lack density in the mid-palate, they are fresh and forward. In fact, almost every wine will drink well with just a few years of aging. Even the wines that normally require 15-20 years in the cellar will be fabulous to drink before they are 10 years old!
Vignerons used chaptalization to increase the sugar levels by .5 to 1% for a portion of their harvest. To increase the density, several producers used the saignée technique of bleeding vats to increase the concentration in the wines as well as reverse osmosis. For an overview of the entire Bordeaux region in 2021, please read 2021 Bordeaux Complete Guide to the Vintage
All of the following 2021 Saint Julien wines were tasted in Bordeaux in April, in non-blind conditions.
2021 Beychevelle – The nose starts off with dark currants, tobacco leaf, espresso, flowers, herbs, and black cherries. Medium-bodied, sweet, soft, and fresh, there is a peppery, spicy touch on the backend, along with a hint of refreshing spearmint that adds to the vibrant, sweet, red fruits in this classically styled wine. The wine blends 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 38% Merlot, 3% Petit Verdot and 2% Cabernet Franc. 13% ABV, pH 3.7, the harvest took place September 25 – October 11. The yields were 50 hectoliters with 54% of the harvest going into the Grand Vin. Drink from 2025-2050. 92-94 Pts
2021 Beychevelle Amiral de Beychevelle – Forward, soft, savory, and fruity, the red berries come along with a savory, minty, earthy edge on the medium-bodied, palate and in the easy to enjoy, finish. Drink from 2023-2031. 87-89 Pts
2021 Branaire Ducru – Flowers and black raspberries with black and red currants open the wine in the nose. The wine is medium-bodied, fresh, sweet, juicy, and pure. Classic in style, this is going to be approachable early, so you will be able to enjoy all the ripe, elegant, cherries, plums, and peppery currants without a long wait. Yet, the wine will age for 2 decades or more easily. The wine is a blend of 66% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot, 6.5% Cabernet Franc and 5.5% Petit Verdot, 13% ABV, 3.68 pH. The harvest took place September 24, finishing October 14. The yields were low at 32 hectoliters per hectare and from there, roughly 60% of the harvest was placed into the Grand Vin. Drink from 2024-2050. 92-94 Pts
2021 Ducru Beaucaillou – Cigar box, tobacco leaf, wet earth, blackberry, flowers, and black currants fill the nose. On the palate, the wine is fresh, polished, soft, and energetic, with a spice, and leafy-tinted finish that leaves you with dark cherries and currants on the backend. There is length, purity, lift, and softness in the finish. This is one of the potential candidates for wine of the vintage. Classic (In a modern way) in style, the wine is a blend of 98% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Merlot. This is the highest percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon in the history of the estate. 12.5% ABV, 3.88 pH, The yields were a scant 25 hectoliters per hectare. Harvest took place September 28 – October 11. Drink from 2026-2055. 95-97 Pts
2021 Ducru Beaucaillou La Croix Ducru-Beaucaillou – With a floral and plum-filled nose, the wine is soft, silky, fresh, and polished, with black cherries, mint leaf, bright, red currants, and green olives in the finish. The wine is a blend of 64% Cabernet Sauvignon, 32% Merlot and 4% Petit Verdot. 12.5% ABV, Drink from 2024-2035. 90-92 Pts
2021 Ducru Beaucaillou Le Petit Ducru – Flowers and black raspberry aromas show up with ease in the perfume. On the palate, the medium-bodied wine is soft, forward, sweet, and fresh. The wine finishes with a touch of dark chocolate and red plums in the endnote. Drink from 2023-2032. 89-91 Pts
2021 du Glana – Flowers, currants, spice, and underbrush show in the nose. On the palate, the wine is fresh, crisp, and bright, with a lean-to the savory, red currant side of the style range. Drink from 2023-2031. 88-90 Pts
2021 Gloria – Fresh, bright and savory, the red fruits here are soft, sweet, and lifted. Medium-bodied, early-drinking, bright and crisp, there is an herbal, olive, and espresso edge to the soft, polished red fruits that you find in the endnotes. The wine blends 61% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Merlot, 14% Petit Verdot and 6% Cabernet Franc. Drink from 2024-2036. 89-91 Pts
2021 Gruaud Larose – Dark in color, the wine kicks off with tobacco leaf, underbrush, herbs, olives, flowers, and currants. On the palate, the wine is soft, forward, fresh, and fruity, with polished tannins, elegant textures, and a round, sweet, red currant, and black cherry finish. There is a nice spicy, fresh kick in the endnote of the classically-styled, bright, understated wine. Give it a few years to compose itself and it will show quite nicely. The wine blends 84% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Merlot, and 4% Cabernet Franc, 12.5% ABV. The harvest took place September 23-October 7. The yields were low at 29 hectoliters per hectare. Drink from 2025-2055. 92-94 Pts
2021 Gruaud Larose Sarget de Gruaud Larose – Smoky, tobacco-laden black cherry aromas are in the nose. On the palate, the wine is soft, sweet, medium-bodied, forward, and already quite easy to like. You can enjoy this on release for its fresh cherry and red currant fruits. Drink from 2023-2031. 88-90 Pts
2021 Lagrange – Blackberries, cedar, tobacco, spice, and savory herbs on the nose bring you to a soft-textured, supple, round, forward, classical wine with a creamy-textured, dusty, peppery, crunchy, red currant-packed finish. The wine is a blend of 84% Cabernet Sauvignon and 16% Merlot. It is interesting to note that this is the highest percentage of Cabernet used in the blend in the history of the estate. 13% ABV. Yields were low at only 30 hectoliters per hectare. Drink from 2025-2045. 91-93 Pts
2021 Lagrange Les Fiefs de Lagrange – Bright, fresh, crisp and focused on its red berry core of fruits, you also find nuances of tobacco leaf and herbs in the medium-bodied wine, forward wine that is best for early drinking consumption. Drink from 2023-2032. 86-88 Pts
2021 Les Arums de Lagrange – Flowers, white peaches, tangerine, and yellow citrus notes with a deft touch of honeysuckle. The wine is fresh, vibrant, crisp, and also creamy in the finish. Drink from 2023-2032. 90-90 Pts
2021 Langoa Barton – Peppery spices, herbs, and red currants come through on the nose and palate. This is a solid example of classic, medium/full-bodied, Bordeaux focused on its bright, crisp, red fruits, freshness, and peppery spice in the endnote. The wine blends 61% Cabernet Sauvignon, 36% Merlot, and 3% Cabernet Franc. For Langoa Barton, a wine that normally takes quite a bit of time to be fun to drink, you can enjoy this quite early. Fans of Langoa Barton should take note that the wine will be released with a special, one-off label commemorating 200 years of ownership by the Barton Family! Drink from 2025-2047. 90-92 Pts
2021 Leoville Barton – Garnet in color, the wine shows cedar, tobacco leaf, pepper, forest leaf, and currants on the nose. The wine is medium/full-bodied, juicy, fresh, vibrant, spicy, floral, chewy, crunchy, and crisp, with a nice bite of energetic, peppery red fruit in the finish. Blending 84% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Merlot, and 3% Cabernet Franc, 13.2% ABV. The yields were 39 hectoliters per hectare. Drink from 2027-2060. 92-94 Pts
2021 Leoville Las Cases – Dark ruby with hints of purple around the edge, the wine exudes smoke, cedar, tobacco leaf, slate, lead pencil, blackberries, espresso, and currants. One of the more powerful wines of the vintage, the wine offers loads of black and red fruits, ripe, present, salty tannins, and a juicy, almost creamy, yet classically structured finish. Produced from a blend 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Cabernet Franc and 5% Merlot. 13.20% ABV. This is the first time you find more Cabernet Franc than Merlot in the blend in the history of the estate. Drink from 2025-2055. 94-96 Pts
2021 Leoville Las Cases Clos du Marquis – Cassis, blackberry, cigar box, cedar, and spice are found in the nose and on the palate. The wine is fresh, round, forward, sharp, and bright, with a cool touch of minty herbs on the backend that adds to the red fruits. The wine was made from a blend of 67% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Merlot, and 14% Cabernet Franc. 13.46% ABV. Drink from 2025-2039. 91-93 Pts
2021 Leoville Las Cases Clos du Marquis La Petite Marquise – Savory-edged, bright, firm, crunchy, peppery red fruits create this classically styled, chewy, red plum, strawberry, and olive-tinged wine. Drink from 2025-2037. 88-90 Pts
2021 Leoville Las Cases Le Petit Lion du Marquis de Las Cases – Flowers, cedar, cigar box, and tobacco leaf add to the bright, cranberries, orange, and red currants in the nose. The wine is medium-bodied, crisp, and with a fresh, sweet, tart, crunchy finish. The wine is a blend of 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 47% Merlot, and 3% Cabernet Franc, 13.27% ABV. Drink from 2025-2037. 89-91 Pts
2021 Leoville Poyferre – Dark garnet in color, the wine exudes flowers, cherries, currants, black raspberries, espresso beans, tobacco leaf, and mocha in the perfume. Soft, silky, fresh, and vibrant, with a hint of spice, the wine is forward, polished, and fruity, with loads of crushed berries and a tint of cocoa in the backend of the creamy-textured finish. The wine blends 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Franc and 5% Petit Verdot, 13.11% ABV. The harvest took place September 28, finishing October 12. The yields were quite low at only 24 hectoliters per hectare. Drink from 2026-2055. 93-95 Pts
2021 Leoville Poyferre Pavillon de Léoville Poyferré – This medium-bodied charmer opens with black raspberries, gentle touches of espresso, underbrush, herbs, and cedar. On the palate, the wine is easy to like, and drink, due to its soft, fresh, sweet, red fruit character. You find touches of olives and spicy cocoa on the backend in the finish. The wine blends 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Franc and 7% Petit Verdot. Drink from 2023-2034. 88-90 Pts
2021 Moulin-Riche – Medium-bodied, the elegant, fresh, vibrant, character of the vintage is on display in the red currants, olives, herbs, and pepper on the palate all the way through to the supple-textured, polished finish. You can enjoy this with pleasure on release. The wine is a blend of 54% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Merlot and 19% Petit Verdot. Drink from 2023-2035. 89-91 Pts
2021 Saint-Pierre – Espresso, smoke, black cherry, currants, spice, flowers, and chocolate on the nose, as well as in the plush, round, fruit-filled palate. There is a nice touch of minty espresso in the finish that comes in on the backend. The wine blends 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Franc and 7% Petit Verdot. Drink from 2023-2045. 91-93 Pts
2021 Talbot – Medium-bodied, soft, round, and easily drinkable in its youth, the wine is focused on its vibrant, earthy core of spicy, fresh, red, and black currants along with green, leafy herbs. The wine is produced by blending 71% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Merlot, and 5% Petit Verdot. 12.8% ABV. Drink from 2024-2040. 89-91 Pts
2021 Talbot Connetable – Medium-bodied, forward, soft, vibrant, and fresh, this charmer will be just great to enjoy on release and over the near term for its sweet red fruits. Drink from 2023-2031. 85-87 Pts
2021 Talbot Caillou Blanc – Sweet lemon rind, flowers, orange, and honeysuckle, with a nice bite of Granny Smith apples on the palate, work well here in this early drinking, refreshing wine. The wine blends 73% Sauvignon Blanc and 27% Semillon, 13.5% ABV. Drink from 2023-2027. 91-91 Pts
Up next, we will publish 2021 Margaux Barrel Tasting Report followed by
2021 Haut Medoc will include the best 2021 Listrac and 2021 Moulis wines and then 2021 Pessac Leognan red and white wines before we move on to the Right Bank the next, with coverage of Pomerol and St. Emillion. Keep your fingers crossed. I know I will.