With a bank of knowledge on some of the world’s most delectable wines, sommeliers have the ultimate insider insight into which bottles are worth picking up. With this in mind, Wine Lister asked some of the world’s top sommeliers to share with us their favourite wines retailing for under £35 per bottle.
Clockwise from top left: Joshua Castle (Noble Rot), Lesley Liu (Odette), Marc Almert (Baur au Lac), Martin Jean (Domaine les Crayères), Sara Rossi (Trinity)
Joshua Castle (Noble Rot, London)
Joshua contends that “without a shadow of a doubt, Greece is producing some of the best value-for-money wines”, noting that “the most successful producers are tapping into the country’s long viticultural history, wealth of old vines, and indigenous varieties”. He cites white wines produced from grapes such as Robolla, Roditis, and Savatiano “have been a huge success in the UK on-trade” while his pick his for “a great-value Greek wine is the red Agiorgitiko ‘Natur’ from Tetramythos, a producer based in the Peloponnese”. “Acidity, fresh flavours, and light extraction are on the agenda”, according to Joshua, who admires winemaker Panagiotis Papagiannopoulos’ tempering of Agiorgitiko’s often tannic profile – resulting in a bright crunchy expression. “I first drank it at the fantastic central Athens wine bar ‘Heteroclito’ where its energetic fruit, moderate alcohol, and glou-glou style has me hooked.”
Agiorgitiko ‘Natur’ 2021 can be found in Noble Rot’s London wine shop, Shrine to the Vine, for £17 per bottle
Lesley Liu (Odette Restaurant, Singapore)
Lesley recommends a Torrontés, citing how well it compliments the tropical climate of Singapore with its refreshing minerality and “lingering floral and sweet notes of delicate exotic fruit, fleshy citrus, and wild honey”.
Lesley is particularly impressed by the barrel-fermented Torrontés produced by Susana Balbo – the first woman in Argentina to graduate with a degree in oenology. Lesley describes it as “a new chapter for Torrontés”, due to the complexity imparted by the French oak barrels – “an unusual choice for aromatic varieties”. She commends the versatility of the grape, which lends it to being a great match for all manner of Asian dishes as its “acidity can cut through the oil present”.
Susana Balbo Signature Barrel Fermented Torrontés 2019 can be found in Roberts and Speight from £18 per bottle.
Marc Almert (Baur au Lac, Zürich)
Marc points to the wines of Côtes du Rhône for “some of the true best-buys in French wine”, and advocates looking beyond the big-name appellations such as Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Côte Rôtie, and instead towards smaller regional appellations which “often offer great ‘bang for your buck’, whilst displaying a sense of terroir”.
Marc recommends the Mistral Domaine de Ferrand. “The Bravay family named this highly-quaffable entry into their portfolio after the namesake northwesterly wind which is key to Rhône Valley viticulture.” He praises its palate, which boasts “a rich array of violet, spice, and of course dark red fruits” and says that “it possesses a great acidity back-bone, soft tannins despite its youth, and is the kind of red wine I like to enjoy after a long service.”
Mistral Domaine de Ferrand 2020 is available from Hedonism Wines for around £19 per bottle.
Martin Jean (Domaine les Crayères, Reims)
Martin shares a recent favourite from a blind tasting with friends – “a sommelier friend had brought the Jaspe 2016 cuvée from Dominique Hauvette. It was a real favourite during the tasting, and something that I would want to share around a barbecue, with some grilled spiny lobster, decorated with some Provençal tomatoes, and an eggplant pie – simple dishes to share with family and friends.”
Martin praises this biodynamic, Roussanne-dominated cuvée for “its balance, its vibrancy, and saline notes”.
Domaine Hauvette ‘Jaspe’ 2016 is currently difficult to find in the UK, but can be found in outlets abroad such as Terroirs in Dublin from around £34 per bottle (excl. shipping).
Sara Rossi (Trinity Restaurant, London)
Sara has always been “fascinated by Slovenian wines because of their unique style and personality”. She particularly recommends Cotar Terra Rossa, a blend of Teran, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon, describing its “delicate aromas of violet, sour red cherries, rosemary, and sage”. Sara praises its “refreshing acidity and firm tannins”, as well as its “long and complex finish”. Her ideal pairing for Terra Rossa would be “homemade truffle linguini pasta or roast grouse”.
Though currently unavailable in the UK, Cotar Terra Rossa 2009 can be found in European retailers such as Germany’s Vinoteca Maxima from £22 per bottle (excl. shipping).
The insider’s guide to fine wine trends, and the most compelling wines to watch
Wine Lister has released its second annual Wine Leagues, celebrating some of the top-performing wines and producers in today’s new and much-diversified fine wine era. Informed by an in-depth trade survey with leading industry figures, the report provides a 360° view of those regions, producers, and wines that have seen strides in quality, popularity, economic promise, and more in 2021.
Wine Lister’s annual in-depth survey sees our expert panel of 47 CEOs, MDs, and wine department heads share their insight on some of the fine wines to have on your radar, as we ask them:
“What are the most compelling wines and producers in the market today?”
Respondents singled out 188 wines and producers collectively, that span no less than 20 major regions. Within the list, our team identifies Bibi Graetz, Les Carmes Haut-Brion, Roberto Voerzio, Berthaut-Gerbet, and Fürst as wines to watch in the Old World, whilst calling out the New World wonders of Catena Zapata, Errazuriz, Pedro Parra, Rhys Vineyards, and Ridge Vineyards.
The report also includes rankings across:
- Biggest quality improvers, which show impressive movement from Italy (occupying five places in the list of the top 20 by Quality score progression), with Isole e Olena Chianti Classico leading the pack
- Best search rank movers, wherein Bordeaux represents eight of the top 20 wines whose popularity has increased most in terms of online searches (including Smith Haut Lafitte, Domaine de Chevalier, Figeac, and Léoville Poyferré)
- Burgundy superstars, focusing on popularity movements from the trade’s darling region – Arnoux-Lachaux features 10 times in the list of top 20 Burgundian wines whose online searches have increased the most over the last two years
- Wine Lister’s top-10 recommendations per Wine Lister Indicator; Hidden Gems, Value Picks, Buzz Brands, and Investment Staples in 2021
For the full analysis, download your free copy of Wine Lister’s 2021 Leagues here.
Key fine wine releases from Bordeaux and Beyond
As another week of releases draws to a close, we reflect on highlights from the past fortnight, including the latest vintages of signature New and Old World wines, offered through the Place de Bordeaux’s impressive network.
Cheval des Andes’ Technical Director, Gerald Gabillet (bottom right), with the winemaking team
Which wines offer the best investments from the Place de Bordeaux’s September campaign?
As well as a further flurry of releases from the Americas and Tuscany, the past two weeks have also witnessed exciting French entries from the likes of the Rhône Valley, and a re-release of Latour 2005.
One of the top 20 fine wine brands in the world (according to its Wine Lister Pro Brand score), Opus One released its 40th vintage, 2018 last Monday (6th September), at £230 per bottle (in-bond). Wine Lister partner critic, Antonio Galloni (Vinous) gives the latest release a score of 95, describing it as “incredibly elegant and polished, right out of the bottle”.
Napa Valley neighbour, Beaulieu Vineyard’s Georges de Latour Private Reserve 2018 was released on Tuesday (14th September) at £115 per bottle (in-bond). Describing the wine as “sensational”, with notes of “inky red fruit, chocolate, leather, and liquorice”, Galloni gives the latest vintage 98 points – its joint-highest score ever awarded by the critic body. Joseph Phelps’ Insignia 2018 entered the market in quick succession on Tuesday at £163 per bottle (in-bond). Sampled by Wine Lister COO, Chloe Ashton at a recent tasting at 67 Pall Mall (alongside the 2010 and 1998), she found the evolution in complexity, tension, and precision was clear to see.
Monday (13th September) witnessed a triptych of 2018s from Sonoma County’s Vérité, with La Muse, Le Désir, and La Joie released onto the market at £300 per bottle each (in-bond). With the wines representing distinct expressions of the estate through the bespoke blending of different varietals and plots, the Merlot-based La Muse receives a perfect 100-point score from Lisa Perrotti-Brown for Wine Advocate, who calls it “Electrifying!”. Comprising a majority blend of Cabernet Franc, Le Désir gains 97+ and 97 points from Perrotti-Brown and Suckling, respectively. Whilst being Wine Lister CEO, Ella Lister’s favourite amongst the three, the Cabernet Sauvignon-dominant La Joie 2018 secures its highest average critics scores since 2013, inclusive of 98 points from Perrotti-Brown and 99 points from Suckling.
South American sensations
Leading last week’s South American entries, Baron Philippe de Rothschild’s Chilean winery Almaviva released its 2019 vintage on Wednesday (8th September) at £108 per bottle (in-bond). The Wine Lister team found it to show good complexity for its young age, with dense black fruit, exotic spices, and a touch of hay smoke.
Across to Argentina, Cheval des Andes 2018 was released on Thursday (9th September) at £59 per bottle (in-bond). The latest vintage aligns with the estate’s upward quality trajectory in recent years, having been awarded a score of 98 from James Suckling, who describes it as “very long and structured, yet controlled and in balance”.
Wildflowers growing in-between Siepi’s Merlot and Sangiovese vines
A Tuscan triumph
There are now only limited remaining stocks of Masseto 2018, which was released on Tuesday (7th September), starting from £495 per bottle (in-bond). The estate saw one of the rainiest springs in its history, and consequentially faced high levels of disease pressure. Nonetheless, the team at Masseto handled challenges that arose deftly, reflected in Wine Lister’s praise of its dense, layered, and lithe texture.
Now with similarly limited availability at around £208 per bottle (in-bond), Solaia 2018 was released on Thursday (9th September). Galloni awards it a strong score of 98, noting that he “can’t remember ever tasting a young Solaia with this much sheer appeal and balance”. Demand for the 2018 may well be encouraged by the estate’s positive price performance track record, which has seen some of its top-scoring vintages appreciate significantly post-release.
The first of the Tuscan trio to be released last week was Petrolo’s Galatrona 2019, which entered the market on Monday (13th September) at £72 per bottle (in-bond). Gaining a near-perfect score of 99 points from Suckling, he describes it as “muscular, yet agile” – “a unique definition of merlot in Tuscany”. Following in close succession, Castello di Fonterutoli released Siepi 2019 at £68 per bottle (in-bond). The Mazzei family planted its first Merlot grapes in 1980, with Siepi’s varietal blend now comprising equal proportions of Merlot and Sangiovese. The 2019 gains 98 points from Suckling – the joint-highest score awarded by the critic, who praises its “super-structure”, and “finesse with power”. To end Monday’s Tuscan trilogy, Tenuta Sette Ponti’s Orma 2019 was released at £56 per bottle (in-bond). Though Orma is yet to be widely scored by critics, Suckling awards it 97 points, calling it “perhaps the best Orma ever”.
Closing this week’s Italian offerings, Caiarossa 2018 entered the market on Wednesday (15th September) at £35 per bottle (in-bond). Walter Speller for Wine Lister partner critic, JancisRobinson.com, awards it 17+ points, considering it “classy stuff”, “which should become even more compelling with further bottle ageing”.
Back on French soil
Speculated to be the final commercial release of the vintage, Latour released a parcel of its 2005 vintage last Tuesday (7th September), which has since been offered by merchants for around £750 per bottle (in-bond). The 2005 was awarded 100 points by Galloni, who calls it “deep and sensual to the core”, and notes that it is “utterly captivating”. The iconic reputation of both the vintage and the estate is reiterated in this perfect score, which should stimulate interest from serious fine wine collectors.
Racing over to the Rhône, Beaucastel Hommage à Jacques Perrin 2019 was released last Friday (10th September) at around £227 per bottle (in-bond). A cask sample score from Alistair Cooper for JancisRobinson.com signifies quality, awarding its highest score from the critic body since 2007 with 19 points, calling it “One to watch!”.
Click here to sign up to Wine Lister’s newsletter to stay up-to-date with the latest from the Place de Bordeaux’s September campaign.
New World icons join top Tuscan wines for the first week of releases
A trading system used to distribute Bordeaux wines for almost 800 years, the Place de Bordeaux has, in more recent years, provided an international stage for many wines originating beyond its own borders. The first non-Bordeaux bottle to join La Place in 1998 was Almaviva, followed by Opus One in 2004, Masseto in 2008, and Solaia in 2009. Over the past decade, a further flurry of eminent estates from around the world have joined the distribution network, and together they form a campaign of new vintage releases every September.
Seña and Chadwick owner, Eduardo Chadwick, and daughter, Magui
Which fine wines were released through the Place de Bordeaux this week?
South American superstars
Clos Apalta 2018 kicked off this year’s campaign on Tuesday 31st August, at £71.50 per bottle (in-bond). At this year’s CVBG London tasting at Berry Bros. & Rudd, Wine Lister enjoyed the elegance of the latest release, which boasted red fruits, pepper, and a hint of smokiness on the nose, and a fresh acidity and energy on the palate. Another vintage that adheres to the estate’s impressive quality consistency over the past five years, demand for the 2018 is further encouraged by Clos Apalta’s status as one of Chile’s leading wine brands.
Across the Andes, Catena Zapata released its 2018 vintage on Wednesday 1st September, with Nicolàs Catena Zapata entering the market at £53 per bottle (in-bond). Having gained 96 points from Joaquín Hidalgo for Wine Lister partner critic Vinous.com, the latest vintage achieves its highest ever-score from the critic outfit. He calls it “breathtaking”, with “layers of aroma, beginning with black currant and moving on to intense, precise notes of lavender and mint along with hints of black tea, sage and cigar box”.
Released yesterday (Thursday 2nd September) at £80 per bottle (in-bond), Seña 2019 was the product of a “long, stable ripening season”, according to owner, Eduardo Chadwick. Tasting with Wine Lister on Zoom, he explains that while “January did begin warmer than usual, summer in March was cooler than normal”, retaining freshness. Indeed, our team found the 2019 to be beautifully balanced, perfumed with muddled berries, sweet spice, and promising complexity of cherries and rustic earth, with satin tannins, on the palate. Supplemented by its high quality, the special-edition 25th-anniversary bottling should stimulate interest in Seña’s latest offering.
Describing Viñedo Chadwick 2019 as “one of the best recent vintages”, Eduardo tells us that, as ever, the character of the wine is shaped by the estate’s altitude. He explains that the great diurnal range throughout the warm growing season allowed freshness, encouraging what Wine Lister found to be both remarkable lift and flavour intensity, with aromas of iris, fresh herbs, and blackberry. Released onto the market at c.£230 per bottle, the 2019 was awarded 99 points by James Suckling, who echoes the sentiment that the wine is “refined, yet powerful”.
South African sweetness
On Wednesday 1st September, Klein Constantia released its Vin de Constance 2018 at £41 per bottle (in-bond). Wine Lister tasted the latest release on Zoom alongside Winemaker, Matt Day, and found notes of citrus and stone fruits complemented with notes of ginger on the nose, complete with a generous and balanced palate with a lightness and freshness that defies the stereotypes of “sweet wine”. Matt told us he believes the vintage represents an embodiment of his “fine-tuned” craft, which also coincided with “a perfect [growing] season”, encouraging the continuation of its positive quality trajectory this year. Indeed, the latest release (as yet not scored by any Wine Lister partner critics) gains 98 points from James Suckling in his most recent tasting.
Tasting Vin de Constance 2018 alongside Klein Constantia Winemaker, Matt Day
Top Tuscan offerings
Bibi Graetz’s Testamatta and Colore 2019 entered the market yesterday (Thursday 2nd September), at £73 and £180 per bottle (in-bond), respectively. Marking its 20th anniversary vintage, both wines feature special-edition bottles designed by artist turned vigneron, Bibi Graetz, with colour and text applied directly onto the glass. Wine Lister was particularly impressed with Colore 2019, which boasted a perfumed nose of violets, frangipane, and crushed berries, following through to a vibrant and juicy palate with silky tannins.
Wines likely to be released through the Place de Bordeaux next week include: Opus One 2018, Overture NV, Masseto 2018, Massetino 2019, Latour 2005, Almaviva 2019, Epu 2019, Cheval des Andes 2018, Solaia 2018, and Beaucastel Hommage à Jacques Perrin 2019.
With September approaching, Wine Lister has begun to anticipate the collection of top fine wine producers from around the world that release their latest vintages through the Place de Bordeaux. Although a region steeped in tradition, the trend for Bordeaux négociants to offer these wines in the first weeks of September suggests a loosening in the division between Old World and New World fine wine production.
To celebrate the impending campaign, this week’s blog examines a small selection of New World wines with longstanding histories:
A map of the selected New World wineries: Klein Constantia, Penfolds, Inglenook, and Bodega Catena Zapata
South Africa – Klein Constantia Vin de Constance
Established in 1685 by the first Governor of the Dutch Cape Colony, Simon van der Stel, Klein Constantia was the first commercial wine producer in South Africa. A keen viticulturist, Van der Stel executed extensive research to find the best quality soil in the region, finally deciding on the decomposed granite terroir of the valley he named “Constantia”. Here he planted the first Muscat de Frontignan vines, and commenced the production of Vin de Constance.
In more recent history, Klein Constantia has been elevated over the past decade under Managing Director, Hans Astrom, and Winemaker, Matt Day. Its cellar has been entirely rebuilt, and viticultural practices are now widely organic and biodynamic. The 2017 Vin de Constance is the third vintage produced in the new cellar and will be released through the Place de Bordeaux next month; however, until then, Vin de Constance 2013 achieves a WL score of 94 at c.£71 per bottle (in-bond). It can be purchased by the case of six half-litre bottles from Albany Vintners.
Australia – Penfolds Magill Estate Shiraz
Penfolds was founded by an English doctor, Christopher Penfold, and his wife, Mary, who had transported French vine cuttings on their journey from West Sussex to Australia. After acquiring 500 acres of land in the Adelaide foothills, they commenced production of medicinal tonics, brandies, and fortified wines in the style of sherry and port, to ameliorate the symptoms of Christopher’s patients. As demand for the wines proliferated, production was expanded, and Penfolds was officially established in 1844. The single-vineyard Magill Estate Shiraz is intrinsically linked to the winery’s beginnings, being the only wine grown and made on the original Penfolds property.
With a WL score of 95 at £88 per bottle (in-bond), the 2014 Penfolds Magill Estate Shiraz is a MUST BUY, and was described by Wine Lister partner critic, Jancis Robinson, as “racy and lively”, illustrating “a winemaking tour de force”. It is available to purchase by the case of six from IG Wines.
California – Inglenook Rubicon
Although vines had been planted on the property by its previous owner eight years prior, Napa Valley’s Inglenook estate was officially founded in 1879 by Gustave Niebaum, a Finnish sea captain, fur-trader, and oenophile. With the intention to build a winery to rival Europe’s finest, Niebaum swiftly invested in the development and expansion of Inglenook, purchasing additional land from six neighbours, and commencing construction on the present-day château. Rubicon, the estate’s flagship wine since 1978, is produced from the estate’s best fruit, including Gustave Niebaum’s original Cabernet Sauvignon plantings.
Rubicon typically contains small percentages of other Left Bank Bordeaux varietals, however, the quality of Cabernet Sauvignon in 2013 called for its pure varietal composition. According to Wine Lister partner critic, Antonio Galloni, the 2013 Inglenook Rubicon features “Layers of dark fruit built into a crescendo of aromas, flavors and textures laced with mocha, espresso, gravel and dark spice overtones”. Achieving a WL score of 96, and MUST BUY status, it can be bought by the bottle from Lay & Wheeler for £145.75 (in-bond).
Argentina – Bodega Catena Zapata Nicolás Catena Zapata
Bodega Catena Zapata was founded in 1902 by Italian immigrant Nicola Catena, who planted the initial Malbec vines to produce wine to satisfy the large European immigrant population in Mendoza. As examined in a recent blog post on New World MUST BUYs with rising popularity, Nicola’s grandson, Nicolás Catena Zapata, continued his grandfather’s legacy of establishing of European winemaking techniques in Argentina, through his dedication to high altitude farming, soil studies, and preserving pre-phylloxera Malbec strains.
Its 2017 vintage is due to release through the Place de Bordeaux next month; until then, the 2016 Nicolás Catena Zapata can be acquired by the case of six from Cru World Wine for £278 (in-bond). Comprising 61% Cabernet Sauvignon, 31% Malbec, and 8% Cabernet Franc, the 2016 achieves a WL score of 93, and was described by Jancis Robinson as “very broad, well integrated and welcoming”.
Keep up to date with the September Place de Bordeaux releases through Wine Lister’s twitter.