Riesling MUST BUYs that are worth the rave

Throughout the late 20th century, Riesling gained a somewhat tarnished reputation, particularly within the UK, as a consequence of the abundance of overly sweet, low-quality Rieslings being released onto the market. Over the past two decades, however, it has made a comeback – especially the dry styles of top-quality wines with ageing potential and great value. The high acidity and complexity of tertiary flavours in Riesling have led to it being a favourite among wine industry professionals, including Jancis Robinson, who hails it “the greatest white wine grape”.

To help you uncover Germany’s noble grape, this week we examine some iconic dry and off-dry Riesling MUST BUYs with WL scores above 95.

 

Top quality Riesling is now produced around the world, from the traditional regions of the Mosel and Alsace, through to Australia and South America. 70% of dry Riesling MUST BUYs scoring above WL 95 hail from Germany (25 wines), of which just over half (19 wines) are produced in the Mosel. The other German regions in the list comprise two entries from the Rheinhessen, and one each from the Rheingau, Nahe, and Pfalz respectively.

Austria achieves six entries on the list of Riesling MUST BUYs scoring WL 95 and over (18%), which all hail from Niederösterreich, while the Alsace and Australia’s Clare Valley both earn two entries respectively.

 A Mosel Must – 2010 Joh. Jos. Prüm Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese Goldkapsel

With a WL Score of 97 at just £59 (per bottle in-bond), the 2010 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Auslese Goldkapsel exemplifies the excellent quality-to-price ratio of JJ Prüm’s wines. Long considered one of the Mosel’s, if not the whole of Germany’s most revered estates, its Wehlener Sonnenuhr vineyard is situated on steep south-facing, blue slate slopes, resulting in its complex minerality. Scoring it 19/20 points, Wine Lister partner critic, Jancis Robinson recounts that the 2010 vintage of this off-dry Riesling “Dances out of the glass on the nose. Such delicacy and life! Racy”. This vintage is available to purchase from Lay & Wheeler, where a case of six starts at £330 (in bond).

An essential Alsace – 2008 Trimbach Riesling Frédéric Emile

Dating back to 1626, 13 generations of the Trimbach family have contributed to the estate’s winemaking, now considered one of Alsace’s top properties. Cuvée Frédéric Emile is a blend of two Grand Cru vineyards, Geisberg and Osterberg, that share complex soils of alkaline clay and limestone, producing a wine of intense minerality. Both sites benefit from evening winds (the Tahlwendala), which allow extended ripening periods. The 2008 Trimbach Riesling Frédéric Emile achieves a WL Score of 95, and is available to purchase by the case from Cru World Wines for £390 (in bond).

 A need for Niederösterreich – 2013 F.X. Pichler Riesling Kellerberg Smaragd

Described by Jancis Robinson as “Big and opulent with some lychee flavours”, the 2013 was a notably good vintage for F.X. Pichler’s Kellerberg Smaragd. Achieving the best WL Score since 1995 (96), it showcases Pichler’s attempt to refine his style and prioritise purity of fruit and balance over power. Although the narrow stone terraces of the Kellerberg vineyard necessitate farming and harvesting by hand, this wine has an impressive quality-to-price ratio. At £34 (per bottle in bond), the 2013 vintage is also a Wine Lister Value pick, and is available to purchase from BI Wines & Spirits (by the case of 12).

 A New World necessity – 2013 Grosset Polish Hill Riesling

Often coined one of Australia’s most renowned Riesling winemakers, Jeffrey Grosset’s Polish Hill plot was planted in 1996, following years of research into the effect of soil, rock, and altitude on Riesling. This eight-hectare plot is thus at 460 metres altitude, ensuring cool nights and longer ripening of its Riesling grapes. Planted in an area termed “hard rock”, the Polish Hill vineyard is situated on a crust of clay over slate, which, alongside the cool growing season, causes stress on the vines, resulting in smaller but more complex-flavoured grapes. The 2013 vintage achieves a WL score of 95, and is available to purchase from Lay & Wheeler for £50 (per bottle in bond).

See the full list of Riesling MUST BUYs here.


From bargains to blowouts: red Burgundy at five different price points

Following our recent investigation into white Burgundy at five different price points, we now turn to red Burgundy – which represents a considerable 23% of Wine Lister’s MUST BUY hoard (376 wines).

These wines cover an even greater range of prices than their white counterparts, from £51 (per bottle in-bond) up to £15,352. Read on below for our picks of red Burgundy MUST BUYs at five different price points.

Prices are shown per bottle in-bond (when buying by the case).

Under £75 – 2012 Marquis d’Angerville Volnay Champans

Marquis d’Angerville is widely considered one of the top producers in the Côte de Beaune, and the reference producer in Volnay. Indeed, the domain’s vineyards represent over 10% of all Premier Cru Volnay plantings. D’Angerville’s Volnay Champans is less than half of the cost of its flagship Volnay wine, Clos des Ducs. While both vineyards have south-easterly exposure, Clos des Ducs has calcareous, stony, white marl soil, while the soil in Champans is more clay-driven. The Champans is thus richer and fuller, while the Clos des Ducs (which also enjoys the highest elevation in Volnay) has more complexity and definition. The 2012 Marquis d’Angerville Volnay Champans performs particularly well, achieving a WL Score of 94 – this wine can be purchased from BI Wines & Spirits for £66.67 (per bottle in bond).

Under £150 – 2014 Jean Grivot Clos de Vougeot

Having taken over from his father Jean in 1990, Étienne Grivot (alongside his wife Marielle) has since adjusted his family’s viticultural and vinification methods. While completing his studies in general agriculture, viticulture, and oenology, Étienne noted that the over-fertilised Burgundian soil had become gradually less capable of producing vins de terroir. As well as reducing his overall yields, he now uses organic farming methods and natural yeasts to preserve the expression of where the grapes come from. The 2014 Clos de Vougeot has a WL Score of 94, and was described by Jancis Robinson as having “massively nuanced fruit” – this vintage can be purchased by the bottle from Wilkinson Vintners for £124 (in bond).

Under £350 – 2015 Bruno Clair Gevrey-Chambertin Clos Saint-Jacques

Bruno Clair’s Clos Saint-Jacques Premier Cru plantings are situated within a 6.7ha vineyard (shared with Sylvie Esmonin, Louis Jadot, Fourrier, and Armand Rousseau) encircled by a two-metre wall. Providing protection from prevailing winds, this fortification creates a micro-climate, which, alongside its steep south-easterly facing slope, enables consistent ripening. The 2015 vintage achieves a WL Score of 95. Wine Lister partner critic, Neal Martin describes it thus: “a hint of dark chocolate emanates from the oak infusing the red and black fruit toward the finish, and touches of marmalade and blood orange linger on the aftertaste”. This vintage is available to purchase from Cru World Wine, where the price of a bottle starts at £355 (in bond).

Under £500 – 2010 François Lamarche La Grande Rue

Having been elevated to Grand Cru status in 1992, La Grande Rue provides the setting for François Lamarche’s most prized domain – from which only c.5,500 bottles are produced per year. As of the 2007 vintage, François’ daughter, Nicole, has had total control of the winemaking, and has implemented organic viticulture (certified in 2010), which she believes makes vines more resilient to biotic stress. Described by Jancis Robinson as exhibiting “lovely freshness yet concentration and subtlety too”, the 2010 vintage achieves Lamarche La Grande Rue’s highest WL Score since its 1964 vintage (96), and is available to purchase from Corney & Barrow, where prices start at £540 per bottle (in bond).

Over £500 – 2008 Jacques-Frédéric Mugnier Musigny

Jacques-Frédéric Mugnier maintains his aim of preserving the purest expression of nature within his wine, with minimal interference from technological practices in the vineyard or the cellar. His Musigny is widely considered to be one of the greatest Burgundy reds, and has been described by Wine Lister’s Burgundy specialist critic, Jasper Morris as “brilliantly fragrant in bouquet and notably persistent on the finish”. With a WL Score of 96, the 2008 Jacques-Frédéric Mugnier Musigny is more difficult to source than the preceding wines, however, it is worth informing your merchant of your interest in purchasing it.


The return of rosé Champagne

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Treasures hidden on our MUST BUY list

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.


From bargains to blowouts: white Burgundy at five different price points

As shown in a recent post on using Wine Lister to build your portfolio, Burgundy is the best-represented region of Wine Lister’s MUST BUY hoard (33%, or 533 wines). 10% of these (161 wines) are white Burgundies, that show high quality and good value within their respective vintages and appellations. These wines cover a vast range of prices, from £15 (per bottle in-bond) up to £1,354.

This week’s blog post examines white Burgundy MUST BUYs at five different price points, to help the hunt of those buying fine wine at every level.

Prices are shown per bottle in-bond (when buying by the case).

Under £20 – 2016 Domaine A. & P. de Villaine Bouzeron

Bouzeron’s location in the north of the Côte Chalonnaise provides the setting for Aubert de Villaine’s personal project – one with a humbler reputation than that of his magnum opus, Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. Dispelling the region’s once-unfavourable reputation, de Villaine’s restricted yields and hand-harvesting produces top quality Aligoté Doré. The 2016 vintage achieves a WL Score of 90, and was described by Neal Martin as having “a touch of salinity towards the finish with judicious hints of stem ginger and a hint of rhubarb”. This wine is available to purchase from Justerini & Brooks, where a case of six starts at £90 (in-bond).

Under £150 – 2015 Domaine Bonneau du Martray Corton-Charlemagne

Bonneau du Martray is the largest single owner of vines in Corton-Charlemagne – an appellation that is often said to rival Montrachet. The 2015 vintage was discussed in Wine Lister’s blog on the top 2015 white Burgundies by WL score, in which it was the second highest overall scorer. As of 2018, around 25% of Bonneau du Martray’s Corton-Charlemagne vineyards has been leased to Romanée-Conti – a factor that could drive its price up in the future. For now, this Corton-Charlemagne remains of exceedingly good value in the context of Grand Cru white Burgundy. The 2015 vintage can be purchased from UK merchants such as Goedhuis, where a case of six costs £916 (in-bond).

Under £350 – 2012 Domaine des Comtes Lafon Meursault Genevrières

Despite lacking the Grand Cru status held by Corton-Charlemagne, the higher cost of Domaine des Comtes Lafon’s Meursault Genevrières (Premier Cru) could in part be reflective of the increasing popularity of Meursault. Dominique Lafon is often considered one of the leading producers in Meursault, as reflected in his meticulous vinification process. Spending two winters in wood, and sleeping in some of the deepest and coldest cellars in the region, his wines are bottled nearly two years after harvest – one of the latest bottlings in Burgundy. Achieving a WL score of 94 and ‘Investment Staple’ status, the 2012 vintage is available to purchase from Four Walls Wine Co., where a bottle costs £225 (in-bond).

Under £500 – 2017 Maison Joseph Drouhin Montrachet Marquis de Laguiche

The second Grand Cru white Burgundy examined here is more expensive than Bonneau du Martray’s Corton-Charlemagne, but nonetheless also good value – this time in the context of Montrachet specifically. Hailing from négociant house Joseph Drouhin, its Montrachet Marquis de Laguiche is priced around £432, while the average price of all Montrachet 2017s on Wine Lister is £1,249. Sourcing grapes from vineyards owned by the Laguiche family, the quality here is just as impressive as several Montrachet wines produced by Burgundy domains. Achieving a WL score of 95, the 2017 vintage was described by Jancis Robinson as “Creamy, deep, powerful and endlessly long”. This wine is available to purchase from Berry Bros. & Rudd, where a case of six bottles starts at £2,750 (in-bond).

Over £500 – 2015 Domaine Roulot Meursault Charmes

The “blowout” wine of this week’s selection is Domaine Roulot’s Meursault Charmes. Having assumed direction of the estate in 1989, Jean-Marc Roulot has been successful in fine-tuning the distinct style of wine developed by his father, Guy Roulot. While many other wines of this village exhibit richness and concentration, the 2015 Meursault Charmes reflects Jean-Marc’s commitment to achieving a brighter style of Meursault – one which expresses its terroir vividly. Speaking on his aversion to excessive lees-stirring, he says, “I prefer to lose a little volume and power on the palate in order to obtain the ‘ligne droite’ [straight line] and the purity. This haunting purity and directness is evident in every wine Roulot produces.” The wine is available from several UK merchants, including Morgan Classic Wines, and Fine+Rare, from which prices start from £425 (per bottle in-bond).


The wine collector’s toolbox – Wine Lister’s Vintage Value Identifier

Last week’s blog post examined two of the most popular Wine Lister website features amongst collectors: the MUST BUY recommendation tool and the Compare Tool. Wine Lister’s Vintage Value Identifier helps the modern wine collector to further refine their online investigations.

Featured on each wine page, the dynamic Vintage Value Identifier gives a clear visual of quality-to-price ratios across the vintages of a given wine, and applies a Value Pick Score to measure the relative value.

By performing the price analysis for you, this tool pinpoints exact vintages of your favourite wines that are the best options to buy or sell, based on the impressive quality for their price.

See the example of Montrose below, or by exploring its wine page here.

As indicated by the red dots, and values on the right-hand axis, Montrose’s Value Pick Score fluctuates between vintages. The 2004, 2007, 2009 and 2010 vintages share the lowest Value Pick Score (23), while the 2014 Montrose achieves the highest score of 28.

The 2014 vintage tends to represent excellent value across the board in Bordeaux. This is due to its good (if not excellent) quality overall, and its release after the lesser-quality 2013 (which kept release prices down). Montrose’s 2014 was awarded 96 points by Wine Lister partner critic, Neal Martin, who notes, “a bouquet that exudes class and sophistication: pure and mineral-driven black fruit, cedar and pencil lead, hints of blueberry developing with aeration although it never impedes upon the sense of terroir”.

While the true benefit of the Vintage Value Identifier lies in the Value Pick Score, it is still possible to view the pure price vs. quality analysis, as illustrated below:

While Montrose 2009 achieves the second-highest WL Score of the featured vintages, it also commands the highest price (£172 per bottle in-bond, when buying by the case). Achieving MUST BUY status, the 2014 vintage is conversely priced at £77 per bottle in-bond for a similar level of quality (hence the higher Value Pick Score). The 2014 Montrose is available to purchase from Corney & Barrow, Cult WinesJusterini & Brooks, and BI Fine Wines (the latter in magnums only).

Guiding your future purchases, you can identify good value in back vintages of any wines by using the Vintage Value Identifier on each wine’s page. Click here to start your own analysis.

Wine Lister is currently offering a range of portfolio analysis services to private clients. If you are interested in having your wine collection analysed by our team of fine wine data experts, please don’t hesitate to contact us.


The wine collector’s toolbox – using Wine Lister to build your portfolio

An Easter weekend on lockdown presents as good a time as ever to evaluate your wine collection. While it can be tricky to keep track of what you’ve got and when you should drink it, Wine Lister’s various online tools allow detailed analysis of your collection and can guide future purchases, whether for drinking or investment.

This week’s blog post examines two of the most popular Wine Lister website features amongst collectors, starting with the MUST BUY recommendation tool.

Wine Lister’s proprietary recommendation algorithm produces a dynamic list of wines with high quality that show value within their respective vintages and appellations, helping wine lovers buying at almost every level to make the best choices for their desired region, style, or vintage.

There are currently 1,665 MUST BUYs out of the 30,000+ labels on Wine Lister. See the chart below for a breakdown of MUST BUYs by region – an indication of what a diverse portfolio could look like for the modern collector.

While the same chart from a decade ago may have been dominated by Bordeaux, the global demand and secondary market values for Burgundy’s top wines have continued to spiral upwards. Burgundy represents the greatest percentage of MUST BUY wines, with red and white recommendations accounting for 33% of all MUST BUYs collectively. The red Burgundian MUST BUYs feature a range of prices starting from the most expensive, DRC’s Romanée-Conti 2015 (available at £14,500 per bottle in-bond), down to 64 wines priced at £100 or under, including Stéphane Magnien’s Clos Saint-Denis 2010 (available at £76 per bottle).

Bordeaux represents 13% of MUST BUYS, and also encompasses a wide range of prices, from six vintages of Petrus (with an average price of £1,990 per bottle) down to two vintages of Marsau (priced at £12 and £13 respectively). Tuscany, Piedmont, and the Rhône follow closely behind, while California makes up the largest proportion of New world MUST BUYs.

With so much MUST BUY choice available, you may wish to filter these by top regions, and then further by Wine Lister Indicator. For example, filter results by ‘Investment staples’ to see wines that are long-lived (but not too old), and have proven wine price performance, while staying relatively stable and liquid.

Wine Lister’s Compare tool can then further refine your investigation, by displaying your selected MUST BUYs side by side. This is illustrated below using three 2016 Saint-Estèphe MUST BUYsCos d’Estournel, Calon Ségur, and Montrose. While Calon Ségur appears to be the best value, Montrose has the highest scores from Wine Lister’s partner critics, and therefore the better WL score overall.

See the above comparison for yourself, or start your own wine comparison here.

Wine Lister is currently offering a range of portfolio analysis services to private clients, from detailed geographical split and further purchase advice, to investment forecasting and a fully-fledged “drink vs. sell” plan. If you are interested in having your wine collection analysed by our team of fine wine data experts, please don’t hesitate to contact us.


Quality across Crus Classés – the best Médoc MUST BUYs

As we spare a thought for Bordeaux during what would have been the 2019 en primeur tasting week, we continue to encourage our readers to investigate the abundance of physical vintages available from this noble region. This week we examine the top Bordeaux MUST BUYs in four of the five left bank classified growth groups.

Though the tasting and sale of 2019 may be postponed, 17 reds from last year’s en primeur campaign (2018) still appear in our top MUST BUYs selection, and are worth snapping up for future drinking. The impressive quality of recent physical vintages in Bordeaux, namely 2016 and 2015, is clear to see – each vintage earns 10 and nine MUST BUY places respectively in the Wine Leagues below.

Of the 222 Bordeaux wines that are currently identified as MUST BUYs, 97 are Médoc classified growths. Looking at the top 10 wines for ‘Cru Classé’ levels (second to fifth), WL scores indicate that the quality structure intended in the 1855 classification is perhaps not so rigid, now that modern winemaking techniques have more of an influence. For example, five wines in both the third and fourth growth groups earn 94 WL, and six wines among top fifth growths earn the same score.

These rankings are formulated by Wine Lister’s new interactive tool – Wine Leagues – which can be accessed here.

With a WL Score of 97, Montrose’s 2016 release takes the lead spot in the list of top Bordeaux second growth MUST BUYs. Awarded 98 points by Wine Lister partner critic, Antonio Galloni, and described as ‘a wine of pedigree, depth and character’, this wine comes at price of £111 (per bottle, in-bond, when buying by the case). Super-second Pichon Comtesse features three times – with 2016, 2010 and 2018 vintages present. The latter two vintages are available in-bond at Goedhuis & Co – the 2010 would make for a great lockdown indulgence, whilst the 2018 is an investment for future drinking.

Calon Ségur dominates the Bordeaux third growth wine league, occupying half of the top 10 spots with vintages 2005, 2009, 2014, 2015 and 2016. The average cost of these vintages is £71 (per bottle, in-bond). Palmer features twice, though at a higher price – its two listed vintages (2008 and 2010) are available at £204 and £155 respectively from  BI Fine Wine & Spirits.

The top Bordeaux fourth growth MUST BUY list is dominated by more recent vintages (2015-2018). Occupying the top two positions with its 2018 and 2016 releases, Branaire-Ducru has a notably good quality-to-price ratio. Both vintages achieve a WL Score of 94 at the cost of £38 per bottle (in-bond). The 2018 Branaire-Ducru achieved special mention in last year’s examination of WL MUST BUYs from Bordeaux en primeur 2018, as did Beychevelle. Both wines are available to purchase by the case (in-bond) at Albany Vintners.

Of the 18 Bordeaux fifth growths, eight achieve MUST BUY status. Grand-Puy-Lacoste achieves multiple entries on the League, with 2009, 2014, 2015 and 2016 all receiving a WL Score of 94. These four deliverable vintages are available from several UK merchants including Berry Bros & Rudd, where prices start from £245 for the 2014 vintage (per case of six in-bond). Described by Neal Martin as ‘one of the great vintages from this estate in the modern era’ the cost of the 2009 supersedes its descendants – a case of six bottles starts at £450 (in bond).

All users can see the standard Wine League page here. Pro users have access to a more extensive set of Leagues, and can log in to access here.


California dreaming – quality and value in America’s Golden State

While the world continues to tackle the outbreak of Covid-19, we at Wine Lister are trying to continue with “business as usual” – at least as far as is possible, while also thinking of all our friends in wine regions and markets that are struggling in this uniquely difficult time. This of course includes California – that idyll for sunshine and free love as featured in many a hit song and many a hit wine list.

Of all fine wines from the New World, offerings from California have succeeded in grabbing the attention of fine wine collectors, with some even reaching “cult” status. With this in mind, we are California dreaming this week, and examine below the wines from California’s foremost regions – Napa and Sonoma Counties.

Both production areas offer an abundance of top-quality wines, though at a price. The high prices of several Napa County AVAs, including Oakville and the Napa Valley, mean that its wines can appear expensive when compared to its sibling, Sonoma County.

The chart above shows the average WL Score and price (£) per bottle in-bond (when buying by the case) of the top eight AVAs in Napa and Sonoma Counties.

Two AVAs consisting only of white wines stand in stark contrast. Carneros is represented by four Chardonnays – Kistler Vineyards’ Hudson Vineyard, Ramey Wine Cellars’ Hudson Vineyard, Shafer Vineyards’ Red Shoulder Ranch, and Cakebread’s Chardonnay Reserve, earning an average WL score of 91.8. Accompanying its relatively low WL score is the second-lowest average price of all AVAs – c.£67 per bottle in-bond. This remains excellent value in the wider fine wine context, given that Chardonnay with similar scores  from Burgundy can fetch up to c.£1,000 (for example, Coche-Dury’s Meursault Les Caillerets).

At the other end of the quality scale is Sonoma Valley AVA, represented by three Chardonnays from Kistler Vineyards. Its average WL score of 93.7 is the highest amongst its Californian peers. Considered a cult Californian winemaker, the Kistler Winery emulates the Burgundian “terroiriste” approach, committing wholeheartedly to wines that best reflect each individual plot.

The Napa County groups command a higher price tag on average than their Sonoma counterparts. Oakville’s selection of predominantly red wines holds the second-highest WL score, however its average price is over double that of the second most expensive region – Rutherford. This is explained by the presence of Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon, which, at an average price of £2,863 per bottle, drives the region’s quality-to-price ratio down. The mailing list model of Jean Philips’ low-production Napa Valley winery has amassed an incredible cult following of fine wine buyers, who seemingly seek access to the wine at any cost.

While Sonoma County may appear to offer the better value (with red wines such as Kenwood Vineyards Artist Series Cabernet Sauvignon, or Hirsch Vineyards Block 8 Estate Pinot Noir, to add examples to Kistler’s whites), Wine Lister’s top 10 Californian MUST BUYs are all from Napa County.

Of these, all are produced in the Napa Valley AVA except Screaming Eagle’s 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon. Dominus Estate achieves two mentions, with vintages 2013 and 2010 both featured. Perhaps unsurprisingly for the New World king of Cabernet Sauvignon, the top 10 Californian MUST BUYs includes just one alternative grape variety – Kongsgaard’s 2016 Hudson Vineyard Syrah.

Explore all 94 Californian MUST BUYs here.


Bordeaux MUST BUYs

Faced with a new generation of fine wine buyers seeking more of the “weird and wonderful”, let alone recent economic obstacles – Coronavirus keeping drinkers off the streets, US tariffs on European wines – Bordeaux can struggle to find space to thrive.

Bordeaux’s traditional image compared to more fashionable regions such as Burgundy, Piedmont, or Champagne means its prices are lagging behind. The silver lining is that Bordeaux appears excellent value for the high quality available in comparison.

Wine Lister’s dynamic buy recommendation tool currently identifies 219 Bordeaux wines as MUST BUYs – just 19 fewer than the original MUST BUY list from September 2019.

The above table shows each Bordeaux appellation by number of MUST BUYs, as well as average price and WL score of each MUST BUY appellation group. Marking the delayed opportunity presented by slow price evolution post-en primeur, 2016 is the most-featured vintage, achieving 40 entries out of the 219 Bordeaux MUST BUYs (or 18%).

Leading MUST BUY appellation Pessac-Léognan is made up of 28 reds and eight dry whites. Producer Domaine de Chevalier features particularly heavily, earning MUST BUY status for 1981, 2009, 2014, 2015, and 2018 for its red wine, and 2004, 2009, 2010, and 2013 for white. Its second red wine, L’Esprit de Chevalier, appears for the 2016 vintage.

Smith Haut Lafitte and La Mission Haut-Brion share the remaining white places between them, while Haut-Bailly, Haut-Brion, Latour-Martillac, and Malartic-Lagravière achieve multiple entries for reds only. Price-rising superstar Les Carmes Haut Brion features for just one vintage – the 2017.

Right bank appellations Saint-Emilion and Pomerol share second place, with 33 MUST BUYs each. They both earn slightly better average WL scores than Pessac-Léognan, but at prices 26% and 366% higher respectively on average than Pessac counterparts.

The large price difference is hardly surprising in Pomerol, given that its MUST BUY hoard includes five vintages of Petrus, and one of Le Pin. Without these, the average price of Pomerol MUST BUYs is £171, and there are still options at the more affordable end (such as 2016 Vray Croix de Gay).

Powerhouse Pauillac comes next, and includes 14 first growth entries. Mouton takes the lion’s share of these, featuring seven vintages from 1996-2018. Latour earns five places (including one much older vintage – 1964), and Lafite two. Pichon Comtesse also features heavily, earning five MUST BUYs for its grand vin, and one for the Réserve de la Comtesse.

In terms of pure value for money, the one MUST BUY from the Médoc appellation – Potensac 2018 – wins out, followed more generally by Saint-Estèphe’s 22 MUST BUY entries. Perhaps unsurprisingly, its crowned king is Calon Ségur, earning MUST BUY status for five vintages – 2005, 2009, 2014, 2015, and 2016.

Explore all 219 Bordeaux MUST BUYs here.