The annual Premiere Napa Valley auction offered an American take on events like Hospices de Beaune and Bordeaux’s en primeur rolled into one for California’s premier wine region.
The event welcomed wine importers, restaurateurs and retailers from around the globe. Attendees tasted and previewed barrel lots, then bid on wines that were auctioned off in exclusive five or 10-case lots for determined buyers.
Several events over the week allowed producers, who are members of the Napa Valley Vintners, to pour a variety of their current releases, past vintages and, of course, a first look at their 2021 vintage wine before its release.
Guests attended tastings and dinners hosted by some of the Valley’s top producers during the event, celebrating a return to normality after Covid’s impact on the previous years.
The auction is only open to those in the wine trade. This year more than 250 trade accounts from 18 countries took part. Vintners sold 154 micro lots of Premiere Napa Valley wine and 53 lots of Vintage Perspective Auction wine (highlighting vintages from 2003-2013) to bidders in markets around the world.
The auction’s top bid came from Switzerland, $100,000 for lot 16 – 60 bottles of a 2021 Cabernet Sauvignon from BRAND Napa Valley. A label made under the winemaking direction of Philippe Melka. 92% of the lots sold for more than $10,000. The average bottle price for 2021 Cabernet Sauvignon was $374. While 13% of the Cabernet lots sold for an average of $500 or more per bottle.
While Cabernet was king, there were two lots of Chardonnay, and the auction lot from Hudson Ranch fetched $400 per bottle.
Decanter’s Napa correspondent, Jonathan Cristaldi, was excited by what he tasted at the event. ‘The 2021 Napa Cabernets tasted out of barrel are exuberant wines. One could sense the palpable excitement from the vintners during Friday’s barrel tasting at Charles Krug,’ he said.
‘They have good reason to be thrilled. The numerous 2021s I tasted exuded freshness with utterly primary dark berry fruit balanced by savoury spices and refined tannins. They show excellent mid-palate depth. While remaining lively throughout and offer the promise of another great year,’ Cristaldi added.
The 2021 vintage
The vintage is an especially exciting one for Napa’s wine community. The impact of wildfires during 2020 saw many forced to abandon the production of that vintage altogether. 2021 was a dry year marked by smaller berry size and smaller yields, 2021 may be one of Napa’s best years in recent memory.
The auction included 137 wines from the 2021 vintage. Guests raised their paddles generously, and excitement over the 2021 vintage was apparent. The average bottle price of a 2021 red wine was $295.
‘2021 in Napa was truly a joyous vintage from a winemaker’s perspective, said Priyanka French, winemaker at Signorello Estate and Premiere Napa Valley steering committee chair. ‘The drought conditions resulted in lower yields than usual. Still, the fruit at harvest came in with small, concentrated berries. The wines of 2021 show tremendous depth and layered complexity with incredible colour and tannin structure.’