Saint-Estèphe: An appellation on the rise

The eyes and ears of the industry are focused on Bordeaux 2017. Price is always a key factor in the commercial success of a fine wine, but never more so than during the annual en primeur period, when release pricing can make or break a wine’s en primeur campaign.

It is therefore timely to take a look at some Bordeaux Economics score successes, this week from Saint-Estèphe. Wine Lister’s Economics score combines five criteria – based on price and volume data – to measure a wine’s commercial success (read more on the Economics score calculation here).

Calon-Ségur has the highest Economics score of all Saint-Estèphe wines (943). Not only does it score 53 points higher than the next wine in its peer group, it is also the number one third growth for Economics score, sitting in eleventh place for Economics of all Bordeaux wines. This is particularly impressive, considering that the average price per bottle of those ranking in the top 10 is £614, nine times higher than Calon-Ségur’s comparatively modest average price tag of £69 (read more about Calon-Ségur’s pricing in the en primeur: part II blog).

The number two Economics score in Saint-Estèphe is held by Montrose (889). It has the highest average Quality score of the five (936) and an average wine life of 15 years. Its steady price growth over the last two years (30%) makes it one to watch for investment potential.

Cos d’Estournel is the most expensive Saint-Estèphe wine at £104 per bottle. Though it comes in third place for Economics, it has the best Saint-Estèphe Brand score of 996, thanks to presence in 52% of the world’s best restaurants and over 23,000 online monthly searches. Its popularity is also clear from its position as the most traded of the five at auction (calculated using data from one of our partners, The Wine Market Journal).

Lafon-Rochet and Les Ormes de Pez take fourth and fifth places, with Economics scores of 694 and 682 respectively. Both are a level below the top three in terms of price per bottle and Quality score, but they match Montrose on long term price performance, with compound annual growth rates (CAGR) of 9%. Saint-Estèphe is an appellation on the rise.


Jancis Robinson’s top Bordeaux 2017 scores

Bordeaux 2017 en primeur scores are now out from Julia Harding MW for JancisRobinson.com – our UK partner critic (Jancis Robinson herself was kept in London updating the World Atlas of Wine for its next, eighth edition).

Harding awarded 14 wines a score of 18 or above, with Pomerol the most featured appellation at the top of her scoreboard. Lafleur, Le Pin, Petrus, and Vieux Château Certan all scored 18.5, the highest score given by Harding to any Bordeaux 2017 (while last year Robinson granted seven 2016 Bordeaux 19 points, including four of Harding’s favourites this year).

This Pomerol quartet is joined by another right bank wine, Saint-Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classé B, Figeac, whose tasting note from Harding ends: “Silky, charming, mouth-watering. So succulent, so precise, unforced.”

The only other wine to score 18.5 is the king of Sauternes, Yquem. As we saw in yesterday’s blog summing up Bettane+Desseauve’s top scores, 2017 is successful vintage for sweet whites. Harding’s top wines include La Tour Blanche and Doisy Daëne’s tiny production Barsac – already released at £140 per half bottle – L’Extravagant.

Like our French partner critics, Harding also gives high scores to Ausone, Latour, La Mission Haut-Brion Rouge, and its white sibling – the only dry white in her top table. Mouton Rothschild and Léoville Las Cases also score 18 points.

All these scores are now live on the wine pages of our website for subscribers to view (alongside those of Bettane+Desseauve), with links through to Harding’s tasting notes on JancisRobinson.com. Read Jancis Robinson’s extensive Bordeaux 2017 coverage here.

Neal Martin’s and Antonio Galloni’s scores will be added on Tuesday and Thursday respectively.


Bettane+Desseauve’s top Bordeaux 2017 scores

Bettane+Desseauve – Wine Lister’s French partner critics – have released their en primeur scores for the 2017 Bordeaux vintage. Here is a glimpse of their top-scoring wines:

Château d’Yquem is the only potentially perfect wine of the vintage for the French duo. “Another legend ending in 7, worthy of the 1967, but more pure, and the sublime 1937 and 1947 too,” muses the encyclopaedic Michel Bettane.

Yquem was the only white wine to make an appearance in Bettane+Desseauve’s top 2016 Bordeaux, but this year has been joined by a host of other Sauternes (Rieussec, Lafaurie-Peyraguey, La Tour Blanche, Suduiraut, and Clos Haut-Peyraguey), in a vintage which Bettane has marked out as “favourable for the entire Haut-Sauternes sector”.

Two dry whites also broke the 18-point mark: La Mission Haut-Brion Blanc and Pape-Clément Blanc, painting the top of the scoreboard unprecedentedly yellow.

As for reds, taking more of a backseat than usual, the right bank dominates, with three out of the four Saint-Emilion Grands Crus Classés A scoring 18 (Angélus and Cheval Blanc) or above (Ausone). By contrast only one Médoc first growth – Latour – reaches the 18-point mark.

Joining Ausone and Latour with 18-18.5 are Lafleur, Léoville Las Cases, and Petrus. Our CEO, Ella, tasted Petrus twice – first for a sneak preview with Thierry Desseauve and her father, and then with the Wine Lister team three days later. She is not surprised to see it come out among the top five reds of the vintage, and it must run in the family, because Petrus was also Pa Lister’s favourite.

Bettane+Desseauve’s top table sees standout scores of 18 apiece granted to La Conseillante and Gruaud-Larose. And that in a year where fewer high scores were given in general; 16 2016s scored a straight 19 or above last year, compared to just one in 2017.


Online searches for Spring

Wine Lister uses data from our partner, Wine-Searcher, to examine wines with increasing online popularity on a monthly basis.

This month, Château Canon sees a 7% increase in search frequency for January-March 2018 from the previous period. As predicted by our Founding Members (c.50 key members of the fine wine trade), who voted Château Canon number one wine likely to gain the most brand recognition in the next two years in the 2017 Bordeaux Market study, Canon was one of the big successes of last year’s en primeur campaign. Its brand continues to go from strength to strength, with search frequency in 2017 rising 35% between January and October. It will be interesting to see whether this year’s en primeur release has the same impact on its online search frequency as the 2016 vintage.

Two cult Californian wines are among the top five for latest search frequency increases.

Scarecrow saw an increased search frequency of 52% for January-March 2018 compared to the previous period thanks to its latest release in February. The 2015 vintage is as yet unscored by Wine Lister partner critics, however the estate has seen consistent Quality scores between 996-987 since 2010.

Screaming Eagle also makes the top five wines with biggest search frequency increase this month. With 17,831 average monthly searches between January and March 2018, the increase is small relative to its already vast online popularity. Indeed, Screaming Eagle remains the number one most searched for Californian wine on Wine-Searcher.

Burgundy is represented in the top search increases by Marquis d’Angerville, whose Volnay Premier Cru Taillepieds saw double its average number of monthly searches in January-March 2018 compared with the previous period. Guillaume Angerville eschews the scrum of the January Burgundy en primeur tastings in London, preferring to showcase his new vintage each March with a small tasting and lunch – the Taillepieds obviously made an impression, and achieves its highest ever Quality score (969).

Finally, searches for Azienda Agricola Falletto’s Barolo Rocche Falletto Riserva continue to rise into March following the sad passing of Piedmont legend, Bruno Giacosa. The wine saw a bittersweet rise in popularity of 14% in December 2017-February 2018, which continues at a slightly slower pace (10%).


The shape of 2018 for wine searches

Wine Lister uses search frequency data from our partner, Wine-Searcher, to examine wines with increasing online popularity on a monthly basis. Wines with the highest search frequency numbers tend to be consistent, with the Bordeaux left bank premiers crus classés generally taking the top spots.

This month’s biggest search frequency gainers also rank as some of the most searched-for wines on Wine-Searcher. Dom Pérignon Vintage Brut is the third most popular wine with over 84,000 searches after Lafite and Mouton, closely followed by Petrus in fourth place. Armand Rousseau’s Chambertin and Moët & Chandon Grand Vintage appear in the top 50, while Azienda Agricola Falletto’s Barolo Rocche Falletto Riserva comes lower down at number 148 out of the circa 5,000 wines on Wine Lister, but its search frequency has recently increased by 15%.

Our last post on online search frequency revealed Wine Lister’s first ever perfect Brand score. Moving on from the Christmas period, Champagne brands still show marked increases in search frequency, but this time they do not stand alone at the top.

Dom Pérignon Vintage Brut is the largest gainer in popularity for the second time running. Increasing at a slower rate than in December, its popularity nonetheless grew by 7,097 searches into January, maintaining its 1000-point Brand score. Dom Pérignon remains the only wine to achieve a perfect score from any of the Wine Lister score categories. The other Champagne still riding high on searches is Moët & Chandon Grand Vintage, which increased by 6%.

Bordeaux creeps back onto the map for online searches at the beginning of 2018, with the first growths having featured heavily in searches up to December 2017. Petrus is in second place after Dom Pérignon, with an 8% increase in search frequency. It will be interesting to see if search increases for Bordeaux follow the same pattern as last year as we approach the 2017 en primeur campaign.

Armand Rousseau’s Chambertin appears in third place. Armand Rousseau was only one of two producers to achieve a perfect confidence rating from our Founding Members in our recent Burgundy study.

In fifth place for increased popularity is a bittersweet entry. Searches for Barolo Rocche Falletto Riserva from Azienda Agricola Falletto increased as the wine world learned of the sad passing in January of Piedmont legend, Bruno Giacosa. You can read more on Bruno Giacosa’s legacy in a recent blog on Barbaresco, here.


Champagne breaks the Bordeaux bias in trading volumes

After two quarters of Bordeaux dominance, the latest trading volume data has room at the top for one non-Bordeaux wine. Among the five wines with the greatest incremental increase in trading volumes for the period of January-December 2017 (calculated using figures collated by Wine Market Journal from sales at the world’s major auction houses), sits Louis Roederer’s Cristal in second place.

Volumes of Cristal traded increased by 267 bottles, helped along by a Sotheby’s auction in New York in November where 37 bottles went under the hammer. While this translates into a small Economics score increase of just one point, the wine nevertheless holds the highest overall Wine Lister score of the five at 975/1000.

Château Pavie appears high up the list for a consecutive quarter, with a further 228 bottles added to its trading volume count compared to October 2016-September 2017. Though in third place for incremental change, Pavie has the highest overall volume of bottles traded of the top five (2,466).

The number one spot for increased trading volumes is taken by Château Pape Clément, with 293 more bottles traded over the course of 2017 compared to the previous dataset period. Pape Clément has the lowest Quality score of the top five (825), however high Economics (952) and Brand (960) scores pull the overall score up to 898.

Château Calon Ségur and Château Troplong-Mondot fall in fourth and fifth place for biggest change in trading volumes.

It is interesting to note that Larrivet Haut-Brion Blanc has the highest growth of Economics score, moving up a huge 376 points since Q4 2016, to 669. With the recent spike in trading volumes of the red (as seen in our last analysis), trading volumes of the château’s wines are increasing across the board.

 


Bubbles are brand royalty

After a distinctly Burgundian start to 2018, we are ringing the changes this week to look at some of our most improved Brand scores, with Champagne dominating.

Alongside presence in the world’s best restaurants, Wine Lister’s Brand score measures a wine’s online popularity – as indicated by the number of searches received on Wine Searcher – as a marker of real consumer demand.

The search frequency data for December is in, and it is no surprise that searches in Champagne increased significantly leading up to the Christmas period.

During arguably the busiest period of the year for searching and purchasing wines, these five wines gained between 20% and 77% increase in search frequency. The appearance of Dom Pérignon Vintage Brut at the top of search frequency lists is a shock to no one considering its position as one of the most searched-for wines of all time. Indeed, it consistently held the number one search spot from July to September last year. The Christmas influence still managed to add 16,659 online searches, allowing this almighty brand to achieve Wine Lister’s first ever perfect Brand score (1000)!

Next on the list is Bollinger Grande Année. Its impressive 77% increase in search frequency at the end of last year can also be attributed to the festive season, but may also have been boosted by the release of the 2007 vintage earlier in the year. Bollinger’s new Brand score is up 16 points on the previous quarter at 975.

Our next two appearances hail from the same owner as the first, Champagne divinity LVMH. Moët & Chandon, often considered the definitive Champagne brand holds not one, but two spots in the top five most searched for wines of the last three months. Moët & Chandon Grand Vintage is perhaps a classic Christmas choice, but the appearance of a non-vintage cuvee, the Moët & Chandon Brut Impérial is testament to the power of the Moët & Chandon brand. Each earned an increase in search frequency of 33%, bringing Brand scores to 987 and 938 respectively.

Last but not least, Louis Roederer Cristal takes fifth place with a search frequency increase of 20%. While achieving a fractional increase in searches (4,271) compared with Dom Pérignon, its presence in 54% of restaurants and consistent high quality (Quality score 970) makes Cristal an all-round achiever, and therefore a choice that’s not just for Christmas.

Champagne’s Brand prowess is clear, but these five are the shining stars of their region. It is interesting to note that the sixth most searched-for wine on our most recent list is in fact not a Champagne at all, but Château Margaux (Brand score 998).

 


Five more brands warming up this winter

Following on from our recent blog in which we looked at the five wines that enjoyed the greatest absolute increase in online search frequency during November, we thought it would be interesting to look at the five wines whose improved popularity had the biggest impact on their Brand score. This throws up some less obvious candidates.

Alongside presence in the world’s best restaurants, Wine Lister’s Brand score measures a wine’s online popularity – as indicated by the number of searches received on Wine Searcher – as a marker of real consumer demand. The five wines below do not come close to rivalling the phenomenal popularity of the first growths and company whose search frequency increased the most in absolute terms in November. However, the relative change in their online search frequency led to some significant improvements in their Brand scores.

Whilst each of the five experienced an increase of at least 44% in their online search frequency, Domaine Huet Le Mont Demi-Sec’s surged 147% during November, resulting in a whopping 78-point gain in its Brand score (now 765), tipping it into the very strong category on Wine Lister’s 1,000 point scale. Its sharp increase in online popularity might be the result of the 2016 vintage being named the sixth best wine in the world by Wine Spectator last month. Whilst the 2016’s Wine Lister Quality score (917) can’t quite match the performance of two of Domaine Huet’s sweeter cuvées for the vintage, it appears that it is a brand on the up.

Next comes a duo of Italian reds – Fratelli Seghesio Barolo La Villa and Casanova di Neri Brunello di Montalcino. Starting from a low base of just 243 searches each month, the Piedmontese red’s search frequency leapt 63% to 396, resulting in a 40-point increase in its Brand score (506). In stark contrast, Casanova di Neri’s straight Brunello already benefitted from a high level of online popularity, previously receiving 1,791 searches each month on average. It’s 72% increase in search frequency – again presumably thanks to the 2012 vintage’s fourth spot in Wine Spectator’s top 100 wines – has resulted in a new Brand score of 799, the highest of the group.

Last but not least, Turley Wine Cellars Old Vines Zinfandel and Château Simian Châteauneuf-du-Pape Les Grandes Grenachières d’Hippolyte both enjoyed a 27-point increase in their Brand score with the latest search frequency data. Whilst their overall Wine Lister scores are fairly similar (605 and 577 respectively), their profiles differ markedly. The Californian red performs best in the Brand category, its new score of 650 comfortably outperforming its Quality and Economics scores (593 and 552 respectively). Conversely its Old-World peer has a weak brand (327), well below its very strong Quality score (808) and average Economics score (498).

It will be interesting to see if these brands continue to strengthen in 2018. Speaking of which, the Wine Lister team wishes you all a Happy New Year!


Biggest names make the biggest gains

With the latest online search frequency data in from Wine-Searcher, we can see which wines rose in popularity during November. Each month we look at the last three months’ worth of search data, measured against the previous period, to see which wines have grown most in popularity. With five of the world’s six most popular wines making the greatest gains during November, it appears that demand for the biggest brands shows no sign of diminishing, and that the public is quick to pick up on announcements regarding the most famous fine wine producers.

Mouton, the world’s second-most popular wine, made the greatest gains during November. This is likely thanks to the release of the label for the 2015 vintage. It features a witty juxtaposition of Gerhard Richter’s “Flux” with the reiteration of part of Mouton’s motto, “Mouton ne change” (Mouton never changes), in the context of a generational shift as Philippine de Rothschild’s three children take the helm after her death in 2014.

Snapping at Mouton’s heels was Margaux. It too announced during November that it will release its 2015 vintage in a commemorative bottle – the first time the château has done so – paying homage to Paul Pontallier who was winemaker at the property for almost 30 years. With Margaux 2015 achieving one the best Quality scores of the vintage, it seems a fitting tribute.

               

Lafite came next. In mid-November it was announced that in March 2018 Saskia de Rothschild will be taking over as chairwoman of the château and Jean-Guillaume Prats of Moët Hennessy will become President and CEO. With Lafite currently the most popular wine in the world, and one of just five wines on Wine Lister to achieve a Brand score of 999 – alongside Dom Pérignon Vintage Brut, Mouton, Latour, and Yquem (no wine scores 1,000) – the duo have a formidable reputation to maintain.

Latour was the fourth-biggest gainer, its search frequency increasing 8% (4,317 searches). Whilst the increased interest in the other Médoc first growths can be attributed to a significant announcement, the reason behind Latour’s surge in popularity is less obvious. Related news is of course the acquisition by Artemis Domaines – Latour owner François Pinault’s holding company – of Burgundian Grand Cru monopole Clos de Tart.

Breaking the Bordeaux first growths’ dominance on this month’s popularity stakes was Dom Pérignon, a brand whose online popularity has soared over the second half of the year. Early in November Moët Hennessy announced the launch of Clos19, an online shop selling its prestigious brands – one of which is Dom Pérignon. Cannily introduced before the festive season, during which Champagne’s popularity surges – it seems that the region’s strongest brand has further benefited from the new platform.


Listed: top five Chablis by Quality score

This week, our listed section journeys to the most northerly Burgundy appellation to look at Wine Lister’s top five Chablis by Quality score. Wine Lister’s Quality score comprises the average rating of our four partner critics, as well as a wine’s ageing potential.

In fifth place is Hidden GemDomaine Gérard Duplessis Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos. Producing only 1,500 bottles a year, this wine is present in just 2% of the world’s top restaurants, but receives a very strong rating from Jancis Robinson, setting its Quality score at 910.

Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos is fourth-highest with a Quality score of 927. Whilst Jeannie Cho Lee doesn’t score the wine as highly as our other critics, at £55 it still represents a lot of bang for your buck.

Bronze goes to Domaine Raveneau Chablis Grand Cru Valmur, with a Quality score of 946. The only wine of the group not from the Les Clos climat, it has a predicted drinking window of 10 years – higher than the rest of its peer group, which averages eight years.

Top five Chablis

Vincent Dauvissat Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos has the second-highest Quality score (952) and also has the biggest variance in ratings from our partner critics, receiving an outstanding score from Jeannie Cho Lee, but a far more modest one from UK critic Jancis Robinson.

Winning the Quality score crown by a narrow two-point difference (954) is the second wine of the group from Raveneau – the domaine’s Les Clos offering. Enjoying uniformly excellent scores from each of our partner critics, it’s one of the most talked-about wines in the fine wine trade and unsurprisingly holds Wine Lister Buzz Brand status.