In victory and defeat: Champagne MUST BUYs worth celebrating

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

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

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

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

Under £75 – 2007 Bollinger Grande Année rosé

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

Under £150 – 2004 Philipponnat Clos des Goisses

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

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

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

Over £400: 2002 Salon Le Mesnil

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

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

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Rising through the ranks: Bordeaux 2019

This week, Wine Lister published Part II of its annual in-depth Bordeaux Study, In sickness, in health, which, among other inquiries, examines the 40 top-quality crus in 2019. As illustrated in the study, tastings have so far indicated high quality levels across the board in 2019, while numerous wines have made significant advancements, shaking up this year’s rankings.

Following this line of investigation, below we examine the top 25 Bordeaux 2019s by WL score (as separated by mere decimals), and consider the biggest movers since last year. These scores are informed by the recently-released ratings of Wine Lister partner critics, Bettane+Desseauve, Antonio Galloni and Neal Martin for Vinous.com, and James Lawther for JancisRobinson.com.

Consistent with last year’s ranking of Bordeaux 2018s by Quality score (conducted before the introduction of Wine Lister’s free site, featuring WL scores out of 100), Pomerol earns the highest number of places (six) in the top 25 2019s by WL score. Neighbouring Saint-Emilion follows closely behind with five spots in this year’s ranking, including the top-scoring wine of the vintage, Figeac 2019, which achieves a WL score of 98.

The four first growths to release their 2019s en primeur appear in third through seventh places, intersected by La Mission Haut-Brion’s entry at fifth place. This promising Pessac-Léognan climbs an impressive 26 spots in 2019, and, as mentioned in our previous blog, has been recently assigned MUST BUY status. Neal Martin scores La Mission Haut-Brion 2019 98-100 points, declaring: “I wager that ultimately this will become one of the wines of the vintage”, concluding that the wine is “breathtaking”.

L’Eglise Clinet sees an impressive upwards shift of 33 places this year, entering the top 10 with a WL score of 96. A poignant tribute to its late winemaker, Denis Durantou, its 2019 has received significant praise, with Antonio Galloni noting that it is “very clearly one of the wines of the year. A Pomerol of soaring, majestic intensity, L’Eglise-Clinet dazzles from start to finish”.

Pichon-Baron and Angélus both climb eleven places in this year’s top-25 ranking, to 11th and 16th place, respectively, with the former receiving top scores from both Neal Martin and Antonio Galloni. Both critics allude to the depth of Pichon-Baron’s 2019, with Galloni stating that “pomegranate, chocolate, licorice and spice are all lavishly expressed”. This represents one of Pauillac’s four entries on this year’s top-25 ranking, which also comprises Mouton, Lafite, and Pichon Comtesse.

Haut-Bailly makes a sizeable leap of 18 places since last year, ranking in 21st place with a WL score of 95. At £70 per bottle (in-bond) Haut-Bailly 2019 is also a Wine Lister MUST BUY. Fellow Pessac-Léognan producer, Smith Haut Lafitte, climbs an impressive 32 places with its 2019 vintage, rounding out the top 25 list. Having tasted twice, Neal Martin describes its “intense, very pure bouquet with blackberry, briary and cherry compote and a hint of black olive tapenade in the background”.

Also featured in the top 25 Bordeaux 2019s by WL score are: Belair-Monange, Cheval Blanc, Cos d’Estournel, Ducru-Beaucaillou, Haut-Brion, La Conseillante, Lafleur, Léoville Las Cases, Léoville Poyferré, Margaux, Palmer, Pavie, Petrus, Trotanoy, and Vieux Château Certan.

Wine Lister Pro members can read Part II of the Bordeaux study here. All free users can purchase the report for £125 from Wine Lister’s Analysis page (available in both English and French).


Bordeaux 2019 en primeur – who’s in the lead?

Despite wide speculation over whether an en primeur campaign could proceed at all in 2020, this year’s campaign is now more or less complete, and Wine Lister’s scores are in. Bordeaux 2019s exhibit high quality across the board, receiving frequent comparison with recent great vintages – 2016, 2015, 2010, and 2009.

Wine Lister has now published its latest Wine Leagues on the new vintage – examining which Bordeaux 2019s rank best for WL score in each major appellation.

Pauillac First Growths, Lafite and Mouton, lead the appellation’s league of top 2019s by WL score, with a joint score of 97. Pichon Comtesse and Pichon Baron follow suit with 96 – the latter achieving its highest WL score since its 2016 vintage. Wine Lister partner critic Neal Martin describes Pichon-Baron 2019 as having “a very refined bouquet” and a “silky smooth, creamy texture”, stating it “retains all the classicism you could ask for”.

The league of Margaux 2019s by WL score is topped by the appellation’s namesake property, whose latest release joins fellow Pauillac Firsts with a score of 97. Following Palmer’s entry with 96, Malescot Saint-Exupéry 2019 achieves the château’s highest ever WL score (95). Wine Lister partner critic, Antonio Galloni notes that the 2019 is “a striking wine that is sure to find many admirers”, recounting an “interplay of earthy and savoury notes with rich, dense fruit… utterly captivating”.

There are four Value picks featured in the league of Margaux 2019s by WL score, with Labégorce, Malescot Saint-Exupéry, Marquis d’Alesme, and Prieuré-Lichine all achieving scores of 93 and above, at under £35 per bottle (in-bond).

In Saint-Julien, Léoville Las Cases 2019 achieves a WL score of 97, matching that of its 2018 and 2016 vintages. Ducru-Beaucaillou and Léoville Poyferré appear in joint-second place with 96 – achieving their highest WL scores since 2016 and 2015, respectively. Ducru-Beaucaillou 2019 performed notably well at tastings, with Neal Martin, awarding it  96-98 points. He notes its “filigree tannins, pitch perfect acidity and a sensual, satin-like texture”, concluding that the wine is “outstanding in terms of persistence”.

With a score of 96, Cos d’Estournel 2019 tops the league for Saint-Estèphe 2019s by WL score, matching its successful 2018 and 2016 vintages. Writing for JancisRobinson.com,  James Lawther describes the vintage as “powerful but carefully constructed and precise”, noting “a lovely mellow quality to such a muscular wine”. While both falling one WL score below their previous vintage, Calon Ségur and Montrose appear second in the appellation’s league, with a shared score of 95.

Branaire-Ducru 2019 and Meyney 2019 exhibit notable value within their appellations – both achieving WL scores of 93 at £29 and £19 per bottle (in-bond), respectively.

Haut-Brion and La Mission Haut-Brion perform notably well in 2019, achieving joint-first place in the league of top Pessac-Léognan 2019 reds by WL score. As examined in a previous Bordeaux 2019 en primeur blog, the en primeur darling, Les Carmes Haut-Brion, shows clear qualitative success in 2019, and its small production levels and smart en primeur pricing has once again made it a clear campaign buy. Another promising pick from Pessac-Léognan, Olivier 2019 achieves Value pick status at c.£20 per bottle (in-bond), and achieves the château’s highest WL score (92). Antonio Galloni recounts “smoke, licorice, cured meat, graphite and savory herbs infuse the 2019 with striking aromatic intensity to play off its sumptuous fruit”, concluding that the wine is “Very good”.

Haut-Brion and La Mission Haut-Brion attain joint-first place for their whites as well as reds in 2019, achieving scores of 95 in the league of top Bordeaux 2019 whites by WL score. Latour-Martillac Blanc 2019 achieves the highest WL score seen across its vintages (93) – one WL score above Pape Clément Blanc’s 92. At c.£21 per bottle (in bond) Latour-Martillac Blanc 2019 enters the market 10-30% below the current market prices of vintages 2016-2018, showing good value for its quality. Neal Martin notes on the latest vintage: “subtle tropical notes of pineapple and orange rind with hints of strawberry come through on the finish”.

On the right bank, the league of top 10 Saint-Emilion 2019s is crowned by Figeac’s high-scoring 2019. Up one point on its 2018, Figeac’s latest release achieves the highest WL score of all Bordeaux 2019s (98). Figeac 2019 illustrates the château’s impressive upward quality trajectory, which has seen its WL score slowly but surely increase from 91 in 2008. Neal Martin gives the latest vintage 97-99 points, describing it as “exquisitely defined… a deeply impressive, intellectual Figeac”.

La Conseillante, Lafleur, l’Eglise Clinet, Petrus, Trotanoy, and Vieux Château Certan share the top WL score of Pomerol 2019s (96), separated by mere decimals. A release of note, l’Eglise Clinet 2019 is the last vintage of the late Denis Durantou, who sadly passed away in May. Neal Martin’s impressive score of 97-99 suggests the last vintage was his best, adding, “the perfect way to remember and raise a toast to one of Pomerol’s finest vignerons”.

Click here to view all Wine Leagues. Pro users have access to a more extensive set of Leagues and can log in to access here.


Popularity at a price: Bordeaux in 2020

Part I of Wine Lister’s annual in-depth Bordeaux report: For better, for worse, examines the state of the market for Bordeaux wines, in the context of 2019 en primeur.

As well as providing insight into the wine trade’s latest position on key wines of the region, the study examines Bordeaux’s disconnect between consumer popularity and its market performance at the start of 2020 (exacerbated by recent macro-economic hits to the UK, Hong Kong, and the US).

As illustrated below, Bordeaux has achieved the slowest price growth on the secondary market since May 2014, while Piedmont has seen the most impressive growth – likely due to increasing attention given to the region, and the rarity factor of many of its top wines, from which Burgundy also benefits.

The price performance of Bordeaux compared to four other key fine wine regions: Burgundy, California, Piedmont, and Tuscany. The price indices comprise the top five wine brands in each respective region.

A glance at its price performance since May 2019 tells a similar, if more unnerving story – Bordeaux has floundered over the past year, down nearly 5%.

Despite its price performance difficulties, Bordeaux nonetheless continues its legacy as the most popular wine region by a large margin, based on monthly searches made on Wine-Searcher.

The average search rank of Bordeaux compared to four other key fine wine regions: Burgundy, California, Piedmont, and Tuscany. Results are based on the average searches on Wine-Searcher for the 50 top-scoring wines per region over the last year.

Irrespective of its price performance struggles, Bordeaux remains a focus of fine wine buyers – within the trade and beyond – all over the world.  The en primeur campaign is a wheel that just keeps on turning, even in spite of a global pandemic. Trade and consumers alike can’t help but back Bordeaux, for richer and poorer.

More insight into the success of the 2019 en primeur campaign will be included in Part II of this study. In the meantime, visit the Analysis page to purchase Part I, or download using your Pro subscription (available in both English and French).


Which Bordeaux brands do the trade back in 2020?

With the Bordeaux 2019 en primeur campaign now behind us, Part I of Wine Lister’s 2020 Bordeaux Study examines the results of our latest in-depth trade survey. Answered by 50 key players across major fine wine markets, the results provide insight into the wine trade’s latest position on the region, including its level of confidence in specific wines.

The trade’s faith in Bordeaux brands has increased on the whole since last year, with more Bordeaux wines moving up in their confidence rating than down. For the fourth consecutive year, no Bordeaux wine received a confidence rating of 10/10. Brands that have retained their 9/10 confidence rating since last year are LafleurLe PinMargauxMoutonPetrus, and Vieux Châteaux Certan.

Joining them in 2020 are Canon, La Fleur-Pétrus, Lafite, and Pichon Comtesse, while Latour has moved down a rating since last year, to 8/10. The survey was, however, conducted prior to the first growth’s successful 2012 release (27th May) at c.£350 per bottle, marking its first release of a vintage exclusively as mature stock.

There are 28 Bordeaux wines that earn a confidence rating of 8/10 in 2020, with nine joining them since last year: Angélus, Ausone, Belair-Monange, Carruades de Lafite, Grand-Puy-Lacoste, La Mission Haut-Brion, Montrose, Palmer, and Pavillon Blanc.

Though Margaux’s Pavillon Rouge moves down to a rating of  7/10 in 2020, three younger siblings of first growths stay at a rating of 8/10:  Carruades de Lafite, Le Petit Mouton, and Les Forts de Latour.

Part II of the Bordeaux 2020 study, including a score breakdown of 2019s, and further retrospective analysis of the en primeur campaign, will be published shortly. Watch this space.

In the meantime, visit the Analysis page to purchase Part I, or download using your Pro subscription (available in both English and French).


Saving some of the best until last?

The final stretch of en primeur releases came yesterday – Tuesday 23rd June (excepting Petrus and Le Pin, which are generally always released at the end of the campaign).

First out of the blocks was the en primeur darling, Les Carmes Haut-Brion. Wine Lister’s CEO, Ella Lister, believes Director, Guillaume Pouthier and his team have produced another stunning effort in 2019, continuing their streak of achieving consistently high scores from critics since the 2014 vintage. She names the wine “heady” and “hypnotising” with aromas of “dark fruit, graphite, and mature roses” on the nose. On the palate she describes the wine as “silky, seductive, and generous”, adding that it is “incredibly pure”.

Aside from Les Carmes Haut-Brion’s clear qualitative success, the additional factors of its small production levels and smart en primeur pricing once again make it one of the most obvious buys of the campaign. One top UK merchant tells me, “we sold out in a matter of seconds”. The bittersweet irony of its huge demand is, of course, that it is reserved only for the lucky few. Indeed, its popularity has soared since the release of the 2016 vintage, which has more than doubled its price since. Its impressive price performance post en primeur release (the 2019 released at £58, 28% below the current price of the 2018) is the cherry on Bordeaux buyers’ favourite cake – Les Carmes Haut-Brion is, perhaps unsurprisingly, the number one Bordeaux wine voted by the trade to have seen the sharpest rise in demand, as shown in the chart below.

Results from Wine Lister’s 2020 trade survey show Les Carmes Haut-Brion achieves first place for sharpest rise in demand of Bordeaux wines.

Joining the fray of hot ticket releases from yesterday was Vieux Château Certan. Wine Lister partner critics were collectively impressed with the 2019, placing its quality on par with the 2018 (which achieves a WL score of 96). Writing for JancisRobinson.com, James Lawther describes the 2019 as a “classic VCC”, while Neal Martin for Vinous hails it a “brilliant follow-up to the 2018”. Releasing at £177 per bottle (in-bond), the latest vintage comes onto the market 20% below the current market price of the 2018.

Four releases from Tuesday 23rd June land within the top 10 Bordeaux wines to be voted by key members of the trade as most likely to see future prestige – Les Carmes Haut-Brion, Vieux Château Certan, Canon, and Rauzan-Ségla.

Chanel siblings Canon and Rauzan-Ségla also released their 2019s onto the market yesterday, adding weight to a day full of releases set for bright futures (see image above).

Saint-Émilion star, Canon, released its 2019 to the market at £73 per bottle (in-bond) – 23% below current prices of the 2018 and 2016 vintages. The Canon team characterise 2019 as a “metronome” vintage, referring presumably to the swinging back and forth between climatic extremes. The wet spring and the risk of frost, followed by the strong heat of the summer resulted finally in a perfect finish to the vineyard cycle at the time of harvest, and a wine that sings at perfect pitch. Lister describes Canon 2019 as a “sweet, seductive temptress”, with “voluptuous, racy acidity”, which Director Nicolas Audebert tells us, “2019 is a combination of 2015 and 2016”.

Canon’s Margaux sister, Rauzan-Ségla, also joined the stage, at £57 per bottle (in-bond). A “luscious”, and “lithe” wine, Lister notes the 2019 has “melting fruit, from red to black and back”, and a “toasty, flirty, refined length”. Entering the market 34% below the current price of the 2018 vintage, and offering the second most generous discount on 2018 market prices of the entire campaign (behind only Lafleur), this is sure to see high levels of demand.

A different time – a throwback to 2018 and a celebration at Château Berliquet, of its acquisition by the Chanel group.

The Chanel group’s new baby, Berliquet, is also growing up fast, releasing its 2019 at £34 per bottle (in-bond). Lister describes “ripe, juicy strawberries” on the nose, adding that it is “very complete, accomplished, and reassuring, with a mineral lift”. On the palate, she finds Berliquet 2019 “rich, full, but very clean-lined”, with “lovely acidity which brings out definition on the finish”. Judging by the immense success of its big siblings, Berliquet has a bright future ahead, and the 2019 is worth snapping up.

Also released yesterday were: Beau-Séjour Bécot and Beauséjour Héritiers Duffau Lagarosse


En primeur latest – packed with potential

As we approach the tail end of this busy campaign, the last two working days have seen some promising releases from both banks. Below we examine some of the highlights.

Friday 19th June

Haut-Bailly 2019 was released at £70 per bottle (in-bond), 20% below the 2018 release price. Wine Lister partner critics collectively award the 2019 its highest WL score ever (96), with laudable comments to boot – Antonio Galloni states, “it is easily one of the highlights of the vintage”, while Wine Lister’s CEO, Ella Lister, finds the wine “dark fruited and brooding”, on the nose, and “bewitching, languorous, and layered” on the palate. Haut-Bailly 2019 places second of all Pessac-Léognan reds, after a joint-first WL score of 97 for La Mission Haut-Brion 2019 and Haut-Brion 2019). With a record-high quality, and as a brand on the up, this is a release not to be missed.

Also released on Friday were wines from the Las Cases stable. The flagship wine, Léoville Las Cases, came onto the market at £145.50 per bottle (in-bond) – also a 20% discount from 2018’s opening price. Tasting in Bordeaux two weeks ago, Lister notes the 2019 is “magisterial” with “building power on the finish”. Wine Lister partner critic, Neal Martin, awards Léoville Las Cases 2019 96-98 points, and adds, “there is a clarity to this Grand Vin that places it amongst Jean-Hubert Delon’s finest releases in recent years”.

Picnic with Director Pierre Graffeuille – Wine Lister’s CEO, Ella Lister, tasted the Las Cases 2019s in Bordeaux two weeks ago, and describes the Grand Vin as “Luminous, transparent, and lyrical”.

Clos du Marquis and Nénin were also released, each offering good value in the context of similar quality wines produced in their respective appellations – Saint-Julien and Pomerol. Léoville Las Cases’ little brother, Petit Lion, is also exceptionally good value.

Perhaps the most notable release of a very busy Friday was l’Église Clinet 2019. Coming onto the market around the same price as the 2018 at £214 per bottle (in-bond), this is a sure exception to the trade’s “-30%” rule, given its circumstances – the last vintage of owner, the late Denis Durantou, who sadly passed away one month ago. Critics’ scores suggest that this final vintage was his best yet – Neal Martin awards it 97-99 points, and notes, “the perfect way to remember and raise a toast to one of Pomerol’s finest vignerons”. For Thierry Desseauve, l’Église Clinet is one of the wines of the vintage.

Pavie Macquin and Larcis Ducasse also released their 2019s on Friday. The former was one of Lister’s stand-out wines in 2019. She describes it as “bright and self-assured” on the nose, and “juicy and unctuous” on the palate. The latter shows particularly well against the wider Saint-Émilion backdrop. Saint-Émilion Grand Cru Classé “B” Larcis Ducasse 2019 earns a WL score of 95 – one point less than the likes of Cheval Blanc and Pavie, and is priced at just £47 per bottle (in-bond), or an average six times less than its Classés “A” comrades.

 

Monday 22nd June

Pichon Comtesse made for a powerful kick-off to the Bordeaux 2019 en primeur campaign’s fourth (and possibly final) week. Releasing at £111 per bottle, the latest vintage comes onto the market c.15% below the 2018 and 2016 vintages, if at a c.10% premium to the highly-scored 2015. Wine collectors will nonetheless likely be desperate to get their hands on this, given its resounding praise from critics, not to mention the impressive popularity of the estate. A perennial Wine Lister favourite, CEO, Ella Lister notes the wine has “perfectly poised fruit, interwoven with savoury complexity”. Neal Martin awards Pichon Comtesse 2019 98-100 points, and says, “Whisper it…it reminds me of their First Growth next door neighbour”. Dare we say it – this is Latour-level quality for roughly a quarter of the price.

Also released today is Saint-Émilion superstar, Troplong-Mondot. Its 2019 comes onto the market comfortably below the preceding four vintages on the market, with a price of £63.50 per bottle. Continuing the impressive quality increase and style evolution lead by Aymeric de Gironde and his team, critics are impressed with Troplong-Mondot 2019. Antonio Galloni states, “this is a wine that simply can’t be denied”, and Neal Martin agrees, adding that it is “just a wine you are going to want to drink”.

Further releases from Friday 19th June and Monday 22nd June are: LascombesPotensac, Réserve de la Comtesse, Smith Haut Lafitte, and Smith Haut Lafitte Blanc.


En primeur week #3 – the last first, super-seconds, and serious steals

The second half of this week has seen releases from first growth Margaux, Super-seconds Pichon Baron, Ducru-Beaucaillou, and more.

The two highest-priced wines released over the last two days have bucked discount trends set by their peers earlier in the campaign. Ausone 2019 was released on Wednesday 17th June, and merchants have been offering the wine for c.£432 per bottle in-bond (or 22% less than the 2018 vintage). Earlier in the campaign, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Classé “A” neighbour, Cheval Blanc offered a healthier discount on its 2019 (of 32%), resulting in the competitive price of £375 per bottle.

Similarly, the last first growth of the campaign emerged yesterday, its grand vin entering the market at £350 per bottle. Margaux 2019 offers a 16% discount on last year’s release price. Sitting more or less in the middle of 2019 prices from its two Pauillac comrades, Margaux nonetheless looks good when one considers Managing Director Philippe Bascaules’ poignant comment, naming the 2019 “much more Château Margaux” than the 2018. The 2019 also achieves Margaux’s best WL score (98 points) since the 2009 vintage. Volumes released onto the market are identical to last year, which will no doubt help to gain further appeal from buyers missing out on Lafite and Mouton.

Margaux’s second wine, Pavillon Rouge, and dry white, Pavillon Blanc were also released, at £125 and £168 per bottle (in-bond) respectively.

Of the c.100 wines released so far that Wine Lister covers, just eight of them have provided a 30% discount or above on 2018’s release price, while almost 40 wines have offered discounts of less than 15%.

Pauillac powerhouse Pichon Baron also entered the market with its 2019 at £99 per bottle (15% below the current market price of 2018). Wine Lister partner critic, Neal Martin, awards it 96-98 points, simply saying, “this is an outstanding Pauillac”. The same score was given by Martin to Saint-Julien super-second, Ducru-Beaucaillou, which also released yesterday. While both 2019 releases will no doubt find homes among followers of the brands and big en primeur buyers, in each case a recent back vintage also looks appealing in comparison – the 2015 Pichon Baron, and 2014 Ducru-Beaucaillou.

The Barton family wines joined the release fray this week – Léoville Barton, Langoa Barton, and value buy Mauvesin Barton. Wine Lister partner critics give high praise to the flagship release – Léoville Barton. Neal Martin and Antonio Galloni both award it 94-96 points, the latter saying, “what a gorgeous wine the 2019 is”. Together with James Lawther’s score of 18/20 for JancisRobinson.com, Léoville Barton 2019 achieves its highest Wine Lister score since the 2015 (95 points), which still has some availability in the market at around the same price.

Brane-Cantenac released yesterday at £41.50 per bottle. Its 2018 was one of Wine Lister’s absolute favourites during last year’s en primeur tastings, and judging by the latest critical acclaim, the 2019 has achieved another quality step up – James Lawther gives it 17.5 points, and names it “the epitome of fine Margaux”. This wine continues to provide excellent value when compared to similar quality offerings of its appellation.

La Lagune 2019 also entered the market, at £25 per bottle (in-bond). Having produced no wine in 2018, the latest release is priced 19% below the 2017, and is the cheapest recent vintage available on the market. Neal Martin awards it 92-94 points, naming the wine “not impactful, but intellectual”, and noting it will give “25-30 years of drinking pleasure”. With a potential record-level quality at such an attractive price, La Lagune could be the value buy of the entire campaign.

A further favourite, and poster child for good value, Meyney, also released its 2019 on Wednesday. Coming onto the market under £20 per bottle, and as the cheapest Meyney available, the wine is a no-brainer, as it continues to punch above its weight for quality.

Also released on Wednesday 17th and Thursday 18th June were: Canon-la-Gaffelière, Chapelle d’Ausone, Clinet, Clos de l’Oratoire, Croix de Beaucaillou, d’Aiguilhe, and La Mondotte.


En primeur presses on – frantic Friday, mega-Monday, and more

Since the last update, some 34 further Bordeaux 2019s have been released en primeur, covering a wide range of styles and price points. Given the saturation of releases, below we highlight a small selection of wines particularly worth backing.

Big hitters

La Conseillante opened the stage of en primeur week three – “mega Monday”, releasing its 2019 at £126 per bottle. Wine Lister’s CEO, Ella Lister, notes the wine is “vibrant, with a playful bouquet of spice, tobacco, and pure dark fruit”. Wine Lister partner critic, Neal Martin agrees, awarding the 2019 its highest ever Vinous score (97-99), and noting, “Winemaker Marielle Cazaux and her team have conjured a magnificent Pomerol here”. Coming onto the market 25% below 2018’s release price, this is worth snapping up given its continuation of La Conseillante’s style evolution – indeed, the wine still provides good value when compared to other Pomerols of similar quality.

Figeac followed closely behind, releasing its 2019 at an identical price. Also entering the market 25% below the 2018 (the most expensive recent Figeac vintage on the market), it too continues its upward quality trajectory in spectacular fashion. Awarding it the same score as La Conseillante, Martin names it “a deeply impressive, intellectual Figeac…amongst the canon of greats that stretch back to the 1940s”. Figeac was a Wine Lister favourite in 2018, and has clearly done another spectacular job this year – this is an absolute buy to put away for the future.

 

Arriving with a clever digital temperature checker – Wine Lister CEO, Ella Lister, tastes La Conseillante and Figeac samples in London.

Montrose 2019 was released this morning (Tuesday 16th June), at just over £100 per bottle (in-bond). While the wine has not yet been widely rated, Ella Lister tasted at the property last week, and names the 2019 “very harmonious, calming, and hypnotic”, with a “lovely, rounded, succulent, fresh-fruit palate”, and “satin tannins”. Continuing Montrose’s legacy of quality excellence, the 2019 is once again a good punt for decadent Bordeaux drinkers.

 

Old Faithfuls

Giscours 2019 released at £35.20 per bottle (in-bond) on Friday 12th June. Entering the market below current prices of the last five vintages, this should be an obvious buy for fans of the Margaux château. Lister notes the 2019 as “confident and precise” on the nose, and “creamy, accomplished, and long” in the mouth, calling it a “classic Giscours”. Neal Martin, concurs, noting, “this is a superb, potentially long-term Giscours”.

A perennial British favourite, Talbot 2019 has also been released, at an opening price of £35.15 per bottle (in-bond). Lister names Talbot 2019 one of her “coups de coeur”, adding that it is “spicy and exotic”, as well as “fresh and harmonious”. Talbot’s strong brand and visible recent quality improvements make this release a safe bet for any buyer looking for Left Bank Bordeaux to drink in 20-30 years.

A “grand merci” to négociant Duclot for hosting the recent Bordeaux 2019 en primeur tasting in Paris. Pictured: some of Wine Lister’s CEO, Ella Lister’s favourites.

Grand-Puy-Lacoste released its 2019 this morning (Tuesday 16th June), at £45 per bottle (in-bond). Another UK favourite, this release has seen some buzz from those trade members who have tasted already, and critics agree – Lister writes that it is “blue fruited, aquiline, pure, and purring”, while Martin (who gives it its best ever score – 95-97), says, “Classy and full of breeding – quintessential Pauillac”. Despite some availability of recent back vintages – 2015 and 2014 – at a similar price (or indeed cheaper), this is still a solid bet for top-quality Pauillac to lay down for the future.

 

Value buys

Chasse-Spleen, a traditional value hit among claret buyers, released its 2019 on Friday 12th June. It enters the market at £20 per bottle (in-bond), a neat 30% below the current market price of the 2018. Neal Martin awards the 2019 a score of 92-94 – placing its quality in line with the 2016 (93 points), with the potential for it to become even better in the future.

Lafon-Rochet released its 2019 yesterday, at £28.30, 12% below the current market price of the 2018. Neal Martin’s score of 93-95 suggests the Saint-Estèphe property has made another quality step up in 2019. Martin notes, “it is imbued with a sense of nobility and classicism that I much admire”. While the “discount” on 2018’s release price is not as high as some may have wished for, Lafon-Rochet 2019 still looks like a bargain relative to other Left Bank wines of similar quality.

Gloria 2019 was released this morning, at £25.10 per bottle (in bond). While only 13% below the current market price of the 2018, the 2019 still provides excellent value relative to other Saint-Julien wines, particularly considering its quality in 2019. Neal Martin awards it 93-95 points, and says, “this is a nimble Saint-Julien, athletic in build with a sapid finish that urges you back for another sip. Excellent”.

 

Also released over the last few days are the following 2019s: Beauregard, Blason d’Issan, Certan de May, Connétable de Talbot, d’Issan, de Sales, du Tertre, Feytit-Clinet, Fourcas Hosten, Grand Corbin-Despagne, Gruaud-Larose, La Dame de Montrose, La Fleur-Pétrus, La Pointe, La Violette, Lacoste Borie, Lagrange, Le Gay, Les Cruzelles, Montviel, Pape Clément, Pape Clément Blanc, Prieuré-Lichine, Sarget de Gruaud-Larose, and Saint-Pierre.


A dozen days of en primeur

Today is the 12th working day since the first major 2019 en primeur release, and over 60 wines are already out.

Among others, the last couple of days have seen the 2019 release of another first growth, a Pauillac powerhouse brand, and a major up-and-comer.

Haut-Brion released its red and white grands vins yesterday, at £295 and £560 per bottle in-bond respectively. While the red enters the market a solid 25% below the current market price of the 2018, the white is the campaign’s most expensive wine yet, and offers a smaller discount, of 5% on 2018.

Following Mouton Rothschild’s lead, Haut-Brion’s red looks well-priced within the current economic context, though buyers may note that the 2014 is available on the market around the same price. The 2012 also looks good – earning a WL score of 96, it is a Wine Lister MUST BUY (and available for c.£260 per bottle in-bond).

Also released from the Clarence Dillon family are Haut-Brion’s baby brother, Le Clarence (at c.£100 per bottle in-bond), and cousins La Mission Haut-Brion red and white. Of the two flagship reds, Haut-Brion is likely the stronger horse to back, based on its first growth status, as well as its position according to the trade among top Bordeaux wines for future prestige (see below).

According to Wine Lister’s 2020 trade survey, Haut-Brion is one of top Bordeaux wines most likely to be worth including in collectors’ future cellars.

Three further pairs of releases from Pessac-Léognan have emerged over the last two days, comprising Malartic-Lagravière, Latour-Martillac, and Carbonnieux.

On Thursday 10th June, Pauillac star-brand Lynch Bages was released, and has resulted in an onward UK selling price of c.£66 per bottle in-bond. Wine Lister’s CEO, Ella Lister, tasted it last week, and found it to be “lifted, precise”, and “a classic”. The price positioning under £70 has reportedly been well-received.

Haut-Batailley was also introduced to the market, at £36 per bottle in-bond. As its second en primeur release under Cazes ownership (the same family as Lynch Bages), the 2019 is 20% under the current market price of the 2018. Following a repositioning of Haut-Batailley’s pricing during en primeur last year, the 2019 release looks good value – the wine’s strong reputation will likely only become stronger with a new wave of investment, and prices are likely to rise accordingly. Lister describes Haut-Batailley 2019 as “pretty”, “elegant”, and “very harmonious”, with a “long, saline, dark chocolate finish” – this is a wine to buy now.

Better late than never – Wine Lister’s CEO, Ella Lister, has now tasted the majority of Bordeaux 2019s. Watch this space for her favourites, and Bordeaux 2019 MUST BUYs coming soon.

One further release for each side of the river caught Wine Lister’s eye this week: La Gaffelière 2019 was released 13% beneath the current 2018 market price. The château’s director, Thomas Soubes, told Wine Lister that he was very happy with the quality of their 2019, and Lister concurs –  she finds the wine “serious” and “charming”, with “velvet tannin” and “seductive red fruit”. La Gaffelière continues to present excellent value for its impressive quality, relative to wines sharing the Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Classé “B” classification.

Calon Ségur 2019 was also released yesterday. As one of the top rising stars of Bordeaux, its 2019 came onto the market 10% below the 2018 release price, but crucially 31% below 2018’s current market price. Calon Ségur is one of the “poster children” for the true benefits of buying en primeur. Lister found Calon Ségur 2019 to be “perfumed”, “juicy”, and “unctuous”, with “spice on the mid-palate” and a “saline, super-precise finish”. As ever, this is worth snapping up before its price inevitably increases post en primeur release.

Also released during the same period were: Cantenac-BrownCapbern, Clos FourtetClos RenéCos Labory, KirwanMonbousquetMoulin Saint-GeorgesPaviePhélan SégurPibran, and Suduiraut.

Keep up to date with further Bordeaux 2019 en primeur releases through Wine Lister’s dedicated en primeur page.