Bordeaux 2018 in bottle: UGC tasting highlights

As well as marking the year that France won the World Cup Final, 2018 will be remembered in Bordeaux as a tumultuous growing season, starting with nightmare weather conditions, and finishing “in ecstasy” (recap more on the 2018 vintage in Wine Lister’s post-harvest and vintage assessment blogs).

Now that the wines have settled in bottle, it is the world around them that has been thrown into a state of chaos, though one managed impeccably by the organisers of Wednesday’s UGC tasting (see photo below). Tasting around 130 wines, members of the Wine Lister team have chosen a selection of highlights, as examined in this post.

The team’s highlights include seven of the 19 Bordeaux 2018s MUST BUYs, and 11 other picks that were showing the best out of those present at the UGC tasting.

Pauillac and Pessac-Léognan were our top two appellations, with four picks apiece. The two Pichons – Baron and Comtesse – were showing beautifully, the former impressing with a “ripe, autumn berry profile” and a “dense but silky texture”. Pichon Comtesse – one of Wine Lister’s favourites during 2018 en primeur tastings – exhibited toasty notes of “tobacco, coffee, and mocha” on the nose, that opened into an elegant and energetic palate of “black cherry with chai spices”.

In Pessac-Léognan, Domaine de Chevalier presented subtly at first, but opened up into a “heady nose of plum and cassis”, matched with an equally sumptuous palate that was “deep in tone, but lifted in structure”. Malartic-Lagravière displayed a distinct Pessac minerality, and featured an intense, perfumed nose of “morello cherry and lavender”. The palate showed more savoury flavours, nonetheless endowed with a “velveteen texture”.

Elsewhere on the left bank, Margaux had three highlights, including the “sensual and floral” Giscours, and Brane-Cantenac – a “powerball of ripe, layered, and energetic fruit”. MUST BUY Rauzan-Ségla displayed nuanced aromas of “blueberry and raspberry”, with a notably generous and glossy mouthfeel.

Both Saint-Estèphe highlights offered complex profiles, sharing a comparable first note of “smoke and cured meats”. Lafon-Rochet prevailed in savoury finesse, opening up into “sandalwood and black pepper” on the nose, while Ormes De Pez developed into a “sweet and plummy” bouquet, providing “crunchy red apple and bramble” on the palate.

In Saint-Julien, MUST BUY Branaire-Ducru 2018 showed at the same time a “welcoming warmth” and a plethora of pure and precise fruit notes; “blackcurrant, blackberry, red plum” and a long, floral finish.

On the right bank, Saint-Emilion was well-represented by Canon 2018, which the Wine Lister team noted as “multi-dimensional”, encompassing an opening minerality that swiftly released into a refreshing bouquet of “luscious cherry, raspberry, and crushed strawberries”. Its palate was “utterly moreish”, with “delicate cherry notes” lingering on the finish – “this just goes on and on”, we noted.

In Pomerol, La Croix de Gay stood out with a distinct, potpourri character on the nose, and an “elegant palate of ripe berries”. L’Evangile, displayed a wealth of “black fruit flavours, overlaying its rich but balanced mouthfeel”.

Other wines included in Wine Lister’s 2018 tastings highlights are: Duhart-Milon, Grand-Puy-Lacoste, La Gaffelière, Langoa Barton, Latour-Martillac, and Les Carmes Haut-Brion.


Bordeaux 2020 harvest: optimism in the face of uncertainty

Despite this year’s unparalleled circumstances, mother nature has had no choice but to persevere – members of the Wine Lister team visited Bordeaux during September, to get a feel for the 2020 harvest. After a turbulent nine months, 2020 has reportedly yielded another excellent vintage for Bordeaux, though the region’s vines experienced their own set of ups and downs. Outside of its macro-economic turmoil, 2020 proved an uncertain growing season too, as microclimatic weather patterns appear to have been more influential than ever. Small areas on both banks experienced hail, and rainfall differed by hundreds of millimetres from one property to the next. With a bit of luck, this is a vintage the international trade will be able to taste by next spring – and it will need tasting, in order to gain a comprehensive understanding of the best examples of the vintage.

Common to several properties was an early start to harvest, with masked pickers dispersing across many vineyards up to two weeks ahead of a “normal” year. Indeed, Pavie began harvesting its white grapes (for Monbousquet Blanc) at the end of August – a fortnight earlier than last year. Merlot grapes began to be collected on the 21st of September – nine days earlier than in 2019 (pictured below on the 22nd September).

 Masked workers sort Pavie’s 2020 Merlot grapes (22nd September 2020)

Pavie saw lower rainfall in 2020 than parts of the Médoc. The position of its vineyards at higher altitude on the south-facing slope of its renowned limestone plateau allows for both phenolic maturity and the retention of freshness. Its new Commercial Director, Olivier Gailly, notes that the mid-harvest showers also helped with the latter, freshening up the Cabernets prior to picking, and that subsequent high wind speeds dried the grapes, and prevented mildew from setting in.

Just a few kilometres north-west, Saint-Émilion star Angélus did not have a particularly early harvest in 2020, starting on the 15th of September – just three days earlier than last year. The estate saw mildew at the beginning of the season, which they managed to control ahead of a good flowering. Eighth-generation manager, Stéphanie de Boüard is confident in the new vintage, aligning it with the iconic 1947 or 2010 – “my father told me not to be ashamed to say it”, she notes of the comparison. Early analyses show the 2020 will likely be high in alcohol, but with a low pH, creating a freshness and an overall balance that was encouraged by mid-harvest rain. “This year picking dates have been more important than ever”, she adds, referring to the retention of fresh fruit, as opposed to more cooked aromas than can occur in warmer Bordeaux vintages.

Further north-west still in Pomerol, Beauregard also received much-needed rain during harvest, which similarly helped to soften the skins of its Cabernet grapes. Summer drought was more apparent here, repeating the 2018 phenomenon of hydraulic stress on the vines, and resulting in a smaller yield than 2019.

Moving to the Médoc, more properties saw the same hot and dry climatic conditions in 2020, resulting in instances of small grapes with high alcohol potential and lower acidity. In Margaux, d’Issan saw 16% potential alcohol in some of its early Merlot grapes (the highest ever recorded), and consequently welcomed the mid-September showers. Neighbouring Palmer anticipated the rain, and held off picking its Cabernet Sauvignon grapes until it came and went, ensuring the thinning of skins on smaller berries, and an overall reduction in alcohol percentage. The estate saw limited yields due to the dry summer, and Managing Director, Thomas Duroux, quipped that although “négociants would have liked a vintage with high volume and lower prices, [2020] will be a small vintage…” While he implies it might be more expensive than the trade had hoped, he nonetheless expects the 2020 to be “rich and exuberant”, sharing the power and concentration of 2018.

In Saint-Julien, owner of Branaire-Ducru, François Xavier Maroteaux describes a 2020 growing season of neat balance. The estate had a “wet post-harvest Autumn in 2019”, which helped to prevent drought stress throughout the new growing season. As the summer began to dry out, the estate saw 100 millimetres of rainfall in a short period (at the end of August), followed by a sunny and warm September. The season itself, Maroteaux muses, is similar to the 2011 vintage. He believes the resulting wine is worth excitement, after a steady and successful ripening, avoiding any disease.

In Pessac-Léognan, Malartic-Lagravière expects a concentrated wine in 2020, having also seen low volumes of mainly small berries due to the heat. Neighbouring Domaine de Chevalier echoed the sentiment, and we were surprised to hear from owner, Olivier Bernard, that there had not been a drop of rain at estate the day before our first visit (21st September), despite it raining throughout the same day in the Médoc, and in Bordeaux itself.

The last day of picking at Domaine de Chevalier (30th September 2020)

“There have been lots of choices to make this year”, he continues – one of which no doubt was whether to trust the weather forecasts, particularly around harvest. With fewer planes flying around, forecasts were less accurate, and while rain fell further north, Pessac often remained dry. Bernard explains that the picking windows were tight in 2020: “instead of four days where the grapes are fine to pick, there’s one day” – since the drought and heat would cause alcohol to rise, and acidity to deplete quickly.

It seems therefore that we have another winemaker’s vintage on our hands. Mirroring somewhat the choppy commercial seas of this year, Bordeaux has had to navigate unpredictable viticultural waves too. What we have heard of the 2020 harvest thus far nonetheless leaves us hopeful, and anticipating eagerly the en primeur tastings of next spring.


Topping off the 2008s – Taittinger Comtes de Champagne

Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 2008 was released yesterday (1st October) at c.£89 (per bottle in-bond), marking one of the last 2008s from the “Grandes Maisons” to enter the market. The release has reignited discussion on the success of the vintage in Champagne, which has been declared one of the best of the decade along with 2002. Below we investigate top 2008s, and where the latest addition from Taittinger fits within them.

Characterised by a consistent, dry, and cool growing season, climatic conditions in 2008 encouraged slow veraison across Champagne, which enabled grapes to achieve their full phenolic maturity while retaining acidity. The combination of both gives the vintage considerable ageing potential, and unyielding structural integrity.

As illustrated above, the top 10 2008 champagnes by WL score exhibit impressive quality, with the top three wines gaining scores of 97 and above. This has not been achieved in the past four vintages, with Krug Brut Vintage 2003 being the most recent back vintage of a champagne to achieve a WL score of 97. Indeed, the top 10 champagnes gain an average WL score of 95.8 in 2008, compared to an average of 94.6 across the top 10 champagnes from the previous vintage.

The newest addition to the top 10 haul, Taittinger Comtes 2008 shows good value within the wider context of the vintage, despite entering the market at a 26% premium on the current market price of its 2007 vintage. While achieving the same WL score as MUST BUY Philipponat Clos des Goisses 2008 (96), Taittinger’s latest release is available for 34% less, (£89 vs. £135 per bottle in-bond). Similarly, it achieves one more WL point than Bollinger Grand Année 2008 (available for £85 per bottle in-bond), for a very slight premium.

Wine Lister partner critic, Antonio Galloni awards Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 2008 98+ points, stating it “is simply breathtaking” and “represents the purest essence of the Côtes des Blancs in a great, historic vintage”. He concludes, “readers who can find the 2008 should not hesitate”.

Taittinger Comtes de Champagne is historically one of the top 10 most liquid champagne brands, giving it further investment appeal. Additionally, Taittinger announced that it has not produced any 2009, 2010, or 2011 Comtes de Champagne, due to poor weather conditions during these years – a fact that may well increase interest in this latest release.

Also featured in the list of top 10 2008 Champagnes by WL score are: Salon Le Mesnil, Cristal, Dom Pérignon Vintage Brut, Marc Hébrart Spécial Club Millésimé, Joseph Perrier Cuvée Josephine, De Sousa Cuvée des Caudalies, and Pol Roger Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill.


New Wine Lister MUST BUYs

Wine Lister’s latest MUST BUY update identified 38 new wines that show quality and value within their respective vintages and appellations, and wide praise from the international trade. To help you discover these new picks, this week’s blog takes a deep dive into the latest MUST BUY wines and their geographical composition.

Pinot Noir picks

Burgundy dominates the new MUST BUY hoard with 13 entries, including eight reds. The perfect pick for an opulent occasion, the 1978 Romanée-Conti Richebourg costs £1,434 per bottle (in-bond), and was described by Wine Lister partner critic, Jancis Robinson, as “very long with smoothness, sweetness and unctuousness”. Sharing its WL score of 96, the 2010 Volnay Clos des Ducs from the Côte de Beaune’s red producer of reference, Marquis d’Angerville, provides a more affordable option at £250 per bottle (in-bond), but may merit a little patience.

Outside of Pinot Noir’s original homeland are some new MUST BUYs of brilliant quality and impressive value for money. California’s 2016 Au Bon Climat Isabelle Pinot Noir has a WL score of 94, and was described by Wine Lister partner critic, Antonio Galloni, as “racy, perfumed and beautifully layered”, with notes of “orange peel, tobacco, blood orange, spice, star anise and new oak” throughout. It can be purchased for less than five times the price of the aforementioned Volnay, by the case of six for £262 (in-bond) from Jeroboams.

Travelling north within the US brings us to Oregon’s latest MUST BUY entry – the 2016 Cristom Louise Vineyard Pinot Noir. While more expensive than its Californian counterpart for the same WL score, Cristom’s position as the leading producer in the Willamette Valley, alongside its closer proximity to Burgundy’s cool-climate restrained style, makes it more than worth the c.35% premium. It is available to purchase for c.£60 per bottle (in-bond) from WineBuyers.com.

The best of Bordeaux blends

Bordeaux offers seven new MUST BUYs this week, including two Left Bank Value picks; 2019 Haut-Bages Libéral and 2015 Capbern. With a WL score of 92, the former addition was released en primeur two months ago, and described by James Lawther for JancisRobinson.com as, “busy and expressive on the nose with vineyard-fresh dark fruit, black-olive and mineral notes”. Labelled by Lawther as the “best in recent years”, this gem from Bordeaux’s prominent promotors of biodynamic viticulture, Gonzague and Claire Lurton, has a bright future ahead. It can still be bought en primeur through Justerini & Brooks for £142.50 per six (in-bond).

The 2010 Vieux Château Certan also appears in the latest MUST BUY update, 10 years on from the iconic vintage. It provides a more lavish option for the Bordeaux buyer, receiving a WL score of 96 at £216 per bottle (in-bond). Moving across the border into Tuscany, the 2010 Sassicaia also offers a more luxurious alternative to the Bordeaux blend. Comprising of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Cabernet Franc, it was described by Antonio Galloni as, “just beginning to show the first signs of aromatic development”, including hints of “sweet tobacco, mint, pine, dried cherries and licorice”. It achieves a WL score of 95, and is available to purchase by the case of six for £915 from Goedhuis & Co.

Choosing Chardonnay

Back to Burgundy, and the new white MUST BUYs this week offer opulence from three iconic Meursault producers; 2015 Roulot Charmes, 2010 Comtes Lafon Genevrières, and 2017 Arnaud Ente Les Petits Charrons are all exceptional choices, albeit for an average price of £492 per bottle (in-bond). Further north, two entries hail from Chablis, and the appellation’s original historic vineyard, Les Clos; 2014 Laroche Les Clos, and 2010 Christian Moreau Père et Fils Les Clos. For those who enjoy a more pure, lean, and mineral style of white wine, the Chablis MUST BUYs exhibit notable value within their appellation and achieve higher WL scores than their buttery Meursault counterparts. The latter can be bought by the case of 12 from Cru World Wine for £871 (in-bond).

California’s latest white MUST BUY hails from Kistler Vineyard; a cult producer known for its emulation of pure and balanced Burgundian Chardonnays, over the rich and oaky Californian style. The 2017 Kistler Vineyards Dutton Ranch Chardonnay achieves a WL score of 96, and is labelled by Antonio Galloni as “such an intriguing wine because of the way it is airy and lifted and yet also so deep in feel”. Providing a less expensive alternative to Côte d’Or whites, it is priced at £133 per bottle (in-bond).

Also featured in the list of new MUST BUYs are: 2009 Abreu Madrona Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon, 1989 Bollinger Grande Année, 1996 Bruno Clair Chambertin Clos de Bèze, 2006 Cavallotto Barolo Vignolo Riserva, 2013 Ceretto Barolo Brunate, 2012 Conti Costanti Brunello di Montalcino Riserva, 1996 Dunn Vineyards Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, 2014 Duroché Chambertin Clos de Bèze, 2017 Georges Mugneret-Gibourg Clos de Vougeot, 2012 Jacques-Frédéric Mugnier Chambolle-Musigny Les Amoureuses, 2014 Jean Grivot Richebourg, 2010 Jim Barry The Armagh Shiraz, 2017 Joseph Drouhin Chambolle-Musigny Les Amoureuses, 1996 Lafite Rothschild, 2008 Lafleur, 2016 Le Macchiole Paleo Rosso, 2016 l’Evangile, 2006 Louis Roederer Cristal Rosé, 2018 Marc Sorrel Hermitage, 2013 M. Chapoutier Hermitage Ermitage Blanc De l’Orée, 2016 M. Chapoutier Hermitage Ermitage Le Méal, 2012 Roagna Barbaresco Pajè Vecchie Viti, 2016 Valandraud, and 2009 Vincent Paris Cornas La Geynale.


New World MUST BUYs with rising popularity

Many wine lovers like us have been making the most of lockdown to explore outside of the more traditional wine-growing regions and grape varieties. Wine Lister’s new cellar analysis service can include tailored guidance on future purchases for drinking or investment, providing recommendations for top-quality wines from alternative producers and regions.

To help you discover some of these brilliant New World picks, the Wine Lister team has put together a short selection of MUST BUYs that have exhibited a recent rise in popularity, as established through search frequency data from Wine-Searcher.

Australia to ask for – 2014 Cullen Diana Madeline

Founded in 1971, the Cullen Estate has maintained concern for its environment since its inception, keeping both chemical intervention and irrigation to a minimum. In 1998, the estate adopted an organic viticulture, which was further developed into a biodynamic practice in 2008. Winemaker, Vanya Cullen, states the biodynamic approach to harnessing Earth’s energy “achieves greater individuality of site through working with nature rather than against it”, suggesting its ability to better display terroir and climate. The estate’s flagship wine, Diana Madeline, comprises a blend of 89% Cabernet Sauvignon with small amounts of Petit Verdot, Merlot, Malbec, and Cabernet Franc in 2014. With a WL score of 95 at £50 per bottle (in-bond), it is described by Wine Lister partner critic, Jancis Robinson, as “refined and elegant”, and displaying “great harmony”. It can be bought by the case of 12 from BI Fine Wine & Spirits.

Argentina to acquire – 2015 Bodega Catena Zapata Nicolás Catena Zapata

Nicolás Catena Zapata helped pioneer the use of European winemaking techniques in Argentina’s high altitudes, following in the footsteps of his grandfather, Nicola Catena – an Italian immigrant who founded the winery in 1902. The inaugural vintage of the namesake wine (1997) was debuted in the USA and Europe at a series of blind tastings, where it received comparison to First Growths Latour and Haut-Brion, and achieved either first or second place in every event. Composed of 83% Cabernet Sauvignon and 17% Malbec in 2015, Nicolás Catena Zapata grapes are fermented in 100% French Oak barrels for 15 days. Fermentation temperatures are kept low, to extract pronounced aromas, while cap management is done by hand to encourage the extraction of nuanced flavours and gentle tannins. The 2015 Nicolás Catena Zapata receives a WL score of 94, at £49 per bottle (in-bond), and can be acquired by the case of 12 from Fine+Rare Wines.

California to call upon – 2010 Dominus Estate Dominus

Owned by Christian Moueix (of Petrus fame), Dominus Estate demonstrates its prestigious proprietorship with one of the highest quality Bordeaux blends in California. Comprised of 95% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 5% Petit Verdot, the 2010 Dominus Estate Dominus was produced in the smallest quantities known to the property since its 1984 vintage – consequential of a rigorous selection of lots for the final blend. Wine Lister partner critic, Antonio Galloni, calls the 2010 “a towering, utterly magnificent wine”, describing “asphalt, licorice, menthol, plums and cassis” that “wrap around the palate and never let up”. With a WL score of 98, at £233 per bottle (in-bond), it can be aged for another 20 years, and is available to purchase by the case of six from Corney & Barrow.

Chile to chase – 2014 Seña

A blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Carménère, 11% Malbec, 8% Merlot, and 5% Petit Verdot, the 2014 Seña was described by WL partner critic, Jeannie Cho Lee as a “fabulous wine that offers layers of flavors that range from exotic spices, rose petals and violets to blackberries and fresh herbs”. Owner Eduardo Chadwick tells us of his addition of the late-ripening Petit Verdot, which adds spice and complexity to the wine. With extremely fine-grained tannins and acidity, thanks to its cool climate, the wine has received several comparisons with top Bordeaux blends. Achieving a WL score of 96, at £78 per bottle (in-bond), the 2014 Seña can be bought by the case of six from Lay & Wheeler.

New Zealand worth knowing – 2014 Kumeu River Maté’s Vineyard Chardonnay

Achieving a WL score of 94 at £38 per bottle (in-bond), the 2014 Kumeu River Maté’s Vineyard Chardonnay constitutes a good value New World Chardonnay with excellent ageing potential (it can be aged for a further 10 years). Wine Lister partner critic, Neal Martin, describes the 2014 vintage as having “a riveting, brilliantly defined bouquet of oyster shell, citrus peel and apple blossom”, concluding that it is “world-class stuff”. Having taken over the estate from his Dalmatian father, Maté, in 1982, Kumeu River director, Michael Brajkovich, was the first New Zealander to become a Master of Wine, and used his knowledge to develop its viticulture through improving drainage, growing grass between the vines, and introducing a Lyre trellis system. Named after Michael’s late father, the 2014 Kumeu River Maté’s Vineyard Chardonnay is available to purchase by the bottle from Lay & Wheeler.

Also featured in the above MUST BUY recommendations are: 2016 Ridge Vineyards Geyserville2015 Ben Glaetzer Amon-Ra2014 Colgin Cellars IX Estate Red2013 Kay Brothers Amery Vineyards Block 6 Shiraz, 2013 Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay, 2011 Viña Almaviva, and 2009 Viñedo Chadwick.

For bespoke fine wine purchase recommendations, as well as advice on creating the financial room with re-sale suggestions, get in touch with our team at team@wine-lister.com, or download the full Cellar Analysis information pack.


The best for your buck: Bordeaux 2019 at five different price points

Thanks to solid discounts on existing market prices from many châteaux, the Bordeaux 2019 en primeur campaign can be considered a success, and may prove in the long-term to have helped the en primeur system find its feet once again, in terms of the cost benefit it offers to buyers.

Part II of Wine Lister’s Bordeaux Study, In sickness, in health discusses this in more detail. In the meantime, below we have selected top MUST BUYs at different price points, to help those still on the hunt for Bordeaux 2019.

Under £25 – Grand-Puy-Ducasse

Grand-Puy-Ducasse 2019 is both a MUST BUY and a Value Pick, achieving its best ever WL score of 93 in 2019, available at £23 per bottle (in-bond) when buying by the case. The latest release illustrates the contrasting climatic conditions of 2019, with critics noting its complexity and nuance. Wine Lister partner critic, Neal Martin, notes, “crisp tannins, a fine bead of acidity, cohesive and harmonious with a lovely saline/briny note”, adding “this is one of the best Grand Puy Ducasse wines that I have encountered from barrel. Excellent”. Grand-Puy-Ducasse 2019 is available to purchase by the case from Justerini & Brooks.

More Bordeaux 2019 MUSY BUYs under £25: Capbern, Gloria, Laroque, Meyney, Potensac, and Siran.

Under £50 – Larcis-Ducasse

At £47 per bottle (in-bond), Larcis-Ducasse 2019 is priced notably well within the wider context of Saint-Émilion Grand Cru Classé “B” releases. As examined in a recent en primeur blog, it earns a WL score of 95 – just one point less than the likes of Cheval Blanc and Pavie (costing on average six times less than its Classés “A” neighbours). Winemaker, David Suire, observes that the vintage reflects clearly its limestone terroir, showing floral notes and an overriding minerality. Wine Lister partner critic, Antonio Galloni, concurs, noting “graphite, menthol, licorice, tobacco and cedar notes” in the bouquet, coining it “one of Bordeaux’s most under the radar gems”. While demand for this wine has likely been strong, Larcis-Ducasse 2019 is still available through Millésima’s UK and Hong Kong branches.

More Bordeaux 2019 MUST BUYs under £50: Brane-Cantenac, Giscours, Grand-Puy-Lacoste, La Gaffelière, Malescot Saint-Exupéry, and Pavie-Macquin.

Under £100 – Haut-Bailly

At £70 per bottle (in-bond), Haut-Bailly 2019 shares the château’s top WL score (95) with recent vintages 2018, 2016, 2015, and 2014. Managing Director, Veronique Sanders, told the Wine Lister team of their need to light fires five times to prevent frost in the spring of 2019, escaping unscathed. In the end, challenges throughout the growing season concluded in perfect harvest conditions, and a wine of impressive balance and energy. Indeed, the 2019 has received unanimous confidence from critics – Neal Martin states that the 2019 is a “more terroir expressive Haut-Bailly that has an effortless allure and a sense of sophistication”, concluding that it is “wonderful”. Haut-Bailly 2019 can be acquired by the case through Goedhuis & co.

More Bordeaux 2019 MUST BUYs under £100: Calon Ségur, Canon-la-Gaffelière, Canon, Clinet, Léoville Poyferré, Pontet-Canet,  Lynch-Bages, Montrose, and Troplong-Mondot.

Under £200 – Léoville Las Cases

Léoville Las Cases 2019 achieves a WL score of 97, at £145 per bottle (in-bond). While volumes of the 2019 released onto the market were down 35% on last year, there is still some availability of this Saint-Julien super second, and we highly recommend getting your hands on some. Wine Lister’s CEO, Ella, describes it as “luminous and lyrical”, noting a bouquet of “English garden – raspberry blossom, cow parsley, fraises de bois, and then a deeper note of ripe cherries”. James Lawther for JancisRobinson.com is similarly impressed, awarding it 19 points and noting it as “one of the greats from this estate”. The latest vintage can be purchased through Fine+Rare.

More Bordeaux 2019 MUST BUYs under £200: Figeac, Haut-Brion, La Conseillante, La Mondotte, Le Petit Mouton, La Mission Haut-Brion, Palmer, Pichon Comtesse, and Vieux Château Certan.

Over £300 – Mouton

While the release price of this Pauillac Premier Cru, let alone the quality of its 2019, likely makes it one of the most popular buys of the campaign, there may still be opportunities to secure some en primeur. Released at £299 per bottle (in-bond), Mouton 2019 achieves a WL score of 97 – the second-highest score achieved by the château in recent years, following the 2016’s 98. Wine Lister’s CEO, Ella Lister, describes Mouton 2019 thus: “velveteen tannins, long and caressing”, recounting “complex, savoury flavours of graphite and slate intermingled with the generous fruit”. Farr Vintners still appears to have some availability of Mouton 2019 (albeit at a slightly higher price than its release).

More Bordeaux 2019 MUST BUYs over £300: Cheval Blanc, Lafite, and Lafleur.

French readers can find this blog in French translation on Le Figaro Vin’s website

Wine Lister Pro members can read Part II of the Bordeaux study here. All free users can purchase the report for £125 from Wine Lister’s Analysis page (available in both English and French).


Rising through the ranks: Bordeaux 2019

This week, Wine Lister published Part II of its annual in-depth Bordeaux Study, In sickness, in health, which, among other inquiries, examines the 40 top-quality crus in 2019. As illustrated in the study, tastings have so far indicated high quality levels across the board in 2019, while numerous wines have made significant advancements, shaking up this year’s rankings.

Following this line of investigation, below we examine the top 25 Bordeaux 2019s by WL score (as separated by mere decimals), and consider the biggest movers since last year. These scores are informed by the recently-released ratings of Wine Lister partner critics, Bettane+Desseauve, Antonio Galloni and Neal Martin for Vinous.com, and James Lawther for JancisRobinson.com.

Consistent with last year’s ranking of Bordeaux 2018s by Quality score (conducted before the introduction of Wine Lister’s free site, featuring WL scores out of 100), Pomerol earns the highest number of places (six) in the top 25 2019s by WL score. Neighbouring Saint-Emilion follows closely behind with five spots in this year’s ranking, including the top-scoring wine of the vintage, Figeac 2019, which achieves a WL score of 98.

The four first growths to release their 2019s en primeur appear in third through seventh places, intersected by La Mission Haut-Brion’s entry at fifth place. This promising Pessac-Léognan climbs an impressive 26 spots in 2019, and, as mentioned in our previous blog, has been recently assigned MUST BUY status. Neal Martin scores La Mission Haut-Brion 2019 98-100 points, declaring: “I wager that ultimately this will become one of the wines of the vintage”, concluding that the wine is “breathtaking”.

L’Eglise Clinet sees an impressive upwards shift of 33 places this year, entering the top 10 with a WL score of 96. A poignant tribute to its late winemaker, Denis Durantou, its 2019 has received significant praise, with Antonio Galloni noting that it is “very clearly one of the wines of the year. A Pomerol of soaring, majestic intensity, L’Eglise-Clinet dazzles from start to finish”.

Pichon-Baron and Angélus both climb eleven places in this year’s top-25 ranking, to 11th and 16th place, respectively, with the former receiving top scores from both Neal Martin and Antonio Galloni. Both critics allude to the depth of Pichon-Baron’s 2019, with Galloni stating that “pomegranate, chocolate, licorice and spice are all lavishly expressed”. This represents one of Pauillac’s four entries on this year’s top-25 ranking, which also comprises Mouton, Lafite, and Pichon Comtesse.

Haut-Bailly makes a sizeable leap of 18 places since last year, ranking in 21st place with a WL score of 95. At £70 per bottle (in-bond) Haut-Bailly 2019 is also a Wine Lister MUST BUY. Fellow Pessac-Léognan producer, Smith Haut Lafitte, climbs an impressive 32 places with its 2019 vintage, rounding out the top 25 list. Having tasted twice, Neal Martin describes its “intense, very pure bouquet with blackberry, briary and cherry compote and a hint of black olive tapenade in the background”.

Also featured in the top 25 Bordeaux 2019s by WL score are: Belair-Monange, Cheval Blanc, Cos d’Estournel, Ducru-Beaucaillou, Haut-Brion, La Conseillante, Lafleur, Léoville Las Cases, Léoville Poyferré, Margaux, Palmer, Pavie, Petrus, Trotanoy, and Vieux Château Certan.

Wine Lister Pro members can read Part II of the Bordeaux study here. All free users can purchase the report for £125 from Wine Lister’s Analysis page (available in both English and French).


Bordeaux 2019 en primeur MUST BUYs

With the Bordeaux 2019 en primeur campaign now concluded, we bring you 38 new Wine Lister MUST BUYs. The tasting of Bordeaux 2019 has thus far confirmed the notable quality of the vintage, from which we have filtered some obvious campaign buys that can be expected to see increased prices, and decreased availability in the future.

Wine Lister’s MUST BUY recommendation algorithm takes into account a wine’s quality and value within its vintage and appellation, as well as the latest industry intelligence from key players in the global fine wine trade. These results are then filtered through an intelligence-based, human overlay, which identifies MUST BUY wines based on our tasting of Bordeaux 2019, and observation of the reception of each release in the market.

As illustrated below, there are 38 Bordeaux 2019s that are now recognised as MUST BUYs – suggesting that the benefit of buying en primeur is more obvious than last year (there were 24 Bordeaux 2018 en primeurs recognised as MUST BUYs following its campaign). They are all red:

In keeping with last year’s MUST BUY picks, Saint-Emilion once again ranks as the most recommended appellation – this year offering 10 MUST BUYs, including the top-scoring wine of the vintage: Figeac 2019. With a WL score of 98, Figeac’s latest vintage has sustained the château’s upward quality trajectory.

With a WL score of 93 at £18 per bottle (in-bond), Laroque 2019 exhibits excellent value relative to 2019 Saint-Emilions of comparable quality. Alongside its MUST BUY status, Laroque’s latest vintage is also a Value Pick, making it an essential acquisition for the savvy Bordeaux buyer. Wine Lister partner critic, Antonio Galloni, notes, “raspberry jam, spice and red plum meld into the juicy finish”, stating that “the 2019 is very nicely done”.

Pauillac houses eight Bordeaux 2019 MUST BUYs, including first growths Lafite and Mouton, which both achieve WL scores of 97. Grand-Puy-Ducasse 2019 is both a MUST BUY and a Value Pick, having achieved a WL score of 93 at £23 per bottle (in-bond). Writing for Jancisrobinson.com, James Lawther muses whether the 2019 is the, “best of recent vintages?”, suggesting that it “certainly has more structure and power with additional mid-palate flesh”. As proposed in a previous Bordeaux 2019 en primeur blog, Pichon Comtesse is another notable Pauillac purchase for wine collectors, given the estate’s impressive popularity, and its vast reduction in volume released this year.

Within its five MUST BUY picks (four at under £50 per bottle in-bond), Margaux contains two Value Picks, with Malescot Saint-Exupery and Siran priced at £31 and £20 per bottle (in-bond), respectively. At £167 per bottle (in-bond) Palmer 2019 shows good value within the context of its previous vintages (31% below the 2018 and 2016 release prices), which, alongside its limited quantity released en primeur, makes this a must for Margaux enthusiasts.

In Pomerol, La Conseillante, Lafleur, and Vieux Château Certan achieve WL scores of 96, while Clinet follows shortly behind with 95. At £54 per bottle (in-bond) the latter is notably cheaper than its Pomerol peers, and has made a major leap up in quality from previous vintages. Awarding it 97-99 points, Neal Martin writes that Clinet 2019 “is just so fragrant on the nose”, stating that, “the purity that Ronan Laborde and his team have achieved should be applauded”.

Calon Ségur and Montrose lead Saint-Estèphe’s four MUST BUYs with a shared WL score of 95, while Meyney and Capbern provide testament to the value proposition available in the appellation, having been priced at £19 and £35 per bottle (in-bond), respectively.

Sharing three picks apiece are further left bank appellations Saint-Julien and Pessac-Léognan, which are both home to high-scoring 2019s. In Saint-Julien, Léoville Las Cases achieves a WL score of 97 – matched by Pessac-Léognan first growth Haut-Brion, and neighbour, La Mission.

Other wines featured in Wine Lister’s Bordeaux 2019 MUST BUYs are: Brane-Cantenac, Canon, Canon-la-Gaffelière, Cheval Blanc, Giscours, Gloria, Grand-Puy-Lacoste, Haut-Bailly, Le Petit Mouton, La Gaffelière, La Mondotte, Larcis-Ducasse, Léoville Poyferré, Lynch-Bages, Pavie-Macquin, Pontet-Canet, Potensac, and Troplong-Mondot.

Wine Lister has now released Part II of its annual in-depth Bordeaux Study, examining the price and quality of Bordeaux 2019, relative to previous vintages. Purchase the full report here, or download using your Pro subscription (available in both English and French).


En primeur presses on – frantic Friday, mega-Monday, and more

Since the last update, some 34 further Bordeaux 2019s have been released en primeur, covering a wide range of styles and price points. Given the saturation of releases, below we highlight a small selection of wines particularly worth backing.

Big hitters

La Conseillante opened the stage of en primeur week three – “mega Monday”, releasing its 2019 at £126 per bottle. Wine Lister’s CEO, Ella Lister, notes the wine is “vibrant, with a playful bouquet of spice, tobacco, and pure dark fruit”. Wine Lister partner critic, Neal Martin agrees, awarding the 2019 its highest ever Vinous score (97-99), and noting, “Winemaker Marielle Cazaux and her team have conjured a magnificent Pomerol here”. Coming onto the market 25% below 2018’s release price, this is worth snapping up given its continuation of La Conseillante’s style evolution – indeed, the wine still provides good value when compared to other Pomerols of similar quality.

Figeac followed closely behind, releasing its 2019 at an identical price. Also entering the market 25% below the 2018 (the most expensive recent Figeac vintage on the market), it too continues its upward quality trajectory in spectacular fashion. Awarding it the same score as La Conseillante, Martin names it “a deeply impressive, intellectual Figeac…amongst the canon of greats that stretch back to the 1940s”. Figeac was a Wine Lister favourite in 2018, and has clearly done another spectacular job this year – this is an absolute buy to put away for the future.

 

Arriving with a clever digital temperature checker – Wine Lister CEO, Ella Lister, tastes La Conseillante and Figeac samples in London.

Montrose 2019 was released this morning (Tuesday 16th June), at just over £100 per bottle (in-bond). While the wine has not yet been widely rated, Ella Lister tasted at the property last week, and names the 2019 “very harmonious, calming, and hypnotic”, with a “lovely, rounded, succulent, fresh-fruit palate”, and “satin tannins”. Continuing Montrose’s legacy of quality excellence, the 2019 is once again a good punt for decadent Bordeaux drinkers.

 

Old Faithfuls

Giscours 2019 released at £35.20 per bottle (in-bond) on Friday 12th June. Entering the market below current prices of the last five vintages, this should be an obvious buy for fans of the Margaux château. Lister notes the 2019 as “confident and precise” on the nose, and “creamy, accomplished, and long” in the mouth, calling it a “classic Giscours”. Neal Martin, concurs, noting, “this is a superb, potentially long-term Giscours”.

A perennial British favourite, Talbot 2019 has also been released, at an opening price of £35.15 per bottle (in-bond). Lister names Talbot 2019 one of her “coups de coeur”, adding that it is “spicy and exotic”, as well as “fresh and harmonious”. Talbot’s strong brand and visible recent quality improvements make this release a safe bet for any buyer looking for Left Bank Bordeaux to drink in 20-30 years.

A “grand merci” to négociant Duclot for hosting the recent Bordeaux 2019 en primeur tasting in Paris. Pictured: some of Wine Lister’s CEO, Ella Lister’s favourites.

Grand-Puy-Lacoste released its 2019 this morning (Tuesday 16th June), at £45 per bottle (in-bond). Another UK favourite, this release has seen some buzz from those trade members who have tasted already, and critics agree – Lister writes that it is “blue fruited, aquiline, pure, and purring”, while Martin (who gives it its best ever score – 95-97), says, “Classy and full of breeding – quintessential Pauillac”. Despite some availability of recent back vintages – 2015 and 2014 – at a similar price (or indeed cheaper), this is still a solid bet for top-quality Pauillac to lay down for the future.

 

Value buys

Chasse-Spleen, a traditional value hit among claret buyers, released its 2019 on Friday 12th June. It enters the market at £20 per bottle (in-bond), a neat 30% below the current market price of the 2018. Neal Martin awards the 2019 a score of 92-94 – placing its quality in line with the 2016 (93 points), with the potential for it to become even better in the future.

Lafon-Rochet released its 2019 yesterday, at £28.30, 12% below the current market price of the 2018. Neal Martin’s score of 93-95 suggests the Saint-Estèphe property has made another quality step up in 2019. Martin notes, “it is imbued with a sense of nobility and classicism that I much admire”. While the “discount” on 2018’s release price is not as high as some may have wished for, Lafon-Rochet 2019 still looks like a bargain relative to other Left Bank wines of similar quality.

Gloria 2019 was released this morning, at £25.10 per bottle (in bond). While only 13% below the current market price of the 2018, the 2019 still provides excellent value relative to other Saint-Julien wines, particularly considering its quality in 2019. Neal Martin awards it 93-95 points, and says, “this is a nimble Saint-Julien, athletic in build with a sapid finish that urges you back for another sip. Excellent”.

 

Also released over the last few days are the following 2019s: Beauregard, Blason d’Issan, Certan de May, Connétable de Talbot, d’Issan, de Sales, du Tertre, Feytit-Clinet, Fourcas Hosten, Grand Corbin-Despagne, Gruaud-Larose, La Dame de Montrose, La Fleur-Pétrus, La Pointe, La Violette, Lacoste Borie, Lagrange, Le Gay, Les Cruzelles, Montviel, Pape Clément, Pape Clément Blanc, Prieuré-Lichine, Sarget de Gruaud-Larose, and Saint-Pierre.


A dozen days of en primeur

Today is the 12th working day since the first major 2019 en primeur release, and over 60 wines are already out.

Among others, the last couple of days have seen the 2019 release of another first growth, a Pauillac powerhouse brand, and a major up-and-comer.

Haut-Brion released its red and white grands vins yesterday, at £295 and £560 per bottle in-bond respectively. While the red enters the market a solid 25% below the current market price of the 2018, the white is the campaign’s most expensive wine yet, and offers a smaller discount, of 5% on 2018.

Following Mouton Rothschild’s lead, Haut-Brion’s red looks well-priced within the current economic context, though buyers may note that the 2014 is available on the market around the same price. The 2012 also looks good – earning a WL score of 96, it is a Wine Lister MUST BUY (and available for c.£260 per bottle in-bond).

Also released from the Clarence Dillon family are Haut-Brion’s baby brother, Le Clarence (at c.£100 per bottle in-bond), and cousins La Mission Haut-Brion red and white. Of the two flagship reds, Haut-Brion is likely the stronger horse to back, based on its first growth status, as well as its position according to the trade among top Bordeaux wines for future prestige (see below).

According to Wine Lister’s 2020 trade survey, Haut-Brion is one of top Bordeaux wines most likely to be worth including in collectors’ future cellars.

Three further pairs of releases from Pessac-Léognan have emerged over the last two days, comprising Malartic-Lagravière, Latour-Martillac, and Carbonnieux.

On Thursday 10th June, Pauillac star-brand Lynch Bages was released, and has resulted in an onward UK selling price of c.£66 per bottle in-bond. Wine Lister’s CEO, Ella Lister, tasted it last week, and found it to be “lifted, precise”, and “a classic”. The price positioning under £70 has reportedly been well-received.

Haut-Batailley was also introduced to the market, at £36 per bottle in-bond. As its second en primeur release under Cazes ownership (the same family as Lynch Bages), the 2019 is 20% under the current market price of the 2018. Following a repositioning of Haut-Batailley’s pricing during en primeur last year, the 2019 release looks good value – the wine’s strong reputation will likely only become stronger with a new wave of investment, and prices are likely to rise accordingly. Lister describes Haut-Batailley 2019 as “pretty”, “elegant”, and “very harmonious”, with a “long, saline, dark chocolate finish” – this is a wine to buy now.

Better late than never – Wine Lister’s CEO, Ella Lister, has now tasted the majority of Bordeaux 2019s. Watch this space for her favourites, and Bordeaux 2019 MUST BUYs coming soon.

One further release for each side of the river caught Wine Lister’s eye this week: La Gaffelière 2019 was released 13% beneath the current 2018 market price. The château’s director, Thomas Soubes, told Wine Lister that he was very happy with the quality of their 2019, and Lister concurs –  she finds the wine “serious” and “charming”, with “velvet tannin” and “seductive red fruit”. La Gaffelière continues to present excellent value for its impressive quality, relative to wines sharing the Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Classé “B” classification.

Calon Ségur 2019 was also released yesterday. As one of the top rising stars of Bordeaux, its 2019 came onto the market 10% below the 2018 release price, but crucially 31% below 2018’s current market price. Calon Ségur is one of the “poster children” for the true benefits of buying en primeur. Lister found Calon Ségur 2019 to be “perfumed”, “juicy”, and “unctuous”, with “spice on the mid-palate” and a “saline, super-precise finish”. As ever, this is worth snapping up before its price inevitably increases post en primeur release.

Also released during the same period were: Cantenac-BrownCapbern, Clos FourtetClos RenéCos Labory, KirwanMonbousquetMoulin Saint-GeorgesPaviePhélan SégurPibran, and Suduiraut.

Keep up to date with further Bordeaux 2019 en primeur releases through Wine Lister’s dedicated en primeur page.