To mark the first day of spring (Saturday 20th March), this week’s blog takes a deep dive into Wine Lister’s latest MUST BUY update, helping you to discover some excellent wines to enjoy over the next few months. The 19 new MUST BUYs cover a range of regions, varieties, and styles, providing inspiration for top picks to drink now or put away for the future.
Click here to view all MUST BUYs, or read more below.
Piedmont constitutes over a quarter of the new MUST BUY picks, with entries from five of the region’s leading producers. Currently at its peak drinking, Luciano Sandrone’s 2005 Barolo Le Vigne comprises a blend of fruit from four of the estate’s top vineyards, each with different terroirs, altitudes, and exposures. Harvested, vinified, and aged separately, the final assemblage is intended to express the best characteristics of each plot. Wine Lister’s partner critic, Jancis Robinson, describes it as “complex”, with “already very integrated aromas”. It can be purchased from Farr Vintners for £79 per bottle (in-bond).
In Burgundy, Thibault Liger-Belair’s 2018 Richebourg achieves its highest WL score since the successful 2010 vintage (96), and is described by Wine Lister’s Burgundy specialist critic, Jasper Morris, as possibly “[Thibault’s] best Richebourg to date”. Awarding it 95-98 points, Jasper notes that “the oak […] is so suffused by a brilliant dense entirely red fruit, soft strawberry and more pronounced raspberry”. It is available to buy from Corney & Barrow for £450 per bottle (in-bond).
Representing the Southern Hemisphere, Shaw and Smith’s 2019 Pinot Noir also has Value Pick status, with a WL score of 92 at £26 per bottle (in-bond). The first vintage to include fruit from the property’s Lenswood vineyard, which boasts mature vines and high altitude, it marks an exciting development for Shaw and Smith. Richard Hemming for Jancis Robinson describes it at “superbly fragrant” and representative of “the sheer pleasure of the variety”. It can be bought from The Fine Wine Company.
Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey makes up two of three Burgundy whites to feature in the latest MUST BUY update, with its 2016 Meursault Perrières and 2018 Corton-Charlemagne. At £210 per bottle (in-bond), the former achieves 94 points from Jasper Morris, who notes “riper fruit, almost some orange blossom, but still an underlying freshness”. Meanwhile, Julia Harding for Jancis Robinson awards 19 points to the 2018 Corton-Charlemagne, describing it as “powerful and elegant” with a “smoky and quite subtle” nose. While both wines are more difficult to source, it is worth informing your merchant of your interest in purchasing them.
Other wines featured in the new MUST BUY selection are: 2005 Rayas Châteauneuf-du-Pape, 2009 Gaja Barbaresco Sori Tildin, 2009 Peter Michael Les Pavots, 2010 Giacomo Conterno Barbera d’Alba Cascina Francia, 2010 La Spinetta Barbaresco Gallina, 2014 Bouchard Père et Fils Montrachet, 2015 Bond Quella, 2016 Giacomo Grimaldi Barolo Sotto Castello di Novello, 2017 Gangloff Condrieu, 2017 Kistler Vineyards Hudson Vineyard Chardonnay, 2017 Kistler Vineyards McCrea Vineyard Chardonnay, 2018 Castello di Fonterutoli Siepi, 2018 Georges Mugneret-Gibourg Echezeaux, and 2019 l’Evangile.
Having commenced the week with International Women’s Day (Monday 8th March), Wine Lister’s latest blog celebrates some of the leading female figures in winemaking. Interviewing a handful of top producers across six regions, whose practices embody a range of principals, we put a spotlight on the wines made by some of the industry’s most exceptional women.
From left: Ashley Hepworth, Caroline Frey, and Stéphanie de Boüard-Rivoal
Ashley Hepworth – Joseph Phelps Vineyards
Following a degree in Chemistry and Biology, Ashley Hepworth spent two years cooking at Charlie Trotter’s legendary Chicago restaurant, where she realised she “wanted to learn more about wine and utilize [her] science background”. After studying the restaurant’s wines, and quizzing its Master Sommeliers, she applied for a harvest internship at Joseph Phelps where she continued to work her way “up the ladder”, eventually becoming winemaker in 2008. She is “particularly fond” of the 2008, 2015, and 2017 vintages of Joseph Phelps’ flagship wine, Insignia, explaining that each are “distinctive of the given vintage and the interplay of the six estate vineyards” that the wine is blended from.
Caroline Frey – La Lagune and Paul Jaboulet Aîné
Having taken the helm of third-growth property La Lagune from her father in 2004, Caroline Frey has since assumed an additional winemaking role in the Rhône, at Paul Jaboulet Aîné, after its acquisition by her family in 2005. Like several of the producers we spoke to, Caroline informs us that working “in harmony with nature is a long-term project” for her, with both properties now certified biodynamic. She explains that “to produce great wine the grapes must be the fruit of nature and not of synthetic chemistry”, and the more she “improves in working in harmony with nature” the “more wonderful” her wine will be.
Stéphanie de Boüard-Rivoal – Angélus
Having spent her childhood at Angélus, Stéphanie de Boüard-Rivoal was seven years old when she told her grandfather, Jacques de Boüard de Laforest, that she wanted to join him and her father, Hubert, in running the estate. After an early career in London’s financial sector, Stéphanie returned to Angélus in 2012, and has since continued a “quest for excellence while endeavouring to keep the estate in [her] family”. Noting “purity, tension, and focus” as key words to describe the style of her wine, she tells us that she is currently fond of Angélus’ 2005 and 2010 vintages, and anticipates enjoyment of the 2016 and 2018 in the coming years.
From left: Charlène Pinson, Florence Heresztyn-Mazzini, Eva Fricke, and Donatella Cinelli Colombini
Charlène Pinson – Pinson
One of the longest-established families in Chablis, records show that the Pinsons have been producing in the region since 1640. Having joined her father, Laurent, at the estate in 2008, Charlène Pinson tells us of her respect for tradition and the work that her family has done before her, with the aim to “pass on the passion” to her two sons. Producing 13 different wines, she explains that each is a “reflection of their terroirs”, and are “more or less floral and fruity” depending on the slope and soil of the parcel. For those new to Pinson, she recommends the 2017 Chablis Mont de Milieu, describing it as a “pure expression of our Kimmeridgian limestones […] classic, mineral, balanced, and fresh”.
Florence Heresztyn-Mazzini – Heresztyn-Mazzini
Taking over her family’s estate (Domaine Heresztyn) in 2012, Florence Heresztyn-Mazzini and her husband, Simon Mazzini have overseen numerous developments under its new name. Introducing biodynamic practices in 2015, and achieving organic certification in 2019, Florence continues to “experiment with natural treatments” to fulfil her goal of “fighting the challenges of climate change”, including more “cover crops and sustainable pruning”. Explaining that many recent vintages have been difficult due to global warming, she tells us that she is particularly proud of her “fights” in 2013 and 2016, creating top quality wines in years that “remind us that we are small in the face of Mother Nature!”.
Eva Fricke – Eva Fricke
After making wine in Australia, Spain, and Germany, Eva Fricke returned to Germany in 2006 to start her own estate, which now holds 17ha across the Rheingau. Achieving organic certification in 2016 and membership in The Vegan Society in 2017, the property also employs several biodynamic practices including its adherence to the lunar calendar. She tells us that these principals guide her goals of developing a domain that “stands for organic, sustainable, and socially conscious standards”. Eva notes the “2019 Lorcher Schlossberg, 2019 Lorcher Krone Trocken, and 2019 Lorcher Krone Trockenbeerenauslese” as some of her top wines.
Donatella Cinelli Colombini – Casato Prime Donne and Fattoria del Colle
Born into a family of winemakers whose production in Montalcino can be traced back to 1592, Donatella Cinelli Colombini tells that it is “for this reason” that winemaking comes naturally to her. Founding Italy’s first winery run solely by women, she explains that her decision to have an all-female staff at Casato Prime Donne “leaves an imprint of acute accuracy in each step of the production process”. She notes of Casato Prime Donne wines that they are some of the first “chosen, and produced by women, for women”.
Like many of the world’s winemaking regions, Barolo is increasingly subject to dramatic weather patterns as a result of global warming. With significant frost in spring followed by an extremely hot summer, its 2017 growing season was no exception to these severe shifts. Akin to its vines, Barolo’s producers are now more than ever demonstrating their resilience to change, as evident in its latest offerings.
To guide those buying Barolo 2017 over the coming weeks, Wine Lister has spoken to nine of the region’s top producers to get a better picture of the vintage and its viticultural demands.
Chiara Boschis and her team during the 2017 harvest at E.Pira e Figli
A reduction in production
As cited by several producers, spring frost and summer drought resulted in reduced yields across the board in 2017. Situated in the heart of Barolo, Chiara Boschis tells us that production at E.Pira e Figli was down between 10-20% on the 2016. The estate had to carefully select “clusters that were compact when picked”, as heat stress was preventing complete berry development. Marco Marengo notes that yields at his estate were 25% lower than average in 2017, while owner and winemaker at La Spinetta, Giorgio Rivetti, saw levels down by roughly 30%. A representative at Giacomo Conterno, Stephanie Flou tells us that its 2017 vintage was particularly affected by it being “the second year in a row in which [the estate] has suffered drought”. She states that while yields were limited “because the grapes dried out”, they are “positively surprised with how the vintage has ended up”.
Finding shade from the sun
Numerous estates noted the need for rigorous canopy management in 2017 – one of many adjustments applied across the region to cope with the extreme heat. Elio Altare’s second-generation winemaker, Silvia Altare tells us that hydric stress forced her to be amongst the vines, “meticulously managing the canopies to protect the grapes from the sun”. The team at Cantina Cooperativa Terre del Barolo also explain that this “was key in 2017 in order to keep bunches in shade, without suffocating them”, while “conservation tillage – mulching or grass covering in between the rows –was crucial to limit evaporation, and to protect the vines from the ‘mirror effect’ of the soil”. Vietti’s winemaker, Luca Currado notes that he similarly used “uniform, dense foliage to provide clusters with greater shade” and “grass cover between the rows to prevent sunlight reflecting directly onto the clusters”. The estate also started harvest significantly earlier than usual in 2017 – another recurring theme across the properties.
Keeping cool: the family dog at Elio Altare finds shade under the vines during the estate’s 2017 harvest
A crucial cooling
As mentioned by several of his peers, Azelia’s fifth-generation winemaker, Lorenzo Scavino tells us that a large diurnal temperature range helped to “preserve the freshness and the aromas of the grapes” in such a hot year. He states that while these cool nights “usually do not occur in warmer vintages, they were really a blessing”. Poderi Luigi Einaudi’s team echoed this sentiment, add that the temperature changes between day and night helped to develop the “polyphenolic profile of the Nebbiolo”, allowing “an excellent accumulation of tannins”. Rainfall in early September also helped to ensure balance in the 2017 vintage, with Luca Currado informing us that Vietti’s “Nebbiolo and Barbera benefited in particular, with highly complex polyphenolic profiles compared to other particularly rich vintages”, and “an unexpected freshness on the palate”.
The final freshness
Indeed, according to Wine Lister’s discussions with producers, freshness has been the great surprise of the 2017 vintage – a description applied repeatedly by Wine Lister’s partner critic, Antonio Galloni, in his notes on the region’s latest offerings. Chiara Boschis notes that E. Pira e Figli’s 2017 is “generous but very fresh”, while Azelia’s Lorenzo Scavino explains that rigorous vineyard management allowed them to “preserve the acidity, which is why even in this vintage we can find a great freshness”. Silvia Altare also tells us that while “2017 is definitely a warmer, more open knit vintage than 2016”, she has “noticed over the past few months the wines have integrated more and there’s a bit more freshness”.
The successful conception of balance in a year defined by drought aptly illustrates the resilience of Barolo’s producers in 2017, which may well be described as a winemaker’s vintage. Barolo 2017 scores have so far been high across the board, giving further merit to those who have created a wine of complexity and quality in a year of climatic uncertainty.
Keep track of new Barolo 2017 scores from Wine Lister’s partner critics here.
Home to a range of grape varieties, styles, and DOCGs, Tuscany also offers excellent wines at a variety of price points. To help you on your hunt for a top Tuscan bottle within your budget, Wine Lister has compiled a selection of Tuscany MUST BUYs at five different price points.
Click here to view all Tuscan MUST BUYs, or read more below.
Prices are shown per bottle in-bond (when buying by the case).
Under £20 – 2011 Fattoria La Massa La Massa
Founded in 1992 by prominent Chianti winemaker, Giampaolo Motta, Fattoria La Massa represents his aim of applying Bordeaux vinification techniques to a Tuscan terroir. With the counsel of famed Bordeaux vigneron, Stéphane Derenoncourt, Motta now grows Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Petit Verdot alongside native Sangiovese. La Massa comprises 60% Sangiovese, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 10% Merlot in 2011, and is described by Wine Lister partner critic, Antonio Galloni as “jumping from the glass with dark red cherry, raspberry jam, plum, spices, violets, smoke and cloves”. With a WL score of 92, it is available to purchase from Bordeaux Index for £16 per bottle (in-bond).
Under £50 – 2015 Felsina Fontalloro
Felsina has seen a significant shift toward organic and biodynamic practices since its founder, Domenico Poggiali’s son-in-law, Giuseppe Mazzocolin, took over in the late 1970s. As well as investing heavily in a more natural viticulture, the estate has adopted a dedication to revealing the expression of its terroir. The 2015 Felsina Fontalloro was awarded 96 points from Antonio Galloni, who indeed notes that “sandy soils confer aromatic intensity to this super-expressive, arrestingly beautiful wine”. It can be purchased from Brunswick Fine Wines for £44 per bottle (in-bond).
Under £100 – 2016 Tenuta Tignanello Tignanello
Antinori’s Tenuta Tignanello property fared notably well in 2016, with its namesake wine, Tignanello achieving its joint-highest WL score alongside its 2015 vintage (98). Antonio Galloni describes the 2016 Tignanello as “flat out stunning”, and muses, “I don’t think there is another wine anywhere in the world made entirely from estate fruit that can match Tignanello for quality, consistency and value”. A blend of 80% Sangiovese, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 5% Cabernet Franc, it can be acquired from Fine+Rare Wines for £92 per bottle (in-bond).
Under £200 – 2015 Montevertine Le Pergole Torte
Considered a difficult place for any agricultural production, Radda was an unusual location for Montevertine’s founder, Sergio Manetti to establish his property in 1967. In one of the highest and rockiest sites in Chianti Classico, its steep hills are now home to top-quality Sangiovese vines from which its three wines – Pian del Ciampolo, Montevertine, and Le Pergole – are produced. Antonio Galloni awards 97 points to the 2015 Montevertine Le Pergole Torte, calling it “deep, powerful and resonant […] exotically ripe and flamboyant, not to mention utterly captivating”. It can be bought from IG Wines for £129 per bottle (in-bond).
Over £300 – 2008 Soldera Case Basse Sangiovese
Achieving 18 points from Wine Lister’s partner critic, Jancis Robinson, Soldera’s 2008 Case Basse Sangiovese is described as “so different from most Brunello” with a “reserved nose of autumnal leaves”, and a “real tang on the end”. Having separated from the Brunello di Montalcino DOCG in 2006, all vintages from 2007 onwards are labelled as Toscana IGT. The 2008 marks a shift away from the estate’s usual vinicultural methods, having been aged for a period in stainless steel before bottling. Antonio Galloni notes that it is indeed “quite different from virtually every other wine made at Case Basse”. The 2008 Case Basse Sangiovese can be bought from Fine+Rare Wines for £387 per bottle (in-bond).
Over two years ago, Wine Lister published a blog on Tuscany’s 2018 vintage (recap here), which has since become the second most-read article on our site. With several 2018s entering the market over the past six months, and more scheduled for release this year, news of the vintage remains relevant.
To complete the picture first painted in our report on the 2018 harvest, we examine how some of the wines discussed have performed so far, and whether predictions on the vintage have come to fruition.
A prized picking – the 2018 harvest at Castello di Fonterutoli
Predicting in 2018 that “the vintage might fall between the opulent 2015s and the structured 2016s in terms of quality and style”, Castello di Fonterutoli’s Giovanni Mazzei underestimated the year. The estate’s 50% Sangiovese and 50% Merlot blend, Siepi, achieves its highest score from Wine Lister’s partner critic, Antonio Galloni in 2018 (97) – five and two points above the 2015 and 2016, respectively. Antonio notes it is “rich, pliant and creamy”, offering “all of the seductiveness of Merlot with the bright acids and grip of Sangiovese”. The 2018 Siepi can be bought from Petersham Cellars for £70 per bottle (in-bond).
Estate Director at Ornellaia and Masseto, Axel Heinz told Wine Lister in 2018 that his “fermenting wines are silky and fragrant”, and that he predicts “a more delicate vintage”. Indeed, Antonio Galloni recently wrote on the 2018 Ornellaia that “readers should expect a silky, aromatic Ornellaia in line with vintages such as 2004 that are more about finesse than raw power”. Having been previewed by members of the fine wine trade and press in a virtual seminar last week (recap our recent blog here), it was awarded a score of 97 by Antonio. The 2018 Ornellaia will be released onto the market at the beginning of April.
Due for release through the Place de Bordeaux in September, Masseto’s 2018 vintage was the first to be made in its own winery, having previously been vinified at Ornellaia. Awarding it 98 points, Antonio notes that it is “silky, mid-weight and supremely gracious”, with notes of “inky red/purplish fruit, cedar, lavender, espresso, sage and mint”. Wine Lister sampled the second release of Masseto’s second wine, 2018 Massetino, in September 2020, and was certainly impressed by its complexity, with expressive notes of dark fruit, cocoa, and spice. While it has limited remaining market availability, it can be purchased from Cru World Wine for £307 per bottle (in-bond).
Describing 2018 as “a good year”, Fattoria Le Pupille’s owner, Elisabetta Geppetti, told Wine Lister that the Bordeaux varietals of her flagship wine, Saffredi, fared particularly well. Antonio Galloni gives it 96+ points, and writes that “the 2018 Saffredi is a regal, elegant, supremely polished wine”, which “may very well be the most refined Saffredi I have ever tasted”. Recalling notes of “sweet red cherry, plum, mocha, licorice and cinnamon”, he concludes; “don’t miss it”. It can be bought from Berry Bros & Rudd for £60 per bottle (in-bond).
Keep track of new Tuscany 2018 scores from Wine Lister partner critics here, and watch this space for future analysis on the vintage.
Last week, Wine Lister joined members of the fine wine trade and press, gathered behind their screens, for the unveiling of Ornellaia’s annual Vendemmia d’Artista collaboration. With each new vintage release, the Ornellaia team chooses a word to characterise the latest growing season and its resulting wine, and selects an artist to bring the word to life on limited-edition labels of the Ornellaia bottle.
Marking the winery’s 13th edition of Vendemmia d’Artista, the 2018 vintage has been coined “La Grazia” – Grace. Estate Director, Axel Heinz, explains that the choice of name is due to 2018 being “a wine that has no hard edges”, and one “all about symmetry, proportion…a graceful expression of Ornellaia”.
Indeed, the higher proportion of Merlot than Cabernet Sauvignon in the latest vintage blend – an exception for the estate – has produced what we found to be a soft and silky wine with a lively perfume and elegant, precise fruit. Ornellaia’s CEO, Giovanni Geddes da Filicaja, notes that the wine really came together “at the time of blending”. He adds, “all the pieces were good, but once we put them all together, it became a really gracious wine”.
That the wine should be so-named came as somewhat of a surprise to Heinz. He reveals that “it was really after the year of ageing and when we sat down in the blending room, that the wine revealed itself to us”. He describes the vintage as “one not without challenges”, expanding thus: “usually [we have] a relatively dry Mediterranean climate. In 2018 we had Mediterranean sun but at the same time enough rainfall to slow the ripening down, and create a wine that is all about balance”.
Belgian artist, Jan Fabre, was chosen to bring La Grazia to life, and limited-edition bottles in various formats will feature his work, as shown in the image below.
Photo: courtesy of Ornellaia winery – featuring sculpture and drawings by Jan Fabre.
Ornellaia’s art curator, Bartolomeo Pietromarchi, explains the artistic concept as “a way to express balance between beauty and taste”, as well as to “explore the relationship between the senses”. Fabre has sculpted three works from precious red coral, which adorn Salmanazars due for auction in September; “A Candle of Mercy”, “The Crown of Kindness” and “The Heart of Virtue”.
Further bottles feature drawings that bring out the texture of these sculptures – indeed a limited number of 12-bottle cases of Ornellaia 2018 will each contain one bottle with Fabre’s crown label design.
The 111 limited-edition, large-format bottles will be auctioned through Sotheby’s in September 2021, and all proceeds will go towards Ornellaia’s ongoing support of the Mind’s Eye project at the Guggenheim museum.
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”.
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.
“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  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.