“The wines are superbly fresh, with elegant alcohol/acidity balance that promise a great vintage.” César Perrin.
After four hot vintages, 2021 generated much needed coolness, bringing about an elegance and finesse to the wines. It wasn’t smooth sailing though; much like vintages in the rest of France, 2021 proved challenging for many growers throughout the Northern and Southern Rhône. A black frost descended in April, meaning some areas suffered big losses. However, all was not lost, the overriding consensus amongst the growers was relief and pleasure: relief that the super-hot vintages of the past four years had broken, and pleasure in the resulting wines.
THE BIG PICTURE
Many growers saw big losses this year, such as the Perrets who lost 80% of their Condrieu. Marie Perret, André’s daughter, rather underplays it saying, “it was not an easy year”. Domaine Giraud lost 50% of their Châteauneuf fruit, so have chosen to make a single wine, instead of the usual cuvées; fortunately, their Lirac was untouched and a normal yield resulted. Clos des Cazaux in Vacqueyras lost 30%. Losses were not across the board; some growers reported a healthy yield and, crucially, the wines tasted great! It would have been easy to make a mediocre wine this vintage, but the growers we work with and support are all passionate and committed individuals who have put the hours in, both in the vineyard and cellar, and made enticing, aromatic wines. The localisation of frosts means that it’s hard to generalise, even between north and south, therefore we’ve given a brief overview for each grower later in the document.
The cooler weather has given wines of elegance and energy, rather than the power of previous years. A “more classical style, back to the 2000s,” says Pascal Jamet, whilst the Bruniers go even further back comparing it to those of the 1980s! Edouard Brunier calls it, “a vintage of finesse – the sort that keeps the personality of the vintage.” Stylistically, reds are full of aromatic complexity, some almost ethereal, they have an enticing delicacy and silky tannins. These aren’t blockbuster wines, many are already approachable and open now, but they have the structure, fruit and acidity to see the mid to long term ageing potential. This is an impressive vintage for whites, they are full of finesse with a lovely tension and are enticingly aromatic.
A mild, dry winter with budburst in the second half of March caused worry amongst growers – was it or was it not going to be another hot, dry summer? Those fears were quickly allayed, for some, on the night of 7th-8th April, when temperatures fell as low as minus 8 degrees in some areas. The frost had been forecast, so those that could, set up candles or wood fires to stave of the cold weather – this was particularly beneficial on Hermitage. Some areas were particularly badly hit, for example, Condrieu, Côte-Rôtie and Châteauneuf-du-Pape all took big losses, whilst other areas, such as Saint-Joseph, escaped the ‘black’ frost. Even within these areas the spread of frost and affected areas was sporadic. Seemingly, in Châteauneuf the southern section of vineyards was the most badly affected whilst those in the north remained relatively unscathed. A period of around three weeks left the frost affected vines dormant, with rains in May bringing them back to life. The dryness of the beginning of the season was quickly forgotten in the north – the ensuing months brought more than twice the amount of rain that fell in the south. By mid-August the rains had ceased and the remainder of the season brought much needed warmth to both the north and south, leading to pleasant harvest conditions in the middle of September.
“As in any challenging year, it’s the most dedicated and hardworking vignerons who produce the best wines, and there will undoubtedly be outstanding wines made in 2021.” Jeb Dunnuck, jebdunnuck.com”