Investing in Italy – top five Brunello by Economics score

With our founder, Ella Lister, just back from tasting the latest releases at Benvenuto Brunello in Montalcino, we thought we’d dig deeper into the data behind the appellation’s top wines. The pyramid system in the region means that most producers make at least three wines: in the middle, a Brunello di Montalcino DOCG Annata (or “vintage”); in good years, a Riserva (with longer ageing but also nearly always the best selection of grapes from the estate); and at the bottom of the pyramid, a Rosso di Montalcino DOC, producing fresher, approachable wines requiring less ageing.

This allows, and indeed encourages, a healthy level of selection in the region. At last weekend’s event, the vintages on show were 2013 Brunello Riserva (excellent), 2014 Brunello Annata (a tricky vintage, with some producers declassifying to Rosso di Montalcino), and Rosso di Montalcino 2017. There is also a trend in the Brunello DOCG towards vineyard-specific crus, such as Casanova di Neri’s Tenuta Nuova or Il Marroneto’s Madonna delle Grazie, both of which feature in this week’s top five: top Brunellos by Economics score.

When examining the economic profile of Brunello wines, we see that Riservas tend to have higher Economics scores than Annatas, in line with their higher Quality scores. The best-performing Brunello by Economics score is Biondi Santi’s Brunello di Montalcino Riserva, with a score of 902. It earns the number one spot of this week’s top five with the highest price at £315 per bottle in-bond, and annual auction trading volumes of 458 bottles. The wine also outperforms the rest of the group for both Brand and Quality scores (904 and 938 respectively).

While Riservas are strong economically speaking, Annatas often have stronger Brand scores than their longer-aged counterparts, being produced in larger quantities and thus achieving greater visibility. In second place is Valdicava’s Brunello di Montalcino Madonna Piano Riserva, with an Economics score of 892, whereas its straight Brunello has a Brand score 57 points above its “big” brother, an example of the potential branding conundrum surrounding Brunello and other parts of Tuscany with a Riserva denomination. Nonetheless, the Riserva shows better price performance, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 15.2%, and an average of 257 bottles sold at auction annually.

Specific “crus” can also perform better than their straight Brunello Annatas in economic terms. In third place is Casanova di Neri’s Brunello di Montalcino Tenuta Nuova with an Economics score of 865. Despite having the lowest Quality score (841) and lowest price (£70) of the group, it earns this week’s second-highest Brand score (887).

In fourth place is Il Marroneto’s Brunello di Montalcino Madonna delle Grazie, the winery’s top cru, produced from grapes grown around the historic chestnut flour store house, and below the church by the same name. It has an Economics score of 847, benefitting from by far the best long-term price performance of this week’s top five, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 22.9%. Moreover, it sits just one point shy of this week’s number one in Quality terms (937) at 40% of the price – £130.

Rounding out the group is Poggio di Sotto’s Brunello, with an Economics score of 815.

While Super-Tuscans have been recognised for their investment potential for some time, Brunello still sits rather in the shadow of its Bordeaux-blend brothers. In Wine Lister’s first Tuscany market study, conducted in 2017, Brunello held nine places out of the top 25 Tuscan Economics scores. Today that number has increased to 14, as Brunello – Montalcino’s very own, highly ageworthy selection of the Sangiovese grape – goes from strength to strength.


Champagne – slow and steady wins the race

At the end of last year, Wine Lister released its first ever Champagne report. As well as exploring a handful of key trends as identified by Wine Lister’s Founding Members, the report also sheds light on top Champagnes as compared to other regions in terms of economic performance.

Prices of the top Champagnes (Dom Pérignon, Krug Vintage, Louis Roederer Cristal, Salon Le Mesnil and Dom Pérignon Rosé) have seen a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.8% over the last six years. Relative to other major fine wine regions, this long-term growth is slow, as shown in the chart below, but also stable.

One notable advantage of Champagne as an investment option it its low volatility. Indeed, Champagne prices show a much better level of stability in the secondary market (deviating by just 2.5% from the average price over 12 months) than any other major fine wine region. Slow and steady wins the race.

Moreover, recent price performance shows Champagne accelerating. Prices of top Champagnes are starting to grow at a faster rate than their counterparts in California, Bordeaux, and Tuscany, beaten only by Piedmont and the seemingly unmatchable Burgundy. Indeed, as of December 2018 top Champagnes had seen a 12-month price growth of 11%. The region’s potential for long-term investment is already being acknowledged by the trade, with one of our Founding Members, a top tier UK merchant commenting “Champagne (Salon especially) has experienced solid growth and has become a reliable investment for collectors”.

Salon Le Mesnil is the number one performing Champagne for price performance, with an Economics score of 978, closely followed by Krug’s Clos d’Ambonnay (962). Krug also tops the Champagne Economics charts with its Clos du Mesnil, Brut Vintage, and Collection. Interestingly the only NV Champagne to appear within the top 10 Champagnes for Economics is grower Jacques Selosse’s Brut Initial, with an Economics score of 911. Its price, £106 (per bottle in-bond), is a mere 18% of the average price of the other nine top Champagnes by Economics score.

To read more key findings from our in-depth Champagne study, read the free summary here. (The key findings and full study are also available to download in French on the Analysis page.)


Bordeaux 2009 vintage tasting highlights

Wine Lister is experiencing a touch of Bordeaux fever. Having re-tasted Bordeaux 2016s in January, Wine Lister’s founder, Ella, attended BI Wines’ “10 years on” tasting last week, revisiting the iconic 2009 vintage.

As expected, the vintage yielded some truly exceptional wines, thanks to excellent weather conditions, especially around harvest time. However, some producers fell into the trap of waiting too long to pick, and high quality in 2009 is not a given. Ella has picked out 26 of the most successful examples of a unique and pleasure-giving vintage, hailing from across all of the best-known red wine Bordeaux appellations (N.B. no white wines were tasted).

The most heterogenous appellation was Saint-Emilion, with some wines rendered hot and hard by high alcohol, while those at the very top level were some of the best 2009s out there. Cheval Blanc, for example, achieved a “mystical, beguiling bouquet…like a magic potion”.

Pomerol did not seem to suffer from the heat in the same way, and made beautiful wines in 2009. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Le Pin garnered some exceptional comments, including “the richest, most decadent, abundant nose of the whole tasting”. Other Pomerol picks displayed an unusually dark-fruited character. Petrus (“not worn on the sleeve like the Le Pin”), had a “refined dark fruit character”, Hosanna “piercing damson fruit”, and La Conseillante boasted a “carnal, purple-fruit sweetness”.

On the left bank, Pessac-Léognan and Saint-Julien achieve joint-first place, earning five highlights each. Arguably the most impressive of these were La Mission Haut-Brion and Haut-Brion with the former described as “sensual, ethereal, and breath-taking”. Pape Clément showed almost “Rhône-esque animality”, while Malartic-Lagravière was “opulent” and “left you wanting more”.

Saint-Julien presented expected names – second growths Gruaud-Larose and Léoville Barton (described as “ultra-classical” and “thoroughbred” respectively), as well as a surprise in the form of Château Gloria, the only Cru Bourgeois to make it into this list of Bordeaux 2009 tasting highlights.

The remaining left bank appellations did not go wanting of favourites. Latour earned the comment, “impeccably turned-out, this wine demands attention”. Elsewhere in Pauillac Pichon Comtesse was “beguiling” and “gradually confident”.

In Margaux the appellation’s first growth namesake was hailed “quite the showstopper”, while Brane-Cantenac was “lifted, lovely, and luminous”. While Saint-Estèphe earned only one mention, its representative, Montrose surpassed expectation, appearing “supremely poised”.

All those wines marked “*” above currently qualify as Wine Lister “buy recommendations”. The Wine Lister team has been working hard to create a data-driven list of the ultimate best wines to buy – watch this space while we fine-tune the algorithm!

Other wines featuring in the Bordeaux 2009 highlights are: Grand-Puy-Lacoste, Pichon Baron, Haut-Bailly, Angélus, Figeac, Pavie, Troplong Mondot, Branaire-Ducru, and Ducru Beaucaillou.


Bordeaux 2009 vintage, 10 years on

Yesterday marked the annual BI Fine Wines’ 10 years on tasting, this year focusing on the iconic Bordeaux 2009s. Below we explore what light Wine Lister data has to shed on the 2009 vintage including quality, price performance, and best wines for good value.

Wine Lister’s holistic and dynamic approach allows us to not only see which appellations produced the vintage’s best wines, but also demonstrates if and how the market has since reacted to their relative quality.

You can download the slides here: Wine Lister Bordeaux 2009 vintage overview

Featured wines: Margaux, Petrus, Lafleur, AusoneMouton, Capbern, Lilian Ladouys, Couhins-Lurton, Fourcas Hosten, Guillot ClauzelClos Saint-Martin, Lynsolence, La Cabanne, and Pavillon Rouge.


On the table for Lunar New Year

In honour of Lunar New Year, Wine Lister decided to examine wines with the strongest restaurant presence across parts of one of the major fine wine markets of today. Analysing presence in the best restaurants of mainland China, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan, the resulting top wines prove to be appropriate for this year of the pig – a Chinese symbol of wealth or fortune. The 12 wines (in this lunar year of the twelfth zodiac animal) with the best restaurant presence in these countries achieve an average price of £407 per bottle in-bond.

Latour achieves the strongest presence, appearing in 86% of the best restaurants across China, Singapore, and Taiwan. On top of breadth, Latour also achieves depth, with an impressive average of 13.6 vintages and/or formats in each of these restaurants.

Louis Roederer’s Cristal shares the horizontal presence top spot, even beating Wine Lister’s perfect Brand scorer, Dom Pérignon – the number one wine for presence in best restaurants worldwide.

The remaining wines all achieve presence in 79% of the best restaurants across China, Singapore, and Taiwan, and make for an interesting mix of traditional candidates with some a little less expected. Perhaps the biggest surprise of all is not what appears, but what doesn’t – Lafite is conspicuous by its omission from the top 12 (with 71% presence). Though not making the top spot horizontally, Lafite does achieve vertical presence equal to that of Latour, with particular concentration in Hong Kong and Macau. The other three Bordeaux left bank first growths, Haut-Brion, Margaux, and Mouton all appear in the top 12.

Achieving the opposite effect is Gruaud Larose, the only non-first-growth Bordeaux to feature in this top-12 list. Its restaurant presence across China, Singapore, and Taiwan is an impressive 115% higher than in the rest of the world. It is also by far the least expensive of the group at £53 in-bond (over seven times less than the average price of the group).

The sole Burgundy to feature is Domaine de la Romanée-Conti’s Romanée-Saint-Vivant, achieving 60% more presence across China, Singapore, and Taiwan than its worldwide average. For vertical presence it is overtaken by a handful of its rarer siblings – La Tâche, Richebourg, and Echézeaux, which achieve a collective average depth of 5.2 vintages and/or formats.

Earning the most impressive concentration of presence compared to its global average is Opus One. It not only appears in 147% more restaurants across China, Singapore, and Taiwan than in the rest of the world, but does so with an average of 5.4 vintages and/or formats per restaurant.

Also featuring among the top 12 wines for restaurant presence in China, Singapore, and Taiwan are Krug Grande Cuvée, Salon le Mesnil, and Vega-Sicilia Unico.



Top five Rioja by Wine Lister score

While the market for Bordeaux remains sturdy, and interest in Burgundy continues to grow, it is easy to overlook other traditional European fine wine regions despite their impressive quality and value for money, particularly compared with upward-spiralling Burgundian price tags. This week’s top five looks at such a region – the best of Spain’s iconic Rioja.

In first place is Bodegas Lopez de Heredia’s Rioja Gran Reserva with an overall Wine Lister score of 910. Though by no means the most expensive of the five (at £63 in-bond per bottle), it earns the highest Economics score of the group (926). This is down to impressive growth over both the short- and long-term, with a six-month price performance of 28.8% and a three-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 36.2%.

Next is the first of two wines in this week’s top five from La Rioja Alta, the 890 Gran Reserva with an overall score of 855. Its younger sibling, the 904 Gran Reserva earns fourth place in this week’s top five with a score of 840. Both wines are Buzz Brands, and while one costs more than twice as much as the other on average (£90 for 890 vs. £41 for 904), both sport similar brand successes, earning the top two spots for search rank in this week’s top five. La Rioja Alta’s 904 Gran Reserva is the 119thmost-searched-for wine of the 4,000+ wines on Wine Lister (the 890 is 284th), and earns the best Brand score of the group (902).

In third place of this week’s top five is a wine with a very different profile, not least as the only non-Gran Reserva of the group. Artadi’s Rioja Viña El Pisón achieves the lowest Brand score of the group, but the highest Quality score at 954. This combined with its low production rate of just 6,000 bottles per annum on average likely contributes towards it also having the highest price of this week’s top five, at £189 in-bond per bottle. In a global context, this price is still remarkably low for the Quality achieved – the nearest comparable Quality score for red Bordeaux is 953, achieved by Château Margaux at an average price of £422.

Finally, at number five is Cune Rioja Imperial Gran Reserva. Though middle of the range for almost every score criterion, Cune achieves the best vertical restaurant presence of the group, with an average of 1.6 vintages and/or formats in 10% of the world’s best restaurants.


Bordeaux 2016 top dogs and underdogs – part II (right bank)

Yesterday we examined Wine Lister founder, Ella Lister’s top left bank picks from the recent re-tasting of 204 Bordeaux 2016s, now in bottle.

Almost as many wines stood out across appellations on the right bank, from a tasting the following day of 171 wines – testament to the fantastic quality available across the board in 2016. There is no doubting 2016 is a great vintage in Bordeaux. Tasting these wines from bottle only served to confirm the Wine Lister team’s enthusiasm during en primeur tastings in the spring of 2017. Revisit our blog post from the time for details of the unusual weather conditions behind this vintage.

Wine Lister right bank highlights include 11 Saint-Emilion wines vs. 10 in Pomerol, and the top pick overall was Figeac, which was “intellectual”, “fine-boned” and “gourmand”.

Several of its well-known Saint-Emilion neighbours also made the cut into Wine Lister tasting highlights, including Canon ( “feather-light, but generous”), Clos Fourtet, and La Gaffelière.

N.B. The tasting did not include wines such as Petrus, Le Pin, Vieux Château Certan, Trotanoy, Ausone, Cheval Blanc, or Pavie.

However, it was Pomerol that produced more “underdogs” than its neighbour: not-so-big names punching above their weight. Of particular note were Clos Vieux Taillefer and La Croix Saint-Georges.

Among Pomerol top dogs, La Violette was showing beautifully, with a “delicate, fresh” nose and “unctuous, satin” palate. Vray Croix de Gay was “refined” and “thoroughbred”, while La Conseillante produced a “gorgeous, fine-grained texture”.

Further afield, Domaine de l’A from the Côtes de Castillon impressed, as did Marsau, from Francs Côtes de Bordeaux.

Also included in Bordeaux 2016 right bank picks were: Gazin, Saint Pierre, Le Gay, Beauséjour Heritiers Duffau Lagarrosse, Larcis Ducasse, Angélus, Villemaurine, Fleur Cardinale, Clos René, Corbin, and Petit Figeac.


Bordeaux 2016 top dogs and underdogs – part I (left bank)

Last week Wine Lister shared top picks from Burgundy 2017 tastings. This week the focus is Bordeaux, after Wine Lister’s founder, Ella Lister, re-tasted through the 2016 vintage with Wine Lister partner critics Michel Bettane and Thierry Desseauve, thanks to négociants Joanne and CVBG.

We are in the process of updating Wine Lister Quality scores based on new, in-bottle scores from Wine Lister partner critics Bettane+Desseauve, Antonio Galloni, and Neal Martin, and in the meantime we share Ella’s left bank picks below.

N.B. The tasting did not include first growths, or wines such as Cos d’Estournel, Palmer, Léoville Las Cases, Ducru Beaucaillou, and Pontet-Canet.

The spread of favourites from across left bank appellations reflects the homogeneity of the 2016 vintage overall.

Saint-Estèphe was a standout appellation in 2016. Two top dogs, Calon-Ségur and Montrose earned significant praise – Calon is described as having “ballet slipper poise” and a “core of energetic fruit”, where Montrose appeared “elegant, silky and delectable”, with a much-improved integration of oak than the en primeur  sample. Beside these sit two underdogs, Capbern and Phélan Ségur, which punch above their expected qualitative weight.

Saint-Julien earns three picks, with Beychevelle being a particular highlight, hailed “ravishing, with vitality and a satin finish”. In Pauillac, Pichon Baron and Pichon Comtesse were both notable, with the former appearing “refined, aristocratic and accomplished”, the latter “exciting, racy, and moreish”. Both Brane-Cantenac and Malescot Saint-Exupéry brought signature Margaux elegance to the tasting mix.

Pessac-Léognan reds were showing particularly well, earning an equal number of highlights as powerhouse Pauillac overall. Haut Bailly made the cut alongside Domaine de Chevalier, Pape Clément and Smith Haut-Lafitte. Bouscaut stood out as the underdog of the Graves.

A few further surprises arose across red appellations, including Gloria, Lacoste-Borie (the second wine of Grand-Puy-Lacoste), and Branas Grand Poujeaux.

Less surprising was the high quality of sweet staples, Climens, Doisy Daëne, and Coutet. Of dry whites, the stand-outs were Smith Haut-Lafitte Blanc (labelled “tonally a step above”), and de Fieuzal Blanc.

Other wines featured in the Bordeaux 2016 left bank highlights are: Branaire-Ducru, Le Baron de Brane, and Les Griffons de Pichon Baron.


Top five Champagnes under £100 by Quality score

One of the major trends identified in Wine Lister’s first Champagne study was the rise of grower Champagnes. While maison offerings dominate the top 20 highest-quality Champagnes from the basket of 108 studied, growers achieve a higher average Quality score overall (862 vs. 853). This week’s top five looks at the top Champagnes under £100 by Quality score, and helps us examine the grower vs. maison phenomenon further.

The first of this week’s top five is grower Champagne Egly-Ouriet’s Vieillissement Prolongé Extra Brut with a Quality score of 919. Though top of the leader board for Quality, it is the least expensive of this week’s group at an in-bond per bottle price of £55 (or 34% less than the average price of the other four Champagnes). This is perhaps due to it being the only non-vintage Champagne of the group, and provides testament to the great price to quality ratio of N.V. Champagnes across the board.

Next up of this week’s top five is Henri Giraud’s Fût de Chene with a Quality score of 913. For the purposes of Wine Lister’s Champagne study, Henri Giraud was in fact not classed as a grower Champagne, since our definition of ‘grower’ signified properties who use 100% of their own grapes (Henri Giraud buys in 20%). The 1999 vintage earns 18 points from Wine Lister partner critic Jancis Robinson, who calls it “a sort of Montrachet of Champagne”.

Third of this week’s top five is R&L Legras’ St. Vincent. Earning a Quality score of 900, it is the only Blanc de Blancs of the group. In true grower fashion, this little-known Champagne ranks as the 1,985th most-searched-for wine of the c.4,000+ wines on Wine Lister and is present in just 3% of the world’s best restaurants.

The last two Champagnes of this week’s top five may have the same Quality score of 899, but have very different profiles. It is surely a satisfying conclusion that, despite maison Champagne’s stronger brand position overall, these two wines (one maison and one grower) prove the opposite to be true. Maison offering Joseph Perrier’s Cuvée Josephine has the lowest Brand score (474) of this week’s top five, while grower Champagne Vilmart et Cie Coeur de Cuvée earns the highest (779), with a search rank in 854th place and presence in 11% of the world’s best restaurants. The rise of grower Champagnes is in full force.

For a more in-depth look at Champagne, subscribe or log-into read the full report here. Alternatively, all readers can access a five-page executive summary. (Both versions are also available to download in French).