Confidence in Bordeaux – the trade’s view

As part of our recently-released Bordeaux study, Wine Lister asked its Founding Members (c.50 key members of the global fine wine trade) to give “confidence” ratings to more than 100 key Bordeaux wines on a scale of 0 to 10; 0 being zero confidence.

For the second year in a row, no wine received a perfect 10/10, unlike Burgundy, whose Domaine de la Romanée-Conti and Rousseau – as rated across all of their respective cuvées – achieved the perfect score in a survey carried out in Autumn 2017.

Seven wines received a confidence rating of 9/10 from the trade; Canon, Haut-BrionLafiteLe Pin, Margaux, Mouton & Petrus. These same seven were awarded 9/10 in last year’s founding members’ survey. Vieux Château Certan is the only château to have dropped down a spot to 8/10.

Canon’s place here is distinctive not just as the only Saint-Émilion to feature, but also as a wine with market prices around £74 per bottle, sitting amongst a group whose average price per bottle is £950. A Wine Lister Buzz Brand, Canon is one of the most talked about wines by the trade.

In carrying out the survey, we did not dictate what factors should influence the respondents’ confidence in the prospects of a wine. Given that they are members of the trade, their considerations are likely to be commercially-driven, taking into account everything from improvements in quality and investment in marketing to new management teams. Canon was deemed a success by trade members for both “ratings and quality improvement”, and its “sales and management team”.

Latour is the only first growth not to feature in the highest-rated group. It was given a confidence rating of 8/10, alongside 20 other wines shown below. Three of these, Pichon Comtesse, Calon Ségur and Rauzan-Ségla (alongside its abovementioned sibling from owners Chanel, Canon) also make the trade’s list of Rising Stars – wines that will see the largest gain in brand recognition in the next two years (more on Bordeaux’s Rising Stars to come next week).

Nine wines have dropped one point in 2018 to a confidence rating of 7/10, however these have been replaced in equal number by Cheval Blanc, Figeac, La Conseillante, Tertre-Rotebœuf, Léoville Las Cases, Pavillon Rouge, Montrose, Palmer, and Pichon Baron, all up one point from their ratings in 2017.

Other wines to receive a confidence rating of 8/10 from the international fine wine trade are Ausone, Ducru-Beaucaillou, Haut-Bailly, La Mission Haut-Brion, Lafleur, and Lynch-Bages.

Visit Wine Lister’s Analysis page to read the full report and see confidence ratings for other wines in the study (available in both English and French).

Listed: Chile’s best wines

Taking inspiration and occasionally investment from Bordeaux’s most prestigious châteaux, Chile’s leading producers have, over a relatively short timeframe, become serious contenders in the fine wine market. Having had the opportunity to carefully select their sites, and benefitting from a more consistent climate than their Old World counterparts, Chile’s foremost wines continue to go from strength to strength. This week, we consider the overall top-scoring wines from the long sliver of land that has the cool Pacific on one side and the vertiginous Andes on the other.

Leading the way is Almaviva (880). One of two Chilean Buzz Brands, this joint project between Baron Philippe de Rothschild and Concha y Toro achieves Chile’s strongest Brand score (917), the result of not only featuring in more of the world’s top restaurants but also being twice as popular as any other Chilean wine. Surely Almaviva’s association with Mouton has played a significant role in its ability to build its brand to such a level over a short period of time – its first vintage was in 1998. It also manages Chile’s highest Economics score (787) – still ranking it within the “very strong” segment of Wine Lister’s 1,000-point scale, but indicating that it is the area in which Chilean wines currently struggle to compete with their Old World counterparts.

Further proof that economic success is the department in which Chile’s best wines have the most room to improve, Chadwick achieves the country’s best Quality score (904), yet only manages a score of 295 in the Economics category. This modest score is due to a combination of negative price performance over the past six months and a failure to trade a single bottle at auction over the past year, resulting in Chadwick slipping down to fifth place overall (697).

Don Melchor is Chile’s second-best wine (824) – completing a one-two for the Concha y Toro stable. It earns its second place thanks to consistency across each of Wine Lister’s three rating categories, finishing third in the Quality and Brand categories (872 and 853 respectively), and achieving Chile’s second-best Economics score (662). It is, however, considered Chile’s most ageworthy wine, with an average predicted drinking window of 11 years, 30% longer than any other Chilean wine.

The two remaining spots are filled by Seña – the second wine from the Errazuriz stable (alongside Chadwick) – and Casa Lapostolle Clos Apalta, with scores of 760 and 751 respectively. They present contrasting profiles, Clos Apalta achieving a better Quality score (829 vs 811) and Brand score (872 vs 770), but experiencing a significantly lower Economics score (364 vs 626).

Bordeaux en primeur – what’s the magic number?

En primeur pricing is a crucial factor in the commercial success of top Bordeaux crus. With this in mind, Wine Lister has dedicated a section of this year’s Bordeaux study to the conundrum. We show historical pricing trends post release for a panel of 76 wines. The analysis indicates the effectiveness of release prices, based on the change between average ex-négociant release and current market prices (2009-2016 vintages):

Above are the top 20 best-performing Bordeaux wines post en primeur release (to view the performance of all 76 wines, see page 14 of the Bordeaux study). The second wines of Lafite and Mouton have enjoyed the greatest gains in the marketplace, with Pavillon Rouge not far behind in third place.

Clos Fourtet is the best of the rest, followed by Calon Ségur, BeychevelleClerc-Milon and Smith Haut LafitteLafite is the best-performing first growth, followed by Margaux and Mouton, with Haut-Brion making smaller gains.

This year’s en primeur campaign has not yet been met by the same enthusiasm as the 2016 or 2015 vintages. The average quality of 2017 is lower (by 10% if we take Wine Lister Quality scores for the same 76 wines) – a major factor in explaining price sensitivity, and why the average discount so far of 7% (9% excluding Haut-Batailley’s contrary price hike) is far from sufficient to oil the wheels of the campaign.

In our Bordeaux Market Study 2018, released just last week, we clarify an illustrative methodology for calculating release prices. Wine Lister looks at current market prices for similar recent vintages, and works backwards through three steps:

  1. Vintage comparison: As there is no obvious comparison for 2017, we apply the average quality to price ratio of the last nine vintages in order to arrive at a derived future market price, based on the average Wine Lister Quality score.
  2. Ex-château price: By removing the margins taken by the négociant and importer we reach the equivalent ex-château price.
  3. En primeur discount: Finally, we apply a discount of 10%-20% to incentivise buying en primeur, rather than waiting until the wine is physically available.

The chart below shows the theoretical application of this methodology to a basket of top wines. See page 13 of the Bordeaux study for a more detailed explanation.

Prices released in the campaign thus far have varied from 20% discounts (PalmerDomaine de Chevalier Rouge) to a 46% increase (Haut-Batailley) on last release prices.

Follow Wine Lister on Twitter for realtime en primeur release information, and use our dedicated en primeur page to compare 2017 release prices to last year.

Other wines featured in the top 20 best-performing Bordeaux post en primeur release are: LabégorceCanon, Haut-BatailleyFerrièred’ArmailhacHaut-BaillyGiscoursPape Clément, Durfort-VivensPedesclauxAngélus, and Talbot.

Subscribers can download a copy of the full Bordeaux Study 2018 from the analysis page.

Listed: the Rhône’s strongest brands

This week, the Listed section travels to the Rhône to consider the region’s top brands. As might be expected, all are red – Chave’s Hermitage Blanc, the region’s top white brand (924), is only the Rhône’s overall 12th strongest. However in a battle between North and South, it is the latter that comes out on top in the form of Beaucastel’s Châteauneuf-du-Pape with a Brand score of 993 – putting it amongst the top 25 brands on Wine Lister.

By far the cheapest of the five, Beaucastel leads across both Wine Lister Brand score criteria – presence in the world’s top restaurants and online popularity. However, whilst it is visible in 49% of the world’s finest establishments (just pipping Chave Hermitage’s 47% to the post), with 2.6 references per wine list on average it achieves the weakest vertical restaurant presence of the group, where Chave’s Hermitage manages the greatest depth (3.9 listings). If Beaucastel’s dominance within the world’s top restaurants is less clear-cut, when it comes to popularity amongst consumers it opens up a wider lead over the competition, receiving 16,565 searches on Wine-Searcher each month on average – 40% more than Jaboulet’s Hermitage La Chapelle – the group’s second-most popular wine.

Tied for second place with a Brand score of 987 are the two Hermitages from Chave and Jaboulet (La Chapelle). Whilst Chave leads in terms of restaurant presence (47% vs 43%), Jaboulet’s La Chapelle receives 6% more searches each month on average. Despite their identical Brand scores, Chave’s Hermitage is the clear winner elsewhere, with comfortable leads in the Quality category (959 vs 910) and Economics category (935 vs 863). Chave’s reward is a 36-point lead at overall Wine Lister score level (964 vs 928), and a price tag over twice that of Hermitage La Chapelle’s.

The Rhône’s overall top wine – Rayas (968) – is the region’s fourth-strongest brand (982). The group’s second Châteauneuf-du-Pape, it comprehensively outperforms the Beaucastel in terms of Quality (961 vs 876) and Economics (959 vs 823). It is thus perhaps the Beaucastel’s significantly larger annual production – roughly seven times Rayas’ – that has helped raise its brand to such lofty heights.

Rounding out the five is Guigal’s Côte Rôtie La Mouline with a score of 959. Whilst it can’t quite keep pace with the remainder of this week’s top five, it leads the two remaining “La Las” – La Landonne and La Turque – by six and 12 points respectively in the Brand category. Similarly to the Rayas, it is perhaps the extremely limited production of the “La Las” that keeps them from achieving even higher Brand scores – the combined annual output across the three cuvées is c.18,000 bottles.