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Raymond-Lafon is a name to watch in the Sauternes district, particularly if one is looking for a wine that is close to the brilliance and majestic richness of Yquem for less than one-third the price.
This small estate abuts Yquem's vineyard and has had an excellent reputation. The 1921 Raymond-Lafon was considered even better than Yquem's wine in that great vintage. I have never tasted the 1921 Raymond-Lafon, but the single greatest Sauternes I have ever drunk was the Yquem of that vintage.
However, the estate of Raymond-Lafon fell into neglect, and it was not until 1972 that Pierre Meslier, the manager of Yquem, purchased this vineyard and began to rebuild this wine's once fabulous reputation.
With a tiny yield of 9 hectoliters per hectare (even less than Yquem's), with the same grape blend and winemaking techniques employed as Yquem, and with the same ruthless selection procedure (normally 20% - 100% of a harvest is declassified), Raymond-Lafon has already produced a succession of splendid Sauternes, beginning with a great 1975 and just recently concluding with a monumental 1990.
Raymond-Lafon looks to be well on the road to becoming one of the great classic wines of Sauternes. Unfortunately, the wine is extremely difficult to find because of the tiny production and the fact that proprietor Pierre Meslier sells much of it to private clients in Europe. One must wonder why this vineyard, situated next to Yquem and surrounded by all the Premiers Crus Classés of Sauternes, was overlooked in the 1855 classification.
NEWS: BORDEAUX 2021 VINTAGE by Pros: What do the critics think?
Antonio Galloni, Vinous: “The 2021 Bordeaux turned out to be such a surprise. The weather conditions were difficult, and yet the best properties turned out magnificent and classic wines that will absolutely delight readers who appreciate freshness and energy. The restrained alcohols and mid-weight structures will remind readers of Bordeaux before the 2000s. The best wines offer a striking combination of old-school classicism with modern precision. The quality is inconsistent, however, so choosing carefully is essential. Still, there's a lot to love about 2021."
At the Wine Advocate, William Kelley was one of the first to publish his report on the vintage, with largely positive comments on the region's top estates. He underlines his thoughts by reminding his readers: “We may have lost the habit of tasting wines with a moderate alcohol level and a classic pH en primeur, but anyone who appreciates the great Bordeaux reference wines of the 1980s and 1990 should seriously think about what the 2021s might have to offer in 10-15 years. It’s a style of wine that could come from nowhere else. »
Matthew Jukes: “In many cases they can rightly be said to have triumphed over Mother Nature through their tenacity, experience and tireless work ethic, and the best wines are singular in their purity, freshness and their unusual resonance... If a château has a noble terroir, a fully dedicated team, cutting-edge technology (to sort clean, pure, ripe fruit from the weaker berries) and a slice of luck, then it doesn't there is no excuse not to make fabulous wine... This is a classic example of a vintage where each wine must be tasted individually... Suffice it to say, I have found some exquisite wines in 2021, and they are all pure, long, refreshing, perfectly elegant and refined, and the quintessence of the vineyard plots from which they were harvested.
Decanter's Georgie Hindle also notes the marked contrasts with recent blockbuster vintages: "It's not a big, opulent, sumptuous year [...] The heat and sunlight just haven't been enough to produce the sunny fruits, high alcohol and uber glamor on display in great vintages like 2016 and 2018. However, what we get instead is freshness and elegance, racy acidity, more spirits weak, balance where it is successful and a real sense of terroir and grape signatures in the glass. She also reminds us of the benefit of this more restrained style: “It is likely that they will present earlier consumption opportunities compared to more robust and mellow vintages. »
Jane Anson (who has the advantage of being based full-time in Bordeaux) had several ideas about who would inevitably be more successful in 2021. The first came down to the estate's resources: "It's undoubtedly a vintage which rewards estates that have a talented team of full-time collaborators who work in the vineyards throughout the year, and who know their terroir. It rewarded skillful and timely decision-making. Those who subcontracted vineyard work were at a disadvantage. » The best wines of the vintage revealed in his opinion: “Classic balance and lower alcohols. Malic acid levels were high at harvest, but after malolactic fermentation, pH and acidity levels were overall classically balanced, resulting in wines that were fruity and supple in texture. And finally, unlike vintages where all the hard work could be done in the vineyard, the complex work in 2021 only continued in the cellar, “Skillful winemaking. We have gotten into the habit of repeating that wine is made in the vineyard. This is of course still true, but in 2021 it was abundantly clear that the best wines are also sometimes made in cellars.
Honest Grapes: Let’s not forget the white ones either. The quality here is more consistent than the reds, and Jancis Robinson proclaims that "in general, the dry whites are brilliantly crisp, aromatic and well-defined with ample fruit, while the sweet whites are some of the best ever, though that most of them are produced in catastrophic quantities.” Haut Brion & La Mission produced sensational whites, among the “finest sets of dry whites since 2017” for William Kelley. Meanwhile, Georgie Hindle reports that "the whites are excellent and perhaps more consistent across the board, with plenty of freshness, vibrancy and clarity on the palate."