2017 was perhaps the most difficult of recent Bordeaux vintages. Looking back at our harvest report on this frost-ridden vintage, the Wine Lister team attended the annual UGC re-tasting with some trepidation last week.
Indeed, new president of the Union des Grands Crus Classés, Ronan Laborde, reminded us that 2017 had been a “vintage of challenges”, requiring “patience, determination, and energy” to battle against the frost. Even still, some producers lost their entire crop, and many that didn’t produced their “smallest quantities of recent years”.
Troubled though the vintage might have been, you wouldn’t know it from the hoards of London trade that flocked to taste Bordeaux’s latest deliverable vintage, nor indeed from many of the wines we tasted, which followed a general trend of being exceedingly approachable.
Out of some 120 wines tasted, the Wine Lister team highlights its selection of 17 top dogs, and four underdogs below.
The team’s highlights include five out of the six 2017 Bordeaux WL MUST BUYs (vs. 19 in 2018 Bordeaux), while the other 16 are those we felt showed the best of those in attendance at the UGC tasting, in the context of the 2017 vintage.
Saint-Julien was our top-performing red appellation, with exemplary wines such as “poised” Léoville Barton, as well as two great successes from Domaines Henri Martin: Saint-Pierre was a “real triumph in the vintage,”, while underdog Gloria was “lithe, lovely, and beguiling”. Elsewhere on the left bank, Margaux and Pauillac earn three highlights apiece, including “hedonistic” Giscours and Wine Lister’s top pick of the tasting, “magical, brooding” Pichon Comtesse.
Pessac-Léognan performed equally well for whites as reds. Domaine de Chevalier Blanc was “explosive yet precise”, and underdog Latour-Martillac Blanc showed impressive roundness and balance. Haut Bailly had “an incredible elegance”, while Les Carmes Haut Brion showed “purity and savoury spice”.
Saint-Emilion’s Figeac was the best of the right bank bunch – “muscular” in texture but balanced by “succulent fruit”. Pomerol was well-represented by “floral and velveteen” Clinet, and “powerful” Petit Village.
Other wines included in Wine Lister’s 2017 tasting highlights are: Rauzan-Ségla, D’Armailhac, Lynch Bages, Bouscaut, La Gaffelière, Canon, Beychevelle, and Malartic-Lagravière Blanc.
As part of our Brand score, Wine Lister measures popularity using the three-month rolling average searches on the world’s most visited wine site, Wine-Searcher.
We have recently updated our treatment of this data to provide relative results for all 4,000+ wines on Wine Lister. Expressing each wine’s search frequency as a ranking will make it easier for our users to interpret the data. For example, Mouton is the #1 most searched-for wine of all wines on Wine Lister, according to monthly searches on Wine-Searcher.
To mark this transition, here we examine the top 50 most popular fine wines in the world.
The first seven most searched-for wines for the period of May, June, and July include the five Bordeaux left bank first growths (Mouton, Lafite, Margaux, Latour, and Haut-Brion), right-bank powerhouse, Petrus, and Champagne super-brand, Dom Pérignon. It is perhaps of no surprise that these rankings remain unchanged since the previous period (February to April) .
Burgundian searches in the top 50 are dominated by Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, with Romanée-Conti, La Tâche, Echezeaux, and Romanée-Saint-Vivant all achieving better rankings versus the previous period. These four together achieve an average ranking of 30th place, and an average movement up the search ranking of 11 places.
Other than Dom Pérignon, the two remaining Champagnes featured in the top 50 most searched-for wines have moved up the rankings for May-July 2018 compared to the previous three-month period. Louis Roederer’s Cristal was up 12 places, presumably due to the release of its 2008 vintage in June. Krug’s most recent Grande Cuvée (166th edition) was released in late May, explaining its jump four spots up the rankings into 24th place.
More than half of the top 50 most popular wines are Bordeaux, with 30 wines hailing from the region. However, Bordeaux did not see the boost to their search ranking one might have expected during Bordeaux’s en primeur 2017, with one fewer of the region’s wines featuring in the top 50 than before the campaign kicked off. In fact, supporting Wine Lister’s analysis of this year’s lacklustre campaign, searches for many top Bordeaux châteaux actually fell during this period. For instance, Figeac, despite achieving Bordeaux’s 10th best Quality score of the 2017 vintage, slipped nine spots down the rankings.
As July begins, much of the wine world may feel more grey and drizzly than the weather would suggest, due to a case of post-primeurs blues. Indeed, Wine Lister’s founder, Ella Lister, reports in her recent article for JancisRobinson.com that “…the majority of merchants are reporting revenues down approximately two-thirds on 2016”. In that article, a comparison of Quality scores across recent vintages highlights the value proposition of the 2014 vintage. In this blog post we dig a bit deeper.
A few weeks into this year’s en primeur campaign releases, the Wine Lister team noticed a distinct pattern. With almost every new release, we sounded more and more like broken records, echoing that château X’s 2017 release price, while below the last two vintages, made the 2014 look like good value. While it has been pigeonholed as a good but not great vintage, 2014 achieved consistently high critics’ scores that imply its reputation should be better.
The chart below shows Bordeaux 2014 and 2017 average Quality scores by appellation, comparing 2014 three-month average prices with 2017 release prices.
Based on 75 key Bordeaux classified growths, the chart illustrates the relationship between quality and price (note the price gap for 2014 and 2017 Saint-Émilion, despite similar average Quality scores). Only Pomerol and Pessac-Léognan achieved higher Quality scores on average in 2017 than in 2014, with Wine Lister’s partner critics preferring 2014 across all other appellations.
While the trade puts aside its allocations of 2017 for the time being, perhaps the silver lining is the light this vintage shines on relative value elsewhere. Is it time for merchants and collectors alike to focus on 2014?
We used Wine Lister’s comparison tool in our search for good-value back vintages in order to compare different vintages and their respective critics’ scores and prices. For example, Malescot Saint-Exupéry achieves a Quality score of 894 in 2014, versus 735 in 2017. Despite the substantial price reduction on the 2016 and 2015 vintages, the 2017 UK market price remains 5% higher than the 2014, the latter receiving higher scores from three of the four Wine Lister partner critics. Neal Martin disagrees, awarding the 2017 a potential 2 points more than 2014 saying, “it is not a complex Malescot St. Exupéry, but I admire the balance and focus”.
Malescot Saint-Exupéry 2014 has the highest Value Pick score of any recent vintage:
Use the Vintage Value Identifier chart (pictured above) on every wine page to pick out the best value back vintages. For example, Cantenac-Brown’s 2014 looks like a particularly good buy, at £25.50 per bottle for the 2014 (whose Quality score is 800), versus the 2017 at £34.05 per bottle, with a Quality score of 715. Its 2015 looks good too.
Cheval Blanc 2017 released at €432 ex-négociant (22% down on 2016), with a UK release price of £442 (17% down on 2016), and a lower Quality score: 938 (vs 989).
You can download the slide here: Wine Lister Factsheet Cheval Blanc 2017
With daily en primeur release alerts and offers for the new 2017 vintage filling our inboxes, the “Bordeaux buzz” at this time of year is undeniable. However, Bordeaux’s popularity does not end with en primeur, as we prove with results of the last quarter’s trading volumes.
Wine Lister uses figures collated by the Wine Market Journal from sales at the world’s major auction houses to calculate incremental increases in four-quarter trading volumes – in this case, January-December 2017 versus April 2017-March 2018. Auction volumes contribute towards Wine Lister Economics scores, allowing us to measure the liquidity of each wine.
The five wines showing the biggest increases in trading volumes between these two periods all hail from Bordeaux. Indeed, such is the case for the top 20 auction volume increases, with the exception of brand royalty, Dom Perignon (in 10th place).
The wine experiencing the biggest increase in trading volumes is Mouton Rothschild, with 778 additional bottles traded. It has the highest Economics score of the five (956) and a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 11.3%. Kicking off the first growth releases of 2017 vintages this week, Mouton Rothschild’s 2017 UK release price sits 17% below last year’s at £360 per bottle.
In second place is right bank powerhouse, Cheval Blanc, whose trading volume increased by 685 bottles with the addition of the most recent quarter’s figures. Though second for incremental change, its total trading volume is at least 30% smaller than any of the left bank first growths.
Latour and Haut-Brion come in third and fourth place, both with 12% trading increases of 614 and 529 respectively.
Finally, trades of Pape Clément keep the Pessac-Léognan property’s red in the top five for trade increases for a consecutive quarter, with 506 more bottles traded in the current period. Despite dropping four places since last quarter’s auction volume results, Pape Clément still achieves the highest proportional change of all five wines at the top, with a 27% trading volume increase.
Ducru-Beaucaillou 2017 released at €120 ex-négociant (14% down on 2016), with a UK release price of £124 (13% down on 2016), and a lower Quality score: 921 (vs 971).
You can download the slide here: Wine Lister Factsheet Ducru-Beaucaillou 2017
Angélus 2017 released at €276 ex-négociant (6% down on 2016), with a UK release price of £280 (6% down on 2016), with a lower Quality score: 938 (vs 965).
You can download the slide here: Wine Lister Factsheet Angélus 2017
Margaux 2017 released at €348 ex-négociant (17% down on 2016), with a UK release price of £360 (17% down on 2016), with a lower Quality score: 938 (vs 982).
You can download the slide here: Wine Lister Factsheet Margaux 2017
Haut-Bailly 2017 released at €72 ex-négociant (14% down on 2016), with a UK release price of £74 (11% down on 2016), and a lower Quality score: 921 (vs 964).
You can download the slide here: Wine Lister Factsheet Haut-Bailly 2017
Mouton Rothschild 2017 released at €348 ex-négociant (17% down on 2016), with a UK release price of £360 (also 17% down on 2016), and a lower Quality score: 953 (vs 991).
You can download the slide here: Wine Lister Factsheet Mouton Rothschild 2017