Unscrambling biodynamics: what’s all the buzz about?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Process 500: biodynamic compost preparations at Château Palmer

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

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

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

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


Italy 2020: a hopeful harvest

“Finché c’è vino c’è speranza” – As long as there is wine, there is hope.

Never before have Italian winegrowers been able to dedicate as much time to the care of their vineyards as in 2020. The Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico and several further Tuscan producers cite this silver lining to Covid restrictions, and they suspect it will reveal itself in the wine to come. In a year that has caused tribulation across the world, news of Italy’s promising 2020 harvest is certainly welcomed. Wine Lister has spoken to several Italian estates, which reportedly yielded high-quality grapes across the board. While regions – Piedmont and Tuscany – had their respective weather nuances, the general consensus suggests that growing season conditions were balanced, with no mention of hail or storms.

In Montalcino, the Mastrojanni team explained that lockdown prompted improved vineyard inspection in 2020: “[people] couldn’t work indoors in their offices, so the vines received the utmost attention”. They report a “very good harvest” this year, comparing it to the high-scoring 2013. Despite two short heatwaves in July and August, the estate had a mild summer overall, thanks to cooling winds that flow through the Amiata Valley in which its vineyards are situated.

On the other side of Montalcino, Cinelli Colombini reported frost during budburst, which limited the number of grape clusters in 2020. Several other Tuscan producers spoke of reduced volumes due to the cold start to spring (Fattoria Le Pupille’s 2020 yield is 20% lower than last year). Cinelli Colombini’s Brunello grape harvest was nonetheless of “excellent quality”, and despite it being hard to “shine after a masterpiece of a vintage like 2019”, the team believes it will be “difficult to exclude it from being among the best five vintages of the last 20 years”.

All hands on deck: the 2020 Brunello harvest at Montalcino’s Cinelli Colombini

In Chianti, Castello di Monsanto began picking its Chardonnay grapes on 8th September, and collected its final Sangiovese on 10th October. Third-generation owner, Laura Bianchi, informed us that their spring was mild, with enough rain to create a “perfect” reserve of water for the vines. After the hot and dry August, a wet start to September helped to regulate maturation – a common theme throughout Tuscany in 2020. The grapes thus developed a “great balance of sugar, pH, and phenolic maturation”, and the first fermentation already suggests a vintage of “great personality, rich tannins, and beautiful acidity”. Further east, Vecchie Terre di Montefili started picking on 29th September – late in comparison to other producers, but normal, the team explains, for their vineyards, which lie 500 metres above sea level (and therefore require a longer maturation period).

Less than an hour away, Brancaia finished its harvest on 30th September (having started on the 3rd week of August). The team tells us that they were forced to harvest their Sangiovese quickly before heavy rain arrived, but that they were lucky that the grapes were “the perfect grade of ripeness”. In contrast, IPSUS owner, Giovanni Mazzei, explains that he and winemaker Gionata Pulignani decided to wait until after the extra rain in September before starting the harvest, “to guarantee more balance, extra aromatics, and temper the alcohol content”. In doing so, the hot and dry summer was counterbalanced; Mazzei states that he could indeed “classify the [2020] as a good compromise between cooler and hotter vintages”.

In coastal Maremma, owner and Production Manager at Fattoria Le Pupille, Ettore Rizzi, tells us that 2020 saw a significant threat of powdery mildew across its vines, especially in the thin-skinned varieties of Sangiovese, Ciliegiolo, and Syrah. He states that they nonetheless managed to trim the affected bunches and stem the problem, while their Merlot and Cabernet vines also “gave us some incredible fruit”. According to Rizzi, “the word that can best describe the 2020 vintage is concentration” – a consequence of the high temperatures in July and August.

“The final quality of the grapes was really good” – Fattoria Le Pupille’s 2020 Syrah grapes

In Bolgheri, Ornellaia’s Estate Director, Axel Heinz, declared that their 2020 vintage is “shaping up to be one to remember as a great year”. The property saw “textbook perfect conditions until the end of May”, while June saw a lot of rainfall that “accelerated vine growth”, and required lots of work in the vineyard to keep the canopies under control. Summer saw hot and dry conditions, while rain arrived in the last days of August to alleviate drought stress and lower temperatures, encouraging a more even ripening at the last moment. While an unexpected mid-September heatwave made it necessary to pick all three red varieties – Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petit Verdot – simultaneously at speed, Heinz notes that they nonetheless look “very promising in a rich and structured style”.

Moving up to Piedmont, fifth-generation of the esteemed Gaja family, Giovanni Gaja, tells us that they are so far “optimistic” about the 2020 vintage, despite it being early days to evaluate the exact character of the grapes. Their Barbaresco plots witnessed a moderate July, followed by a warm August that was similarly alleviated by rain towards the end of the month. While they required extra efforts to prevent mildew attacks, the final picked grapes appear “very healthy”.

While 2020 has caused much uncertainty, the recent harvest suggests that there is  definitely hope for some excellent wine to come from this year, and we look forward to finding out for ourselves in the future.


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 Wine Lister MUST BUYs

Wine Lister’s latest MUST BUY update identified 38 new wines that show quality and value within their respective vintages and appellations, and wide praise from the international trade. To help you discover these new picks, this week’s blog takes a deep dive into the latest MUST BUY wines and their geographical composition.

Pinot Noir picks

Burgundy dominates the new MUST BUY hoard with 13 entries, including eight reds. The perfect pick for an opulent occasion, the 1978 Romanée-Conti Richebourg costs £1,434 per bottle (in-bond), and was described by Wine Lister partner critic, Jancis Robinson, as “very long with smoothness, sweetness and unctuousness”. Sharing its WL score of 96, the 2010 Volnay Clos des Ducs from the Côte de Beaune’s red producer of reference, Marquis d’Angerville, provides a more affordable option at £250 per bottle (in-bond), but may merit a little patience.

Outside of Pinot Noir’s original homeland are some new MUST BUYs of brilliant quality and impressive value for money. California’s 2016 Au Bon Climat Isabelle Pinot Noir has a WL score of 94, and was described by Wine Lister partner critic, Antonio Galloni, as “racy, perfumed and beautifully layered”, with notes of “orange peel, tobacco, blood orange, spice, star anise and new oak” throughout. It can be purchased for less than five times the price of the aforementioned Volnay, by the case of six for £262 (in-bond) from Jeroboams.

Travelling north within the US brings us to Oregon’s latest MUST BUY entry – the 2016 Cristom Louise Vineyard Pinot Noir. While more expensive than its Californian counterpart for the same WL score, Cristom’s position as the leading producer in the Willamette Valley, alongside its closer proximity to Burgundy’s cool-climate restrained style, makes it more than worth the c.35% premium. It is available to purchase for c.£60 per bottle (in-bond) from WineBuyers.com.

The best of Bordeaux blends

Bordeaux offers seven new MUST BUYs this week, including two Left Bank Value picks; 2019 Haut-Bages Libéral and 2015 Capbern. With a WL score of 92, the former addition was released en primeur two months ago, and described by James Lawther for JancisRobinson.com as, “busy and expressive on the nose with vineyard-fresh dark fruit, black-olive and mineral notes”. Labelled by Lawther as the “best in recent years”, this gem from Bordeaux’s prominent promotors of biodynamic viticulture, Gonzague and Claire Lurton, has a bright future ahead. It can still be bought en primeur through Justerini & Brooks for £142.50 per six (in-bond).

The 2010 Vieux Château Certan also appears in the latest MUST BUY update, 10 years on from the iconic vintage. It provides a more lavish option for the Bordeaux buyer, receiving a WL score of 96 at £216 per bottle (in-bond). Moving across the border into Tuscany, the 2010 Sassicaia also offers a more luxurious alternative to the Bordeaux blend. Comprising of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Cabernet Franc, it was described by Antonio Galloni as, “just beginning to show the first signs of aromatic development”, including hints of “sweet tobacco, mint, pine, dried cherries and licorice”. It achieves a WL score of 95, and is available to purchase by the case of six for £915 from Goedhuis & Co.

Choosing Chardonnay

Back to Burgundy, and the new white MUST BUYs this week offer opulence from three iconic Meursault producers; 2015 Roulot Charmes, 2010 Comtes Lafon Genevrières, and 2017 Arnaud Ente Les Petits Charrons are all exceptional choices, albeit for an average price of £492 per bottle (in-bond). Further north, two entries hail from Chablis, and the appellation’s original historic vineyard, Les Clos; 2014 Laroche Les Clos, and 2010 Christian Moreau Père et Fils Les Clos. For those who enjoy a more pure, lean, and mineral style of white wine, the Chablis MUST BUYs exhibit notable value within their appellation and achieve higher WL scores than their buttery Meursault counterparts. The latter can be bought by the case of 12 from Cru World Wine for £871 (in-bond).

California’s latest white MUST BUY hails from Kistler Vineyard; a cult producer known for its emulation of pure and balanced Burgundian Chardonnays, over the rich and oaky Californian style. The 2017 Kistler Vineyards Dutton Ranch Chardonnay achieves a WL score of 96, and is labelled by Antonio Galloni as “such an intriguing wine because of the way it is airy and lifted and yet also so deep in feel”. Providing a less expensive alternative to Côte d’Or whites, it is priced at £133 per bottle (in-bond).

Also featured in the list of new MUST BUYs are: 2009 Abreu Madrona Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon, 1989 Bollinger Grande Année, 1996 Bruno Clair Chambertin Clos de Bèze, 2006 Cavallotto Barolo Vignolo Riserva, 2013 Ceretto Barolo Brunate, 2012 Conti Costanti Brunello di Montalcino Riserva, 1996 Dunn Vineyards Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, 2014 Duroché Chambertin Clos de Bèze, 2017 Georges Mugneret-Gibourg Clos de Vougeot, 2012 Jacques-Frédéric Mugnier Chambolle-Musigny Les Amoureuses, 2014 Jean Grivot Richebourg, 2010 Jim Barry The Armagh Shiraz, 2017 Joseph Drouhin Chambolle-Musigny Les Amoureuses, 1996 Lafite Rothschild, 2008 Lafleur, 2016 Le Macchiole Paleo Rosso, 2016 l’Evangile, 2006 Louis Roederer Cristal Rosé, 2018 Marc Sorrel Hermitage, 2013 M. Chapoutier Hermitage Ermitage Blanc De l’Orée, 2016 M. Chapoutier Hermitage Ermitage Le Méal, 2012 Roagna Barbaresco Pajè Vecchie Viti, 2016 Valandraud, and 2009 Vincent Paris Cornas La Geynale.


Italian whites worth sipping in summer

For those in need of a chilled white wine to help beat the heat, Wine Lister’s latest blog transports you to Italy, examining a selection of dry Italian whites with WL scores of 90 and above. Enjoy any of the below from the comforts of your home:

Abruzzo – Azienda Agricola Valentini Trebbiano d’Abruzzo

Valentini’s Trebbiano d’Abruzzo is one of Italy’s most prominent dry whites, benefitting from remarkable ageing potential that contributes to its frequent comparison with fine white Burgundy. Described by Walter Speller for Wine Lister partner critic, JancisRobsinon.com as “much too young right now, but huge promise”, the 2013 vintage can be aged for another 20 years, despite already having a “gorgeous nose of spice, flint stone and mandarin fruit”. The quality of its production can be attributed to the estate’s judicious approach to grape selection, using a mere five percent of the harvest from its 170 acres of vineyards to make its own wine, and selling the rest to local co-ops. A Wine Lister MUST BUY, the 2013 Valentini Trebbiano d’Abruzzo achieves a WL score of 95 at c.£105 per bottle (in-bond). You can place a bid for this wine on the Berry Bros & Rudd online bidding platform, BBX.

Friuli-Venezia Giulia – Josko Gravner Anfora Ribolla Gialla

Situated on the Slovenian border, Josko Gravner has pioneered biodynamic winemaking in Italy. Given the plethora of high-tech winemaking equipment that exists today, his methods can be considered somewhat antiquated – his winery is stripped bare, apart from the necessary electricity for lights. Wines are fermented in underground Amphorae, filled by gravity, and aged in traditional wooden casks. An Italian indigenous grape, the Ribolla is aged for a considerable number of years before release, with the 2009 vintage displaying “fabulous aromas of dried grasses, chamomile, lapsang and smoked orange peel” and a “dry spicy grip”, according to Julia Harding for JancisRobinson.com. With a WL score of 92 at c.£70 per bottle (in-bond), this MUST BUY is available to purchase by the bottle from The Good Wine Shop.

Piedmont – Gaja Langhe Gaia & Rey

Named after Angelo Gaja’s daughter (and now fifth-generation director), Gaia Gaja, and his grandmother, Clotilde Rey, Gaia & Rey was first produced in 1983. Made from the first Chardonnay vines to be planted in Piedmont, this wine pioneered the production of exceptional white wines in the Langhe Hills, where production had previously been almost exclusively red. With a WL score of 93, the 2016 vintage can be enjoyed now, or laid down for further ageing. Wine Lister partner critic Antonio Galloni for Vinous describes it as “a gorgeous Chardonnay built on persistence, energy and class. Orchard fruit, citrus, almond and floral notes give the 2016 striking vibrancy”. It is available to purchase by the case of 12 for £939 (in-bond) from Cru World Wine.

Veneto – Pieropan Soave Classico La Rocca

The Pieropan family have been producing wines in Soave since the late 1880s, and were the first to bottle wine under the Soave label in the early 1930s. The late Leonildo “Nino” Pieropan, grandson of the estate’s founder, was also the first producer in Soave to make a single-vineyard wine, ‘Calvarino’, in 1971. Pieropan’s Soave Classico La Rocca is made from Garganega grapes grown on La Rocca’s unique terroir, which exists as a limestone outcrop in a sea of Soave’s basalt. Gaining a WL score of 92, and available at less c.£20 per bottle (in-bond), the 2013 vintage is a Wine Lister Value pick. Jancis Robinson describes it as “lively and citrus” with notes of “lemon cream”. It can be bought by the bottle from The Wine Centre.

Also featured in the list of Italian whites with WL scores above 90 are: Castello della Sala Cervaro della Sala, Fattoria Zerbina Arrocco Passito, Fattoria Zerbina Scaccomatto Passito, Gaja Langhe Alteni di Brassica, Jermann Capo Martino, Jermann Vintage Tunina, La Castellada Bianco della Castellada, La Castellada Ribolla Gialla, Ornellaia Bianco, and Ornellaia Poggio alle Gazze.

For bespoke fine wine purchase recommendations, as well as advice on collection re-sale, get in touch with our team at team@wine-lister.com, or download the full Cellar Analysis information pack.