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A Year of Wine in Review (2021)

Written by Madeline Puckette

Let’s walk through the highs and lows of 2021, a year in wine in review. You don’t want to miss these, it’s been one of the most unbelievable years in wine.

2021 is hands down one of the most unbelievable years in wine.

This year we righted some wrongs including this mis-credited quote:

“I could not live without Champagne. In victory I deserve it, in defeat I need it.”

This quote (and a variation of it) was attributed to Napoleon Bonaparte. However, it was Winston Churchill who wrote it in 1946.

And with that, please enjoy a year of wine in review.

2021: A Year of Wine in Review

Space-aged wine is now a thing you can buy.

A case of Bordeaux wines return from the Space Station after spending over a year in orbiting the Earth.

One of the bottles to go up, a 2000 vintage Pétrus was tested by leading Bordeaux expert, Jane Aston, who said it tasted older than it’s earth-aged counterpart.

The unopened bottles are up for sale at Christies at an estimated $1 million dollars – and come in a nifty celestial trunk.

Unused Airline Wine? Drink like you’re in first class!

There was so much unused wine from the airline industry due to the pandemic that American Airlines started an online sales outlet called Flagship Cellars. We were skeptical at first, but after stumbling across a Grand Cru Alsace Riesling for under $20, we promptly shut up and got on board.

A hotelier chases thieves who made off with $400,000 of Grand Cru Burgundy.

After losing $225,000 of wine to thieves earlier in the week. A hotel owner close to Beaune woke up to the sound of a burglary alarm… again.

This time, jumping into a car to follow the van that had made off with $400,000 of stolen Grand Cru Burgundy. The owner managed to keep up with the van and alert the police.

When the gendarme joined the chase, the looters threw wine bottles at the patrol car to spook the drivers. The heist came to an end when the van crashed near a toll booth. Luckily, most of the wine was recovered, but the gang of thieves is still at large.

South Africa bans alcohol 4 times and knee-caps their own wine industry.

During the pandemic, South Africans experienced 4 total alcohol bans. The final ban was only partially lifted on July 25th. The prohibitions have improved hospitalization rates during the Covid-19 outbreak but have had a catastrophic effect on Cape wineries.

In 2021, liquor and wine brands estimated losses over $2.4 billion from the prohibitions and export bans. The prohibition has raised questions about South Africa’s complicated history with alcohol.

People drink an $800 and $13,000 bottle of wine in error (and have to pay for it).

Chrissy Tegan and a man in Japan both ended up spending way more money than they intended on wine in 2021.

For Chrissy Tegan, it happened at lunch with buddy John Legend. The server casually suggested a $13,000 bottle of wine without revealing the price. The bill came and Chrissy threw a fit on twitter which ended up blowing up in her face.

For a random dude on reddit TIFU (today I f**d up), the mistake came during Valentine’s dinner when calculating the exchange rate between Japanese yen and US dollars. The wine was 80,000 yen, which is closer to $800 and not $80 like he was expecting. “We’ll just be drinking tap water for the next 10 Valentine’s Days.”

A 17-year trade battle ends with tax-free French wine for the next 5 years!

2021 started out with massive tariffs in the US on wine, jamón ibérico, and other European delights.

The tariffs were activated as part of an ongoing, 17-year battle between the US and the EU over subsidies given to the European airplane manufacturer, Airbus.

Fortunately, by June 2021, the World Trade Organization negotiated a deal to postpone tariffs for 5 years.

Get ready for a lazy river of wine!

China’s oldest and biggest winery, Changyu, plans to open a wine theme park in Shanghai. If you didn’t already know, Changyu just finished a “wine city” in Yantai in 2019, complete with faux châteaux (check out Chateau Tinlot), winemaking exhibits, tasting rooms, and bars.

China is the world’s largest consumer of red wine and now ranks in the top 5 for vineyard acreage in the world.

Wine is proven to be the only alcohol that’s good for you. True story.

In possibly the biggest wine news for 2021, scientists have found that wine, and wine alone, is the only alcoholic beverage that’s good for you.

We recommend you let that news sink in for a minute – and then, join Wine Folly’s incredible, useful, free wine education newsletter!

The Queen only drinks wine now.

Known to be partial to a martini, the Queen has given up spirits and only drinks wine. The royal sommelier stipulated it was for health reasons, including reducing joint pain. The Queen is 95.

What does the Queen like? Apparently, she’s particular for German Riesling and Dubonnet (an aromatized wine). She’s such a fan of Dubonnet that she gave the brand a Royal Warrant in November 2021.

Pour one out for two wine greats who passed away in 2021

Steven Spurrier: The iconic British gentleman, who helped facilitate the Judgement of Paris, helping launch Californian wines onto the world stage passed away at the age of 79, at his home in England.

Jim Clendenen: The winemaker at Au Bon Climat in California, who was a trailblazer for California Pinot Noir and Chardonnay died in May.

Famous wine fraudster, Rudy Kurniawan, gets deported

The man who created and sold fake fine wine in the USA, and at one point sold over $34 million over two auctions was deported to Indonesia, ending an almost 10 year wine fraud saga.

We’re still waiting on the movie about Rudy to be made, called Connoisseur, which was supposed to headline John Cho.

Get ready for a serious Sauvignon Blanc shortage.

France experienced the worst frost damage in decades which has affected production size by as much as one third. New Zealand also suffered serious frost damage which reduced crop size by nearly 30%.

France and New Zealand are the two largest producers of Sauvignon Blanc in the world.

Is Burgundy getting new grapes?!

The BIVB, the wine trade body for Burgundy, is investigating other grape varieties to adapt to climate change in the region, including César, Syrah, and Xinomavro from Greece.

To put this into perspective, the region has been growing Pinot Noir for more than a thousand years. So, it’s a pretty big deal.

A $3000 bottle of Bordeaux used for sangria

A daughter used her dad’s expensive bottle of Pétrus to make sangria for her and her friends. The father found the empty bottle later in the recycling bin.


Putin just picked a fight with all wine geeks everywhere.

Putin ordered all Champagne in Russia to be re-labelled as “Sparkling Wine” rather than Champagne. Russian sparkling wines are the only bottles allowed to label their wines as “shampanskoye”, the russian word for Champagne.

Major Champagne houses responded by halting shipments to Russia. We were so dumbfounded by this story we couldn’t think of anything clever to say.

Angelina Jolie puts Château Miraval up for sale.

The iconic rosé wine from Provence owned by Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie went up for sale this year. The couple bought the 1000 acre estate in 2014 for $67 million and were married there in August 2014.

But are we done with our love of rosé? I think not.

What’s the perfect bubbly for Formula One? Ferrari.

For a year, Formula One winners weren’t allowed to deluge themselves with sparkling wine for fear of spreading Covid-19.

Fortunately, the explosive tradition is back with a new label: Ferrari from Trento. This Northern Italian sparkling wine producer is taking the spot for Champagne for the foreseeable future.

In case you were wondering, the Ferrari sparkling wine is not the same as the Italian supercar manufacturer.

Super premium fuel, now made with wine and cheese!

Researchers at a university in Mexico developed biofuels from wine and cheese waste. This is great news because waste in the wine and cheese sector can be as high as 14:1.

To show off the wine-cheese biofuel potential, Prince Charles filled up his 1969 DBP Aston Martin with ethanol made from wine and cheese byproducts to get to the COP26 summit.

Wine biofuel to power Le Mans in 2022.

The 24 hours of Le Mans is using fuel from wine in 2022. The hope is that the biofuel (which is made from wine byproducts such as skins and lees), can power the Le Mans race cars into the future.

Australian wine sells for $104,500 at auction – making it the most expensive Aussie bottle ever.

1951 was the very first vintage of Penfolds Grange, and it just became Australia’s most expensive wine ever sold. It’s a rare buy as there are only 35 bottles left in existence.

Epic floods destroy Germany’s fine Pinot Noir vineyards. Lives are lost.

Flash floods devastated Ahr Valley vineyards in Germany. This area is one of the country’s most coveted areas for Spätburgunder (aka Pinot Noir). Over $50 million in wine and property was destroyed and hundreds of people perished in the cataclysmic weather event.

If you live to 100 in Switzerland, you’ll receive 100 bottles of wine.

In Switzerland, centenarians get 100 bottles of wine on their 100th birthday! Let’s hope this doesn’t backfire in some horrible drunken way.

Grape vines go to outer space, we kid you not.

Wines and grapevines sent to space were tested by experts in Bordeaux. The wine that stayed on earth tasted a bit younger than the space-aged wine. And, the vines that went into orbit seem to have been invigorated by space travel, growing faster than their earthbound clones.

What’s funny is we joked about growing grapes in space for April Fool’s day in 2015. It actually happened 6 years later. Mind blown.

Several Bordeaux producers accused in major fraud case.

The owners of the prestigious Château Angélus and Château Trotte Vieille were accused of rigging the entry system for the Saint Émilion Grand Cru Classification.

If found guilty, Hubert de Boüard, owner of Château Angélus, and Philippe Castéja, owner of Château Trotte Vieille, face jail time and a €500,000 fine.

In another Bordeaux fraud case, a producer was found guilty and sentenced to prison for wine mixing and label fraud of over 1 million bottles.

This isn’t his first arrest, and it’s likely he can serve his sentence at home. Currently, the fraudster is in the US with his wine business renamed to “Awesome.”

Maybe avoid that brand.

An ancient mega winery producing 2.5 million bottles a year is unearthed in Israel.

This massive production winery is thought to have exported wines to Greece, Egypt and Turkey over 1500 years ago. The wines made here were likely known as “Gaza wine”, which was considered a prestige white wine of the era.

The site also had a large kiln for making its own amphorae. Watch the incredible overview of this find on YouTube by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA).

Six Master Sommeliers expelled for sexual misconduct.

Six Master Sommeliers, including the founder of Court of Master Sommeliers Americas, were removed from the Court, following a sexual misconduct investigation.

“Don’t shit where you eat my friend.” –Ween

Smoke tainted grapes make delicious vodka.

Smoke tainted grapes in California and Australia have spawned creativity. In South Australia, Simon Tolley Wines in Adelaide Hills is part of a research project experimenting with spirits.

In the US, Hanger One made a vodka called “Smoke Point” with Napa Valley fire grapes. Despite the name, the vodka tastes clean with floral notes and not even a whiff of the smoke.

Proceeds from tasting room sales go to California Fire Foundation.

Mondavi makes NFT wines available for Eth.

Non-fungible token (NFT) digital representations of real wine counterparts in porcelain bottles went up for sale on December 15th. There were a total of 1,966 tokens (and wines) for sale on Mondavi’s site for 0.89 Eth (or $3,500 a piece).

Many smaller producers have experimented with blockchain and wine, but not a brand with this visibility.

Get Ready For 2022

Despite the overwhelming difficulties that 2021 presented the world, it seems team wine was up for the challenge. We’re looking forward with our fingers double-triple crossed for more fascinating adventures in wine in 2022.

If you love wine and want to learn more about it, check out the amazing Wine Folly newsletter.

Written byMadeline Puckette

James Beard Award-winning author and Wine Communicator of the Year. I co-founded Wine Folly to help people learn about wine. @WineFolly

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