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.
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Thanks to solid discounts on existing market prices from many châteaux, the Bordeaux 2019 en primeur campaign can be considered a success, and may prove in the long-term to have helped the en primeur system find its feet once again, in terms of the cost benefit it offers to buyers.
Part II of Wine Lister’s Bordeaux Study, In sickness, in health discusses this in more detail. In the meantime, below we have selected top MUST BUYs at different price points, to help those still on the hunt for Bordeaux 2019.
Under £25 – Grand-Puy-Ducasse
Grand-Puy-Ducasse 2019 is both a MUST BUY and a Value Pick, achieving its best ever WL score of 93 in 2019, available at £23 per bottle (in-bond) when buying by the case. The latest release illustrates the contrasting climatic conditions of 2019, with critics noting its complexity and nuance. Wine Lister partner critic, Neal Martin, notes, “crisp tannins, a fine bead of acidity, cohesive and harmonious with a lovely saline/briny note”, adding “this is one of the best Grand Puy Ducasse wines that I have encountered from barrel. Excellent”. Grand-Puy-Ducasse 2019 is available to purchase by the case from Justerini & Brooks.
More Bordeaux 2019 MUSY BUYs under £25: Capbern, Gloria, Laroque, Meyney, Potensac, and Siran.
Under £50 – Larcis-Ducasse
At £47 per bottle (in-bond), Larcis-Ducasse 2019 is priced notably well within the wider context of Saint-Émilion Grand Cru Classé “B” releases. As examined in a recent en primeur blog, it earns a WL score of 95 – just one point less than the likes of Cheval Blanc and Pavie (costing on average six times less than its Classés “A” neighbours). Winemaker, David Suire, observes that the vintage reflects clearly its limestone terroir, showing floral notes and an overriding minerality. Wine Lister partner critic, Antonio Galloni, concurs, noting “graphite, menthol, licorice, tobacco and cedar notes” in the bouquet, coining it “one of Bordeaux’s most under the radar gems”. While demand for this wine has likely been strong, Larcis-Ducasse 2019 is still available through Millésima’s UK and Hong Kong branches.
More Bordeaux 2019 MUST BUYs under £50: Brane-Cantenac, Giscours, Grand-Puy-Lacoste, La Gaffelière, Malescot Saint-Exupéry, and Pavie-Macquin.
Under £100 – Haut-Bailly
At £70 per bottle (in-bond), Haut-Bailly 2019 shares the château’s top WL score (95) with recent vintages 2018, 2016, 2015, and 2014. Managing Director, Veronique Sanders, told the Wine Lister team of their need to light fires five times to prevent frost in the spring of 2019, escaping unscathed. In the end, challenges throughout the growing season concluded in perfect harvest conditions, and a wine of impressive balance and energy. Indeed, the 2019 has received unanimous confidence from critics – Neal Martin states that the 2019 is a “more terroir expressive Haut-Bailly that has an effortless allure and a sense of sophistication”, concluding that it is “wonderful”. Haut-Bailly 2019 can be acquired by the case through Goedhuis & co.
More Bordeaux 2019 MUST BUYs under £100: Calon Ségur, Canon-la-Gaffelière, Canon, Clinet, Léoville Poyferré, Pontet-Canet, Lynch-Bages, Montrose, and Troplong-Mondot.
Under £200 – Léoville Las Cases
Léoville Las Cases 2019 achieves a WL score of 97, at £145 per bottle (in-bond). While volumes of the 2019 released onto the market were down 35% on last year, there is still some availability of this Saint-Julien super second, and we highly recommend getting your hands on some. Wine Lister’s CEO, Ella, describes it as “luminous and lyrical”, noting a bouquet of “English garden – raspberry blossom, cow parsley, fraises de bois, and then a deeper note of ripe cherries”. James Lawther for JancisRobinson.com is similarly impressed, awarding it 19 points and noting it as “one of the greats from this estate”. The latest vintage can be purchased through Fine+Rare.
More Bordeaux 2019 MUST BUYs under £200: Figeac, Haut-Brion, La Conseillante, La Mondotte, Le Petit Mouton, La Mission Haut-Brion, Palmer, Pichon Comtesse, and Vieux Château Certan.
Over £300 – Mouton
While the release price of this Pauillac Premier Cru, let alone the quality of its 2019, likely makes it one of the most popular buys of the campaign, there may still be opportunities to secure some en primeur. Released at £299 per bottle (in-bond), Mouton 2019 achieves a WL score of 97 – the second-highest score achieved by the château in recent years, following the 2016’s 98. Wine Lister’s CEO, Ella Lister, describes Mouton 2019 thus: “velveteen tannins, long and caressing”, recounting “complex, savoury flavours of graphite and slate intermingled with the generous fruit”. Farr Vintners still appears to have some availability of Mouton 2019 (albeit at a slightly higher price than its release).
More Bordeaux 2019 MUST BUYs over £300: Cheval Blanc, Lafite, and Lafleur.
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).
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).
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.
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).