As 2020 draws to a close, Wine Lister has compiled a report celebrating the top-performing wines and producers within a series of categories over the past year. Using our axes of Quality, Brand, and Economics, and the several factors that constitute these values, we have created seven leagues that paint a panoramic view of some of the world’s best wines, ranked within their areas of excellence.
Wine Lister’s 2020 Leagues include rankings of Quality Consistency (wines that show the smallest standard deviation between Quality scores over the last 20 vintages), and Biggest Movers (wines whose popularity has increased most in terms of online searches over the past year). Our team has also put together its top-10 wines per Wine Lister Indicator, revealing our recommendations for Hidden Gems, Value Picks, Buzz Brands, and Investment Staples.
We end the Leagues with a list of 21 Ultimate MUST BUYs for 2021, compiling a selection of MUST BUY highlights hand-picked by our fine wine experts, that offer an impressive addition to any fine wine portfolio in 2021. These are some of the picks that would feature in Wine Lister’s “fantasy cellar”.
Download your free copy of Wine Lister’s 2020 Leagues here.
Top chefs are often interrogated on their favourite dishes to cook at home, actors on their favourite films, writers on their favourite books – Wine Lister has sought out the ultimate drinking inspiration for special occasions, interviewing a handful of top wine producers on their favourite wines.
From left to right: Axel Heinz, Chiara Boschis, Gaia Gaja, Jacques Devauges, and Marielle Cazaux
Axel Heinz – Ornellaia
“It’s certainly the most difficult question to answer for a winemaker”, Axel begins. Born in Germany, and spending his early career in Bordeaux before joining Ornellaia, his choice, once we twisted his arm, sits far from his professional vinous journey. “It would be a white, from my favourite Grand Cru in Burgundy: Corton Charlemagne”, he confesses, explaining that for him, these wines combine the structure and power of a red wine, with “the vibrancy, fragrance, and minerality that one can only find in great whites”. Admiring its capacity for a faithful expression of terroir, and display of true personal signature, he cites Coche-Dury as his go-to producer.
Chiara Boschis – E.Pira e Figli
With Barolo in her blood (her relatives founded the historic Giacomo Borgogno estate), it is not unusual that Chiara Boschis’ favourite wine should hail from this same noble Italian region. She tells us that she understood from a young age “the privilege to be born in such a generous land”, for which her parents, and the people around her had “great love and respect”. After years in the cellar at E.Pira, she too became “entirely captured by the magic of Barolo”. Chiara’s top choice is therefore a Barolo from the Mosconi vineyard for its “complexity and depth”, Cannubi for its “elegance”, and the vineyards of Via Nuova for their “diversity”.
Gaia Gaja – Gaja
While paying homage to her family’s past through her own wines, fifth generation winemaker, Gaia Gaja also has one eye on the future. Her favourite wine, from rising star appellation Mount Etna, Sicily, is Graci’s Etna Rosso Arcuria. The wine is made from one of the latest ripening European varieties, Nerello Mascalese, in one of the highest vineyards in Europe. She discovered it after “becoming close friends with Alberto Graci and his family”, often visiting them in Etna. Gaia explains that “the contrasts between its vibrancy, freshness, and warmth, as well as its perfume and smoky minerality”, remind her of “the snow and the fire of Etna”. Comparing it to Nebbiolo, she believes the grape has “intriguing personality, a strong identity of place, and a medium body that makes it versatile and easy to drink”.
Jacques Devauges – Clos des Lambrays
Moving from Clos de Tart to Clos des Lambrays last year, Jacques Devauges’ top wine of all-time was born close to home. He tells us that Comte Georges de Vogüé’s Musigny catalysed his passion for wine. Sampling the 1971 and 1978 as a teenager, he was “struck” by both, despite knowing very little about wine at that point. Jacques believes Vogüé’s Musigny shows “the signature of the Grand Vin”, to impress “not only the wine geek, or the collector, but everyone, even those who don’t know what makes a good wine”. Describing what “was almost a shock”, he notes that the “level of perfume on the nose was almost like a perfume you can put on your skin”, while the palate was “soft and delicate”.
Marielle Cazaux – La Conseillante
Joining La Conseillante from neighbouring Petit-Village in 2015, Marielle Cazaux tells us that if she had to pick a favourite wine, it would be Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello, because she “has so many special memories with this wine”. As an intern at Ridge in 2001, she had the chance to taste several vintages with the legendary Paul Draper, whom she calls “one of the most gifted winemakers of the US”. Marielle considers Monte Bello a “wine with extraordinary finesse”, and “a total sense of harmony”. Describing its notes of “black pepper, lavender, mocha, liquorice, and dried flowers”, she observes that it is “perhaps one of the most “Bordeaux” style wines in California”.
From left, Nicolas Audebert, Nicolas Glumineau, Pierre-Olivier Clouet, Veronique Boss Drouhin, and Will Harlan
Nicolas Audebert – Rauzan-Ségla, Canon, and Berliquet
With some of the world’s most prestigious wineries under his belt (Terrazas de Los Andes, Cheval des Andes, Moët & Chandon, Krug, Veuve Clicquot), Nicolas echoes Axel Heinz in attempting to pick his favourite wine: “it’s impossible to answer. It’s like music – endless, initiatory, and progressive”. He instead recommends a wine from his friend, winemaker Andrea Felluga, with whom he “shares wine at simple, festive tables with lots of laughter”. He tells Wine Lister that Felluga’s wine, Livio Felluga Terre Alte “is a great white from Friuli” – a “land of contrast between the sunny and singing soul of Italy and the Alpine foothills, austere and cool”. Made from a blend of Friulano, Sauvignon Blanc, and Pinot Blanc, the Terre Alte is, according to Nicolas, like Felluga – “happy and lively”.
Nicolas Glumineau – Pichon Comtesse
On the subject of his favourite wine, Nicolas Glumineau (previously of Haut-Brion, Margaux, and Montrose), tells us that there are so many wines he could note – “Rayas 1990, E. Guigal La Mouline 1976, Cristal 1996, Trotanoy 2009, Diamond Creek Red Rock Terrace 2015”. White Burgundy legend, Coche-Dury, nonetheless gets another vote from Nicolas (on top of praise from Axel Heinz) as he reminisces trying the Meursault Caillerets 2006 for the first time in London, and being “choked, speechless, and moved by such perfection”. He describes the “delicacy of its white flower aromas and the elegance of its mineral and endless finish”, and recalls the feeling “that the world has stopped turning and that time has been suspended”.
Pierre-Olivier Clouet – Cheval Blanc
Echoing the sentiment of several of his peers, Pierre-Olivier Clouet (who has been at Cheval Blanc for 16 years), tells us that “it is impossible to choose just one wine”, because “like wine, the palate of the taster is constantly evolving”. Pierre-Olivier nonetheless notes his current favourite is “Mas Jullien – a wine that fully expresses the identity of the place where it is made, and injects the touch of balance and freshness that characterises all the great wines of the world”. He recalls that the last time he tasted the Languedoc red – a blend of Syrah, Carignan, and Mourvèdre – was with his team, on the last day of Cheval Blanc’s 2020 harvest.
Veronique Boss Drouhin – Joseph Drouhin
Fourth-generation winemaker, Veronique Boss Drouhin tells us that a wine she particularly enjoys was introduced to her by her close friend, Christine Vernay, daughter of the late Georges Vernay (praised for his key role in the survival of the Condrieu appellation). Veronique recalls Vernay opening a bottle of Georges Vernay Condrieu Coteau de Vernon, and being enchanted by its “aromatics, jumping out of the glass – unique, fragrant, and complex”, and a palate that was “powerful, voluptuous, and round, but with acidity to balance it” – a rarity for Viognier. She also cites Georges & Christophe Roumier’s Chambolle-Musigny Les Amoureuses as one of her favourites, adding, “Christophe’s [wine] is one of the nicest, purest, more elegant expressions of Pinot”.
Will Harlan – Promontory
Leading Harlan Estates‘ second-generation venture, Will Harlan explains to us that while he cannot choose a favourite, Jacques-Frederic Mugnier’s Musigny 2001 is a wine that he believes to “belong among the finest”. Will recalls coming across the bottle while “travelling with colleagues through Copenhagen a few years ago”, and as there hadn’t been a correct time to open it, the bottle joined them “on a course through Germany to Switzerland”. Having finally found an appropriate evening in Zurich to open it, “by the lake — the first bit of rest since the trip began”, he was “drawn in, as each feature of the wine, with a humble nobility, felt very naturally and confidently in its place”. Will notes it was a “wine that was singular and true”, that “would mark a memorable evening of our travels and in our friendships”.
Like a virtual treasure map, Wine Lister’s Hidden gem indicator helps you discover fine wines that are under the radar, yet worth uncovering. These wines are seldom found in the top restaurants, infrequently searched for online, but have high ratings from wine critics, or are assigned “Hidden gem” status by the global fine wine trade.
Of the 1,639 wines that are currently recognised as MUST BUYs by Wine Lister’s proprietary recommendation algorithm, 87 are Hidden gems. To help you uncover these underrated wines, this week we examine the Hidden gem MUST BUYs with WL scores above 95.
A preliminary look at the elected wines reveals a common trend of lower-than-average prices. While achieving WL scores of 95 and over, the 15 red Hidden gems illustrated above have an average price of £67 (per bottle in-bond) – perhaps a consequence of their slight obscurity. By virtue of being “Hidden gems”, these wines are also harder to source, however, it is worth informing your merchant of your interest in purchasing them, in the event of their availability.
Burgundy achieves five entries in this week’s subgroup, with two from a small-production négociant house, Lucien Le Moine. Well-deserving of their Hidden gem status, both wines achieve a WL score of 96. The 2012 Lucien Le Moine Charmes-Chambertin is available from Lay & Wheeler at £173 (per bottle in-bond), and the 2012 Lucien Le Moine Gevrey Chambertin Les Cazetiers can be purchased from BI Fine Wine & Spirits for £83 (per bottle in-bond).
California is represented by two wines of the same vintage and grape. The Ojai Vineyard Bien Nacido Pinot Noir 2014 hails from vines in Santa Barbara’s Santa Maria Valley, whose east-to-west face encourages the flow of cooling Pacific Ocean breezes, apt for the Burgundian variety. The Ryan Vineyard Pinot Noir 2014 from cult California producer, Calera, is produced from vines in several sites across the Central Coast.
Two entries from Rhône’s Tardieu-Laurent show notably good quality-to-price ratios, achieving “Value pick” status. With a WL Score of 96, the 2005 Cornas Vieilles Vignes is priced at £43 (per bottle in-bond), while the 2006 Gigondas Vieilles Vignes has a WL Score of 95 at £24.
A joint venture between two négociants, Dominique Laurent (of Burgundy fame), and Michel Tardieu (Rhône), Tardieu-Laurent is a boutique négociant operation. Buying young wines from growers across the Rhône, the domain completes maturation and blending, before bottling with no fining nor filtration. The 2005 Tardieu-Laurent Cornas Vieilles Vignes is available to purchase from Fine + Rare (in magnum form), and the 2006 Tardieu-Laurent Gigondas Vieilles Vignes can be bought from Wine Bourse (by the case of 12).
Tardieu-Laurent also features twice on the list of white Hidden gem MUST BUYs, with both its 2008 and 2016 Hermitages Blancs achieving WL Scores of 95.
Like their red counterparts, Tardieu-Laurent’s white Hidden gems are Value picks. Jancis Robinson pays compliment to both vintages, describing the 2008 as “Clean, intense, multilayered”, and the 2016 as “Very serious stuff”. Both wines can be purchased from Corney & Barrow (by the case of 12 in-bond).
Five out of the 10 white Hidden gems shown above are Riesling-based. There is no doubt that the noble grape can produce impressive quality wines at reasonable prices, though this remains somewhat of a fine wine trade secret (when compared with the consumer popularity of other white grape varieties and styles).
The two whites from Alsace cover icon Riesling producers Hugel and Albert Mann. Germany’s entries comprise of the 2006 and 2007 vintages of Dr. Loosen Erdener Prälat Riesling Auslese Goldkapsel, which achieve WL Scores of 96 and 95 respectively.
Loosen’s four-acre Erdener Prälat vineyard has south-facing red slate soils, and a notably warm microclimate, which, combined with the warming effect of the river and the heat-retaining cliffs that surround it, ensures ripeness in every vintage. The 2006 Dr. Loosen Erdener Prälat Riesling Auslese Goldkapsel can be purchased from Lay & Wheeler for £47 (per bottle in-bond).
To discover more of Wine Lister’s Hidden gem MUST BUYs, click here.