iDealwine’s 2021 vintage notes

a bunch of black grapes to illustrate the vintage notes for 2021

Read our comprehensive analysis of the 2021 vintage in France, region by region. A challenging vintage for winemakers, but one that produced outstanding wines in several regions, particularly among whites.


Dry white wines: 15/20
Sweet white wines: NA
Red wines: 13/20

In this region, vintages differ from one to the next. After a highly successful and consistent 2020 vintage, 2021 produced wines of varying quality, with some grape varieties particularly affected by the extremely challenging weather conditions.

The vintage kicked off with an unusually warm spring, which led to early bud break. As a result, they were very vulnerable to the frosts that subsequently hit the vineyards. Thankfully, the damage caused by these frosts was minimal, unlike the violent attacks of mildew which resulted from a very rainy July. The return of good weather in August went hand in hand with bouts of powdery mildew. This chain of unfavourable events led to a drastic drop in yields, ranging from 50% to 80%!

Fortunately, fine, sunny weather returned in September and October. Coupled with cool nights, this helped to salvage a harvest that seemed to be off to a shaky start. The first grapes were collected on 13 September for the Crémants, and a week later, on 20 September, for Alsace and Alsace Grands Crus. Many winemakers opted to postpone their harvest until as late as possible to achieve better ripeness levels. And this gamble paid off for those who took it. Vendanges Tardive (late harvest in English) and SGN noble grain selections started on 4 October, although under extremely restricted conditions due to a combination of low botrytis levels and winegrowers opting to channel their small harvest into dry wines.

Under such exceptional conditions (unheard of in Alsace for over half a century), only Riesling truly shone The wines are of outstanding quality, with admirable levels of concentration, particularly in the Grands Crus, complemented by a chiselled acid structure that should give them excellent ageing potential. Great wines on the horizon.

Muscats and Sylvaners are equally commendable, offering opulent aromas and rich textures. The Gewurztraminer wines, though not containing a memorable depth, display a fine aromatic typicity.

The quality of the Pinots falls a little short of the mark. While the Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc are pleasant, they lack substance. As for the Pinot Noirs, they seem to have suffered the most. While they do offer pleasant fruity notes, their level of concentration is somewhat lacking. These wines should be opened quickly.


Red wines: 16/20

Weather conditions were set to be fairly normal at the start of 2021. Unfortunately, as was the case in many other French regions, conditions deteriorated between April and early August. The region was hit by a series of record-breaking frosts in April, before hitting record rainfall levels in May, while cold temperatures continued to prevail. Naturally, this had major repercussions on the vine’s vegetative cycle, which fell behind the ten-year averages.

Flowering occurred later than expected, and a disastrous July prevented growth from really picking up. Winegrowers hadn’t seen this much rain in the region for almost fifty years! This particularly tough vintage was heading towards very average quality and low yields, as the vineyards suffered from severe fungal disease outbreaks in places. Fortunately, the weather finally improved from mid-August until harvest time, when it became drier and sunny again.

The delay observed throughout the vintage was never recovered, and the harvest officially started on 13 September for both Beaujolais and Beaujolais villages, some ten days later than the average recorded over almost twenty years. The Crus were harvested later than usual.

With limited quantities, this vintage could have given rise to fears of the worst. However, the Indian summer at the end of the harvest helped the grapes to ripen well. The grapes attained a balance that can be described as classic, in other words, much less pronounced in terms of alcoholic strength, as was the case in previous years. The resulting Gamays are particularly easy-drinking and delicious, offering chiselled flavours tinged with fine, precise notes of red fruit. The wines have retained freshness and finesse, so are particularly easy to digest and pleasant to drink. Beaujolais and Beaujolais Villages offering this light score should be drunk relatively quickly.

Nevertheless, as is generally the case in more challenging vintages, the region’s best winemakers have produced impressive wines, particularly in the Crus, where the best cuvées exhibit excellent concentration and great ageing potential.


Left Bank red wines: 15 – 16.5/20
Right Bank red wines: 15 – 16.5/20
Dry white wines: 18/20
Sweet white wines: 18.5/20

Throughout the Bordeaux region, the 2021 vintage was not a walk in the park and was perhaps the most testing one since the difficult 2013 vintage. The weather conditions tested everyone’s nerves during the entire year.

To begin, an excessively mild winter caused an early budburst across the region. At this stage, the vines showed a degree of precocity that would ultimately prove detrimental in the following weeks. The severe frosts that swept through the vineyards like a plague in early April affected the entire region, with Sauternes being particularly hard hit and suffering very significant, and sometimes total, crop losses. These extreme frosts, which lasted until early May, also resulted in the grapes ripening unevenly from one terroir to the next.

Nevertheless, flowering took place relatively smoothly in June thanks to a brief respite, but there were already noticeable signs of delays in the vegetative growth cycle. The weeks that followed continued to dampen spirits. Hailstorms hit some sectors hard, while the rain seemed to have no intention of leaving the region. From late June to late July, the weather was the gloomiest it had been for years, on both the right and left banks. This constant humidity naturally provided a very favourable breeding ground for disease, particularly mildew, which flourished. Insufficient sunshine and cool temperatures resulted in slow ripening, with berries swollen by the rain.

However, the vintage was salvaged by the return of fine weather towards the end of August and early September. The dry whites harvested during that month benefited the most from these dreadful conditions. The coolness of the summer preserved good acidity in the grapes, which also displayed excellent aromatic potential. On the whole, dry whites offer excellent results, sometimes to a very high standard, particularly in the best Graves Crus.

Despite being badly affected by the year’s conditions, yielding very few grapes in the end, the Sauternes region also profited from the alternating heat and rainfall, which provided the ideal conditions to encourage noble rot to develop. The grapes, which retained their fine acidity and aromatic complexity, obtained superb balance, heralding great, enduring successes that are sure to leave their mark.

As for the reds, the outcome is far more complex. Heterogeneity is undoubtedly the operative word here. Each estate was affected in its own way by the catastrophic weather conditions, and the choices made in the vineyards and regarding harvest dates further accentuated the significant differences observed in terms of quality. Overall, the Merlots, especially on the Right Bank, displayed interesting aromatic complexity, even if they were not as flamboyant as in some previous vintages. As for the Cabernets, both Francs and Sauvignons, they achieved excellent balance whenever the estates extended the ripening period sufficiently. While the harvest in this region started in September, with some under-ripeness resulting in a lack of substance and a hollow mid-palate, the excellent weather conditions that followed (slow, regular ripening, wide variations in temperature between day and night) produced some fine, fleshy, full-bodied wines, particularly on the finest Graves terroirs.

When it comes to the reds, this more classic vintage should not be overlooked for  the amazing trio of previous vintages, although discretion is called for between different estates.


Red wines: 16/20
White wines: 17/20

The 2021 vintage has left its mark on the minds and bodies of Burgundy’s winemakers, who faced some tough weather conditions during an unpredictable year.

While the weather was cool until March, it changed abruptly at the very beginning of April, with unexpectedly higher than normal temperatures for the season. This atypical weather pattern directly affected the growth rate of the vines. Bud break had already started, and this was to prove highly problematic just a few days later. A wave of polar air swept across the region, causing several nights of intense frost. Losses ranged from moderate to severe, depending on the area, which obviously had an impact on final yields. The size of the berries was also affected, resulting in some aromatic concentration in the grapes.

Affected by these weather trends, the vines became somewhat sluggish in the weeks that followed, with little help from the constant gloom that prevailed in April and May. The weather continued to be cool and rainy, but the return of fine weather towards the beginning of June finally brought hope. This provided ideal conditions for flowering. Rising temperatures stimulated the vines, which gradually made up for lost time, both in Yonne, Côte d’Or and Saône-et-Loire.

Unfortunately, weather conditions deteriorated rapidly, and new rainy and cool periods dominated throughout July and the first half of August. This led to further losses as a result of the proliferation of mildew, powdery mildew and even botrytis. A major headache for the teams working in the vineyards who finally found some respite at the end of August with the arrival of more autumn-like conditions.

Eventually, harvesting started on 8 September in the Mâconnais for Crémants, while the harvests for still wines elsewhere in the region began around 20 September. And, quite at odds with traditional grape variety cycles, the Pinot Noir grapes were harvested first, rather than the Chardonnay. For both reds and whites, the best results were achieved by exercising the utmost vigilance when sorting the grapes, both in the vineyard and in the winery. This approach yielded good quality juices.

Across the region, from Chablis to Mâconnais, the white wines of this vintage are a success, sharing the common trait of being very fruity and often floral. While the Chablis appellation wines display fine, classic balance, driven by minerality and freshness, the Côte d’Or and Côte Chalonnaise wines possess fuller bodies and are more opulent. The most meticulous winemakers have produced wines with great ageing potential. Mâconnais wines offer a highly interesting balance of precision, sapidity and seductive aromas.

When it comes to red wines, 2021 obviously doesn’t offer the same levels of concentration or alcohol as previous vintages. But this is for the best. The wines, though somewhat heterogeneous, prove particularly delicious, even exciting with their chiselled and precise fruity notes when they are well made. The Côte de Nuits and Côte de Beaune wines impress with their very elegant mouthfeel, combining velvety, silky tannins with a lengthy substance. Their balance, which is less about power than finesse, could set new standards. They are already highly appreciable for their classic character. As for the Côte Chalonnaise, it has also produced some superb wines.


Blancs de Noirs: 14.5/20
Blancs de Blancs: 14.5/20

Let’s start with our traditional reminder. It is important to remember two key factors when assessing the most recent vintage of Champagne. The first factor to bear in mind is that the large majority of the Champagne bottles consumed are not vintage wines but are a result of blending wines from many different vintages. These blends, created according to the respective qualities of the varieties used, are supposed to bring an almost constant parity of flavours between the domain’s releases. Therefore, the qualities (or the lack thereof) of a single vintage do not determine how good the end product will be. The second factor is that Champagne is a sparkling wine and there are only two ways to judge the true quality of a vintage. Either the current year’s still wines are tasted a few months after vinification before the wines go through their second vinification process (but this does not give a complete overview of the finished product), or the wine can be tasted at the end of a vintage Champagne’s production cycle, which is several years later…

The three previous vintages almost made us forget that some years can be cool and wet in the Champagne region. But 2021 served as a reminder to all the region’s winemakers, who endured a very trying season. The early budburst following almost summer-like weather at the end of March had disastrous consequences when the vines were later hit by repeated frosts (no fewer than 12 days of frost between 6 April and 3 May!) The subsequent weeks brought little reprieve as heavy rainfall alternated with localised hailstorms, except during the flowering period in June.

Rainfall reached unprecedented levels in the region in 2021, notably during torrential downpours in mid-July. Such conditions represented the perfect breeding ground for mildew, which had never before affected the Champagne region with such severity. The black grapes (Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier) were hit even harder than the Chardonnay. Yields, having already been affected by the frost, were further reduced, resulting in one of the smallest harvests in the region in recent decades. Overall, the quality of the wines, when the grapes were properly sorted, is good, but certainly not outstanding. In many cases, this means that the vintage likely won’t be declared.


Red wines: 15/20
White wines: 16/20

The Languedoc region was not spared by the challenges of the 2021 vintage, which led to lower-than-usual yields, with decreases ranging from 12% for AOC wines to 24% for PGI wines, with red wines more affected overall than whites and rosés. This results from a succession of unfavourable factors. Budburst started following abnormally high temperatures in March. Buds that had emerged were hard hit by the severe frost that hit almost all the appellations in the region at the beginning of April, with a few rare exceptions such as in Faugères. The months of May to July were characterised by cool, damp weather. More summerlike conditions then helped the grapes to ripen properly. The longer-than-usual ripening period also allowed the berries to retain good levels of acidity overall.

Accustomed to producing full-bodied red wines, Languedoc found a different balance in this 2021 vintage, with softer tannins and juicier textures. The wines are characterised by finesse and freshness, and offer considerable pleasure in their youth, particularly in the Languedoc, Saint-Chinian and Faugères appellations. Less opulent than previous vintages, they prove easy to quaff and elegant.

The white wines are perhaps the most surprising. The wines, with their fine levels of acidity, display very interesting aromatic profiles, full of vitality and sparkle. Their lively, balanced and fresh character will delight enthusiasts for the coming years.


Red wines: 15/20
White wines: 15/20

To paraphrase the late Queen Elizabeth II, this vintage can only be described as an ‘Annus horribilis’ for Jura. The weather conditions have rarely been this dreadful in the region. Like in other French regions, February was unusually warm, prompting the vines to start their vegetative cycle. As a result, the onset of frost early April, though not uncommon in the region, had adverse effects on the vineyards, particularly in the south. This was followed by violent hailstorms in the northern part of the region, particularly in Arbois and Château-Chalon. And to top it all off, rain took over throughout July and into early August. Heavy rains were even responsible for major landslides in Château-Chalon. As a result, yield losses were very substantial, in the region of 70%! Chardonnay and Poulsard were the most affected grape varieties, with Savagnin ultimately proving more resistant to such conditions. It is therefore the easiest wine to find. Ultimately, both the white and red wines offer fine aromatic typicity and plenty of freshness. They are all easy to quaff, not very concentrated, but well balanced.

In Savoie, the 2021 harvest yield was significantly down on previous years, mainly due to spring frosts and bouts of hail towards the end of the summer, particularly in the Apremont and Chignin areas, reducing yields by around 30% (only 83,000 hl were produced compared with 115,000 hl in normal years). Weather conditions were otherwise fairly favourable, with very little disease, resulting in healthy grapes when the time to harvest arrived. The earliest varieties were picked from around 20 September, followed by Jacquère and Mondeuse at the end of September and beginning of October, dates which correspond to a typical year. The longer berry ripening period helped to maintain an enjoyable balance between sugar and acidity, providing the wines with greater freshness. The wines are light and easy to quaff. The whites display notes of fresh fruit and white flowers. The Jacquères, in particular, are of fine quality, with a touch of minerality and hints of smoke and flint. The Altesses, for their part, produced highly balanced whites, making this a benchmark vintage. As for the reds, the Mondeuses, when fully ripened, offer very seductive aromas, varying between notes of violet and blackcurrant, which are extremely palatable.


Red wines: 15– 16/20
White wines: 16/20

Provence feared for the worst in 2021, but everything ended well. Following a particularly dry winter, two highly unusual weather episodes marked the spring. The region suffered two days of unprecedented frost, in some cases affecting areas that hadn’t seen frost for half a century, not to mention a great deal of rain. Thankfully, conditions returned to normal during the summer, allowing the grapes to ripen well. Production levels were ultimately in line with that of a typical year. The quality of the wines is entirely satisfactory, with dazzling rosés, bursting with aromas and freshness. The whites are wonderfully fleshy, revealing well-defined, seductive aromas. As for the red wines, they display a fresher, smoother profile than in previous years, offering delightful notes of chiselled red fruit, sustained by fairly moderate tannins, which makes them very easy to digest.

Corsica did not suffer from heavy rainfall, despite the frost spell that also hit the island hard at the beginning of April, especially in the south and in parts of the inland areas. To the contrary, Corsica endured a prolonged drought for almost four months from mid-May to the end of September. Yield losses were exacerbated by disease outbreaks, notably mildew, and insect infestations such as the citrus fruit borer, though they proved to be moderate, amounting to around 15% less volume than in 2020. The wines display excellent quality, with the whites exhibiting a fine freshness achieved by a fine level of acidity. The reds are, on the whole, elegant and display no shortage of concentration (with the exception, perhaps, of a few Sciacarellus). Delightful wines with a classic profile.


Red wines: 16/20
White wines: 16/20

Frost and drought were key features in Roussillon during this complicated 2021 vintage. The frost episode at the beginning of April, had an impact on yields. The cool temperatures prevailing in April and May slowed the growth of the vines, leaving them unable to make up for lost time and affecting the dates of the harvests. The extremely dry conditions that affected the entire region throughout the summer (with a water deficit of around 50% compared to a normal year) also added to the pressure on yields, which fell well short of a typical year. The only fairly positive point was that disease levels, especially mildew, were lower than usual. As a result, harvests generally started in mid-August, some ten days later than in 2020. The harvested bunches weighed less than usual and juice yields were also low.

As a result, the wines are characterised by their easy-to-palate, well-balanced character rather than their concentration. The white wines are chiselled and lifted by excellent levels of acidity. They display considerable presence on the palate. The red wines are dominated by notes of red fruit and spices, combined with supple, velvety textures. They are easy to quaff, harmonious and fresh. And finally, its natural sweet wines are delightful, displaying fine aromatic complexity, with freshness for the Muscats de Rivesaltes and more strength for the Grenaches.


Red wines: 15/20
White wines: 16/20
Sweet white wines: 16/20

Aromatic and fresh, Loire Valley wines remained true to their identity in this 2021 vintage, which was nevertheless rather eventful. The severe frosts that struck at the beginning of April didn’t spare a single Loire vineyard, affecting them from east to west, from the Centre-Loire to the Nantes region. Some areas were particularly hard hit, notably Muscadet, Anjou, Montlouis and Sancerrois. Following a very wet winter, the rain returned in full strength from May onwards, especially in June, leaving only a small window of respite during the flowering period.

Naturally, these extremely wet conditions encouraged significant outbreaks of mildew and powdery mildew, which had to be fought for weeks on end. Meanwhile, temperatures were not particularly high, averaging around 1.5 degrees lower in July and August than they would have been under normal conditions. As a result, the grapes ripened slowly, but retained good levels of acidity. The weather conditions remained a threat right up to the end, with the harvests finally kicking off in the second week of September in Anjou and on the 17th of that same month in the Centre-Loire, ending with the last harvests of red grape varieties at the very end of October. Thanks to the fine autumnal weather at the end of the season, combining regular morning mists with fine sunny afternoons, the grapes produced quality sweet wines.

In terms of profile, the reds impose their precise aromatic character, marked by appetising notes of red fruit, both in the Centre-Loire region and in Touraine, particularly in Chinon. Though less concentrated than previous vintages, they offer a much more classic balance. These are genuine pleasure wines. In the white wine category, the Melon de Bourgogne fare extremely well. The Muscadet wines combine rich aromas with plenty of body and freshness. The Sauvignons display an array of aromas ranging from floral notes to exotic fruit. As for the sweet wines, they boast a fine aromatic complexity coupled with a good acidity that will allow them to stand the test of time.


Red wines: 16/20
White wines: 17/20

The northern Rhône Valley seems to have reverted to more typical weather conditions in 2021, with conditions that were in any case considerably milder and drier than those experienced in previous vintages. However, conditions were much harsher, with a series of weather episodes resulting in lower yields and a certain disparity from one area to another. Spring frosts were followed by torrential rain, sometimes combined with major hailstorms. On the whole, these conditions reminded some winegrowers of the ones they had witnessed two decades earlier. Ripeness was less advanced and concentration lower.

Elegance and finesse characterise the red wines, with the Syrah offering lower levels of alcohol than in recent vintages, as well as good levels of acidity. As a result, the wines are spicier and more aromatic, with a voluptuous body and silky tannins. A different typicity can be observed in Côte-Rôtie and Hermitage as well as in Saint-Joseph and Crozes-Hermitage. These wines are particularly easy to digest and are immediately seductive but are unlikely to offer great ageing potential.

The whites have reaped the full benefits of these unusual conditions. Levels of ripeness are perfectly satisfactory, and the wines have regained much easier-to-palate levels of balance. The textures are less concentrated and more fluid, but not devoid of character. The excellent levels of acidity provide the perfect foundation for the wines, delighting the palate with their pure, fresh characteristics. This is undoubtedly a very fine vintage, which goes for Condrieu (the Viognier expresses itself admirably), Crozes-Hermitage and Saint-Péray.


Red wines: 15/20
White wines: 17/20

In the southern Rhône Valley, the 2021 vintage was particularly impacted by frost, which varied in severity from one area to another (temperatures in some parts of the Vaucluse dropped as low as ‑7 °C). In addition, the impact of hailstorms cannot be underestimated, as some were extremely severe. From June to mid-August, summer proved more lenient, ensuring that the grapes ripened properly, though more slowly than in 2020 when scorching temperatures were recorded. September also proved challenging, with high levels of rainfall leading to high chances of fungal diseases.

Looking at the red wines, those made from Syrah display a dark, intense colour, while the Grenache are slightly less concentrated than in previous vintages. Overall, the very round and silky tannins are highly appreciable. The wines reveal fresher profiles compared with previous vintages, with much crisper, juicier fruit, sometimes combined with slightly firm tannins. These wines will be best enjoyed young.

As for the whites, their levels of renewed acidity produce some very interesting results in terms of balance, admirably offsetting the achieved maturities, but without excess. The fruitiness is dazzling, and the wine is quaffable and very fresh on the palate. These are undoubtedly wines that will appeal to the widest possible audience.


Red wines: 15/20
White wines: 15.5/20
Sweet white wines: 15.5/20

The 2021 vintage proved challenging for all the vineyards in the region, spread across a wide geographical area. Freezing temperatures hit in April, affecting yields significantly in some cases, such as in Cahors, where yields dropped by half compared to a normal year. Overall, the following months were rather bleak, combining lower-than-usual temperatures with frequent heavy rainfall, particularly in July, resulting in a fierce battle against diseases across the Madiran and Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh appellations, as well as in Gaillac. Over in the Pyrenees, the Irouléguy appellation also faced unfavourable conditions, with cool, humid weather throughout the summer. Rain also dominated both the summer and the harvest in the Côtes de Gascogne. Fortunately, a milder August in some areas allowed the grapes to ripen well.

Overall, these weather conditions resulted in a fairly late vintage, with white and sweet wines performing particularly well. Fresh, well-balanced, fragrant wines with good levels of acidity are extremely flavoursome, especially in the Côtes de Gascogne and Irouléguy regions. The red wines often don’t display the same levels of concentration as those of previous, sunnier years, but they nonetheless offer delicious, at times crunchy, fruit and supple tannins. These are very enjoyable wines that should be drunk young.

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