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.


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.


In victory and defeat: Champagne MUST BUYs worth celebrating

The global pandemic caused considerable losses to the Champagne industry, with estimations that its sales depleted by more than 75% at the height of lockdown. While we have lacked cause for celebration over the past quarter, parts of the world are now returning to a new normal, with restaurants and bars gradually reopening. It is time to raise a toast to our favourite fizz.

To guide those buying at every level, we have compiled a selection of Champagne MUST BUYs at five different price points.

Under £50 – 2009 Pierre Gimonnet et fils Fleuron Brut Blanc de Blancs

Pierre Gimonnet et Fils is an original member of the Club Trésors de Champagne, which, founded in 1971 by 12 longstanding producers, now includes 29 grower Champagne houses that produce, bottle, and age their wine on-site. Currently managed by third-generation vignerons, Didier and Olivier Gimonnet, the property owns 28 hectares of vineyards around the Côte des Blancs. Made from 100% Chardonnay grapes, the estate’s “Fleuron” is produced solely in excellent years, from grapes selected in the best plots of each vineyard. At £30 per bottle (in-bond), the 2009 Pierre Gimonnet et fils Fleuron Brut Blanc de Blancs was described as “absolutely fabulous” by Wine Lister partner critic, Antonio Galloni. A “tropically-leaning expression of fruit marries with the classic Gimonnet emphasis on tension”, Galloni adds. The 2009 is available to purchase in magnum form from Armit Wines.

Under £75 – 2007 Bollinger Grande Année rosé

Added to the estate’s portfolio in 1976, then manager, Lily Bollinger, agreed to the production of a rosé under one condition – it had to be extraordinary. Only made in the best vintages, the 2007 Bollinger Grande Année Rosé comprises a blend of 72% Pinot Noir and 28% Chardonnay, was fermented entirely in barrels, and aged under natural cork. With a WL score of 93 at £65 per bottle (in-bond), it promises impressive ageing potential. Having tasted the 2007 in 2019, Tim Jackson for JancisRobinson.com notes its “chalky texture with red and black cherry, some orange-citrus and plenty of nutty lees”.  The 2007 Bollinger Grande Année rosé is available to purchase by the case from Berry Bros & Rudd.

Under £150 – 2004 Philipponnat Clos des Goisses

At £99 per bottle (in-bond), the 2004 Philipponnat Clos des Goisses achieves a WL score of 96. Clos des Goisses is Philipponnat’s flagship cuvée, produced from 65% Pinot Noir and 35% Chardonnay grapes. Grapes are selected from Philipponnat’s walled Mareuil-sur-Ay vineyard, which, at a 45-degree slant, ensures the optimum ripening of Pinot Noir grapes in Champagne’s cool climate. Julia Harding for JancisRobinson.com notes that there is “a toasty richness on the palate, even a slight note of char and chamomile”,  calling it a “complex and unfolding wine that cannot be rushed if you want to enjoy its multi-layered character”. The 2004 Philipponnat Clos des Goisses can be purchased by the case from Fine + Rare Wines.

Under £300 – NV Jacques Selosse Blanc de Noirs Le Côte Faron

Founded in 1949, Jacques Selosse is now run by Jacques’s son, Anselme who took over from his father in 1974. Anselme has been praised for instigating a welcomed change in Champagne, encouraging producers to embrace new ideas of low yields, chemical-free vineyards, and terroir-focussed wines. Having implemented a reduction of yields and organic farming within his own production,  Jacques Selosse now produces some of the most sought-after wines from the region. Made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes grown in a single vineyard, La Côte Faron in the village of Aÿ,  Jacques Selosse’s NV Blanc de Noirs costs £235 per bottle (in-bond). Antonio Galloni names it “a Champagne of total and pure sensuality”, with “tons of textural resonance”. It is available to purchase by the bottle (in-bond) from BI Fine Wines.

Over £400: 2002 Salon Le Mesnil

At £458 per bottle (in-bond), the 2002 from cult Champagne house Salon Le Mesnil was aged for 11 years on lees before being disgorged and released in 2013. Produced only in exceptional years, and as a quality benchmark for pure Chardonnay Champagnes, Salon Le Mesnil’s signature is making Blanc de Blancs with grapes of extremely high acidity, facilitating extended ageing and consequential complexity. The 2002 Salon Le Mesnil earned a rare 19.5 points from Jancis Robinson, who last tasted it in 2019. She describes it as “rich and nuanced on the palate”, featuring “tertiary notes underneath, with some hay and then real grip on the end. Very long with a fascinating narrative”. There appears to be some availability of the 2002 vintage at Goedhuis & Co.

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

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The return of rosé Champagne

In 2004, WL partner critic Jancis Robinson published an article, “Pink champagne – fashionable but too often dire”, whose title summarises the contemporaneous consensus surrounding rosé Champagne. Long-regarded by Champagne producers as a subsidiary wine – one without the required levels of attention placed on their primary project – its quality often fell short.

15 years later, in September 2019, Robinson conversely wrote a piece titled “Pink champagne – a serious wine now”, outlining the attentive methods of production, and the consequential calibre of rosé Champagne amongst its top producers.

This week’s blog post investigates the victorious return of rosé Champagne, as we examine the upward quality and price trends across 10 of its top brands when compared to their white counterparts.

The chart above shows the average WL Score and average price for “pairs” of wines from 10 top rosé Champagne producers whose range includes a rosé.

An initial look at the selected wines reveals the recurrent pattern of rosé Champagnes costing more than their white counterparts, with the exception of Krug Rosé, Bollinger Grande Année Rosé, and Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Rosé. The mean price difference between the two styles of the respective wines is substantial nonetheless, with rosé Champagne costing 46% more on average than its white equivalent (an average of £195 for rosé and £134 for white).

Excluding Pol Roger’s Rosé and Bollinger’s Grande Année Rosé (whose white equivalents supersede them by one WL point), the rosé Champagnes featured above achieve equivalent or higher WL Scores than their white counterparts.

Cristal Rosé is a blend of 55% Pinot Noir and 45% Chardonnay grapes. With a WL Score of 96, at an average price of £401 (per bottle in-bond), this wine is almost double the price of Cristal, which has a WL Score of 95 at £203. Consequential of the generally lower yields of Pinot Noir in continental conditions, Cristal Rosé is Louis Roederer’s rarest and thus most expensive wine, produced solely in years when the grapes have attained perfect maturity.

Similarly made in only exceptional vintages, Dom Pérignon Rosé is considered by its producer to characterise its growing year, hence the fluctuating ratio of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes from vintage to vintage. With a WL Score of 96, at an average price of £277 (per bottle in-bond), Dom Pérignon Rosé is over double the price of its white counterpart. Dom Pérignon Vintage Brut has an average price of £131 and has one less WL Score point than its corresponding rosé wine.

As indicated by its Vintage Value Identifier chart, the 2002 Dom Perignon Rosé exhibits significant quality and value, with a WL Score of 98. Jancis Robinson awarded this wine 20/20 (a rare occurrence), describing it as “pungent and composed with massive energy” – a far cry from her 2004 article. Rosé Champagne has most definitely made a comeback.

The 2002 Dom Pérignon Rosé can be purchased from Berry Bros & Rudd, where a case of three starts at £1,200 (in-bond).