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.
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.
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.
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).
With the first major set of releases for 2019 in full swing (Burgundy 2017), the Wine Lister team are already looking ahead for what else is in store for wine collectors and trade members alike. In February we expect to see the release of Barolo 2015s – set to be a more concentrated and riper vintage than the previous due to high temperatures throughout the summer. In anticipation of these, Wine Lister is examining the top five Piedmont Buzz Brands by Brand score.
Ironically, the highest-scoring brand of this week’s top five is in fact not a Barolo at all. Gaja’s Barbaresco takes the top spot with a Brand score of 975. Wine Lister partner critic Antonio Galloni gives the 2014 vintage 96 points, and comments, “this is one of the most tightly wound, intense versions of Gaja’s Barbaresco I can remember tasting. Don’t miss it”.
While it is no longer breaking news to see such high quality Barbaresco emerging from under Barolo’s shadow, the making of such a well-recognised brand is impressive. This is achieved by presence in 31% of the world’s best restaurants, and a search rank of 76 out of the c.4,000+ wines on Wine Lister. Gaja’s single vineyard Barbarescos, Sorì San Lorenzo, Sorì Tildin, and Costa Russi are also popular with an average Brand score of 915.
In second place for top Piedmont Buzz Brands is Giacomo Conterno’s Barolo Monfortino Riserva. Sitting just outside the top 50 most-searched-for wines (in 51stplace), it is both the highest quality and the most expensive wine of this week’s top five, with a Quality score of 977, and an in-bond per bottle price of £766. The price tag, which is just under four times higher than the average price of the other four wines of this week’s group, is perhaps due to the tiny production quantities of just c.7,000 bottles per year.
Giacomo Conterno also takes a second spot in this week’s top five – fourth place, with his Barolo Cascina Francia, which earns a Brand score of 956 and a Quality score of 960. Despite score gaps between these two wines of a mere 14 and 17 points respectively, an average of three times as many bottles are produced of Cascina Francia than its grander (and much rarer) sibling. It is available at just 23% of the price of the Barolo Monfortino Riserva – £176 per bottle in-bond.
In third place of this week’s top five is Bartolo Mascarello’s Barolo with a Brand score of 965. While its scores across the board sit in the mid-range of this week’s top five, it achieves the best long-term price performance, with a three-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 34.7%.
Lastly, at number five of this week’s group is Bruno Giacosa’s Barolo Rocche Falletto Riserva with a Brand score of 928. Although the Barolo Rocche Falletto Riserva has the lowest search rank of this week’s top five (158th), online searches for this wine saw impressive increases last year (read more here). It achieves a Quality score of 974 – just two points under the best Quality performer of the group (Conterno’s Barolo Monfortino Riserva). Indeed at vintage level these two wines share a near-perfect Quality score of 998 for their respective 2004 vintages, both earning 100/100 from Antonio Galloni.
It is interesting to note the high quality that accompanies these top Piedmont Buzz Brands (an average Brand score of 959 vs. 945 for Quality). The disparity between scores is more accentuated for the equivalent group in Tuscany, which achieves a Brand score of 991 for a Quality score of 932, or in other words, a 59-point gap.
Much of the U.K. wine trade gathered last week for the first wine ‘event’ of 2019 – Bourgogne Week. To the Wine Lister team members attending tastings in London, one thing was abundantly clear – the quality across the board is impressive (Wine Lister’s founder, Ella, discussed what a positive surprise the 2017 Burgundy vintage has been in a recent podcast – watch here).
Since there is so much to choose from, and with Burgundy’s popularity continuing to grow (read more in Wine Lister’s Burgundy study here), the Wine Lister team has put together its own list of buys based on tastings attended last week.
The Côte de Nuits has produced many rich examples in 2017. All of Comte Liger-Belair’s wines were stunning, but a particular highlight was his Vosne-Romanée. Both Clos de Vougeots from Faiveley and Jacques Prieur possessed great intensity, while Fourrier’s Gevrey-Chambertin Combe aux Moines was pretty and elegant in style.
The Côte de Beaune has performed wonderfully in 2017. The team settled on a Volnay, a Corton Bressandes and three Pommards, with two particular favourites – Comte Armand’s Clos des Epeneaux and De Montille’s Les Pézerolles.
Finally, the team were impressed by an array of whites from the Mâconnais right up to the premiers crus from the Côte de Beaune. Hubert Lamy’s Saint-Aubin En Remilly was selected unanimously by Wine Lister team members. Bernard Moreau’s Chassagne-Montrachet impressed, while Bret Brothers’ Pouilly-Vinzelles Les Quarts was a great discovery.
See the rest of the wines included in this post here: Bruno Clair Bonnes-Mares, Duroché Gevrey-Chambertin Les Jeunes Rois, Ghislaine Barthod Chambolle-Musigny Les Charmes, Henri Gouges Nuits-Saint-Georges Clos des Porrets-Saint-Georges, Jacques-Frédéric Mugnier Nuits-Saint-Georges Clos de la Maréchale, Jean Grivot Vosne-Romanée Aux Brûlées, Maison Joseph Drouhin Chambertin Clos de Bèze, Mongeard-Mugneret Vosne-Romanée En Orveaux, Olivier Bernstein Bonnes-Mares, Thibault Liger-Belair Nuits-Saint-Georges Les Saint-Georges, Courcel Pommard Les Croix Noires, Henri Boillot Volnay Chevrets, Tollot-Beaut Corton Bressandes, Étienne Sauzet Puligny-Montrachet Les Perrières, Jean-Noël Gagnard Chassagne-Montrachet La Boudriotte, Jean-Philippe Fichet Meursault Les Tessons, Laroche Chablis Les Blanchots.
Analysis of the new release of Dom Pérignon 2008, which has received its highest Quality score ever.
You can download the slide here: Wine Lister Factsheet Dom Pérignon 2008
With Christmas and New Year celebrations now behind us, the first Listed blog of 2019 has us dreaming of warmer climes. As an antidote to the January blues, we suggest a dose of California sun in the form of Chardonnay from Sonoma and/or Napa Counties. Below we examine the top five whites from the Golden State by Wine Lister score.
In the context of Chardonnay world-wide, it is worth glancing at regional differences to place the Californian scores in context. While the top five white Burgundies by Wine Lister score outperform their American counterparts by 147 points (953 for Burgundy vs. 806 for California), the Burgundian average price is over 15 times higher (£2,383 vs. £153).
The first of this week’s top five is Marcassin Vineyard’s Chardonnay with a score of 893. Though it beats the other four wines in all three Wine Lister score categories (Quality 927; Brand 843; Economics 903), its Economics score sits 123 points above the next best Economics performer. This is thanks to achieving the highest market price of £335 per bottle (in-bond), and the largest volume of bottles traded in the past four quarters (353).
In second place is Kongsgaard Chardonnay with a score of 834. At vintage level it actually achieves the highest Quality score of all wines in the group – the 2013 earns 966 points, thanks to a score of 95+ from Wine Lister partner critic Antonio Galloni, who calls it “a real knock-out”. This is all the more impressive considering the wine’s average price of £93 per bottle in-bond – just over half the average of the group’s other four wines combined (£168). Given this price to quality ratio, it is perhaps unsurprising that Kongsgaard has the strongest restaurant presence of this week’s top five, featuring in 15% of the world’s best.
Next in this week’s top five is the first of two wines from Kistler Vineyards. Its straight Chardonnay and McCrea Vineyard Chardonnay earn 791 and 743 points respectively, placing them third and fifth. The straight Chardonnay’s Quality score of 892 sits just two points under the quality achieved by Kongsgaard, however its overall score is balanced by a much lower Economics score of 640. This is due to a recent price drop, resulting in short-term price performance of -10.3%. The performance of its sibling from McCrea Vineyard is quite the opposite, with the best short-term price performance of the group (7.7%), and the second-highest Economics score of this week’s top five (780).
Sandwiched between the two Kistler wines in fourth place is Peter Michael’s Belle Côte Chardonnay with an in-bond price of £108 per bottle, and a Wine Lister score of 770.
At the end of November Wine Lister spent three days in Burgundy meeting with producers across the length of the Côte d’Or. With more wine in their barrel cellars than for a very long time (in some cases more than ever), the mood was light and easy. The 2017 vintage saw the first normal-sized crop since 2009 (and 2018 was even more generous). “It’s the first year we’ve had barrels three rows high,” marvelled Thibaut Gagey as he showed me round Maison Louis Jadot’s vast cellars in Beaune, currently housing a record 6,000 fûts.
Thibaut Gagey in the Maison Louis Jadot cellars
The 2017 vintage is a “belle surprise” for Gagey, who admits, “we weren’t very confident at first.” This pleasant surprise was something expressed time and again by growers during our tastings of 2017 from barrel. With Burgundy Week about to unfold, here we look back over some of those conversations.
In Volnay, Guillaume d’Angerville calls the 2017 “a huge positive surprise.” He explained that “a lot of people had discounted the vintage early on,” because “they thought it would be diluted.” Our tastings, at Domaine d’Angerville and elsewhere, proved this supposition to be mistaken, the wines having taken on weight and complexity during their élevage. Jasper Morris MW refers to 2017 wines as “relatively homogenous, some with more concentration and others with less.” Either way, the wines are juicy, luminous, and downright delightful.
Tasting from barrel with Guillaume d’Angerville
Boris Champy, Manager at Domaine des Lambrays, calls the vintage both “classic” and “modern” at once, because he believes there’ll be many like it in the future. He compared 2017 to 2009. Angerville is reminded of the “tenderness” of 2007 (“but more substantial”) and the “harmony and elegance” of 2002 or 2010. “It’s going to give a lot of pleasure,” he pronounced. Gagey also cited 2007 for its positive surprise factor, and 2014 for its “accessibility”. The immediate pleasure these wines offer up is almost disconcerting, but this early approachability does not mean they won’t age. The 2017 might not be the longest-lived vintage, but it has everything in place for a good innings.
However, it “won’t be the vintage of the century,” Gagey states. “What it doesn’t have is that extra grip, depth, and drive of a great vintage,” confirms Morris. Meanwhile, the whites are superlative. “Apart from 2014,” Morris calls it the “most consistently good white vintage for a long time.”
The growing season was early, but otherwise unexceptional, apart, of course, from the threat of frost once more rearing its ugly head. This time, though, the Burgundians fought their nemesis with a thick veil of smoke. The fires they lit around their vineyards may have served to raise the temperature a fraction, but just as importantly, their smoke prevented the morning sun being magnified through the ice and burning the buds. And so, apart from in Chablis, yields were back to normal levels.
One might assume therefore that prices will come down – after all, the consistent increases over the last eight years have been put down to limited supply. This would be naïve, though, with global demand and secondary market values for Burgundy’s top wines continuing to spiral upwards, even to the bewilderment of some Burgundians (after the record-breaking results of the latest Hospices de Beaune auction of 2018 wines in November, Louis-Fabrice Latour, president of the BIVB (Bureau interprofessionnel des vins de Bourgogne), said he was “surprised prices went up, and by so much”).
The fact is, momentum is with Burgundy. The region’s top 50 wines grew in popularity by 26% over the last year, while Bordeaux’s search rank on Wine-Searcher remained stable, and other regions saw search levels drop. This means that top producers can almost certainly raise prices again this year and still sell through. We spoke to a few domaines who planned to do so, and some by significant margins. Mostly, though, prices should be flat on 2016 or see only modest increases (less than 10% up on 2016 prices). A minority have even come down in price. Either way, this is surely a vintage worth getting your hands on for unadulterated drinking pleasure.
Wine Lister’s Burgundy Market Study published this time last year for subscribers is now free for all to read. Download it in English or in French.
At the beginning of this new year, Wine Lister is prolonging the festive sparkle through a look at the major trends to emerge from our first Champagne report. Wine Lister’s Champagne study analyses a basket of 109 top wines from the world’s premier sparkling region, and includes insight into the major trends of the Champagne market as identified by Wine Lister Founding Members (c.50 key players in the international fine wine trade).
While quality across the board is something to keep us celebrating well in to 2019 (see more on this here), the notable trends could indicate an increase in year-round enjoyment of Champagne. The chart below shows responses to our question, “What are the most important trends in Champagne?” by number of votes.
The trend most-frequently ranked as number one or two by Wine Lister Founding Members was the rise of grower Champagnes, closely followed by the increased emphasis on terroir / site Champagnes. One U.K. merchant remarked that “Consumers are now identifying with specific terroir in Champagne and understanding the value of the grower…” – a comment that further leads us to suspect an increased appreciation of Champagnes as wines, and not just celebratory bubbles.
The “rise of the grower” trend is, however, juxtaposed by continued demand for big brands. Of the basket of wines treated in the study, the grower Champagne segment has seen an increase in popularity (measured by search rank) of 9% since the beginning of 2017. Though this performance is superior to the maison segment’s slight decline in popularity (-4%), grower Champagnes still sit twice as far down the popularity rankings, with an average search rank of 1,620 compared to 775.
Perhaps predictably, big brands still win the race when it comes down to the bottom line. A U.K. merchant commented, “Small growers are getting much better press, but I suspect the big name cuvées still rule the roost for sales/investment”. Indeed, when asked to award confidence ratings to specific Champagne producers, the trade cited only one grower champagne within the top two confidence scores (9/10 and 8/10), Jacques Selosse. The houses to earn top confidence ratings were Dom Pérignon, Krug, Louis Roederer, Salon, Bollinger, Pol Roger, and Taittinger, as shown on the chart below.
A top tier merchant offers some explanation into the difference in picture painted between the top Champagne trend and Champagne confidence ratings: “Production needs to be small but not so small as to result in a proliferation of Champagnes which the vast majority have never heard of. The big brands which produce great quality are still finding serious demand in the market!”
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).