Trading volumes are a key measure of a wine’s success in the marketplace. To evaluate these, Wine Lister uses figures collated by Wine Market Journal from sales at the world’s major auction houses, looking at the total number of bottles sold of the top five vintages traded for each wine over the past four quarters.
With the first quarter data now in, we look at which wines saw the greatest incremental increase in bottles traded. Although the list is dominated by French wines, top of the table is a Tuscan, Biondi Santi Brunello di Montalcino Riserva. The producer was recently highlighted as one to watch in a survey of Wine Lister’s Founding Members. The rise in auction sales for this wine has had a significant impact on its Economics score, boosting it from 911 to 945/1000. Volume is just one of the five criteria that feed into a wine’s Economics score, along with four different price-related metrics.
The wine seeing the second largest gain in trading volumes, Domaine du Pegau Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Réservée, also has the lowest Economics score of the table, at 789. Nonetheless, its overall Wine Lister score is very strong at 846 (lifted by a high score for Brand), and with the latest data in from Wine Market Journal its Economics score is on the rise.
The final three wines of the table – two Bordeaux first growths and a prestigious Champagne (Taittinger Comtes de Champagne) – also benefitted from increased trades in the last quarter. All three enjoy very high Economics scores, with Lafite Rothschild the highest, at 955/1000. Meanwhile it seems that 2017 has been a positive year so far for Latour, which was also among the top five wines that saw its number of searches increase significantly in March.
Château Cos d’Estournel took everyone by surprise this morning when it released its 2016 vintage en primeur sooner than expected, at €120 per bottle ex-négociant, the same price as its 2015. Intelligence gathered by Wine Lister suggested that châteaux considered to have made “mistakes” with the release of their 2015 vintage en primeur might release early and at the same price as last year.
However, even the Place de Bordeaux was not expecting a second growth to release its wine the day after the first round of the French presidential elections, and just four days after the terrorist attack in Paris.
Cos d’Estournel is considered to have had a mediocre 2015 en primeur campaign compared to some of its peers, not necessarily pricing too high, but releasing too early. However, reports are that stocks did sell through later in year. Today’s move is bold, but could pay off, if Cos d’Estournel 2016 can harness the excitement that is growing around the Bordeaux 2016 vintage before it has too much competition.
© Château Cos d’Estournel
By sticking to last year’s price, Cos is keeping the Bordeaux trade happy, and early reports are that négociants are wholeheartedly getting behind the release. The weak pound means that Cos d’Estournel 2016 is being offered to consumers in the UK at £117 per bottle, a 10% premium on the 2015 price of £106 per bottle. This might well be palatable given the quality of the wine this year and the goodwill shown by the château in not increasing its euro release price. UK merchants certainly seem to be enthusiastic in terms of their messages to consumers so far.
Wine Lister’s UK partner critic Jancis Robinson awarded the Cos d’Estournel 2016 18 points (compared to 18.5 for the 2015). Our French partner critics Bettane+Desseauve, and our US partner critic, Vinous, will release their Bordeaux 2016 scores later this week.
With the latest data now in from Wine Searcher, we took a look at which wines have seen their average monthly searches soar in the last month. The US boasts two wines in this top 5, with searches continuing to increase for Screaming Eagle, and Scarecrow seeing a significant uptick. Bottled relatively recently, Scarecrow 2014 scored 96+ from our US partner critic Antonio Galloni, who described it as “a wine of finesse.” At the end of February, Scarecrow 2014 was the top lot in a Premiere Napa Valley auction, selling for $200,000. The increase in searches has boosted Scarecrow’s Brand score from 868 to 885.
Latour was the only wine from France to see its popularity rise last month, with searches for the Bordeaux first growth no doubt increasing as a result of the ex-château release in mid-March of Latour 2005, for €670 per bottle ex-négociant. Latour has the highest Brand score of all the wines in the table, with a near-perfect 999.
The final two wines to have seen a rise in popularity are Spain’s Pingus, whose 2014 recently received a 100-point score in the Wine Advocate, and Italy’s Azienda Agricola Falletto (Bruno Giacosa) Barolo Rocche Falletto Riserva. In March, Antonio Galloni praised “the genius of Bruno Giacosa” in a vertical tasting, and the increase in searches resulted in the wine’s Brand score rising from 812 to 822.
How is the popularity score calculated and how does it fit into the overall Wine Lister score?
Our recent blog post reported the excellent quality of the Bordeaux 2016 vintage in the face of a tricky growing season, and discussed the generous yields that many producers enjoyed. In theory, the latter should keep en primeur release prices down. We took the temperature during our week in Bordeaux.
Olivier Bernard, President of the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux, declared that quantity is “good for the producers and for the people selling our wine, because it will help the château owners find the right price.” He went on to refer to the ease with which “mistakes” are made when quantity is low, a nod to over-zealous en primeur pricing in the past.
In a recent survey of Wine Lister’s 49 Founding Members (key global wine trade players), the average price adjustment for Bordeaux 2016 considered reasonable on 2015 was a decrease of 4%. Even the Bordeaux trade only suggest a 2% increase. It should be noted that this questionnaire was carried out prior to any tastings, and also that the trade’s interest naturally lies in curbing price rises by the producers.
“What’s for sure is that prices to the consumer need to be significantly lower than current prices of physically available vintages such as 2005, 2009 and 2010,” asserted Stephen Browett, Chairman of Farr Vintners. “Why not allow all our distributors and consumers to make good buys and profitable sales of this vintage, with prices that are relatively stable compared to 2015?,” appealed Nicolas Ballarin, courtier at Blanchy et de Lestapis.
Wine Lister’s Founder, Ella Lister, is more sceptical, saying:
“I would be very surprised if Bordeaux 2016 prices do not increase on 2015, in some cases significantly. Every producer we spoke to said they would be upping prices on last year.”
“Price-wise I don’t think there is anyone who’s thinking about selling 2016 at a lower price than 2015,” confirmed Philippe Blanc, Managing Director of Château Beychevelle, hitting the nail on the head when he added, “the big question is how much more.”
This remains to be seen: the mood is broadly bullish but with a dose of caution. François-Xavier Borie, owner of Grand-Puy-Lacoste, summarised, “demand is good, and perception of the vintage is great,” concluding, “we will without doubt raise the price, but it shouldn’t explode.” His only fear is that things might be confused if certain châteaux adopt a different policy, going for “a high price on low volume.” Nicolas Glumineau, Managing Director of Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, agrees that partial releases at inflated prices are counterproductive, calling the approach “artificial”, and saying it “doesn’t work to sell only 50% at a higher price.” Pichon Comtesse usually sells 80% of production en primeur.
“It’s a great vintage so it will be expensive,” confirmed Glumineau, disclosing, “my ambition is to raise the price this year, yes.” He is acutely aware, as are his fellow Bordelais, of mitigating factors such as the impending French elections. A Marine Le Pen victory “would affect the stock markets”, he says, and “could devalue the euro relative to the pound.”
Referring to the weak pound post-Brexit, Didier Cuvelier, owner of Léoville Poyferré, admitted, “it’s true England worries us as it’s always what sets the tone of the campaign.” Emmanuel Cruse, Co-owner of Château d’Issan and Grand Maître of the Commanderie du Bontemps, Médoc, Graves, Sauternes and Barsac, cited political uncertainty in the UK, the US, and France, when he announced to a room full of producers and négociants, “we all know the situation isn’t stable, but we need to be positive as the vintage is great and we have made a lot of it.” Mathieu Chadronnier, Managing Director of négociant CVBG, observed, “I really feel a desire here in Bordeaux for this to be a successful campaign.”
Philippe Blanc, Managing Director of Château Beychevelle, who will almost certainly raise the price on 2015, but won’t be first out of the block. Photo © Ella Lister.
How will this positive approach affect timing for Bordeaux 2016? A couple of sources hinted at the possibility of a handful of early releases at the same price as last year, either by châteaux who priced highly last year or perhaps first growths wanting to set a trend. However, by far the dominant view was that the campaign would be a long one, lasting until after Vinexpo (18th-21st June in Bordeaux).
“A good campaign is one where timing follows a pattern – crus bourgeois first, then the fifth growths, the fourths etc.,” expounds Glumineau. Blanc believes, “the general opinion is not to be quicker than need be,” saying “it’s good to have context,” and confirming that Beychevelle “definitely won’t be the leader timing-wise.” Lister concludes:
“We await the first releases with interest, because of course nobody can predict the campaign’s level of success until the party actually gets started.”
Check www.wine-lister.com in early May for our new Bordeaux study, and follow us on Twitter for real-time analysis of the releases.
The latest price data is in, enabling Wine Lister’s algorithm to award new Value Pick status to those wines that achieve the best quality to price ratio (with a proprietary weighting giving more importance to quality, thus allowing the finest wines a look-in).
This month, the new Value Picks include a Champagne, a Port, and a sweet white Bordeaux, but it is Piedmont that dominates, with three of its wines achieving Value Pick status: Poderi Luigi Einaudi Barolo Costa Grimaldi 2008, Luigi Pira Barolo Marenca 2007 and Giacomo Conterno Barbera d’Alba Cascina Francia 2010.
Each wine is priced at £44 per bottle or less – with half under £30 – and all have impressive Quality scores (based on ratings from our three partner critics) of 845 or above.
Prices per bottle are provided by our price partner, Wine Owners, whose own proprietary algorithms process millions of rows of incoming price data from Wine-Searcher to calculate a more realistic market level price – the price at which a wine is likely to find a ready buyer – based on market supply and spread models. As lower retail prices are likely to sell first, the prices you see on Wine Lister may be below the Wine-Searcher average in some instances.
The Wine Lister team is back from a week in Bordeaux tasting the 2016 vintage, and we can’t curb our enthusiasm. While the growing season was fraught with difficulty, a series of mini miracles allowed appellations across the board to make their finest wines since 2010. Most crucially, heavy spring rainfall was punctuated by a dry window during flowering, and intense summer drought was broken just in time by a dramatic rainstorm on 13th September, witnessed first-hand by Wine Lister’s Founder, Ella Lister, at Château Smith Haut Lafitte.
A sculpture at Château Smith Haut Lafitte as the storm brewed on 13th September 2016. Photo © Ella Lister
This vintage of extreme conditions has paradoxically resulted in the most balanced of wines, full of freshness. These are wines which, like the 1982 vintage in Bordeaux, will be approachable relatively early – possibly sooner than the 2010s – and will keep on going. Cheval Blanc’s Chef de Culture, Nicolas Corporandy, said that compared to the 2015, “the 2016 is fresher and more tannic”, adding, “they are very different vintages, a bit like the 2009 and 2010.”
However, apart from the odd reference to the 2009-2010 duo, 2016 was not likened to any existing vintage. Olivier Bernard, owner of Domaine de Chevalier and President of the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux, declared, “This is another expression – not a 2009 or 2010; we are working at a different level than a few years ago.” Many producers are touting 2016 as their best ever wine, and for once, they might not be exaggerating. “I really think honestly that it’s the most accomplished of all Pontet-Canets,” avowed Alfred Tesseron, owner of Château Pontet-Canet.
We were consistently impressed and delighted by the quality and harmony of the wines on left bank and right. In Lister’s words:
“Saint-Estèphe is driven, Pauillac poised, Pomerol blue-blooded, Saint-Emilion alluring, Saint-Julien classy, Margaux pure, and Pessac-Léognan seductive”.
Many wines exceeded our expectations, and we were especially delighted to return to Smith Haut Lafitte to taste the flawless range of wines and find them entirely unscathed by September’s hail.
The excellent range of red and white wines tasted by the Wine Lister team at Château Smith Haut Lafitte in Pessac-Léognan. Photo © Wine Lister Limited
The even better news is that in general yields are higher than average (though with several exceptions, such as Châteaux Palmer, l’Evangile, and Léoville Poyferré). “With quality we have quantity and I love quantity,” quipped Bernard.
Why do yields matter? In theory, it should allow the producers to maintain reasonable prices if they have more wine to sell. As Nicolas Audebert, General Manager of Châteaux Canon and Rauzan-Ségla, put it, “Anyone who is intelligent will make their margins on the volume not on the prices; if the prices stay more or less the same when the quality is even better, everyone will be content”.
This could be wishful thinking. In the second instalment of this en primeur round-up we will explore the dynamics of the upcoming campaign, complete with the inside track from top producers and members of the trade regarding timing, pricing, and volumes, coming soon.
Check www.wine-lister.com for our partner critics’ scores over the coming weeks, and a new Bordeaux study, due for release here in early May.
In the latest of our blogs on the findings from Wine Lister’s Tuscany Market Study – following on from a look at the region’s global standing, and the popularity of its appellations – we turn our attention to its individual wines. Here, we have carried out an in-depth survey with our Founding Members (the key fine wine trade players from across the globe, between them representing more than one third of global fine wine revenues), for insight into their confidence in Tuscany’s individual wines.
First, we asked respondents which producers are due to see the largest gain in brand recognition in the next two years. More than half those cited are producers whose flagship wines are Super Tuscans / Tuscany IGT: Tenuta Tignanello (Tignanello and Solaia), Masseto, Montevertine (Le Pergole Torte) and Tua Rita (Redigaffi).
Brunello di Montalcino DOCG is home to two contenders, Biondi Santi and Casanova di Neri, while the final producer, Le Macchiole, makes mainly Bolgheri DOC wines.
We also asked the trade which individual Tuscan wines they consider to be hidden gems: wines that they rate highly but which they perceive as underappreciated elsewhere. Two of these wines are made by rising star producers above: Tignanello, and Le Macchiole’s Paleo Rosso, suggesting that these wines may not stay underappreciated for long.
Apart from Soldera Case Basse, all of the wines cited have average prices per bottle of £75 and under, combined with strong average Quality scores that vary between 814 (Castello del Terriccio Tassinaia) and 919 (Tignanello).
To take a look at the rest of the survey’s findings – including which Tuscan wines have seen the sharpest rise in demand, which consistently sell out, and which the trade have most confidence in – please log in to Wine Lister and download the report from the Analysis page.