Wine Lister’s top tips for buying wine online

As much of Europe re-enters lockdown, the fine wine industry is once again adapting through the digital world. With many reliable retailers now running e-commerce platforms, there is simply no excuse not to purchase top-quality wine from the comfort of your own home. To help you get the best from your online buys, Wine Lister offers its top tips on avoiding compromise on your acquisitions, whether for drinking or for laying down in the cellar.

  1. Narrow down your drinking delights

With a plethora of brilliant bottles now available to purchase online, Wine Lister’s free tools provide a good place to start your decision journey, helping you to refine your browsing before you even begin. On top of our MUST BUY recommendation algorithm, our Wine Leagues provide top-10 lists of the best wines to source for given categories, be it appellation, price, or WL score (a quality measure comprising ratings from Wine Lister’s partner critics). Featured on the individual wine pages, Wine Lister’s drinking windows inform you of the best time to open your bottle, another key factor to consider when buying wine. The above sets of Wine Leagues reveal the top Bordeaux reds for under £50 (per bottle in-bond) and the top Burgundy reds for under £75.

  1. Elect an esteemed merchant

Whether you have determined what you want or not, it is crucial to buy only from trusted merchants. While pricing may vary, Wine Lister recommends sticking with reputable retailers to ensure top-notch provenance and delivery. The list of legitimate options is long, but we suggest the following (to name but a few): Berry Bros & Rudd, BI Fine Wines, Corney & Barrow, Goedhuis & CoJusterini & Brooks, Lay & Wheeler, and Vinum Fine Wines.

  1. Refine through regional specialists

If your focus is on one region in particular, it can be beneficial to buy from specialist merchants. For example, Stannary Wines represent several top Burgundy producers, and Armit Wines are the agent for a number of leading Italian estates, providing dependable platforms for you to direct your search. It is useful to know which merchants are the primary UK importers of specific domains, for example, Justerini & Brooks represent Philipponnat Clos des Goisses, and Four Corners work with many top Californian fine wines.

For more industry insights and advice on which wines and regions to buy, sign up for Wine Lister’s free newsletter here.


Unscrambling biodynamics: what’s all the buzz about?

Over the past decade, biodynamic wine has exploded in popularity, particularly amongst a younger generation of wine drinkers. Having spoken to a selection of top producers that follow biodynamic farming, Wine Lister’s latest investigation attempts to explore the practice further, and better understand the shared values of this often-misunderstood philosophy.

The biodynamic calendar: racking at Comtes Lafon (pictured) is timed according to the lunar phases (Photo: Jean Chevaldonné)

Often associated with organic winemaking, biodynamics also dictates the avoidance of pesticides and chemical fertiliser, and many of its wines are therefore organic in practice. Certified by independent associations (e.g. Demeter and Biodyvin) rather than the government, biodynamics goes one step further, providing a more holistic approach to farming that attempts to embrace all natural biological processes. Coined in 1924 by Rudolf Steiner – an Austrian philosopher and scientist – biodynamics draws on the specific belief that all living species experience constant transformation, due to physical, metaphysical, and cosmic realities acting upon them. While it is not essential for certification, most biodynamic producers therefore follow the biodynamic lunar calendar, which dictates the optimum days for viticulture and winemaking activities, based on the moon’s cycle.

In Burgundy, Comtes Lafon plans its planting, pruning, harvest, racking, and bottling according to the lunar calendar (see photo above), despite not being certified officially. Having shifted to biodynamic farming in 1998, owner and winemaker, Dominique Lafon, tells us that he was initially inspired by the practice in several of his friends’ vineyards at the time, and was “impressed by the way the vines behaved”. He states that while it is more time consuming, biodynamic farming provides him “pleasure to work closer to the vineyards, following their natural rhythms”.

Among a list of other principles, biodynamic producers must complete a cow horn preparation, otherwise known as process 500, in which manure is packed into the horn of a female cow and buried under the vines for six months. The horns are then dug up, and the content of the horns is combined with water and sprayed across the vineyards, in the belief that the solution enhances plant growth and improves the quality of the crops. Dominique tells us that while some results of biodynamic farming can be seen “rapidly, within the first year”, process 500 begins to change the soil “after three years or so, and is fully effective after 10 years”.

In Bordeaux, Château Palmer also completes the cow horn preparation (pictured below) – the Margaux estate began experimenting with biodynamics in 2008, adopting it completely in October 2013, and releasing its first certified vintage in 2018. Winemaker Thomas Duroux, tells us that the adoption of such biodynamic principles has yielded “results in the vineyard” and encouraged “better quality soil”, while helping him to achieve his goal of “growing a vineyard without any use of chemicals”. Explaining the difference between organic and biodynamics, Duroux notes that the latter is “a different way to see agriculture”, and that when you apply biodynamic principles, “you see the farm as an ensemble”. This resonated across several other biodynamic producers, who similarly considered biodiversity to be at the core of this mode of farming.

Process 500: biodynamic compost preparations at Château Palmer

Indeed, Elisabetta Foradori tells us that since its conversion, Foradori has founded a new focus on biodiversity and sustainability, with livestock now used to produce dairy products and compost for the vineyard. She began to introduce biodynamic principals into the family estate in 1999, converting the whole property in 2002, and eventually achieving certification in 2009. Foradori tells us that she had begun to feel “disconnected to the plants after many years of working in wine”, and biodynamic viticulture allows her to “go into the deepness of the life of the plant and its soil”. She states that the practice has catalysed an “evolution in the fertility of the soil”, watching vine roots “grow deeper and deeper”.

Further south in Chianti, Querciabella conversely practices a “cruelty-free” biodynamics, according to its team, without the use of manure or animal remnants in the soil.  Winemaker Manfred Ing states that while “eliminating all of the animal-based preparations”, the estate has implemented a strict cover crop preparation, planting up to 35 different plants across its vineyards, depending on the soils and the grapes that grow in each plot. He states that this improves the quality of the land, whilst adhering to the biodynamic principle of “getting as much quantifiable life in the soil and the vineyard as possible.”

Following the general sentiment of other biodynamic producers, Elisabetta Foradori states biodynamic farming enables the wine to “reflect the message of the terroir” while encouraging “purity and character”. This was particularly pertinent to one of Burgundy’s biodynamic pioneers, Leroy – speaking to Wine Lister, the team notes that biodynamic farming indeed helps the property to better “express the character” of its respective sites. Having implemented biodynamic farming since the day it was purchased by Lalou Bize-Leroy in 1988, the team tells us that “no one else was even organic” in the region at that time, and people “thought it was crazy” to neglect the use of fertiliser and risk decreased yields. They explain that Burgundy is an “ideal place” for biodynamic farming, through its ability to express the disparities between the different vineyard holdings of the same Burgundy varietal – a “true test of where the wine comes from”.

While biodynamic producers approach the practice with variable interpretations, its practitioners are nonetheless enthusiastic about its results. With an increasing number of producers adopting this mode of farming, we look forward to witnessing its wider recognition across the fine wine industry in years to come.


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.


Palmer’s propitious “N-10” release?

Château Palmer launched its first back-vintage release yesterday (Thursday 24th September). Named “N-10”, this new release phenomenon is planned as an annual event henceforth, releasing each year the vintage celebrating 10 years of age.

N-10 therefore begins on an exceptional note for quality, with Palmer’s 2010 vintage (which earns a WL score of 96 – its second-highest ever). It is also worth noting that 2010 was the second vintage of Palmer to benefit from some biodynamic experimentation, ultimately leading to its full certification in 2017.

Wine Lister partner critic, Neal Martin, awarded Palmer 2010 96 points after tasting at BI Wines’ 10 years on tasting in February this year. “This is an outstanding Palmer, but it needs more time in bottle”, he notes. Wine Lister’s CEO and Founder, Ella Lister, concurs, stating, “the wood still apparent after spitting will certainly integrate more with time – because this needs lots of time”, though her overall assessment is perhaps more generous than Martin’s 96 points. She adds, “There’s a quiet, dreamy poise to this wine. [It is] enigmatic, brooding, and spellbinding”.

The last remaining ex-château stocks of Palmer 2010 entered the UK market at £293 per bottle (in-bond), making them the highest-priced recent vintage on the market. The new price of Palmer 2010 therefore sits at a 33% premium to previous remaining market availability.

This is a bold hike up from Palmer 2010’s initial release price, however Director Thomas Duroux’s communication on production quantities and pricing as a direct result of the château’s uncompromising commitment to biodynamics and exceptional quality has prepared the market for it. The last few en primeur releases have set a solid scene for Palmer’s new strategy, and provide definitive proof that the château has outgrown the bounds of its classification.

We understand that immediate take-up for the N-10 release has been good, if not quite at the fast sell-out pace of en primeur. That is not the objective here – Duroux is confident that this ex-château stock will satisfy demand in the mid-term.

Indeed, even at its higher price, Palmer 2010 remains a Wine Lister MUST BUY.


Buying beyond the label – brands to buzz about

If 2020 has given any gift at all, it would be time at home, which many have used to read more, and learn new things on topics familiar and foreign. Today’s blog helps you discover the unique stories behind some of the world’s most recognisable wines. Read on below to discover beyond the label of these notable names.

Krug – Cracking the code

Beyond its reputation as one of the most admired Champagne brands, Krug has also pioneered an industry innovation: Krug iD. Since 2011, a six-digit “identification code” has been printed on the back label of every Krug bottle. Scanning the code with a smartphone gives drinkers access to the unique story of the individual bottle, including a vintage report, as well as offering food pairing suggestions, and recommendations for its storage and serving.

Photo credit: lvmh.com

Aside from its technical innovation, the quality of Krug is simply undeniable. The latest NV Krug Brut Grand Cuvée (168ème Édition) achieves MUST BUY status, and receives a score of 19/20 from Wine Lister partner critic, Jancis Robinson, who notes a “remarkable acidity underpinned by great depth of flavour and beautiful balance on the finish”. It is available to purchase by the bottle from Crump, Richmond & Shaw Fine Wines for £133 (in-bond).

 

Cheval Blanc – Cultivation experimentation

Saint-Emilion superstar, Cheval Blanc, has illustrated significant long-term investment in its viticulture in recent years. Initiated by Managing Director, Pierre Lurton, the estate has conducted countless soil analyses, viticultural experiments, and regular phenological surveys to establish the best grape variety for each of its three different terroirs (gravel over clay, deep gravel, and sand over clay). Experiments have tested each possible variation of soil type for the Bordeaux varietals used in Cheval Blanc – 52% Cabernet Franc, 43% Merlot, and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon – to establish which combination delivers the best quality of fruit. Indeed, the château found its plot of sandy terroir to be particularly well suited to Cabernet Franc, providing a reference point for the best that can be achieved with the grape in Bordeaux.

Released en primeur in July this year, the  2019 Cheval Blanc was awarded 18 points from Jancis Robinson, who describes it as “beautifully poised on the palate with a density of fruit and silky texture of finely matted tannins. Pure, seductive and persistent”. It can be bought by the case of six for £2,400 (in-bond) from Farr Vintners.

 

Bond – Truth in terroir

With grapes sourced from select hillside plots across Napa Valley, Bond’s portfolio of Cabernet Sauvignon-based wines aims to reflect each wine’s specific sense of place. The estate owns five sites featuring some of the region’s best terroirs, and has dedicated its viticultural practice to preserving the best expression of its individual plots; Melbury, PluribusQuella, St. Eden, and Vecina.

The fruit from each site is vinified separately, while winemaking procedures are kept the same across all of the Bond wines in order to honour terroir differences. The Vecina vineyard, for instance, sits on volcanic soil at between 221 and 330 feet above sea level, causing a thermal amplitude of cool nights and hot afternoons, which renders its wines complex and layered, with concentrated tannins. The 2015 Bond Vecina was awarded 97 points from Wine Lister partner critic, Antonio Galloni (Vinous), who indeed describes it as “super-expressive. A big, dense wine, the 2015 possesses stunning richness and dimension”. It is available by the bottle for £443 (in-bond) from Fine+Rare Wines.

A line-up of Bond wines, that communicate the differences in the estate’s Napa Valley sites.

 

Ornellaia – An artist’s interpretation

Outside its global renown as a reference for quality in Tuscany, Ornellaia also stands out for its own special label tradition. Established in 2006, the estate’s annual artist program, Vendemmia d’Artista, commissions a new artist each year for the creation of the limited-edition label, inspired by a single word chosen by winemaker, Axel Heinz, to capture the essence of the new vintage. The latest release (2017) was named “Solare” due to the especially hot growing season, in which both the Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc grapes were harvested as early as August for the first time in history. This inspired contemporary artist, Tomás Saraceno’s label design (below).

Photo credit: ornellaia.com

Awarding the Ornellaia 2017 97 points, Wine Lister partner critic, Antonio Galloni describes it as “sumptuous and racy, as Ornellaias from warmer years tend to be, but it is not at all heavy or overdone. In a word: superb!”. The vintage can be bought by the case of six from Justerini & Brooks for £765 (in-bond).

The four above-mentioned wineries provide just a small handful of innovative and engaging examples of how to make a wine stand out from the crowd. Wine Lister has launched a dedicated PR and communications service in order to help more producers do the same on the UK market. To find out more, please contact us at  team@wine-lister.com.


The best Bordeaux MUST BUY right now ? – Lafite 2018

Amid the flurry of releases from La Place de Bordeaux during September, an exciting development is said to be afoot from a wine grown on home turf.

We understand that Lafite 2018 – released last spring en primeur and currently still only available to purchase as such – will be bottled next year in special, 150 year anniversary bottles, complete with one-off anniversary labels.

The current average market price of Lafite 2018 is £533 per bottle (in-bond)*. Special bottlings typically induce significant price rises, particularly for Bordeaux first growths.

Mouton 2000’s special, gold-engraved bottle is priced almost four times higher than the average of Mouton’s recent back vintages (£1,558 vs. £398).

Similarly, the price of Margaux 2015, whose special bottle features a black label in memory of its winemaker, the late Paul Pontallier, has risen 64% since the commemorative bottling was announced.

Prices of any remaining Lafite 2018 in the global marketplace are therefore poised to increase between now and the actual bottling of the wine, at which time we understand a small parcel of further, physical stock could be released by the château (presumably at a sizeable premium).

Lafite 2018 is currently an absolute MUST BUY.

*on date of publication, Thursday 17th September 2020


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.


Plan ahead with MUST BUYs to put away

With so many interesting offers coming in from different merchants, it can be tricky to keep track of what wine you have, let alone where it is, and when it should be drunk. To help you get the most out of your wine collection, Wine Lister has opened up its data analysis and fine wine expertise to private clients, who can now commission all kinds of portfolio analysis, from detailed geographical split and purchase advice, to investment forecasting and a fully-fledged “drink vs. sell” plan.

Wine Lister’s “fantasy cellar”

The current list of Wine Lister MUST BUYs – wines showing notable quality and value within their respective vintages and appellations, and wide praise from the international trade – is 1,728 picks strong. While the Wine Lister team would love to own (and enjoy) all of them, below is a short selection to be put away and enjoyed at their best in five, ten, and twenty years, respectively.

Riesling to reserve

With remarkable ageing potential, and good value across the board, Riesling constitutes a brilliant white addition to any wine collection. To be opened within ten years, the 2018 A. Christmann Idig Riesling Grosses Gewächs hails from Germany’s famed Mosel, and is described by Wine Lister partner critic, Jancis Robinson as “the thinking-person’s Riesling”. She notes the “understatement of individual components” in the wine,  “which allows the taster to focus on balance and elegance”. Creeping over the border into the Alsace, where Riesling tends to be drier in style, Albert Mann’s 2008 Schlossberg l’Epicentre is ready but will improve – offering optimum enjoyment within the next five years. Another Alsatian, the 2010 Marcel Deiss Altenberg de Bergheim can endure another 20 years of ageing, also providing a reliable white to add to any cellar. Wine Lister partner critic, Antonio Galloni, describes its “perfumed aromas of nectarine, apple blossom, minerals and honey”, calling it “vibrant and penetrating”. With notable value for their quality, the three Rieslings achieve a shared WL score of 96, at £54, £98, and £59 per bottle (in bond), respectively. For something to stash away, the latter is available by the case of six from Millésima UK.

Burgundy on standby

Louis Jadot Corton Charlemagne 2012 is a similarly reliable white to be stored in the cellar, achieving a WL score of 95 at £126 per bottle (in-bond). Barrel-fermented and aged for a further eight to ten months in 100% new oak barrels, the wine has developed complexity and enhanced ageing potential. Production in 2012 was kept notably small – indeed winemaker Frédéric Barnier states, “it is critical to control the yields in Corton-Charlemagne to make a wine of real Grand Cru quality.” It can be purchased by the case of 12 from Fine+Rare Wines, and can be opened within five years. Burgundy also offers an abundance of reds with promising ageing potential, including the 2010 Sylvie Esmonin Gevrey-Chambertin Clos Saint-Jacques, and the 2012 Vougeraie Corton Clos Du Roi. Both wines achieve a WL score of 95, at £192 and £90 per bottle (in-bond), respectively.

Champagne to store

A sure pick to pop open within five years, the 2002 Louis Roederer Cristal was aged on lees for six years, before being matured for a further eight years in bottle after its disgorgement in 2009. Wine Lister partner critic, Jeannie Cho Lee notes that it is a “gorgeous Cristal with a fine line of acidity running through it – it vibrates on the palate”. With a WL score of 96, at £192 per bottle (in-bond), it is available in cases of three from Vinum Fine Wines. With an identical WL score of 96, the 2008 Philipponnat Clos des Goisses can be acquired by the case of six for £850 (in bond) from Justerini & Brooks, to be enjoyed within the next decade.

New World to wait for

For some New World picks that are worth putting away for the future, Napa Valley offerings include the 2005 Bond Vecina (owned by the famed Harlan family) and the 2010 Joseph Phelps Vineyards Insignia. In regards to the former, Antonio Galloni stated that he would “prefer to cellar it, as the future for this wine is unquestionably very, very bright”. With a WL score of 97, at £347 per bottle (in-bond) it is an opulent option to be enjoyed within the next twenty years. Of the 2010 Joseph Phelps Vineyards Insignia, Galloni states similarly that “the 2010 will enjoy a long drinking window once it softens”. Achieving a WL score of 96, at £158 per bottle (in-bond), it is available in cases of six from Goedhuis & Co.

Also featured in the above MUST BUY recommendations are: 2016 Cheval des Andes, 2016 La Conseillante, 2015 Fontodi Flaccianello della Pieve, 2015 Jean-Louis Chave Hermitage, 2012 Marc Sorrel Hermitage Le Gréal, 2009 Margaux, 2007 Roberto Voerzio Barolo Cerequio, 2006 Bodegas Vega-Sicilia Unico, 2006 Castello dei Rampolla Sammarco,  2006 Gaja Barolo Sperss, and 1996 Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande.

For personalised, impartial fine wine purchase recommendations, as well as further wine collection analysis, 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).