In Bordeaux, 2018 was a winemakers’ vintage. That much is clear from conversations the Wine Lister team had throughout en primeur tasting week, explained further in Bordeaux 2018 en primeur part I : the vintage. Though quality across the board was good in 2018, the greats stand out all the more for being the result of key technical decisions, rather than just terroir.
Below we look at the top 25 Bordeaux 2018 red Quality scores, based on the recently-released ratings of Wine Lister partner critics Bettane+Desseauve, Julia Harding for Jancis Robinson, Antonio Galloni for Vinous, and Jeannie Cho Lee. The average Quality score of these top 25 is 975, 25 points higher than the equivalent top red panel in 2017.
Right bank super-appellation, Pomerol earns the highest number of places in the top 25 red Quality scores (6), and includes the first- and second-best wines of the vintage, Petrus and Lafleur. They earn Quality scores of 992 and 991 respectively, and the former is awarded 97-100 points by Wine Lister partner critic, Antonio Galloni, who comments, “From the very first taste, the 2018 Petrus is simply magical”.
Proving the potential for high quality across both banks in Bordeaux 2018, the next highest appellations are Pauillac and Saint-Émilion with 5 wines appearing in the top 25 apiece. Pauillac wins out overall, with an average score of 976 (vs. 974 in Saint-Émilion). Cheval Blanc (990) and Canon (963) show impressive Quality improvements on 2017, moving 22 and 31 places up the rankings respectively.
Pauillac’s top quality wines are made up, perhaps unsurprisingly, of the three Pauillacais first growths, Lafite (986), Latour (985), and Mouton (983), and super-seconds Pichon Baron and Pichon Comtesse. This last is holds the appellation’s most-improved ranking, moving up 21 places from its 2017 position. Julia Harding of JancisRobinson.com writes of Pichon Comtesse 2018, “A gentle and surprisingly subtle beauty”.
Elsewhere on the left bank, Saint-Julien and Saint-Estèphe earn three wines each in the top 25 for Quality. The best of these, Léoville Las Cases, earns a Quality score of 987. The three Saint-Estèphe wines follow consecutively, with front-runner and rising star Calon-Ségur moving up 37 places from its 2017 ranking – the largest improvement of all the top 25 Quality scorers in 2018.
Margaux and Pessac-Léognan appear just thrice between them in the top 25 for Quality, with Margaux (980), tiny-production Palmer (973), and Haut-Brion (981).
Other wines featuring in the top 25 Bordeaux 2018 Quality scores are: Figeac, Vieux Château Certan, Montrose, Ausone, Le Pin, Cos d’Estournel, Ducru-Beaucaillou, Léoville-Poyferré, Angélus, Trotanoy, and La Conseillante.
Last week, members of the Wine Lister team were in Bordeaux tasting hundreds of Bordeaux 2018s en primeur. Our full report of the 2018 vintage (similar to last year’s article on 2017) will be out soon, and in the meantime we examine below some 2018 tasting highlights.
Quality across the wines we tasted is extremely high. We have selected 42 highlights, including 10 underdogs – those wines we felt surpassed our quality expectations.
The Wine Lister team found beautiful wines in all the left bank appellations. Margaux and Pessac-Léognan appeared the most consistent for high quality, earning seven and six highlights respectively. These two appellations are home to five of Wine Lister’s 10 underdogs of 2018 en primeur tastings.
The former includes its first-growth namesake, Château Margaux, which was precise, addictive, and harmonious. Pavillon Rouge de Margaux also made the cut thanks to its intriguing and soft fruit character. Brane-Cantenac is becoming a Wine Lister staple after appearing in both 2016 and 2009 tasting highlights. Its 2018 was pure, fresh, and a perfect balance between power and finesse.
In Pessac-Léognan, Domaine de Chevalier had piercing intensity balanced with a floral softness, while Haut-Bailly impressed with a playful fruit character and velvet texture.
Elsewhere on the left bank, Branas Grand Poujeaux surprised with its classy, energetic, dark fruit. Pauillac produced examples of intense fruit handled with a delicate touch (Grand-Puy-Lacoste and Pichon Comtesse). Saint-Estèphe presented beguiling wines with great freshness and elegance (Cos d’Estournel). Saint-Julien showed depth of flavour and complexity in equal measure (Langoa Barton, Ducru-Beaucaillou).
The right bank was just as impressive, with an equal proportion of highlights for Wine Lister as the left (in each case, 19% of wines tasted made the cut). These include one underdog (and new discovery for Wine Lister) from Lalande de Pomerol, five stand-outs from Pomerol, and four from Saint-Émilion.
In Pomerol, Petrus was alluring, generous, and floral, while Trotanoy had delicate strength and never-ending energy. Saint-Émilion produced favourites of varying styles, including Cheval Blanc – a magical, mesmerising boudoir-style wine, and Canon – dancing, racy, and fresh.
Readers should note that these 42 wines are some of the team’s favourites from last week’s tastings, but that we will be releasing official Wine Lister Buys throughout the campaign as prices become known. WL Buys take into account a wine’s quality (based on our partner critics’ scores, which we look forward to adding as soon as they are released), and value within the vintage and appellation, as well as Wine Lister’s personal opinion based on our own tastings and market insights.
Trade members wishing to gain full access to Wine Lister’s en primeur campaign coverage will need to subscribe to Wine Lister Pro. Register your interest here.
With our founder, Ella Lister, just back from tasting the latest releases at Benvenuto Brunello in Montalcino, we thought we’d dig deeper into the data behind the appellation’s top wines. The pyramid system in the region means that most producers make at least three wines: in the middle, a Brunello di Montalcino DOCG Annata (or “vintage”); in good years, a Riserva (with longer ageing but also nearly always the best selection of grapes from the estate); and at the bottom of the pyramid, a Rosso di Montalcino DOC, producing fresher, approachable wines requiring less ageing.
This allows, and indeed encourages, a healthy level of selection in the region. At last weekend’s event, the vintages on show were 2013 Brunello Riserva (excellent), 2014 Brunello Annata (a tricky vintage, with some producers declassifying to Rosso di Montalcino), and Rosso di Montalcino 2017. There is also a trend in the Brunello DOCG towards vineyard-specific crus, such as Casanova di Neri’s Tenuta Nuova or Il Marroneto’s Madonna delle Grazie, both of which feature in this week’s top five: top Brunellos by Economics score.
When examining the economic profile of Brunello wines, we see that Riservas tend to have higher Economics scores than Annatas, in line with their higher Quality scores. The best-performing Brunello by Economics score is Biondi Santi’s Brunello di Montalcino Riserva, with a score of 902. It earns the number one spot of this week’s top five with the highest price at £315 per bottle in-bond, and annual auction trading volumes of 458 bottles. The wine also outperforms the rest of the group for both Brand and Quality scores (904 and 938 respectively).
While Riservas are strong economically speaking, Annatas often have stronger Brand scores than their longer-aged counterparts, being produced in larger quantities and thus achieving greater visibility. In second place is Valdicava’s Brunello di Montalcino Madonna Piano Riserva, with an Economics score of 892, whereas its straight Brunello has a Brand score 57 points above its “big” brother, an example of the potential branding conundrum surrounding Brunello and other parts of Tuscany with a Riserva denomination. Nonetheless, the Riserva shows better price performance, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 15.2%, and an average of 257 bottles sold at auction annually.
Specific “crus” can also perform better than their straight Brunello Annatas in economic terms. In third place is Casanova di Neri’s Brunello di Montalcino Tenuta Nuova with an Economics score of 865. Despite having the lowest Quality score (841) and lowest price (£70) of the group, it earns this week’s second-highest Brand score (887).
In fourth place is Il Marroneto’s Brunello di Montalcino Madonna delle Grazie, the winery’s top cru, produced from grapes grown around the historic chestnut flour store house, and below the church by the same name. It has an Economics score of 847, benefitting from by far the best long-term price performance of this week’s top five, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 22.9%. Moreover, it sits just one point shy of this week’s number one in Quality terms (937) at 40% of the price – £130.
Rounding out the group is Poggio di Sotto’s Brunello, with an Economics score of 815.
While Super-Tuscans have been recognised for their investment potential for some time, Brunello still sits rather in the shadow of its Bordeaux-blend brothers. In Wine Lister’s first Tuscany market study, conducted in 2017, Brunello held nine places out of the top 25 Tuscan Economics scores. Today that number has increased to 14, as Brunello – Montalcino’s very own, highly ageworthy selection of the Sangiovese grape – goes from strength to strength.
Wine Lister is experiencing a touch of Bordeaux fever. Having re-tasted Bordeaux 2016s in January, Wine Lister’s founder, Ella, attended BI Wines’ “10 years on” tasting last week, revisiting the iconic 2009 vintage.
As expected, the vintage yielded some truly exceptional wines, thanks to excellent weather conditions, especially around harvest time. However, some producers fell into the trap of waiting too long to pick, and high quality in 2009 is not a given. Ella has picked out 26 of the most successful examples of a unique and pleasure-giving vintage, hailing from across all of the best-known red wine Bordeaux appellations (N.B. no white wines were tasted).
The most heterogenous appellation was Saint-Emilion, with some wines rendered hot and hard by high alcohol, while those at the very top level were some of the best 2009s out there. Cheval Blanc, for example, achieved a “mystical, beguiling bouquet…like a magic potion”.
Pomerol did not seem to suffer from the heat in the same way, and made beautiful wines in 2009. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Le Pin garnered some exceptional comments, including “the richest, most decadent, abundant nose of the whole tasting”. Other Pomerol picks displayed an unusually dark-fruited character. Petrus (“not worn on the sleeve like the Le Pin”), had a “refined dark fruit character”, Hosanna “piercing damson fruit”, and La Conseillante boasted a “carnal, purple-fruit sweetness”.
On the left bank, Pessac-Léognan and Saint-Julien achieve joint-first place, earning five highlights each. Arguably the most impressive of these were La Mission Haut-Brion and Haut-Brion with the former described as “sensual, ethereal, and breath-taking”. Pape Clément showed almost “Rhône-esque animality”, while Malartic-Lagravière was “opulent” and “left you wanting more”.
Saint-Julien presented expected names – second growths Gruaud-Larose and Léoville Barton (described as “ultra-classical” and “thoroughbred” respectively), as well as a surprise in the form of Château Gloria, the only Cru Bourgeois to make it into this list of Bordeaux 2009 tasting highlights.
The remaining left bank appellations did not go wanting of favourites. Latour earned the comment, “impeccably turned-out, this wine demands attention”. Elsewhere in Pauillac Pichon Comtesse was “beguiling” and “gradually confident”.
In Margaux the appellation’s first growth namesake was hailed “quite the showstopper”, while Brane-Cantenac was “lifted, lovely, and luminous”. While Saint-Estèphe earned only one mention, its representative, Montrose surpassed expectation, appearing “supremely poised”.
All those wines marked “*” above currently qualify as Wine Lister “buy recommendations”. The Wine Lister team has been working hard to create a data-driven list of the ultimate best wines to buy – watch this space while we fine-tune the algorithm!
Other wines featuring in the Bordeaux 2009 highlights are: Grand-Puy-Lacoste, Pichon Baron, Haut-Bailly, Angélus, Figeac, Pavie, Troplong Mondot, Branaire-Ducru, and Ducru Beaucaillou.
Yesterday marked the annual BI Fine Wines’ 10 years on tasting, this year focusing on the iconic Bordeaux 2009s. Below we explore what light Wine Lister data has to shed on the 2009 vintage including quality, price performance, and best wines for good value.
Wine Lister’s holistic and dynamic approach allows us to not only see which appellations produced the vintage’s best wines, but also demonstrates if and how the market has since reacted to their relative quality.
You can download the slides here: Wine Lister Bordeaux 2009 vintage overview
Featured wines: Margaux, Petrus, Lafleur, Ausone, Mouton, Capbern, Lilian Ladouys, Couhins-Lurton, Fourcas Hosten, Guillot Clauzel, Clos Saint-Martin, Lynsolence, La Cabanne, and Pavillon Rouge.
Yesterday we examined Wine Lister founder, Ella Lister’s top left bank picks from the recent re-tasting of 204 Bordeaux 2016s, now in bottle.
Almost as many wines stood out across appellations on the right bank, from a tasting the following day of 171 wines – testament to the fantastic quality available across the board in 2016. There is no doubting 2016 is a great vintage in Bordeaux. Tasting these wines from bottle only served to confirm the Wine Lister team’s enthusiasm during en primeur tastings in the spring of 2017. Revisit our blog post from the time for details of the unusual weather conditions behind this vintage.
Wine Lister right bank highlights include 11 Saint-Emilion wines vs. 10 in Pomerol, and the top pick overall was Figeac, which was “intellectual”, “fine-boned” and “gourmand”.
Several of its well-known Saint-Emilion neighbours also made the cut into Wine Lister tasting highlights, including Canon ( “feather-light, but generous”), Clos Fourtet, and La Gaffelière.
N.B. The tasting did not include wines such as Petrus, Le Pin, Vieux Château Certan, Trotanoy, Ausone, Cheval Blanc, or Pavie.
However, it was Pomerol that produced more “underdogs” than its neighbour: not-so-big names punching above their weight. Of particular note were Clos Vieux Taillefer and La Croix Saint-Georges.
Among Pomerol top dogs, La Violette was showing beautifully, with a “delicate, fresh” nose and “unctuous, satin” palate. Vray Croix de Gay was “refined” and “thoroughbred”, while La Conseillante produced a “gorgeous, fine-grained texture”.
Further afield, Domaine de l’A from the Côtes de Castillon impressed, as did Marsau, from Francs Côtes de Bordeaux.
Also included in Bordeaux 2016 right bank picks were: Gazin, Saint Pierre, Le Gay, Beauséjour Heritiers Duffau Lagarrosse, Larcis Ducasse, Angélus, Villemaurine, Fleur Cardinale, Clos René, Corbin, and Petit Figeac.
Last week Wine Lister shared top picks from Burgundy 2017 tastings. This week the focus is Bordeaux, after Wine Lister’s founder, Ella Lister, re-tasted through the 2016 vintage with Wine Lister partner critics Michel Bettane and Thierry Desseauve, thanks to négociants Joanne and CVBG.
We are in the process of updating Wine Lister Quality scores based on new, in-bottle scores from Wine Lister partner critics Bettane+Desseauve, Antonio Galloni, and Neal Martin, and in the meantime we share Ella’s left bank picks below.
N.B. The tasting did not include first growths, or wines such as Cos d’Estournel, Palmer, Léoville Las Cases, Ducru Beaucaillou, and Pontet-Canet.
The spread of favourites from across left bank appellations reflects the homogeneity of the 2016 vintage overall.
Saint-Estèphe was a standout appellation in 2016. Two top dogs, Calon-Ségur and Montrose earned significant praise – Calon is described as having “ballet slipper poise” and a “core of energetic fruit”, where Montrose appeared “elegant, silky and delectable”, with a much-improved integration of oak than the en primeur sample. Beside these sit two underdogs, Capbern and Phélan Ségur, which punch above their expected qualitative weight.
Saint-Julien earns three picks, with Beychevelle being a particular highlight, hailed “ravishing, with vitality and a satin finish”. In Pauillac, Pichon Baron and Pichon Comtesse were both notable, with the former appearing “refined, aristocratic and accomplished”, the latter “exciting, racy, and moreish”. Both Brane-Cantenac and Malescot Saint-Exupéry brought signature Margaux elegance to the tasting mix.
Pessac-Léognan reds were showing particularly well, earning an equal number of highlights as powerhouse Pauillac overall. Haut Bailly made the cut alongside Domaine de Chevalier, Pape Clément and Smith Haut-Lafitte. Bouscaut stood out as the underdog of the Graves.
A few further surprises arose across red appellations, including Gloria, Lacoste-Borie (the second wine of Grand-Puy-Lacoste), and Branas Grand Poujeaux.
Less surprising was the high quality of sweet staples, Climens, Doisy Daëne, and Coutet. Of dry whites, the stand-outs were Smith Haut-Lafitte Blanc (labelled “tonally a step above”), and de Fieuzal Blanc.
Other wines featured in the Bordeaux 2016 left bank highlights are: Branaire-Ducru, Le Baron de Brane, and Les Griffons de Pichon Baron.
Much of the U.K. wine trade gathered last week for the first wine ‘event’ of 2019 – Bourgogne Week. To the Wine Lister team members attending tastings in London, one thing was abundantly clear – the quality across the board is impressive (Wine Lister’s founder, Ella, discussed what a positive surprise the 2017 Burgundy vintage has been in a recent podcast – watch here).
Since there is so much to choose from, and with Burgundy’s popularity continuing to grow (read more in Wine Lister’s Burgundy study here), the Wine Lister team has put together its own list of buys based on tastings attended last week.
The Côte de Nuits has produced many rich examples in 2017. All of Comte Liger-Belair’s wines were stunning, but a particular highlight was his Vosne-Romanée. Both Clos de Vougeots from Faiveley and Jacques Prieur possessed great intensity, while Fourrier’s Gevrey-Chambertin Combe aux Moines was pretty and elegant in style.
The Côte de Beaune has performed wonderfully in 2017. The team settled on a Volnay, a Corton Bressandes and three Pommards, with two particular favourites – Comte Armand’s Clos des Epeneaux and De Montille’s Les Pézerolles.
Finally, the team were impressed by an array of whites from the Mâconnais right up to the premiers crus from the Côte de Beaune. Hubert Lamy’s Saint-Aubin En Remilly was selected unanimously by Wine Lister team members. Bernard Moreau’s Chassagne-Montrachet impressed, while Bret Brothers’ Pouilly-Vinzelles Les Quarts was a great discovery.
See the rest of the wines included in this post here: Bruno Clair Bonnes-Mares, Duroché Gevrey-Chambertin Les Jeunes Rois, Ghislaine Barthod Chambolle-Musigny Les Charmes, Henri Gouges Nuits-Saint-Georges Clos des Porrets-Saint-Georges, Jacques-Frédéric Mugnier Nuits-Saint-Georges Clos de la Maréchale, Jean Grivot Vosne-Romanée Aux Brûlées, Maison Joseph Drouhin Chambertin Clos de Bèze, Mongeard-Mugneret Vosne-Romanée En Orveaux, Olivier Bernstein Bonnes-Mares, Thibault Liger-Belair Nuits-Saint-Georges Les Saint-Georges, Courcel Pommard Les Croix Noires, Henri Boillot Volnay Chevrets, Tollot-Beaut Corton Bressandes, Étienne Sauzet Puligny-Montrachet Les Perrières, Jean-Noël Gagnard Chassagne-Montrachet La Boudriotte, Jean-Philippe Fichet Meursault Les Tessons, Laroche Chablis Les Blanchots.
At the end of November Wine Lister spent three days in Burgundy meeting with producers across the length of the Côte d’Or. With more wine in their barrel cellars than for a very long time (in some cases more than ever), the mood was light and easy. The 2017 vintage saw the first normal-sized crop since 2009 (and 2018 was even more generous). “It’s the first year we’ve had barrels three rows high,” marvelled Thibaut Gagey as he showed me round Maison Louis Jadot’s vast cellars in Beaune, currently housing a record 6,000 fûts.
Thibaut Gagey in the Maison Louis Jadot cellars
The 2017 vintage is a “belle surprise” for Gagey, who admits, “we weren’t very confident at first.” This pleasant surprise was something expressed time and again by growers during our tastings of 2017 from barrel. With Burgundy Week about to unfold, here we look back over some of those conversations.
In Volnay, Guillaume d’Angerville calls the 2017 “a huge positive surprise.” He explained that “a lot of people had discounted the vintage early on,” because “they thought it would be diluted.” Our tastings, at Domaine d’Angerville and elsewhere, proved this supposition to be mistaken, the wines having taken on weight and complexity during their élevage. Jasper Morris MW refers to 2017 wines as “relatively homogenous, some with more concentration and others with less.” Either way, the wines are juicy, luminous, and downright delightful.
Tasting from barrel with Guillaume d’Angerville
Boris Champy, Manager at Domaine des Lambrays, calls the vintage both “classic” and “modern” at once, because he believes there’ll be many like it in the future. He compared 2017 to 2009. Angerville is reminded of the “tenderness” of 2007 (“but more substantial”) and the “harmony and elegance” of 2002 or 2010. “It’s going to give a lot of pleasure,” he pronounced. Gagey also cited 2007 for its positive surprise factor, and 2014 for its “accessibility”. The immediate pleasure these wines offer up is almost disconcerting, but this early approachability does not mean they won’t age. The 2017 might not be the longest-lived vintage, but it has everything in place for a good innings.
However, it “won’t be the vintage of the century,” Gagey states. “What it doesn’t have is that extra grip, depth, and drive of a great vintage,” confirms Morris. Meanwhile, the whites are superlative. “Apart from 2014,” Morris calls it the “most consistently good white vintage for a long time.”
The growing season was early, but otherwise unexceptional, apart, of course, from the threat of frost once more rearing its ugly head. This time, though, the Burgundians fought their nemesis with a thick veil of smoke. The fires they lit around their vineyards may have served to raise the temperature a fraction, but just as importantly, their smoke prevented the morning sun being magnified through the ice and burning the buds. And so, apart from in Chablis, yields were back to normal levels.
One might assume therefore that prices will come down – after all, the consistent increases over the last eight years have been put down to limited supply. This would be naïve, though, with global demand and secondary market values for Burgundy’s top wines continuing to spiral upwards, even to the bewilderment of some Burgundians (after the record-breaking results of the latest Hospices de Beaune auction of 2018 wines in November, Louis-Fabrice Latour, president of the BIVB (Bureau interprofessionnel des vins de Bourgogne), said he was “surprised prices went up, and by so much”).
The fact is, momentum is with Burgundy. The region’s top 50 wines grew in popularity by 26% over the last year, while Bordeaux’s search rank on Wine-Searcher remained stable, and other regions saw search levels drop. This means that top producers can almost certainly raise prices again this year and still sell through. We spoke to a few domaines who planned to do so, and some by significant margins. Mostly, though, prices should be flat on 2016 or see only modest increases (less than 10% up on 2016 prices). A minority have even come down in price. Either way, this is surely a vintage worth getting your hands on for unadulterated drinking pleasure.
Wine Lister’s Burgundy Market Study published this time last year for subscribers is now free for all to read. Download it in English or in French.
At the beginning of this new year, Wine Lister is prolonging the festive sparkle through a look at the major trends to emerge from our first Champagne report. Wine Lister’s Champagne study analyses a basket of 109 top wines from the world’s premier sparkling region, and includes insight into the major trends of the Champagne market as identified by Wine Lister Founding Members (c.50 key players in the international fine wine trade).
While quality across the board is something to keep us celebrating well in to 2019 (see more on this here), the notable trends could indicate an increase in year-round enjoyment of Champagne. The chart below shows responses to our question, “What are the most important trends in Champagne?” by number of votes.
The trend most-frequently ranked as number one or two by Wine Lister Founding Members was the rise of grower Champagnes, closely followed by the increased emphasis on terroir / site Champagnes. One U.K. merchant remarked that “Consumers are now identifying with specific terroir in Champagne and understanding the value of the grower…” – a comment that further leads us to suspect an increased appreciation of Champagnes as wines, and not just celebratory bubbles.
The “rise of the grower” trend is, however, juxtaposed by continued demand for big brands. Of the basket of wines treated in the study, the grower Champagne segment has seen an increase in popularity (measured by search rank) of 9% since the beginning of 2017. Though this performance is superior to the maison segment’s slight decline in popularity (-4%), grower Champagnes still sit twice as far down the popularity rankings, with an average search rank of 1,620 compared to 775.
Perhaps predictably, big brands still win the race when it comes down to the bottom line. A U.K. merchant commented, “Small growers are getting much better press, but I suspect the big name cuvées still rule the roost for sales/investment”. Indeed, when asked to award confidence ratings to specific Champagne producers, the trade cited only one grower champagne within the top two confidence scores (9/10 and 8/10), Jacques Selosse. The houses to earn top confidence ratings were Dom Pérignon, Krug, Louis Roederer, Salon, Bollinger, Pol Roger, and Taittinger, as shown on the chart below.
A top tier merchant offers some explanation into the difference in picture painted between the top Champagne trend and Champagne confidence ratings: “Production needs to be small but not so small as to result in a proliferation of Champagnes which the vast majority have never heard of. The big brands which produce great quality are still finding serious demand in the market!”
For a more in-depth look at Champagne, subscribe or log-into read the full report here. Alternatively, all readers can access a five-page executive summary. (Both versions are also available to download in French).