Listed: Italy’s top five Buzz Brands by Wine Lister score

Buzz Brands are wines that are sure to turn heads, destined to cause a stir whenever they are opened. They combine excellence across Wine Lister’s two Brand criteria – restaurant presence and online popularity – whilst also being held in the highest regard by the fine wine trade – as confirmed by Wine Lister’s Founding Members’ survey which gathers the opinions of around 50 key players in the international wine trade. This week, the Listed section focuses on Italy’s top five Buzz Brands by overall Wine Lister score.

Barolo is home to four of Italy’s top five Buzz Brands, two of which are produced by Giacomo Conterno – the flagship Monfortino in first place (973) and Francia not far behind in second place (954). The Monfortino achieves Italy’s best Quality score (977), the result of remarkable consistency from vintage to vintage, having achieved a score of 993 or above in seven of the past 10 vintages. Its best ever vintage was 2004 (998), thanks to a perfect 100-point score from Antonio Galloni, who writes: “I imagine the 2004 Monfortino will give readers an utterly spellbinding drinking experience for the next few decades”.

Whilst the Francia is pipped at the post in each category by its illustrious stablemate (trailing by 17 points in the Quality category, 11 in the Brand category, and 34 in terms of Economics), it does manage superior restaurant presence, visible in 30% of the world’s top establishments, compared to the Monfortino’s 23%. This is presumably due to over three times as many bottles of it being produced each year on average.

In third place is Azienda Agricola Falletto’s Rocche Falletto Riserva (953). It records the best Economics score of the five (969) and Italy’s second-best, beaten only by Falletto’s Barbaresco Asili Riserva (978). It does so thanks to the combination of very strong growth rates – it has recorded a three-year compound annual growth rate of 21% and has added 8% to its value over the past six months alone – and strong liquidity – its top five vintages having traded 398 bottles at auction over the past year. Perhaps collectors have been eager to get their hands on a bottle after the passing of Bruno Giacosa in January.

Proving that Super Tuscans can mix it with Piedmont’s top nebbiolos, Sassicaia takes fourth place. Whilst it cannot keep pace with Barolo’s finest in the Quality and Economics categories, Sassicaia stretches out a comfortable lead in the Brand category thanks to an extraordinary score of 998. This near-perfect score puts it alongside Haut-Brion, Margaux, and Petrus, beaten only by the Pauillac First Growths, Dom Pérignon Vintage Brut, and Yquem. Its brand dominance is the result of outstanding restaurant presence (49%) and online popularity – receiving well over three times as many searches each month as Conterno’s Monfortino, which is the group’s second-most popular wine.

Rounding out the five is Bartolo Mascarello’s Barolo. Its brand is its strongest asset, its score of 964 making it Barolo’s second-strongest brand behind Conterno’s Monfortino. Despite receiving over 20% fewer online searches each month than the Monfortino, it matches its level of restaurant presence – perhaps the azienda’s famous “no barrique no Berlusconi” message strikes a chord with sommeliers.


Listed: the Côte de Beaune’s five most expensive wines

This week’s Listed blog will for most be an exercise in window shopping (or perhaps lèche-vitrine might be more appropriate). Not just the eye-watering prices, but also the extreme rarity of this week’s top five – just 500 bottles of d’Auvenay’s Chevalier-Montrachet are produced each year – act as bouncers stopping all but the most fortunate from entering this exclusive Burgundian showroom. Nevertheless, we can at least vicariously get as close to Chardonnay nirvana as possible with the Côte de Beaune’s five most expensive wines.

And these five really do get close to Chardonnay perfection, with a remarkable average Quality score of 975, putting them all amongst the top 15 still dry whites for Quality on Wine Lister. Perhaps reassuringly, Leflaive’s Montrachet, the Côte de Beaune’s most expensive wine, achieves the group’s best Quality score (985). 2010 was its best ever vintage, with a Quality score of 990, Jancis Robinson awarding it 19.5/20 and calling it: “[…] Not rich but gorgeous. Pale gold and obviously much fuller and deeper than Leflaive’s other grands crus. Rich yet so fresh! Nutty. Amazing concentrated fruit has already triumphed over the new oak. Very racy […]”. Interestingly, at £4,400 per bottle the 2010 is currently priced below all recent vintages other than the 2003.

Descending from the dizziest of heights, in second place is DRC’s Montrachet (£4,807). It is not just the Côte de Beaune’s overall top-scoring wine, but the best still dry white on Wine Lister (972). It is remarkably consistent across each of Wine Lister’s three rating categories, with Quality, Brand, and Economics scores of 975, 960, and 987 respectively. It is its Brand score that helps it nudge ahead in this Côte de Beaune showdown, with Coche-Dury’s Corton-Charlemagne the only one of the group to get close (924), the other three lagging c.250-290 points behind. Its brand superiority is the result of dominating both in terms of restaurant presence (visible in 26% of the world’s best establishments, comfortably above the Coche-Dury’s 19%) and online popularity (receiving 65% more searches each month than the Coche-Dury).

Whilst the Coche-Dury can’t quite match DRC’S Montrachet in the Brand or Quality categories, it does achieve the same phenomenal Economics score (987), having registered a superior three-year compound annual growth rate (25% vs 22%) and being the most-traded of the group at auction.

Lalou Bize-Leroy features twice in the list, first with d’Auvenay’s Chevalier-Montrachet (£3,368) and secondly with Domaine Leroy’s Corton-Charlemagne (£2,238). If ever there was proof of the life-altering potential of these hallowed wines, of his first taste of d’Auvenay’s Chevalier-Montrachet 1996, Wine Lister’s newest partner critic Neal Martin writes: “I took a large sip. It was like a thunderbolt hitting my senses: the tension, the complexity and intensity sent shivers down my spine. It was difficult to put down in words, yet this wine became instantly and indelibly etched onto my brain. Now I understood why oenophiles genuflected at the altar of white Burgundy”. With the d’Auvenay achieving a three-year compound annual growth rate of 45% and having added 18% to its value over the past six months alone, experiences such as Martin’s are only getting further out of reach for most.

The d’Auvenay is not alone in its soaring prices. As the chart below shows, demand for all of this week’s top five has skyrocketed over the past three years, each having added at least 62% to its value since July 2015. It seems the majority of us will have to satisfy ourselves with window-shopping for a little while longer.


Listed: Top 5 red Rioja by Quality score

While Europe swelters, the structured reds of Rioja might not immediately spring to mind. However, this summer must surely at some point come to an end, and before we know it, it will be cold, dark, and we’ll once again be reaching for steadying reds. So in the spirit of planning ahead, this week’s Listed section considers Rioja’s five best reds by Quality score.

Remelluri’s Gran Riserva comes out on top with a formidable Quality score of 972. Costing on average £32, it is also the most affordable of the five. The 2010, which achieves a Quality score of 977 is available for as little as £35, and with Julia Harding awarding it a score of 18+/20 and calling it “long, dry and already elegant and refined” it seems a lot of bang for your buck.

From the most affordable to the most expensive, in second place is Artadi’s Viña El Pisón (954). Its high price tag is perhaps the result of its low production of on average 6,000 bottles each year. It is remarkably consistent, with its Quality score deviating just 18 points on average from vintage to vintage. 2007 is its best vintage according to Wine Lister’s partner critics, with a score of 985, Julia Harding calling it “(the) essence of Tempranillo”.

Next come Contino’s Gran Reserva and Contador’s La Viña de Andres Romeo, their Quality scores separated by just two points. It is in fact the Contador that is favoured by the critics – the result of superior ratings by Vinous, with for example Josh Reynolds calling the 2010 “a distinctly graceful and seductive expression for this vintage” and awarding it a score of 94/100. The Contino’s marginally better Quality score is thus the result of a longer ageing potential, Wine Lister’s partner critics predicting it to last on average nine years, nearly twice as long as the Contador’s five years.

The remaining spot is filled by La Rioja Alta’s 890 Gran Reserva. Whilst it experiences the group’s lowest Quality score – its score of 917 nevertheless putting it amongst the highest echelons on Wine Lister’s scale – it enjoys the best overall score of the five (851). It turns the tables on the competition in the Brand and Economics categories, both of which it comfortably leads with scores of 792 and 807 respectively.


The impact of price movements according to Wine Lister

Price nearly always plays a part in the decision-making process of purchasing wine. Typically, much emphasis is placed on the importance of “value” – “how much quality am I getting for the price of this bottle”, for which Wine Lister has its very own indicator, Value Picks. However is simply offering “good value” enough?

Wines purchased for long-term cellaring carry financial risk just as investment does. With this in mind, Wine Lister’s Economics scores reflect not only a wine’s price, but the performance of that figure over time. As well as a three-month average market price, and six-month / three-year price growth, Wine Lister’s algorithm takes into account price stability as a factor in determining a wine’s Economic strength.

Using historical prices provided by our data partner, Wine Owners, we calculate the standard deviation of a price over the last 12 months, expressed as a proportion of the average price over the same period.

Volatility can be caused by price movements both up and down. Nobody wants to see the price of a wine plummet after purchase, but equally, wines with prices rising too high and too fast display risk too, and are therefore also sanctioned with lower Economics scores.

Below is an extract from this year’s Bordeaux Market Study featuring the 15 most stable Bordeaux wines. All five left bank first growths appear, testament that higher-scoring wines tend to experience less volatility. This is also tied in with liquidity: frequently traded wines tend to benefit from multiple reference points allowing a consistent market price to be determined. Conversely, a wine traded less frequently often sells at a markedly different price from one transaction to the next, resulting in a much more volatile market price.

While Château Latour’s slow and steady price growth (as shown in the chart below) results in relatively low six-month price performance and three-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) ratings, its strong Economics score is thanks to a high three-month average price, a high volume of bottles traded at auction, and a low price deviation of just 2.4% over the last 12 months.

The chart below shows a very different picture – this wine has experienced a 14.7% price increase in six months. Though this in itself is positive, its price has therefore deviated 12.5% in the last 12 months, and the yo-yoing nature of the price over the longer term earns it a much lower Economics score (492).


Listed: the five most expensive Australian wines

Having spent the start of the Northern Hemisphere summer focusing on Old World wines of various regions, colours, styles, and prices, this week the Listed section is feeling flush and has journeyed Down Under to take a look at Australia’s five most expensive wines.

Leading the way is Penfolds Bin 60A at a cool £430 per bottle. The rarest of the rare, this has only been produced twice – once in 1962 and again in 2004 as a reaction to the vintage conditions being very similar to those from 42 years previously. As might be expected given that it is only produced in the very best vintages, the 2004 is a worthy follow-up to the fabled 1962, achieving a formidable Quality score (976). Fortunately, Wine Lister’s partner critics expect it to be drinking well until 2040, which might just give enough opportunity for a third bottling in the meantime.

Penfolds features twice more on the list, with its flagship Grange (£330) and Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon (£222). Grange is Australia’s strongest Brand (991) and also enjoys the country’s top Economics score (916). The former is the result of being both Australia’s best-represented wine in the world’s top restaurants (visible in 34%) and also its most popular, receiving on average 21,118 searches each month on Wine-Searcher, four times more than any other Australian wine. The Bin 707 is more of an anomaly in the group, its Quality score (859) over 100 points below the rest. Whilst its Economics score (871) can’t quite match Grange’s, it has comfortably achieved superior growth rates over the past three years, with a Compound Annual Growth Rate of 13% compared to its more renowned stablemate’s 8%.

Australia’s second most expensive wine is Torbreck’s The Laird (£416). First produced in 2005, it enjoys Australia’s best Quality score (984), but, similarly to Penfolds Bin 60A, its Brand score is unable to keep pace (635). This is probably the result of the fact that very few vintages of it are available and it has an average annual production of just 6,750 bottles each year – it is perhaps too young to have built up a significant following and there are not enough bottles of it for restaurants to get hold of.

Rounding off the group in third place is Henschke’s Hill of Grace Shiraz (£388). Again, this has an excellent average Quality score (961). It also achieves Australia’s second-best Brand score (913), present in 19% of the world’s top establishments – sommeliers are clearly very confident in the wine’s quality.


Listed: Top five still dry whites under £200 by Wine Lister score

Having recently confirmed Chablis as the place to look for Burgundian Value Picks, this week’s Listed blog brings the price scale up a notch to look at the top five still dry white wines under £200 per bottle by Wine Lister score. Alongside one further appearance from Chablis, the selection is pleasantly diverse.

Domaine Bonneau du Martray’s Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru takes the number one spot. With a market price of £116 per bottle, it is in fact the least expensive of the five. Brand is its strongest category with a score of 950, generated by 4,150 monthly online searches on Wine-Searcher and presence in 36 of the world’s best restaurants. Figures from Wine Market Journal also place it first for trading volumes, with 440 bottles of its top five vintages traded at auction during the last 12 months.

The second-highest scoring still dry white under £200 is Vincent Dauvissat’s Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos. It has both the highest Quality score and market price of the group (952 and £151 per bottle respectively). However, Chablis once again shows a positive price to quality ratio when compared to other white Burgundian offerings with the same Quality score. In this context, Maison Louis Jadot’s Chevalier-Montrachet Les Demoiselles and Maison Joseph Drouhin’s Montrachet Grand Cru Marquis de Laguiche are 42% and 173% more expensive (at £214 and £412 per bottle respectively).

Next on the list is Riesling Clos Sainte-Hune, Trimbach’s most iconic dry white. Its Quality and Brand scores (943 and 947 respectively) outperform its Economics score (870) resulting in an overall score of 930. Clos Sainte-Hune’s tiny production level of an average 9,600 bottles per annum (five times fewer than the 48,000 bottles of Corton-Charlemagne produced by Bonneau du Martray, for example) makes it a true rarity.

Travelling further south for the still dry white in fourth place, we find Domaine Jean-Louis Chave’s Hermitage Blanc with an overall Wine Lister score of 922. Curiously, vintage Quality score variation is more at play here than any other wine of this week’s top five. The 2016 vintage of Chave’s Hermitage Blanc earns the highest vintage Quality score of the lot (993), however 307 points separate its best from its worst vintage (2002) which is also the lowest vintage Quality score of the five.

Last but not least, the fifth highest-scoring still dry white under £200 is Domaine Didier Dageneau’s Silex, with an overall score of 914 and a market price of £124 per bottle. In a regional context, Silex takes the number one spot on all fronts with the highest Quality, Brand, and Economics scores of all Loire dry whites. As the fifth and final wine of this week’s top five, it has the highest restaurant presence with a listing in 39 of the world’s best restaurants.



The secret to value in Burgundy

Our in-depth study of Burgundy earlier this year showed that its prices continue to rise at a faster pace than those of any other fine wine region. With such high prices and tiny availability, wine buyers seeking good value drinking wines may often find their cellar a little light on Burgundy.

However, alongside the virtually unattainable wines at the most prestigious end of the Burgundy scale, there are some Value Picks to be found.

One of four Wine Lister Indicators, Value Picks are wines with the best quality to price ratios. Wine Lister’s proprietary Value Pick algorithm allows more expensive wines with exceptional quality to shine by reducing the impact of price in calculating the ratio.

The simple answer to good value for white Burgundy is Chablis.

For exceptional value at everyday drinking level in particular, Domaine William Fèvre stands out. Seven out of the last eight vintages of the domaine’s straight Chablis are identified as Value Picks, with prices per bottle under £13 and an average Quality score of 553 (above average on Wine Lister’s 1000-point scale).

Moving up the price ladder, Domaine William Fèvre’s Chablis Grand Crus Les Clos 2004 shows exceptional value, with a price per bottle of £50 and a Quality score of 982 – shown in the Vintage Value Identifier chart above. At a comparative score (979) for white burgundy in 2004 we find Domaine Leroy’s Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru, with a price tag 60 times higher – £3,005 per bottle.

Chablis make up all top 10 white Burgundy Value Picks.

The Burgundian Value Pick with the highest Quality score is in fact a red – Domaine de la Pousse d’Or’s Volnay Premier Cru Clos de la Bousse d’Or 1995. At c.£50 per bottle and a Quality score of 983, it earns the highest Quality score for Volnay, and the third-highest for Burgundy’s 1995 vintage (after Méo-Camuzet’s Vosne Romanée Cros Parantoux and Rousseau’s Chambertin Grand Cru, priced at £1,046 and £1,448 respectively). Any lucky owners of the Clos de la Bousse d’Or 1995 should open and enjoy it now. Wine Lister partner critic, Jancis Robinson, puts its drinking window between 2006 and 2019.


Listed: top five Champagne 2000 by Economics score

With England progressing serenely (ahem) through their round of 16 match against Columbia, much Champagne (and probably much more beer) will have been drunk on Tuesday evening. With somewhat tortuous logic therefore, this week’s Listed section focuses on the best Champagnes from the 2000 vintage by Economics score.

Separated by just three points at the top of the table are Philipponnat Clos des Goisses (966) and Pierre Péters Cuvée Spéciale Les Chétillons Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru (963). Despite experiencing the lowest Quality score of the five – a nonetheless hugely respectable 944 – the Philipponnat gets its nose ahead thanks to excellent growth rates over both the long and short-term, with a three-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 20% and having added 33% to its price over the past six months alone. No wonder it is one of the group’s three Investment Staples.

It is interesting that Pierre Péters Cuvée Spéciale Les Chétillons Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru comes in second place in terms of Economic performance, despite it experiencing the group’s lowest overall Wine Lister score for the vintage (910). Its lower Wine Lister score is the result of its Brand score (822) being the weakest of the group by nearly 90 points, confirming the phenomenal head start that the globally renowned houses have over grower Champagnes in terms of brand recognition. It manages second place in terms of economic performance thanks to formidable short-term growth rates, its price having risen 42% since January.

In third place is Krug’s Clos du Mesnil (954), one of three Blanc de Blancs in this week’s top five, and the first of two wines from Krug, with the Brut Vintage recording an Economics score of 907. The two Krugs are almost inseparable, the Brut Vintage’s Wine Lister score of 967 just one point ahead of the Clos du Mesnil, making them the overall top-scoring Champagnes of the vintage. Our partner critics were barely able to separate them either, the Clos du Mesnil’s Quality score just two points ahead (976 vs 974). However, the rarity of the Clos du Mesnil results in it being over 3.5 times more expensive. Furthermore, with the Clos du Mesnil recording a 3-year CAGR of 14% and short-term growth rates of 12%, the price discrepancy is increasing – the Brut Vintage has a 3-year CAGR of 8% and has increased in value by 4% over the past six months. However the feather in the cap for the Brut Vintage is that it is considerably more liquid – presumably because of larger production volumes – its top five vintages having traded 1,279 bottles at auction over the past four quarters, over 11 times as many as the Clos du Mesnil (112).

The remaining spot is filled by Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru (922). It is the second-most liquid of the group, its top five vintages having traded 720 bottles at auction over the past year.

Incidentally, 2000 was a European Championships year, not a World Cup year. Fittingly, given the focus of this blog, France won. England failed to make it past the group stages.


An answer to post-primeurs blues?

As July begins, much of the wine world may feel more grey and drizzly than the weather would suggest, due to a case of post-primeurs blues. Indeed, Wine Lister’s founder, Ella Lister, reports in her recent article for JancisRobinson.com that “…the majority of merchants are reporting revenues down approximately two-thirds on 2016”. In that article, a comparison of Quality scores across recent vintages highlights the value proposition of the 2014 vintage. In this blog post we dig a bit deeper.

A few weeks into this year’s en primeur campaign releases, the Wine Lister team noticed a distinct pattern. With almost every new release, we sounded more and more like broken records, echoing that château X’s 2017 release price, while below the last two vintages, made the 2014 look like good value. While it has been pigeonholed as a good but not great vintage, 2014 achieved consistently high critics’ scores that imply its reputation should be better.

The chart below shows Bordeaux 2014 and 2017 average Quality scores by appellation, comparing 2014 three-month average prices with 2017 release prices.

Based on 75 key Bordeaux classified growths, the chart illustrates the relationship between quality and price (note the price gap for 2014 and 2017 Saint-Émilion, despite similar average Quality scores). Only Pomerol and Pessac-Léognan achieved higher Quality scores on average in 2017 than in 2014, with Wine Lister’s partner critics preferring 2014 across all other appellations.

While the trade puts aside its allocations of 2017 for the time being, perhaps the silver lining is the light this vintage shines on relative value elsewhere. Is it time for merchants and collectors alike to focus on 2014?

We used Wine Lister’s comparison tool in our search for good-value back vintages in order to compare different vintages and their respective critics’ scores and prices. For example, Malescot Saint-Exupéry achieves a Quality score of 894 in 2014, versus 735 in 2017. Despite the substantial price reduction on the 2016 and 2015 vintages, the 2017 UK market price remains 5% higher than the 2014, the latter receiving higher scores from three of the four Wine Lister partner critics. Neal Martin disagrees, awarding the 2017 a potential 2 points more than 2014 saying, “it is not a complex Malescot St. Exupéry, but I admire the balance and focus”.

Malescot Saint-Exupéry 2014 has the highest Value Pick score of any recent vintage:

Use the Vintage Value Identifier chart (pictured above) on every wine page to pick out the best value back vintages. For example, Cantenac-Brown’s 2014 looks like a particularly good buy, at £25.50 per bottle for the 2014 (whose Quality score is 800), versus the 2017 at £34.05 per bottle, with a Quality score of 715. Its 2015 looks good too.