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.


September releases from La Place de Bordeaux: week three

Releases from two cult Californian producers have taken centre stage this week so far – see the analysis below.

Vérité 2017s 

The 2017 vintage of the Vérité trio – La Muse, Le Désir, and La Joie – was released on Monday, at £320 per bottle each (in-bond). The latest releases have picked up much praise from critics, and mark an historic year for the estate – completing its harvest one week before the arrival of North California’s devastating Tubbs Fire, Vérité’s vineyards escaped unscathed, and their grapes picked before any smoke taint from neighbouring areas could set in. This also marks the first collective release of Vérité’s flagship wines in an assorted case, with previous vintages available to purchase separately.

Comprising 100% Merlot grapes for the first time since its conception, La Muse 2017 receives 96 points from Wine Lister partner critic, Antonio Galloni. He notes that the vintage “is aromatically deep, beautifully persistent and just impeccable in its balance”, stating that he “liked it more than the 2016”. A price of £320 places the 2017 20% below the current market price of the 2016, which has risen over 30% in price since its release, and has limited remaining market availability.

Le Désir 2017 obtains 98 points from Galloniits highest ever score from the critic. He states it is “off the charts fabulous”, and describes notes of “mocha, chocolate, licorice, leather, menthol, pine and spice”. Akin to La Muse, market availability of last year’s release is scarce, illustrating its good track record of selling through post-release. Keeping in mind the 2017’s record-breaking score, it will be interesting to see if this trend continues this year, given the collective format in which the wines are being sold.

La Joie 2017 breaks the same record as its sibling, Le Désir, receiving its highest score to date from Galloni (96). He calls it “another gorgeous wine in this lineup”, describing “hints of rose petal, lavender, mint and blood orange”, and concluding that it is “a stunning wine by any measure”.

Joseph Phelps 

Joseph Phelps’ Napa Valley vineyards – which saw their hottest recorded temperatures in 2017

Insignia 2017 entered the market yesterday at £160 per bottle in-bond (flat on the 2016 release price). As we were told in a recent Zoom tasting with Phelps’ granddaughter and the winery’s Director of Business Development, Elizabeth Neuman, the 2017 vintage lives up to her vision of Insignia as “a tangible legacy of Joe himself – achieving the best of the best”. Neuman informed us of Winemaker, Ashley Hepworth’s recent dedication to achieving texture in the wine, through which she has experimented with blending trials prior to ageing.

Awarding Insignia 2017 91-94 points, Galloni indeed describes a “dark, sumptuous and enveloping feel, with a real sense of breadth and textural resonance”, adding that “more than anything else, the 2017 is all about palate richness”. Wine Lister likewise recognised the finessed texture of the vintage, with Wine Lister CEO, Ella Lister, calling it “supple, gentle, and silky” on the palate, complete with “dark fruit, plum, and chocolate” on the nose.

Frequent heatwaves in 2017 saw record-high temperatures reached throughout the growing season, including an instance of 46.7°C, recorded in Phelps’ Saint Helena Ranch during Labor Day weekend. The 2017 vintage is consequentially the winery’s smallest in 20 years, with total production down 60% on the 2016.  The significant reduction in the volume released this year, as well as the estate’s developing style, may work to encourage interest.

Also released over the past two days: Orma 2018, Petrolo Galatrona 2018, and Siepi 2018.

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Rounding up the second week of Place de Bordeaux releases

Sampled by the Wine Lister team at last week’s CVBG Beyond Bordeaux tasting, the latest Place de Bordeaux releases cover a range of regions and price points. Below we examine some of the highlights:

Wednesday 9th September 

Released at c.£225 per bottle (in-bond), Beaucastel Hommage à Jacques Perrin 2018 enters the market below the current prices of the two previous vintages (see graph below). Hommage was a Wine Lister favourite this year. We detected bright, candied strawberries, orange skin, and clove, while its mouthfeel offered a momentary grip of tannins, followed by a silky-smooth finish.

 

With a 15% reduction in volume released this year, alongside the château’s unwavering reputation for producing benchmark quality in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, the new vintage is worth considering for future drinking. In the meantime, back vintages 20152012, and 2009 also look good in terms of price and quality. Writing for JancisRobinson.com, Tom Parker MW awards the 2018 17+ points, noting “meaty, earthy fruit on the nose, very complex already”, and “damson and morello cherry” on the palette.

Inglenook Rubicon 2017 also entered the market on Wednesday at £120 per bottle (in-bond). Produced by the estate since 1978, the flagship wine has maintained a score of 95 or above from Wine Lister partner critic, Antonio Galloni, over the past five vintages, and the latest release is no exception. Awarding it 95 points, he describes notes of “red fruit, cedar, sweet pipe tobacco, menthol and licorice” that “all develop in the glass”. Our team detected complex spice and oak, softened by a gentle hint of vanilla.

Thursday 10th September 

Released yesterday at £54 per bottle (in-bond), Cheval des Andes 2017 receives 17.5+ points from Tom Parker MW for JancisRobinson.com. He describes “intense and expansive black fruit and spices on the nose, with a hint of black olive and violet”, and “blueberry, violet and dried herbs” on the palette. He concludes, “I expect this to become even more impressive after 5 years in bottle, though you could drink it sooner”. Having tasted a flight of recent back vintages at the time of last year’s release with Technical Director, Gérald Gabillet, the Wine Lister team can attest to Cheval des Andes‘ continued upward quality trajectory. We noted a definite complexity within the latest vintage, which offers a nose of Parma violets, white pepper, and bright berries. Cheval des Andes 2017 enters the market under current prices of the last three vintages, and is worth snapping up if there remains any availability.

Solaia 2017 completes the quartet of releases from the past couple of days. Matching last year’s release price of £175 per bottle (in-bond), the latest vintage comes onto the market comfortably under current prices of the previous two (which have increased their respective values by c.20% since release – see chart below). Wine Lister partner critic, Antonio Galloni, awards Solaia 2017 95+ points, and describes “terrific aromatic expansiveness and tons of persistence”. There is anticipation for this score to improve: “I can’t wait to taste it with a bit more time in bottle”, he adds. We tasted the 2017 last week, and were indeed impressed with its development, finding an elegant nose of violet drops and cocoa powder. Given its impressive quality in such a challenging year, and the wine’s history of good price performance post-release, this is well worth securing now.

Among other benefits available exclusively to the trade, Wine Lister’s Pro+ Subscription offers real-time release alerts and live analysis on major wine releases throughout the vinous calendar. Please email us at team@wine-lister.com to enquire.


September releases from La Place de Bordeaux: week two

The last two days of Place de Bordeaux releases have included vintages from three powerhouse producers of different regions, whose commonality lies in their use of Bordeaux varietals. Below we examine these key releases.

Monday 7th September

The second week of September Place de Bordeaux releases began with the latest offerings from cult Californian producer, Opus One. Described by Wine Lister partner critic, Antonio Galloni, as “one of the most complete wines of the vintage”, 2017 Opus One was released onto the UK market at £228 per bottle – the same price as the 2016. Awarding it 95+ points, he states that the 2017 is “a dense, full-throttle beauty”, with “a distinctly red-toned fruit profile that distinguishes it from the surrounding vintages”. Although receiving one point less than the 2016 (which has a score of 96+ from Galloni), the latest vintage holds particular significance. 91% of fruit had been picked just before the devastating Californian wildfires commenced, eradicating two lots of Opus One vines. Awarding 17.5 points to the 2017, Wine Lister partner critic, Jancis Robinson, notes that there is “not a trace of smoke taint”, and describes “a combination of savoury and something as sweet and chalky as Edinburgh rock”.

Both the historic nature of the vintage, and the reduction in volume released this year are facts sure to encourage high levels of interest. Opus One is, perhaps unsurprisingly, the number one US wine (and joint-fifth overall) voted by the trade to have seen the sharpest rise in demand, as shown below:

Results from Wine Lister’s 2019 Founding Members survey, showing the consensus on the top 10 wines that have seen the sharpest rise in demand

Tuesday 8th September

Kicking off yesterday’s releases, Masseto 2017 was released, and merchants were offering at around £480 per bottle. Though slightly higher than last year’s first tranche release price (readers should note that this year, there is only one single tranche), the 2017 enters the market 11% below the current price of the 2016. Antonio Galloni gives the 2017 96-99 points (up from 94-97 for the 2016), calling it a “spectacular wine in the making”, with notes of “red cherry jam, mocha, leather, licorice and a dash of new oak”. While 2017 will be remembered as one of the hottest and driest growing seasons in recent history, Winemaker, Axel Heinz, states that the vintage “managed to encapsulate all the ripeness and concentration” of the climatic conditions. Indeed, Galloni notes that the latest release is “quite simply a remarkable wine for such a challenging year”. Masseto already earns strong acclaim as the wine to have seen the third-sharpest rise in demand according to the trade (see above) – the 15% reduction in volume released onto the market from last year will no doubt only encourage requests for the 2017 further.

The second wine from the cult producer, Massetino 2018 was also released yesterday, at a likely UK market price of c.£205 per bottle. Although its second vintage, this is the first international release of Massetino, as last year’s distribution was limited to the Italian and the US markets only. We sampled the latest release at CVBG’s Beyond Bordeaux tasting, and found it to have expressive, concentrated fruit on the nose, and more refined notes of Marcello cherry and minerality on the palette.

Yesterday’s releases ended with a bang, as Latour released its 2009 vintage. Merchants offering at c.£860 per bottle place the 2009 just under the current market price of the iconic 2010. This is the first ex-château stock to be released since its original en primeur release, and is available at a c.10% premium to existing stock on the market. Wine Lister partner critic, Neal Martin, awards the latest release 99 points, stating that it “is endowed with a simply magnificent nose with intense blackberry and cassis fruit laced with minerals and graphite, extremely focused to the point of overwhelming the sense”. “Wow”, he concludes.

Among other benefits available exclusively to the trade, Wine Lister’s Pro+ Subscription offers real-time release alerts and live analysis on major wine releases throughout the vinous calendar. Please email us at team@wine-lister.com to enquire.


The start of September releases: contributions from all continents

The Place de Bordeaux September releases commenced this week (Tuesday 1st September), launching the distribution of several New World (and a few Old World) icons through its impressive network. The releases have so far exhibited high praise from critics. This affirms the increasing appeal of New World wines, despite the current economic crisis making for an unlucky welcome.

Choices from Chile

Clos Apalta opened the stage on Tuesday, with a vintage that marks its 20th anniversary, as honoured by the 2017’s commemorative bottle. Receiving 100 points from James Suckling, and 95 points from Luis Gutiérrez for Wine Advocate, its average critics’ score of 97.5 matches both the 2016 and 2015 vintages. We sampled it at this week’s Bordeaux and Beyond tasting, organised by négociant CVBG, and found notes of bright red fruit, spice, and orange peel. Despite being one of the most expensive recent vintages (joint with 2016) at £74.50 per bottle (in-bond), Clos Apalta has no doubt achieved a high quality for this anniversary bottle.

Another Chilean entry, Almaviva 2018 was released at £101.00 per bottle (in-bond) on Wednesday (2nd September) – c.4% down on last year. Its average critics’ score of 97 points places it in line with 2017 as the joint-best average score to date, which, alongside its slight reduction in volume from last year, may stimulate demand. Indeed, we found the 2018 to be bright and energetic, with notes of ripe currants, green tomato, and spice.

The Wine Lister team sample 2018s from Seña and Chadwick with Owner, Eduardo Chadwick, and his team

Released on Thursday (3rd September) at £82.50 per bottle (in-bond), Seña 2018 is “the best vintage of this decade”, according to Owner, Eduardo Chadwick. He explained to us that growing conditions in 2018 were balanced between the two previous vintages (2016 was very cool, while 2017 was hot and dry), creating “almost a perfect season”. The vintage receives 100 points from James Suckling, and 98 points from Luis Gutiérrez for Wine Advocate, making it Seña’s highest-ever average score from those two critics – 99. Our team was equally impressed in our virtual tasting, noting its velvet mouthfeel, silky tannins, and juicy freshness. Chadwick 2018 was also released this week (just 6000 bottles), acquiring an average critics’ score of 97.5 at £226.33 per bottle (in-bond).

Introducing Italy

Bibi Graetz Testamatta 2018 and Bibi Graetz Colore 2018 entered the market on Tuesday (1st September), at £70 and £180 per bottle (in-bond), respectively. Both wines offer significant discounts from their previous releases, and have achieved praise from critics. James Suckling gives 97 points to Testamatta 2018, describing a “cherry and lemon rind character”, and “fine tannins”, and 100 points to Colore 2018, calling it “one of the best vintages ever produced. The high quality and suitable pricing of both wines will likely be embraced in the present economic climate.

An Australian addition

Jim Barry The Armagh Shiraz 2016 entered the market on Wednesday, at c.£151 per bottle (in-bond), marking the producer’s inaugural release through La Place de Bordeaux. The vintage received 97 points from Wine Advocate’s Joe Czerwinski – the highest WA score received by The Armagh Shiraz since its 2012 vintage. He states that the 2016 is “full-bodied and supple” and “finishes cedary, intense and long, adding in complex, lingering spice notes”.

The Wine Lister team sample the 2017 Vin de Constance with Winemaker, Matt Day

A sweeter offering from South Africa

As told to us by Winemaker, Matt Day, in a recent Zoom tasting, the 2017 Vin de Constance (released on Wednesday 2nd September) is the closest vintage yet to their philosophy of creating a “dry sweet wine”. Wine Lister’s CEO, Ella Lister, notes hints of “apricots, rosewater, lemon balm, Marcona almonds, and acacia honey” among other aromas, and on the palate “dried apricots and a gorgeous savoury finish”. At £39 per bottle (in-bond), the 2017 receives 97 points from James Suckling, compared to an average of 95 (from James Suckling and Wine Advocate) for each of the past three years. While it does not offer a discount, Klein Constantia does a spectacular job of achieving high quality in its developing style of Vin de Constance.

Kick-starting California

L’Aventure Estate Cuvée 2018 was released yesterday (Thursday 3rd September) at c.£68 per bottle (in-bond) – flat on the 2017 release price, and earning 95 points from Wine Advocate’s Erin Brooks (one down from the 2017). She noted that “the full-bodied palate is incredibly pixelated and silky with very bold freshness and a long, layered finish” and that she “can’t wait to taste this beauty from bottle”. We enjoyed detecting violet, toast, and vanilla on the nose, and were similarly impressed by its velvet mouthfeel.

Among other benefits available exclusively to the trade, Wine Lister’s Pro+ Subscription offers real-time release alerts and live analysis on major wine releases throughout the vinous calendar. Please email us at team@wine-lister.com to enquire.


New World wines with old histories

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.