Wine Lister’s first in-depth study of Burgundy published earlier this year was named “Mercury Rising” for a reason. With prices climbing more quickly than any other fine wine region, it is hard to consider the possibility of finding Burgundies of “reasonable value”. This week’s Listed blog brings you the top five Côte de Nuits by Quality score that won’t completely rupture the bank (or in other words, for under £200).
Dominique Laurent takes top spot this week with his Bonnes-Mares Vieilles Vignes, which has a Quality score of 954. Whilst this score sits comfortably amongst the highest of all Bonnes-Mares, the per bottle price of £174 does not – indeed, it is just under five times lower than the combined average price of the other eight best Bonnes-Mares on Wine Lister. Perhaps the lower price can, at least in part, be explained by its modest Brand score (531). For example, despite its Quality score sitting just one point higher, Georges Roumier’s Bonnes-Mares records a Brand score of 934, and is £1,046 more expensive.
In second place is Domaine Charlopin-Parizot’s Charmes Chambertin, with a Quality score of 944. Its high quality is not yet accompanied by an equal level of consumer recognition. With the lowest Brand score of the five (445) resulting from presence in only 2% of the world’s best restaurants and a search frequency ranking of 2,335 (of the c.4000 wines on Wine Lister), this Charmes Chambertin is a Hidden Gem (Wine Lister’s indicator that identifies under the radar wines that warrant discovery).
Domaine Jean Trapet Père et Fils’ Chambertin takes third place this week with a Quality score of 940 and just sneaking in under the £200 mark. While in third place for Quality, it has the highest overall Wine Lister score of the lot (906), thanks to its Brand (868) and Economics (896) scores. Indeed, it beats the combined average scores of the other four wines in this week’s top five in both categories by 310 and 319 points respectively.
The remaining two spots are taken by Domaine Arlaud Clos de la Roche, and Pierre Damoy Chambertin, each with a Quality score of 932. In addition to being by far the cheapest option of this week’s top five (£98 per bottle on average), Arlaud Clos de la Roche’s price is also the most stable, with volatility of just 5.7%. Conversely Damoy Chambertin’s price is the most volatile (8.7%), possibly the result of strong growth rates over both the long and short-term, having recorded a three-year compound annual growth rate of 15.6% and having added 6.5% to its price over the past six months alone.
The 2018 will be a five-star vintage for Chianti Classico wines according to Giovanni Manetti, newly-elected president of the appellation’s Consorzio. The growing season was “very regular”, with no extreme weather events, and normal picking times. Thanks to healthy grapes, ripe yet fresh, Manetti believes the vintage will be characterised by “harmony”. The DOCG appellation is set to produce c.270,000 hectolitres, back to normal production levels after a less abundant 2017.
On Monday 24th September at Fontodi, Manetti’s winery in Panzano, harvest was well underway. It had not rained for 22 days, and the ground was dusty. However, Manetti explained that in Panzano, while hot, temperatures had not risen above 36˚C, and that nights had been cool. At Castello di Fonterutoli, 15km further south, Giovanni Mazzei confirmed the heat had been nothing on 2015, when temperatures rose above 45˚C.
Quality control at Fontodi’s sorting tables in Chianti Classico
However, Mazzei was somewhat less sanguine about the 2018, citing humid mornings as a challenge. Having picked one third of the estate’s production by Monday, the next fortnight will be a race against rot. Mazzei predicts the vintage might fall between the opulent 2015s and the structured 2016s in terms of quality and style.
Towards the coast, in Bolgheri, the Merlot harvest is almost finished, and “the fermenting wines are silky and fragrant,” according to Axel Heinz, Estate Director at both Ornellaia and Masseto. Heinz is grateful for “excellent conditions during September with sunny and mostly dry weather, occasionally hot day temperatures but cool nights”. In Bolgheri, “mildew and humidity have been challenging,” he states, ”but we were able to bring healthy fruit to full ripeness,” recounts Heinz, who says yields in 2018 are normal. He predicts “a more delicate vintage, like 2013.”
Moving down the coast, in the Maremma, Elisabetta Geppetti, owner of Fattoria Le Pupille, spoke of regular climatic conditions leading to “a good year”. The first lot of Merlot for Geppetti’s flagship wine Saffredi is already vinified, and, she says, “marvellous”. She is delighted with her Cabernet Sauvignon too, and relayed the view of Le Pupille’s consultant oenologist Luca d’Attoma, that the grape has thrived throughout the whole southern part of Tuscany. Meanwhile Sangiovese has ripened less evenly.
Back inland, in Sangiovese’s heartland, Montalcino, the picture is less clear cut, due to excessive rain in spring and early summer. “Winemakers had not seen this kind of weather since the nineties,” explained Giacomo Pondini, Director of the Brunello di Montalcino Consorzio.
There has been “too much humidity in the air”, according to Gianfranco Soldera, with an “almost tropical” summer (a similar story to the picture recounted in our Bordeaux harvest report). At Case Basse, Soldera’s cult winery, 2018 has been “a year of suffering”, with mildew, oidium, and “mould in general”. To combat this, a team of 20 people has been combing the vineyard removing bunches non-stop since June.
Remaining bunches after extreme selection at Soldera’s Case Basse in Montalcino
Unlike in 1989, the only year when Soldera didn’t make a wine because of too much rain, he was “ready for the challenge” this time round, and believes he will still make a great wine in 2018, albeit in very small quantities. For Soldera, rain is the enemy of vine-growing, and he rejoiced in the exceptionally dry growing season of 2017, “a year of fun”, where the vines drank mineral-rich water from the ground. Incidentally, the 2017, tasted (or rather drunk – as spitting is banned at Case Basse) from its Garbellotto cask, is incredible: alluring, alive, pure, and long.
The owner of neighbouring wineries Caparzo and Altesino, Elisabetta Gnudi puts 2018 somewhere between a four- and five-star vintage. To absorb the humidity, her team used clay dust on the vines, “like using baby powder,” she explained. Again echoing the story in Bordeaux, she reckons that “true organic vineyards haven’t harvested a single grape this year.”
At Argiano, Sales Manager Riccardo Bogi also described a less plain-sailing vintage than in Chianti. On top of the heavy rain, a hailstorm in July wiped out 25% of the crop in some vineyards. However, positioned high up on the hill of Argiano, wind in August meant the winery was able to counter rot with copper and sulphur, although the “agronomist didn’t get a vacation”, quipped Bogi. Like Heinz in Bolgheri, he expects 2018 to share characteristics with the elegant 2013s, saying they won’t have intense colour or structure.
There was a dramatic change in the weather on Monday, with temperatures dropping and strong winds picking up, which lasted throughout our three-day visit. While half of the appellation’s Sangiovese has already been harvested, and wineries are “happy with the quality,” Pondini hopes that, “the other half may benefit from this sunny, cool, windy week”.
As ripe, healthy grapes are being picked across Bordeaux, winemakers are anything but shy about the potential of the 2018 vintage. “2015 and 2016 are five-star vintages, but 2009 and 2010 are five-star plus,” said Olivier Bernard, president of the Union des Grands Crus Classés de Bordeaux. At his own property in Pessac-Léognan, Domaine de Chevalier, “2018 has 2009-2010 potential,” he declared on Wednesday morning, just as the red harvest was beginning.
Bernard is not the only Bordeaux producer daring to hope that the region has another great vintage on its way into the cellars. Part of the Wine Lister team is just back from four days in Bordeaux, where we visited châteaux on right bank and left, from Saint-Estèphe in the very north to Pessac-Léognan south of the city. We tasted lots of berries, spoke to oenologists, and even picked some grapes.
Members of the picking team at Petrus during the 2018 harvest
Producers’ smiles were big, and all the signs were promising, but after such a rollercoaster growing season, can 2018 really match up to the historic pair of 2009 and 2010? I asked straight-talking winemaking consultant Stéphane Derenoncourt if this comparison was justified. “More 2010,” he confirmed, adding, “There are going to be some delicious wines.”
Spring in Bordeaux was interminably wet, and mildew a serious threat throughout the region. “We thought there might not be a harvest at all,” recalls Nicolas Audebert, Managing Director of Châteaux Canon and Rauzan-Ségla. “It rained non-stop, and with high humidity and the high temperatures in June, it was almost tropical,” he said. Some members of Audebert’s team had never seen mildew so rife in 40 years of working the vines in Bordeaux.
Many top producers were affected, especially those practising organic or biodynamic viticulture and therefore unable to treat the vines systematically to protect from the fungus. In Saint-Estèphe, at the top of the Gironde Estuary nearest the Atlantic Ocean, Lafon-Rochet, organic since 2010 (though uncertified), abandoned the practice this year, and for good, in order to fight the rain.
However, mildew “is primarily a problem for quantity, rather than quality,” explained Axel Marchal, consultant and researcher at Bordeaux University, because the affected grapes are easily removed and discarded. “Badly hit vines can see a slight quality impact too, if the stress caused to the plant is enough to delay maturity,” he clarified.
At Canon in Saint-Emilion, quantity lost to mildew was recouped by less green harvesting later in the season. Its larger Margaux sister property, Rauzan-Ségla, was not so lucky, and yields will be lower than average. The two properties are organic (again not certified), allowing them to treat the vines when “really necessary”. However, many strictly organic or biodynamic estates will produce much smaller quantities of wine this year, meaning yields will be very varied from château to château, ranging from around 15 hl/ha to 50 hl/ha or more.
Grapes ripe for picking at Petrus
Potential quantity started off high, with the rain acting as “a signal for the plant to produce lots of fruit,” explained Bernard. The incessant spring downpours had another positive effect: they left the ground full of water, helping the vines to withstand the hot, dry summer that unfolded from 20th June onwards. “Looking at our vines, it’s hard to believe it’s been one of the driest summers in 50 years,” marvelled Bernard.
Audebert thinks the 2018 Canon will be soft and rounded, but livelier than 2005 or 2009, with phenolic potential above that of the 2010 (which of course is renowned for its intense colour and high levels of ripe tannin). When I asked if it could be as good as 2010, my question was met with silence and a roguish smile.
This week, our Listed blog focuses on Spain’s strongest Brands. Unsurprisingly, and fittingly as we creep into autumn, all are red. It will probably also come as no shock that Bodegas Vega-Sicilia features prominently – filling an impressive three out of five spots on the list, including the top two.
Wine Lister’s Brand score combines a measure of a wine’s prestige – as indicated by its visibility in the world’s top restaurants – with its level of online popularity – calculated by ranking each of the 4000+ wines in our database by monthly search frequency on the world’s most visited wine site, Wine-Searcher. Four of this week’s top five also qualify as Buzz Brands – Wine Lister’s group of wines that perform particularly well when it comes to restaurant presence and online popularity, or are demonstrating a recent growth in popularity, and which are identified by the fine wine trade as trending or especially prestigious.
Vega-Sicilia Unico enjoys the best Brand score of any Spanish wine – and is thus the winner of this week’s race. In fact, it also achieves the highest overall Wine Lister score of all Spanish wines (974). Although Unico outperforms the rest of this week’s top five in all three of Wine Lister’s rating categories, its Brand score is particularly impressive (991). This phenomenal score is the result of excellent restaurant presence (47%) and being the 32nd most searched-for of Wine Lister’s wines on Wine Searcher.
Next, with a Brand score of 952 is Vega-Sicilia Valbuena. Despite not being able to match the Bodega’s flagship Unico in any category, it is in terms of brand recognition that it gets closest, its Quality and Economics scores trailing Unico by 115 and 54 points respectively. Its slightly lower – although still impressive – Brand score is the result of being visible in under half the number of restaurants as Unico (23%) and receiving fewer online searches (it is the 119th most popular wine on Wine Lister).
The third wine to make it onto the list is Dominio de Pingus Pingus. Presumably due to its tiny production volumes – only 6,000 bottles of it are produced each year – it is by far the most expensive of this week’s top five, at over twice the price of Unico (£599 vs £225). Its strong Brand – and high price – are supported by excellent Quality, with Pingus achieving the second highest Quality score of the group (935).
The last two places of this week’s top five are occupied by La Rioja Alta 904 Gran Reserva and Vega-Sicilia Alión. Not only do these two have identical Brand scores (907) but, despite contrasting profiles, they also share the same overall score (858). Alión achieves a higher Economics score (874 vs 729), whereas La Rioja Alta 904 records a slightly better Quality score (876 vs 812). La Rioja Alta 904 also shows that strong Brand and Quality scores do not necessarily have to mean soaring prices, as it is by far the most affordable of the five – priced at £37 per bottle on average.
Yquem 2016 released at €250 ex-négociant (same as 2015), with a UK RRP of £264 per bottle (no change on 2015 release price). Quality score 984 (vs 993 in 2015). Our factsheet below summarises all the key points.
You can download the slide here: Wine Lister Factsheet Yquem 2016
It was with a heavy heart that the global fine wine trade learned of the passing of Barolo legend, Giuseppe Rinaldi, last week. Known for their elegant style and lengthy ageing potential, Rinaldi’s Barolos are not only some of the best that the region has to offer, but also some of the priciest.
In ‘Beppe’ Rinaldi’s honour, Wine Lister looks this week at the top five most expensive wines in Barolo. And there is good reason for these Barolos to be so pricey, with all of the five achieving a Quality score that falls into the “strongest” category on Wine Lister’s 1,000 point scale. On top of this, the first three qualify as Buzz Brands – Wine Lister’s group of wines that combine outstanding restaurant presence with online popularity.
Giacomo Conterno’s Barolo Monfortino Riserva takes first place. At £637 per bottle it is more than twice the price of the rest of this week’s top five. In fact, it is the most expensive Italian wine on Wine Lister. However, it is no coincidence that Conterno’s Monfortino takes first place as it also achieves the group’s best Quality and Brand scores (977 and 969 respectively). Conterno Monfortino is actually the number one Italian wine and 11th best of all wines on Wine Lister, with an impressive overall score of 972.
This week’s second spot is occupied by Azienda Agricola Falletto (Bruno Giacosa) Barolo Rocche Falletto. Even though it competes well with Conterno Monfortino – with Quality and Brand scores of 974 and 914 respectively – it is a considerably cheaper option at £282 per bottle. In fact, despite its lower price, its Economics score is slightly superior to this week’s overall number one wine (969 vs 967), and is the group’s best. Furthermore, it is the second best of all Italian wines on Wine Lister – only beaten by Falletto’s Barbaresco Asili Riserva. The phenomenal Economics score is partly due to a three-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 21.8%.
Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo Brunate Le Coste takes third place at £247 per bottle. As perfect evidence of Rinaldi’s prowess, it is very consistent across each of Wine Lister’s three rating categories, with each score putting it amongst the very best wines in the world. Confirming its upward trajectory, it records a remarkable three-year CAGR of 36.7% – if it manages to keep that up, it will soon start to narrow the gap to Conterno’s Monfortino in this battle of the Barolos.
The two remaining wines in this group are not only very close in price but they also have the same Quality score (928). This week’s number four – at £242 per bottle – is Vietti Barolo Villero Riserva, followed closely by Poderi Aldo Conterno Barolo Granbussia Riserva at £239. Visible in 17% of the world’s top restaurants, Aldo Conterno’s Granbussia has the second-highest restaurant presence of the group. It is only beaten by this week’s number one, Conterno’s Monfortino, which is visible in 23% of top establishments.
As part of our Brand score, Wine Lister measures popularity using the three-month rolling average searches on the world’s most visited wine site, Wine-Searcher.
We have recently updated our treatment of this data to provide relative results for all 4,000+ wines on Wine Lister. Expressing each wine’s search frequency as a ranking will make it easier for our users to interpret the data. For example, Mouton is the #1 most searched-for wine of all wines on Wine Lister, according to monthly searches on Wine-Searcher.
To mark this transition, here we examine the top 50 most popular fine wines in the world.
The first seven most searched-for wines for the period of May, June, and July include the five Bordeaux left bank first growths (Mouton, Lafite, Margaux, Latour, and Haut-Brion), right-bank powerhouse, Petrus, and Champagne super-brand, Dom Pérignon. It is perhaps of no surprise that these rankings remain unchanged since the previous period (February to April) .
Burgundian searches in the top 50 are dominated by Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, with Romanée-Conti, La Tâche, Echezeaux, and Romanée-Saint-Vivant all achieving better rankings versus the previous period. These four together achieve an average ranking of 30th place, and an average movement up the search ranking of 11 places.
Other than Dom Pérignon, the two remaining Champagnes featured in the top 50 most searched-for wines have moved up the rankings for May-July 2018 compared to the previous three-month period. Louis Roederer’s Cristal was up 12 places, presumably due to the release of its 2008 vintage in June. Krug’s most recent Grande Cuvée (166th edition) was released in late May, explaining its jump four spots up the rankings into 24th place.
More than half of the top 50 most popular wines are Bordeaux, with 30 wines hailing from the region. However, Bordeaux did not see the boost to their search ranking one might have expected during Bordeaux’s en primeur 2017, with one fewer of the region’s wines featuring in the top 50 than before the campaign kicked off. In fact, supporting Wine Lister’s analysis of this year’s lacklustre campaign, searches for many top Bordeaux châteaux actually fell during this period. For instance, Figeac, despite achieving Bordeaux’s 10th best Quality score of the 2017 vintage, slipped nine spots down the rankings.
Château Latour has released a parcel of Les Forts de Latour 2009 this morning at €195 per bottle ex-négociant, which will likely result in a UK release price of c.£200. Our factsheet below summarises all the key points.
You can download the slide here: Wine Lister Factsheet Les Forts de Latour 2009
As the Place de Bordeaux reawakens for September releases this week, Wine Lister examines some “place-distributed” wines from closer to home, namely the top five Bordeaux third growths by Wine Lister score. The successful 2009 and 2010 vintages in Bordeaux helped to coin the term “super seconds”, and despite a trickier en primeur campaign this year, these five wines make a good case for a new term: “thrilling thirds”.
In first place, and one of the first out of the blocks for en primeur this year, is Palmer. With an overall score of 937, it is not only the best of this week’s top five, but also sits 69 points ahead of the average Bordeaux second growth Wine Lister score. Aside from its impressive Quality score (909), Palmer’s strength lies in its Brand, with a score of 995, thanks to presence in 47% of the world’s best restaurants, and being ranked 22nd out of all wines on Wine Lister for searches on Wine-Searcher.
Calon Ségur comes in second place, with an overall score of 930. It is the only Saint-Estèphe with third growth status, and the only one of this week’s top five not from Margaux (unsurprising, given that 73% of all Bordeaux left bank third growths hail from the appellation). Calon’s Economics score of 941 is the fifth-best of all Bordeaux left bank reds (beaten only by Carruades de Lafite, Château Margaux, Lafite, and Mouton). This is achieved through a three-year compound annual growth rate of 17% and short-term price performance of 8% – both the highest of this week’s top five.
Giscours is next with an overall score of 853. While Brand is its strongest score category (956), its Quality and Economics scores (804 and 782 respectively) still sit within the “very strong” section of the Wine Lister 1000-point scale. Furthermore, alongside Lynch Bages, Giscours was voted the most consistent seller (in volume terms) by the Place de Bordeaux in our 2018 Bordeaux Market Study.
The last two places of this week’s top five are taken by d’Issan in fourth place, and Malescot Saint-Exupéry at number five with scores of 836 and 825 respectively. The latter is the only one of this week’s top five that is not a Wine Lister Buzz Brand. As the least-known of the five, it might be considered the best value, with a Quality score of 811 and an average price of £43.
Analysis of Beaucastel Hommage à Jacques Perrin 2016, which has been released this morning at €270 ex-négociant (up 15% on the 2015), and is being offered in the UK at £277 (up 12% on 2015), with a higher Quality score: 988 (vs 974).
You can download the slide here: Wine Lister Factsheet Hommage a Jacques Perrin 2016