Marketing and communications: a reference for fine wine PR

Informed by data, enriched by creativity, achieved through storytelling

In the midst of the 2020 global pandemic, after persuasion from some of our longstanding clients, Wine Lister launched its strategic marketing and communications division. We agreed to extend beyond our data roots to help a small handful of producers maintain and grow relationships with key industry figures around the world despite travel restrictions.

This branch of our services has expanded and excelled beyond our expectations, and, as a result, has had a large influence on the launch of our new website and logo. We apply the same rigour and methodology to this work as we do to our data and analysis services and are dedicated to devising effective solutions, both short- and long-term, to ensure the success of our clients’ brands.

With decades of combined fine wine experience across various fields of the industry (in the media, on- and off-trade, and production), our team is uniquely placed to provide strategic advice on how to increase global brand status. Drawing upon our genuine relationships with journalists, critics, merchants, auction houses, and sommeliers, we are dedicated to identifying unexplored opportunities and connecting our clients to those that matter.

Brand strategy

Using market research, case studies, and unrivalled industry insights, Wine Lister adopts a holistic, inherently analytical approach when building a communication strategy for our clients. We refine the stories that will resonate with their target audience and differentiate them from their competitors, while ensuring that their brand DNA remains at the core of the project.

Trade and press communications

Drawing on our unparalleled network, content creation expertise, and in-depth market knowledge, Wine Lister enables fine wine producers to make longstanding connections within the international fine wine sphere. With over 1,000 trade contacts and over 600 press contacts across the globe, we help our clients to establish credibility, build relationships, and effectively promote their wines.

Event organisation

We believe in the power of storytelling: each event is an opportunity to tell your story and connect with your target audience. Having attended hundreds of fine wine events around the world, Wine Lister is uniquely placed to plan and organise flawlessly executed, unforgettable events in London and beyond. Over the last four years of organising events, we have amassed a portfolio of case studies from which we can draw best practice examples and provide informed advice.


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“Wine Lister’s network is second to none. Its trade contact list is unparalleled.”

– Giovanni Mazzei, owner, IPSUS 

“Wine Lister’s widespread connections and insights provide the opportunity to boost activities in multiple sectors of the market in one project. Facing new markets and conducting business in a foreign language, Wine Lister helped me to sharpen and level up the way I talk about Fèlsina wines in English.”

– Michele Parodi, Export Manager, Fèlsina 

Data and analysis: Wine Lister’s bread and butter

Inspiring the design of our new website, our new logo reflects the two branches of our bespoke strategic consulting services – data and analysis, and strategic marketing and communications – which our team often combines to provide the most effective advice to our clients. A serif font and inverted comma evoke storytelling and communications, while a sans-serif font and bar-chart-inspired “E” (maintaining a link with the previous logo and Wine Lister’s roots) represent data and analytics.

Since we were founded in 2016, data has remained at Wine Lister’s core and continues to form a significant part of our fine wine consulting services. In the light of our relaunch last week as a 360 ° consulting agency, we are extremely proud to look back on the development of our analysis (our “bread and butter”). While our original data model still informs a large proportion of our client reports, our analytical consulting now includes a range of bespoke studies and advice, from distribution and pricing to consumer characterisation and blind tasting. We are excited to share with our industry friends, and past, present, and potential clients, exactly what we do and how we can help, and we look forward to watching the branches of our business continue to grow.

The three sub-services outlined below are the key pillars of our data and analysis division, though are merely a starting point for the bespoke analysis we provide.


For the last seven years, Wine Lister has been creating producer positioning reports for many of the world’s top fine wine producers. We offer a 360-degree perspective on the global performance of your wine brand through data-driven benchmarking against custom-built peer groups. Relying on 15 unique data points and including the results of our annual Founding Member Survey, these bespoke studies identify pragmatic opportunities to grow your business, brand, and revenues.

Bespoke consulting

From pricing strategy and pre-acquisition due diligence to market presence analysis and consumer research, Wine Lister has an array of data sources and industry insights to investigate and solve our client’s needs and to deliver substantial value to their company. Designed and executed on a case-by-case basis and guided by a wealth of critics’ scores, market prices, and our partnership with Wine-Searcher: we can help guide your strategy.

Market research

Wine Lister’s trade surveys reveal industry perceptions of your wine and business activities across your key markets. Using our network of over 400 senior industry figures around the world, our questionnaires provide invaluable insights to inform your strategy and drive the growth of your brand. Thanks to our unparalleled network, we can ensure all the potential benefits and risks of our client’s major decisions have been screened.


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“Over the last few years, Wine Lister’s reports have allowed us to monitor precisely the evolution of our brand’s positioning around the world, particularly in the UK, and have helped us assess in great detail the strengths and weaknesses of our distribution.”


“The analyses produced enable wine professionals and consumers alike to get a comprehensive picture of the fine wine market and the positioning of each cru. As producers, we appreciate the expertise of the team behind the platform, which is both modern and highly professional.”


Wine Lister relaunches as a 360° consulting agency


“The launch of our new website and logo marks a significant moment in the evolution of Wine Lister. The new design reflects the holistic nature of our activities, providing bespoke strategic consulting and insider insights to key players in the fine wine ecosystem, marrying analysis and marketing services.”


Over the last seven years, Wine Lister’s increasing wealth of fine wine knowledge and market intelligence has become a key asset to more than 100 of the world’s top wineries, encouraging the evolution of the company’s strategy and services to match the needs of this group. To reflect the fine wine consulting offering at the core of our business, Wine Lister is launching a new website accompanied by an updated brand image.

Wine Lister’s online database of over 80 million rows of data will continue to exist on its new site, and its Pro+ subscription continues to help fine wine buying and sales teams around the world. Meanwhile, the new website will provide visitors with a richer insight into Wine Lister’s flourishing strategic analysis and communication services.

Wine Lister’s groundbreaking data model continues to inform a significant part of these consulting solutions, which now also include a range of bespoke analysis and advice, from distribution and pricing to strategic marketing, communications, and event organisation. As outlined on its new site, Wine Lister’s specialist services are designed entirely around each wine producer’s unique challenges and ambitions. These services can be loosely categorised into two pillars: data and analysis, and strategic marketing and communications.

In practice, these divisions often come together in order to provide the most effective advice to our clients, and are reflected in the dual design of Wine Lister’s new logo: a serif font and inverted comma evoke storytelling and communications, while a sans-serif font and bar-chart-inspired “E” (maintaining a link with the previous logo and Wine Lister’s roots) represent data and analytics.

“We are excited to unveil a new website and logo that accurately reflect who we have evolved to become today. After the last seven years of ceaselessly learning from, and responding to, the needs of the fine wine world’s leading players, we are more focussed than ever on delivering valuable strategic recommendations, backed by our data, our industry expertise, and our relationships. We believe that this new website will allow past, present, and potential clients to understand exactly how we can help them accomplish their goals.”

                         – ELLA LISTER

Part II of Wine Lister’s 2023 Bordeaux Study: what the future holds

Extract: Illustrative analysis of en primeur release prices

Amongst other findings, Part II of Wine Lister’s annual Bordeaux Study, ‘Reaching for the stars’, examines how en primeur pricing over recent vintages compares with quality levels and secondary market prices, to consider what success in Bordeaux’s 2022 campaign might look like.

Extracted from the report, the chart below provides an illustrative analysis of the 2022 en primeur release prices, based on the 110 wines1 covered in the study. As the bulk of releases are yet to enter the market, this is an entirely theoretical projection which, if applied on a case-by-case basis, could nevertheless be a useful benchmark.

An extract from Part II of Wine Lister’s 2023 Bordeaux Study, providing an illustrative analysis of the 2022 en primeur release prices

Wine Lister’s Quality score aggregates recently-published scores from our five Bordeaux partner critics – Antonio Galloni and Neal Martin for, Bettane+Desseauve,, and Ella Lister for Le Figaro – plus a small weighting for their average drinking window. By comparing the Quality score of the 2022 vintage (the highest ever recorded – 927) with the average of the most similar vintages (2015, 2016, 2018, 2019 and 2020), we obtain a quality-price ratio (QPR) of 6.66.

By dividing the Quality score of the 2022 vintage by this same QPR, we obtain a theoretical future market price of €160 for the 2022 vintage. To this price, we apply a discount of between 10% and 25%, corresponding to the minimum saving that consumers would expect to make versus buying the physical product two years later. This gives us an average release price of between €120 and €144 per bottle. By subtracting the average importers’ margin, we arrive at an average ex-négociant release price of €103 to €123 per bottle, i.e. -5% to +26% compared to the ex-négociant release price of 2021.

Out of the 48 releases covered by Wine Lister at the time of publishing, the average release price of the 2022 vintage is €71.3, compared to €62.6 in 2021, representing an increase of 14%.

1Some wines have been excluded due to a lack of regular en primeur releases or unreasonable prices.

Head to Wine Lister’s analysis page here to purchase the full study in English and French, while Pro Subscribers can access their copy for free here.

Critics’ consensus on the top 30 Bordeaux wines of 2022

While the Bordeaux 2022 en primeur campaign is yet to kick off in full swing – with just a handful of key releases entering the market over the past three weeks – Wine Lister’s partner critics’ scores are now in (Antonio Galloni and Neal Martin from Vinous, Jancis RobinsonBettane+Desseauve, and Le Figaro Vin) informing our overarching 100-point Wine Lister score. The WL score is the average score of our five partner critics, normalised to take into account each critic’s scale and scoring habits.

In our latest blog, we examine the wines that gain the top Wine Lister scores in 2022 – a vintage that, despite extreme weather conditions, is projected to be one of the best from this century (recap Ella Lister’s vintage report here).

The top 30 wines of the vintage are shown below, with all estates in this ranking boasting scores of 96 or above. Scores are shown to one decimal place to enable a detailed ranking within the top scorers.

The 30 wines with the highest WL scores, including their points increase versus 2021

Reflecting trade and press sentiment regarding the exceptional quality of the 2022s, wines across the board have generally seen their WL scores increase on last year, and in some cases, significantly. This year, 64 wines achieve WL scores of 95 and over, more than double the number in 2021 (29). While the estates that made up our top 30 last year had an average score of 95.2, this year’s top 30 average 96.8 points.

A glaring observation: only red wines have scored above 96 in 2022 – the vintage having been kinder to Merlots and Cabernets than to their white counterparts, which struggled to maintain acidity in the heat. Only six whites – predominantly sweet wines from Sauternes and Barsac – scored just outside the examined range, with WL scores of around 95. These include – in descending order – Climens, Suduiraut, Doisy-Daëne L’Extravagant de Doisy (last year’s top-scoring wine, with 97 points in 2021), Rayne-VigneauLa Mission Haut-Brion Blanc (the only dry white), and Fargues.

Turning to reds, Cheval Blanc stands at the top of the podium (up 3 points on 2021), followed by Léoville Las Cases (up 3.4 points), Latour (up 2.9 points), Vieux Château Certan (up 2 points), Mouton-Rothschild (up 3.2 points), and Lafite Rothschild (up 2 points), which all boast rounded scores of 98. They are closely tailed by La Conseillante (up 2.1 points), Petrus (up 2.7 points), and Figeac (up 2.6 points), amongst others.

The biggest climbers in the top 30 this year were Léoville Las Cases, with a WL score increase of 3.4 since the 2021, followed by Trotanoy with 3.3, Mouton-Rothschild with 3.2, La Mission Haut-Brion and Beau-Séjour Bécot with 3.1 points. On average, these 30 estates saw an increase of 2.4 points compared to 2021.

Right Bank estates take up the majority of places in this year’s top-30 list (56% compared to 45% in 2021). This is mainly thanks to 10 Saint-Émilion properties and their limestone terroirs featuring in the top 30 – exactly one third – versus 24% last year, whereas Pomerol’s representation is similar year-on-year (23% versus 21%). Other appellations featuring ore strongly in the top 30 are Pauillac (17% up from 14%), and Margaux and Saint-Estèphe (both 7% up from 3%), while Pessac-Léognan and Saint-Julien have seen their listings reduce (10% versus 17%; 5% versus 7%, respectively).

Bordeaux 2022 – part I

Tasting for Le Figaro, Ella Lister and her colleague, Béatrice Delamotte, spent a fortnight in Bordeaux tasting 600 wines en primeur from the extraordinary 2022 vintage – extraordinary in terms of its textures, its accessibility, and its unexpected freshness in such a dry, hot year – that has produced wines with technically high levels of tannin which somehow just melt into the background. We tasted many of the wines together, and sometimes two or three times in order to be able to judge each sample as faithfully as possible.

Château Lafleur

The Vintage

After a difficult 2021 vintage, 2022 is without doubt a contender for the vintage of the century – so far –, showing signs at this early stage of outdoing the magnificent triptych 2018, 2019, and 2020, and will perhaps go down in history as the 1982 has done. After almost 20 years as Technical Director at Château Cos d’Estournel, Dominique Arangoïts expressed this in slightly different words, suggesting that 2022 “might be the wine of my life”.

And the most extraordinary thing is that nobody expected it. The vines were subjected to some of the driest conditions on record, as well as above-average temperatures. However, there were no extreme heatwaves (as in 2003), and night-time temperatures remained relatively cool, dropping on average to around 15°c. The vines grew accustomed to the hot, dry conditions early in the growing season, which meant they adapted their consumption and their canopy growth in order to cope with what little water they had, making do with reserves amassed during a rainy 2021, then a top-up in June, and then surviving 50 dry days until mid-August. Refuting any comparison with 2003, Nicolas Audebert, Managing Director of Châteaux Canon and Rauzan-Ségla, uses the analogy of an office worker being cooped up until August, and getting sunburnt going out into the bright sun for the first time, whereas 2022 was a more gradual acclimatisation for the vines.

Nicolas Audebert, Managing Director of Châteaux Canon, Rauzan-Ségla and Berliquet

One of the buzzwords of the vintage, cited over and over again in our conversations with owners, winemakers, and consultants in the region was ‘resilience’. “ The vines, the soils, and the people were resilient,” said Omri Ram, Cellar Master and Head of Research and Development at Château Lafleur. That the vines survived the prolonged drought with relative ease and produced such stunning results was a shock to everyone, with many vignerons telling us they were more stressed than vines. Mathieu Cuvelier, owner of Clos Fourtet, found the experience quite stressful, even though “there was little that needed doing – no green harvesting, no de-leafing, very light vinification”. Pierre-Olivier Clouet, Technical Director at Château Cheval Blanc concurs, recounting “the vineyard made the wine all by itself”.

By early August the pips were already brown, i.e. phenolically ripe, “We had never witnessed that before” explains Frédéric Faye, the Managing Director of Château Figeac. However, the extreme weather conditions did leave room for mistakes for those were not attentive enough to picking dates or not gentle enough with their extraction. So 2022 wasn’t a vintage of homogenous quality, but overall, it was a pleasure to taste, and much easier for professional tasters than 2021, where we battled with oak, firm tannins, and biting acidity to assess potential quality. This year, the majority of wines are already so expressive and caressing as to be almost ready to drink, while possessing all the necessary attributes to age well.

“The wonderful thing this year is that every grape variety did rather well,” exclaimed Christian Seely, Managing Director of AXA Millésimes, parent company of Château Pichon Baron, explaining that while above all it’s a great Cabernet year, “the Merlots are as beautiful as they’ve ever been”. Many wines in 2022 featured a higher proportion of Merlot than usual, as the Cabernet berries were small and yielded less juice. In fact, 2022 sparked lots of positivity around Merlot, with Stéphanie de Boüard-Rivoal, co-owner of Château Angélus, commenting that the vintage shows “Merlot can exist long into the future”, contrary to recent concerns about its capacity to stand up to a warmer, drier climate.

Stéphanie de Boüard-Rivoal, co-owner and CEO of Château Angélus

The Wine

The red wines – the unquestionable winners in 2022 – are dense and concentrated, yet fresh, fruity, floral, and sappy. Above all, the best wines display a range of magical textures from silk and cashmere to duckling feathers, and a common and delightful thread through many of the wines is a vegetal florality reminiscent of the sap of fresh cut flowers. The least successful wines present harsh tannins. The best ones, on the other hand, are so fresh and tender that you would never know they came from such a dry, hot vintage, nor guess the resulting high IPTs and low pHs.

The dry whites, however, found it harder to contend with the vintage, and the low acidity levels can be more apparent than in the red. There are, nonetheless, a handful of successful whites worth looking out for, which possess the best and subtlest exotic notes, a finesse and softness that counteract the richness of the vintage. The sweet wines are very good, if not incredible, rich with delicious botrytis flavours and very high residual sugar levels.

The 2022 vintage is not one with an obviously overperforming appellation or subregion. Left and Right Bank made astonishing wines, and we have been inspired by our tastings to bestow an unprecedented number of potential 100-point scores to the wines. You can discover all eight possibly “perfect” wines, and hundreds more, on the Wine Lister and Figaro Vin  websites now.

Now published: Part I of Wine Lister’s 2023 Bordeaux Study

Key findings from this year’s first regional report

In anticipation of this year’s en primeur releases, Wine Lister has published Part 1 of its annual in-depth Bordeaux Study. In collaboration with Wine-Searcher, our market overview examines the region’s price performance and comparative popularity progression, and examines the wines that have seen the greatest increase in Wine Lister Quality, Brand, and Economic scores over the last year. Drawing upon valuable insight from 48 leading trade survey respondents, the study also identifies which properties have benefited from a rise in trade confidence over the past year, and explores the key benefits of the en primeur system.

Please see our key findings below, or download the study digest in English: Bordeaux Study Digest Part 1 – 2023 ENG or in French: Bordeaux Study Digest – 2023 FR.

France’s 50 best winemakers: Domaine Zind-Humbrecht’s Olivier Humbrecht

Head of the estate and descendant of a family whose winemaking roots go back 500 years: “You can enjoy a rewarding conversation with a great wine all on your own”.

The eighth in Le Figaro Vin’s series finds us heading back to Alsace, to Domaine Zind-Humbrecht in Turckheim. Here we meet winemaker Olivier Humbrecht, #43, who has been responsible for the cultivation of over 40 hectares of biodynamic vines since the early 2000s. Picking up the baton from his father, Leonard, and assisted by his son, Pierre-Émile, Olivier Humbrecht creates sublime wines which fully express their extraordinary terroirs. He nurtures those terroirs with passion, commitment, and a profound respect for their natural balance.

Le Figaro Vin: How does it feel to be crowned a winemaking champion?

Olivier Humbrecht: I am not sure what a winemaking champion is. Is it someone who wins a race or who tops the rankings? Everything is so subjective in the field of wine, depending on individual taste and the circumstances of tasting. If you really want to make a great wine you go through moments of dread, you are tested, you must challenge yourself repeatedly and be ready for the worst that the climate, technical issues, society, or anything else might throw at you. It can be a very stressful experience but, when you know you have given it your all, you have nothing to regret.

Have you been training for long?

Our family has been making wine in Alsace since the early seventeenth century. My first officialvintage is 1989. I am the 12th generation, my son the 13th. He joined the estate three years ago. It is important to acknowledge how far you have come and what you have achieved, as it is for any athlete. Training is partly to do with seeing how far you can push things without running into trouble. You have to take risks to win a race, otherwise you will never attain excellence, but you must be prepared for those risks. Training, for us, might better be called an apprenticeship in viticulture. There is a different level of risk management in the vineyard to that in the cellar. In the cellar the winemaker is exposed to fewer external hazards than in the vineyard. Just like in chess, you have to anticipate all the potential moves in order to react to each of the tricks that nature plays on you.

Who is your mentor?

My father. Your mentor is the person who can keep you motivated, especially in complex, adverse, or unforeseen circumstances. Others can provide technical support, but not necessarily moral support, and that is important too.

Is wine a team sport?

Yes, absolutely. It’s extremely difficult to make a wine on your own. A winemaker depends on the contribution of others.

What is the key to making a good wine? The terroir or the winemaker?

You need both. The best racing driver will never win if he has a poor car, and he needs a support team too. You do need skill, but to make the most of it you need a terroir with a big personality. I always say that the quality of a wine is down to the winemaker, who has to make technical decisions, while a great wine is down to the terroir. The personality of a great wine is innate in a great terroir. And more than the terroir, our land, it’s down to the actual soil. The difference between a good wine and a great one is that the latter goes beyond the basic question of technical quality. It’s not just a case of being well made, a great wine has the capacity to transport the taster, to take him on a journey through time and culture, and to inspire him. And it must have a marked originality, transmitted through the terroir.

To what do you owe your success?

That rather begs the question of whether I have succeeded…I think that you really have to walk your talk. We can say all sorts of things that appeal to our customers, that the wine is unfiltered, that the vineyard is worked by horses. And while it is true that these things help to make great wines it’s not enough to say it, you have to actually do it. You have to be honest and humble. From my perspective honesty is an essential quality for making a great wine, you cannot afford to cut corners. It is possible to make a great wine by luck, and occasionally that may happen. But a great winemaker should be able to make a great wine, whether in a favourable vintage or a more testing one.

Is your father proud of you?

Yes, I think he is.

And your son?

You would have to ask him, but the fact that he has decided to work on the estate tells me that he sees something in it. One of the proudest feelings a father can have for his son is to have been able to pass on his love for the land. That love is visceral, a bit like one’s love for their child. That may be harder to understand if you don’t have a viticultural or agricultural background from birth.

Your favourite colour? 

Grey or black, it changes with the seasons, white in spring, perhaps more yellow in summer and orange in autumn. Possibly green as the colour of nature. As far as wine is concerned, I absolutely refuse to answer the question, it is far too limiting. There are very good wines in every colour, not just red or white, although I have never seen blue wine or green wine! I don’t have a favourite between dry wines and sweet wines. What I don’t have time for are wines that bore me, which don’t have a story to tell. It has nothing to do with price, I want to feel the stamp of the winemaker’s labour, his dedication and his work ethic. And my mind is open to wines from across the world.

The king of grape varieties?

Jacques Puiset, former President of the Union of Oenologists, used to say that we should never blame the grape variety or the vine if the wine is no good. I wholeheartedly agree, there is no such thing as a lesser grape variety. Nor do I think that any grape variety is king, merely that some varieties are more tractable than others. When a grape variety is on the more testing side – such as Sylvaner, Pinot Blanc, or Auxerrois – so that you have to put more into your viticulture and into selecting the right location, your sense of achievement can be all the greater if you produce a great wine. You win more races with Pinot Noir, Riesling, Gewurztraminer, or even Pinot Gris. Muscat is rarely planted in Alsace, around one percent overall, but that would be a king for me, because if you come in first with a grape variety like that, it’s amazing!

Your favourite wine?

The Rangen de Thann Grand Cru. This is the most demanding of our vineyards, being very steep and evocative of extreme effort, but the hard work filters through to the wine, which is not always the case. It’s my favourite wine, not only for its quality but also for the energy you experience in the terroir. There is something about it which I find invigorating. For me a wine is a bit like a person. When you taste it there is a dialogue between you and the wine, and one wine can be tedious while another is animating.

If your wine was a person, who would it be?

My wine is like a painting, like Picasso’s Guernica! One time in New York I spotted that it was on exhibition at MoMA. I felt the full power of the painting, the full import of the painter’s expression, experienced all the pain and sorrow. I don’t mean that Rangen de Thann is a source of pain and sorrow, but it transmits a powerful emotion. If I had to compare it to a person it would be Jacques Brel, who had the capacity to thrill his audience through the power of his words.

What are the best circumstances in which to taste your wine?

You need to get into shape to taste a great wine. You have to prepare mentally and be open to pleasure. Then there are the technical requirements, such as the glass and the temperature. Many people say that a great wine is for sharing, but sometimes you are entitled to be selfish. Just as you have the right to watch a good film all on your own, you can enjoy a rewarding conversation with a great wine all on your own. There is one condition: don’t make others envious by telling them they have missed out, whereas you had it all to yourself! I frequently open a great bottle without regretting it later.

Have you ever thought about chemically enhancing yourself, or your wine? 

Me, never, unless you count a glass of wine or an espresso…As far as I’m concerned adulterating wine is dishonest. A winemaker who does everything right can sometimes mitigate the effect of excessively hot summers and excessively cold or wet winters. If you genuinely give it everything the wine will always have something worth saying. Adulterating wine is just like Photoshop, you can never enhance the real thing. Or it may turn out that the wine is drunk by people who haven’t grasped the true value of the original, in which case it’s to do with customer education. Chemical intervention distorts the wine’s meaning. If you finally hit a brick wall, and the wine is really no good, your only options are to distil it or to make vinegar.

For what price would you be prepared to sell your estate?

That’s simply out of the question. People often say that everything has its price, but your love for your child is priceless. Would a mother sell her child? It’s almost an ethical and philosophical question. There are some plots that I might eventually sell some day, because of their limited agronomic potential, but without the good plots, the heart of the estate, there would be nothing left to live for.

What has been your most innovative strategy in the vineyard and in the cellar?

There is not much in the way of innovation. I am a fan of Einstein, who said that the most beautiful mathematical solution is always the simplest one. Innovation consists in seeking out the simplest and most beautiful pattern of work, to achieve beauty in the action of working. That involves giving up certain ways of doing things, even if you take advantage of other technical advances to relieve the more gruelling aspects of manual labour.

Who would be your ideal successor on the podium?

My son! Or my daughter, should she ever decide to work on the estate.

France’s 50 best winemakers: Volnay’s Guillaume d’Angerville

Head of Domaine Marquis d’Angerville, which has been in his family for 220 years: “A musician once said to me…d’Angerville wines are Bach”.

For the sixth interview in Le Figaro Vin’s series we make our first visit to Burgundy where Guillaume d’Angerville, #45, creates some of the region’s most elegant wines.

Le Figaro Vin: How does it feel to be crowned a winemaking champion?

Guillaume d’Angerville: I don’t feel anything because I don’t see it that way. From my perspective, it’s my terroir that is the winemaking champion, not me. I am very fortunate to work with these terroirs and my job is to do my best to help them achieve their full potential.

Have you been training for long?

My background is rather unusual. My father strongly encouraged me to do something else with my life before taking on the estate and I followed his advice. I was a banker for many years. I still spent a lot of time on the estate, of course, and I rarely missed a harvest. My real training only started 20 years ago. 2022 was my 20th harvest.

Who is your mentor?

I have a number of mentors. I was lucky enough to spend a lot of time with Aubert de Villaine (of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, ed.) over a period of almost 10 years, when we jointly ran the team applying for World Heritage site status from Unesco. We worked together closely and, without being aware of it, I learnt a great deal from him during that time – even though we never talked directly about our estates or how to make wine. We remain sufficiently close for me to call him from time to time when I have a question, or feel uncertain, or want to get a different perspective on things. I should also mention two other mentors, Dominique Lafon and Jean-Marc Roulot, who, by a strange coincidence, are both from Meursault. They were enormously helpful when I took over the estate. They are not so much mentors as interlocutors with whom I can have the kind of completely honest conversations that help me progress.

Is wine a team sport?

Yes of course, you might even say that our wines would be every bit as good if I wasn’t there. I am just a team leader. I try to instil a desire for excellence in my team, but it’s the team that does the work. Good wine starts in the vineyard, and our vines are tended by a team of winegrowers who are passionate about their craft. Everything else flows from that: the harvest, the vinification, the élevage. My role is to supervise, to make sure we attend to every last detail in order to achieve the best possible results.

What is the key to making a good wine? The terroir or the winemaker?

Without a doubt, the terroir matters more than the winemaker. But without the winemaker the terroir cannot fully express itself. It’s a reciprocal relationship. A journalist once said to me, “Guillaume, your wines are not made they are born”. That made me realise that I am a bit like a midwife whose role is to help with my wines’ birth and ensure that they are born healthy, even that they are well brought up. When you have children, you appreciate that you have some influence, but you know that it’s limited. A child’s personality has to develop independently. You have to be there for your terroir, but also careful not to get in the way.

To whom or to what do you owe your success?

Above all, I owe my success to our very distant ancestors, to those Cistercian monks of Burgundy who understood the region and designed the template for Burgundian viticulture. We cannot overstate the fact that the Burgundy of today owes everything to those people who worked the land with quite extraordinary self-sacrifice and persistence. At a more personal level, I am indebted to my grandfather and my father, who have both played an exceptional part in our estate’s success. My grandfather was a major contributor to the fight against fraud in Burgundy, and to the move to estate-bottling. For 52 years my father was a servant to Burgundy wines. He left the estate in perfect condition with an impeccable reputation. When I came on the scene the level was so high that I had a long way to fall but, in all honesty, I couldn’t fail. I think I have moved the estate forward, through a combination of hard work, humility, and a passionate desire, shared with my team, to make the best possible wines. You have to have good people around you and that is one of my strengths: picking genuine talent and knowing how to delegate.

Was your father proud of you?

He never said so to me. Some kind souls have told me that he was, and I am soft enough to believe them.

Who is your biggest supporter?

I hope that my wife is. You could also say it’s a bottle of Clos des Ducs. My reputation, at some level, is indistinguishable from that of Clos des Ducs.

Your favourite colour? 


The king of grape varieties?

You already know the answer, Pinot Noir.

Your favourite wine?

Clos des Ducs, inevitably.

Your favourite vintage?

I would pick out 1964 as the best vintage in living memory in Volnay. Were I to choose from the wines I have made myself, then it would be a very close call between 2010 and 2020, with 2020 just ahead, though it is still much too early to say. The jury is still out.

If your wine was a person, who would it be?

It is frequently said that a wine is like its maker. I like wines that are very elegant, very precise, very distinct, and very pure. A musician once said to me that Lafarge wines are Mozart and d’Angerville wines are Bach. That is high praise indeed. I wouldn’t dare say it myself, but I am delighted to hear it said.

What are the best circumstances in which to taste your wine?

With serenity, in a relatively small group, and ideally in my cellar.

With whom?

With friends, of course. The main thing is to taste with people who love wine, who do not overinterpret, who simply want to enjoy the wine and decide whether or not they like it. And I find, increasingly, that I prefer plain language, free from superfluous description, and a relaxed tasting, free from endless comparisons of one wine to another.

Have you ever thought about chemically enhancing yourself, or your wine? 

Personally never, still less for my wine. It is a topic that crops up regularly these days, in conversations about global warming and its potential impact on Burgundy and on wine. I always say – somewhat guiltily – that global warming has some upsides for us, in particular that we now get to harvest fully ripened grapes which don’t need adulterating with sugar. Since I took over the reins, 20 years ago, I have never chaptalized my wines. The question came up in 2021 because the grapes had a much lower sugar content than usual. I chose not to add sugar and the alcohol level of my Volnay Premiers Crus is going to be in the region of 12.5% – the lowest in the last 20 years. The minute that we start to tamper with the grape juice that is destined to be wine, we upset a natural balance that we can never then recreate. It is better to stick with the natural balance.

For what price would you be prepared to sell your estate?

I cannot answer that question. You have to appreciate that the estate has been in my family for 220 years. I am the sixth generation. Since selling is not in the frame, you could say the estate is priceless.

 Who is your strongest competition in Burgundy?

I can’t think of any. What is deeply intriguing about this region is that we are not competitors in the usual sense. Each winemaker has his unique terrain, makes distinctive wines, and has his own following. Every winemaker in Burgundy could sell his crop several times over. By the same token, in Volnay there are some very good winemakers and we are all friends. My real adversaries are the people who make my job much more difficult, all the bureaucrats who tie our hands with endless red tape. In all honesty, it’s bureaucracy that is the enemy.

What are you most proud of?

Do you know the quote from Winston Churchill? “My most brilliant achievement was my ability to be able to persuade my wife to marry me.”

What has been your most innovative strategy in the vineyard and in the cellar?

In the vineyard, I don’t know if I can claim that being biodynamic is an innovation, but it is the development that has truly changed my viticulture and my wine, and which now underpins the estate. As for the cellar, I cannot claim to have made any hugely innovative changes. I have often been asked: “What has your former profession as a banker brought to the table?” In banking every detail counts, and when you have to follow a process you approach it systematically, one step at a time, looking for incremental improvements. I have tried to replicate that approach in both the winery and the cellar, aiming for marginal gains: this year for example, we have invested in a state-of-the-art wine pump. We are talking minor details in themselves but, when you add them all up, they make all the difference.

Who would be your ideal successor on the podium?

We have a huge number of talented young winegrowers which makes me extremely optimistic for Burgundy’s future. Many of them have travelled elsewhere, tried out other ways of working, and have then come back full of promising ideas. Plenty of names spring to mind – and not necessarily only those who sell their wines at €1,400 a bottle. As for my successor at the domaine, that question is already percolating. I hope that by the end of the year, or next year at least, I will be in a position to announce who will take over.

France’s 50 best winemakers: Claire Villars-Lurton, winemaker in Bordeaux

Owner and winemaker of Château Haut-Bages Libéral in Pauillac and Château Ferrière in Margaux: “If it was a person my wine would be an opera-singer, like Pavarotti”.

The fifth in Le Figaro Vin’s series brings us back to Bordeaux to meet Claire Villars-Lurton, #46 best winemaker in France, who has embraced biodynamic viticulture to create her exquisite wines at her two estates. In her interview she shares her passion for a vocation to which she has devoted the last 30 years.

Le Figaro Vin: How does it feel to be crowned a winemaking champion?

Claire Villars-Lurton: I am not sure that I am a winemaking champion, but I do feel that I am now on the right path and that I have fully found my feet. When I started there was so much to learn and I really struggled. After a time I wanted to take the lead. Today I feel that everything I have set in train makes sense and that I have a clear grasp of the way ahead.

Have you been training for long?

Yes, for almost 30 years. I have tried a variety of approaches and it hasn’t always been easy. I question almost everything and am never satisfied, which prompts me to challenge myself and also to push my colleagues out of their comfort zone. I cannot bear being comfortable and I don’t like treading water. It is now over 20 years since I took over at Château Haut-Bages Libéral and Château Ferrière. For the last 15 years I have immersed myself in a comprehensive training in biodynamic agriculture. I think it’s wonderful that there is now so much awareness and appreciation of its methodology, so much expertise, research, and literature, all of which paves the way towards an alternative viticulture.

Who is your mentor?

I have a number of mentors. The most important guide on my biodynamic adventure has been Alain Moueix who, crucially, has convinced my colleagues that this is the way forward. Jacques Lurton has shared his expertise on all things wine. Alain Canet (agroforestry adviser to Château Cheval Blanc, ed.) has helped me with the planting of trees in the vineyards. Four or five years ago I, my husband Gonzague (Lurton, owner of Château Durfort-Vivens, ed.), and the agronomist Konrad Schreiber, set up a knowledge-sharing platform for winemakers to pool their experience and expertise, “La Belle Vigne”. I have found this really helpful.

Is wine a team sport?

More than ever, especially when you don’t take shortcuts and don’t introduce cultured yeasts. We have to work with what we have, so we need to operate as a team, from vineyard to cellar. Wine is a team sport played in front of a huge number of spectators who are focused on the product.

What is the key to making a good wine? The terroir or the winemaker?

Always the terroir! But you need both. You can make a poor wine from a great terroir, while a good winemaker can never work miracles with poor terroir.

To what do you owe your success?

I am not sure that I have been successful. I would say that I owe a great deal to my education and my family. I had dynamic parents who refused to rest on their laurels. Mum was a role model, even though she was very young when she left us, and I never got to see her at work. I felt secure in the knowledge that my grandfather, my uncle, and my husband all had my back. Becoming sole owner at 30 developed my sense of responsibility. I knew that my family was always there for me, so now I am delighted by the thought that my children want to take up the reins.

Are your children proud of you?

You would have to ask them, as they certainly won’t tell me, but I think so.

Who is your biggest supporter?

My husband.

Your favourite colour? 

Orange, because it’s a warm, bright colour that’s full of energy. As far as wine is concerned then, of course, it’s red.

The king of grape varieties?

Entirely predictably, Cabernet Sauvignon.

Your favourite wine?

Château Haut-Bages Libéral 2018.

Your favourite vintage?

I really like 2020, which is a bit like 2010.

If your wine was a person, who would it be?

It would be an opera-singer, like Pavarotti. Brilliant and luminous, with a perfect timbre, at once powerful and restrained.

What are the best circumstances in which to taste your wine?

I try to make a wine that can be enjoyed whatever the circumstances. Ideally, it’s when you share it with good friends or with family, at your leisure and with a lot of love.

Have you ever thought about chemically enhancing yourself, or your wine? 

Never! I am called Claire and a given name like that means that I cannot cheat. I think our first names determine who we are. I’m a completely open book, so much so that I reveal too much, reveal everything. So absolutely no chemical enhancement for me, not even make-up.

For what price would you be prepared to sell your estate?

Money doesn’t interest me. I will never sell. It’s not money that makes me happy; it’s the tool of my trade, my land, that brings me joy.

Who is your strongest competition in Bordeaux?

My husband. He’s not really a competitor – if he were listening, I don’t think he’d take it very well! – but, all the same, there’s a slight competitive edge between Gonzague and me, which makes us motivate each other and which always keeps us on our toes. We both want to do our best and he is always pushing me to the next level. I try to match him, or even outperform him [laughs]. We really complement each other, and we admire each other a lot; for me to love someone is to admire them.

What is the competition that you fear the most?

People who cheat or use others to get ahead. I try to succeed on my own merits.

What are you most proud of?

My children.

What has been your most innovative strategy in the vineyard and in the cellar?

Bringing trees into the vineyard, embracing agroforestry, all the work we put in today to support the soil as a living organism. Our approach is to work organically, from the soil and roots up, to produce robust, healthy grapes more resistant to diseases and parasites.

In the cellar we have developed an innovative approach to protecting our wine against oxidisation, one which allows us to use the least sulphur possible, thereby reducing additives to a minimum. The active ingredient in sulphur is only part of the whole element. Although sulphur is indispensable, its use in the battle against oxidisation can be radically reduced, and that’s where our work is bearing fruit. Indeed, we are pioneers in the field.

Who would be your ideal successor on the podium?

My children, obviously. Inheritance is a central part of our Latin culture. I inherited my property and I want to leave something for the next generation.