The insider’s guide to fine wine trends, and the most compelling wines to watch
Wine Lister has released its second annual Wine Leagues, celebrating some of the top-performing wines and producers in today’s new and much-diversified fine wine era. Informed by an in-depth trade survey with leading industry figures, the report provides a 360° view of those regions, producers, and wines that have seen strides in quality, popularity, economic promise, and more in 2021.
Wine Lister’s annual in-depth survey sees our expert panel of 47 CEOs, MDs, and wine department heads share their insight on some of the fine wines to have on your radar, as we ask them:
“What are the most compelling wines and producers in the market today?”
Respondents singled out 188 wines and producers collectively, that span no less than 20 major regions. Within the list, our team identifies Bibi Graetz, Les Carmes Haut-Brion, Roberto Voerzio, Berthaut-Gerbet, and Fürst as wines to watch in the Old World, whilst calling out the New World wonders of Catena Zapata, Errazuriz, Pedro Parra, Rhys Vineyards, and Ridge Vineyards.
The report also includes rankings across:
- Biggest quality improvers, which show impressive movement from Italy (occupying five places in the list of the top 20 by Quality score progression), with Isole e Olena Chianti Classico leading the pack
- Best search rank movers, wherein Bordeaux represents eight of the top 20 wines whose popularity has increased most in terms of online searches (including Smith Haut Lafitte, Domaine de Chevalier, Figeac, and Léoville Poyferré)
- Burgundy superstars, focusing on popularity movements from the trade’s darling region – Arnoux-Lachaux features 10 times in the list of top 20 Burgundian wines whose online searches have increased the most over the last two years
- Wine Lister’s top-10 recommendations per Wine Lister Indicator; Hidden Gems, Value Picks, Buzz Brands, and Investment Staples in 2021
For the full analysis, download your free copy of Wine Lister’s 2021 Leagues here.
Following a successful campaign for Brunello 2015s in 2020, this year’s releases of Brunello 2016 will surely take one of Italy’s prominent winemaking appellations to new heights. Below we take a closer look at a handful of Brunello producers to look out for, as the region as a whole continues to rise in fine wine spheres.
With a family history dating back to the 1800s (and beginning with Lavinio Franceschi), Il Poggione’s multi-generational winemaking experiences have given its wines quite the reputation. As the number one most popular Brunello (as measured by Wine Lister’s search rank, based on monthly searches conducted on the world’s most-visited wine website, Wine-Searcher), is it most certainly deserved – indeed, for the 2016 vintage, Il Poggione achieves a Wine Lister score of 97 – it’s best ever. Writing for Vinous, Eric Guido names it “a classic in the making”.
A comparatively young project, Il Marroneto was born from the purchase of vines by lawyer, Giuseppe Mori in 1974, and the ensuing passion for winemaking held by one of his sons, Alessandro. Strict commitment to quality has since seen the estate rise to become a quiet reference for the region, fetching high prices to match. Small availability from the latest vintage (2016) of the flagship wine, Madonna delle Grazie impressive is still available, at c.£263 per bottle in-bond).
Stemming from one of the most influential Sienese families of the 15th century, Costanti is another Brunello estate with wealthy history, and strong family traditions. As one of the first producers to present a wine under the name we know as “Brunello” today, its style has evolved beautifully under the watchful eye of winemaker, Andrea Costanti (indeed two recent vintages, the 2013 and 2010 achieve Wine Lister MUST BUY status). Awarding the 2015 vintage 17.5 points, Walter Speller writing for JancisRobinson.com notes, “True precision but definitely ‘sexy’ and sheer pleasure”.
Castello di Romitorio
Romitorio’s impressive castle possesses a rich history dating back to the Etruscans, while both its interior and the vines it overlooks benefit from the modern influence of its current ownership. Purchased by artist, Sandro Chia in 1984, his son, Filippo now runs the estate and makes its wine. Having attended a virtual tasting with him recently, organised by Honest Grapes, the wines appear to reflect their estate’s history in their timelessness, balancing a traditional style with contemporary energy and elegance. Some availability of the 2016 Brunello di Montalcino and single-vineyard offering, Filo di Seta, remains.
A few kilometres southwest, lies “the castle of Giocondo” – another imposing Tuscan structure, originally constructed in the 12th century (AD) to guard the road leading from Siena to the sea, and owned since by one of the most famous families in Tuscany – the Frescobaldis. Joining Il Poggione’s Franceschi family in being one of the very first to produce Brunello in the 1800s, Castelgiocondo’s straight Brunello offering is also among the top-ranking wines of its kind in popularity. Those wishing to snap up the latest vintage offering may need to give it some time – writing for Vinous, Antonio Galloni notes the 2016 “needs some time to come together […] yet it has all the balance necessary to mature into a real beauty”.
Explore more top-scoring Brunello 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.
To many wine collectors, the king of Italian wine is Barolo. Its popularity, particularly for older vintages, continues to grow (as proven in our latest restaurant presence analysis). However, the Piedmont sovereign’s Tuscan counterpart – Brunello – should not be overlooked. This week’s top five looks at the best Brunellos by Quality score – and all five achieve scores above 900.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the top five Barolos by Quality score achieve an average score 34 points higher than this week’s Brunello group (964 vs 929). However, couple this with the fact that the Brunellos tend to cost nearly half as much as their Barolo counterparts (£142 vs £275), and Brunello’s value starts to become clear.
Biondi Santi earns two spots in this week’s top five, with its Brunello Riserva and Brunello Annata bookending the group. The former wins this week’s battle with an impressive Quality score of 938. It also achieves this week’s highest Economics score (941), contributing to its excellent overall Wine Lister score of 926 – also the best of the group. Although, at £315 a bottle it is also more than three times as expensive as the collective average price of the other four (£99).
In second place this week is Il Marroneto di Mori Alessandro Brunello Madonna Grazie. With a Quality score of 937 it is just one point behind this week’s number one – the slightly lower score being due to its shorter average ageing potential (12 vs 19 years). Its 2008 vintage provides the most impressive quality to price ratio of this week’s top five, achieving a Quality score of 938, yet available for as little as £45 per bottle in-bond.
Next in this week’s top five is Fuligni Brunello Riserva with a Quality score of 931. It appears to be the least well-known of the group, with a Brand score of 645. This is down to presence in just 5% of the world’s best restaurants, and being ranked 1,257th for monthly online searches of all Wine Lister’s wines on Wine Searcher. Its relatively modest Brand score could perhaps be the reason for its average price being the least expensive of the group (£73 per bottle).
Cerbaiona’s Brunello takes fourth place, with a Quality score of 923. Though not earning the highest Brand score of this week’s top five, it is still a Brand to watch – Cerbaiona was the only Brunello to feature in both recent top 20 lists for horizontal and vertical restaurant presence gains. Perhaps its increasing popularity is in part thanks to such an impressive score for the 2010 vintage. Vinous awards it 100 points, singing its praises: “The most anticipated wine of the night, the Cerbaiona shows why it belongs in the pantheon of the most epic wines ever made in Montalcino. A Brunello with no beginning and no end, the 2010 Cerbaiona just is. Every aroma, every shade of nuance, every texture is just…perfect.”
Last but not least is Biondi Santi’s Brunello Annata with a Quality score of 919. Though in fifth place for Quality, it achieves the highest Brand score of this week’s top five, at 934. This impressive Brand score is the result of great restaurant presence (17%) and being the 118th most searched-for wine on Wine Lister.
Last week we revealed the top 20 gainers in presence in the world’s best restaurants over the past 12 months. That was in terms of breadth, i.e. the number of restaurants in which a wine features. Wine Lister also analyses the depth of presence – the range of vintages and/or bottle formats of each wine therein. Here we look at the top 21 wines achieving the largest increases in restaurant presence depth since last year.
In first place, with an impressive 35 additional vintages and/or bottle formats listed across the world’s 150 best restaurants since this time last year, is Vega-Sicilia’s Unico. This brings its total references to 250 (almost three and a half in each of the 71 lists in which it features). Given Unico’s average drinking life span of 13 years, and its reputation for longevity (an Unico vertical tasting is an opportunity not to be missed), this result is hardly surprising. Its strong restaurant presence is matched by online popularity (Unico is the 33rd most-searched-for wine in our database), resulting in a Brand score of 992 – the best of any Spanish wine on Wine Lister.
Though Spain takes the number one spot, Italy is the overall biggest mover in increased depth of representation, claiming 12 out of the 21 places shown on the chart below.
Ornellaia is among these, and is also the most thoroughly represented wine of the group, with 280 vintages and/or bottle formats featured across 43% of the world’s best restaurants.
Several others – Cerbaiona Brunello, Dal Forno Romano Valpolicella Superiore, Ca’ del Bosco Cuvée Annamaria Clementi, and Domenico Clerico Barolo Ciabot Mentin – feature in the top gainers for horizontal as well as vertical presence in the world’s best restaurants. The latter is one of five Barolos to feature in the chart above, joined by Parusso Barolo Bussia, Bartolo Mascarello’s Barolo, Giuseppe Mascarello e Figlio Barolo Monprivato, and finally, Rocche Dei Manzoni Barolo Big’d Big, which sees the biggest increase in vertical presence of the whole group. Despite a horizontal representation increase of just 1%, the number of vintages and/or bottle formats listed across the 3% of the world’s best restaurants in which it features has grown from two to 19 in the last 12 months (or in other words, by 850%).
Outside Italy, the overall picture of restaurant presence depth somewhat contradicts that of breadth painted last week. Though Champagnes, and in particular grower offerings, have increased significantly in terms of horizontal presence, their vintage and/or format gains have not been sufficient to make this week’s top 20. This suggests that whilst sommeliers are keen to add more variety of Champagne, they aren’t so worried about listing reams of vintages / formats thereof. Only one Champagne features in the group: Philipponnat’s Clos des Goisses.
Bordeaux is conspicuous by its absence in this list, other than Château Clarke, with 26 overall references up from just four. In fact, Bordeaux’s big names are more likely to find themselves at the very bottom of the list, many having seen their vertical entries on restaurant wine lists shrink significantly. This seems to suggest that as restaurants diversify, they are choosing to hold less Bordeaux stock, still listing the top wines, but not necessarily in multiple vintages or formats.
What do you do when your drinking tastes far outweigh your wine budget? You could trawl the shops and the internet in search of that bottle that combines high ratings and moderate prices, or alternatively you could use Wine Lister’s Value Picks search tool. It selects top quality wines that are available at reasonable prices, doing the legwork for you. This week’s Listed section shines a spotlight on the top five reds that currently qualify as Value Picks. At present, they are all Tuscan, all available for under £90 – in fact all but one cost less than £50 – and all have Quality scores of over 990, putting them amongst the elitest of the elite on Wine Lister’s 1,000 point scale.
If you are after exceptional value, then look no further than Castello dei Rampolla’s Sammarco. With two vintages in the top five (2010 and 2006), each of which have plenty of life still left in them, they look like wise purchases. The 2010 owes its exceptional Quality score to a perfect 100-point rating from Wine Lister partner critic Antonio Galloni, who called it “stunning as it has always been. In a word: magnificent!”. At £88 per bottle, it might not be the cheapest, but it does look good value compared to the two other 998-point scorers from Tuscany 2010: Cerbaiona Brunello di Montalcino (£248) and Castello dei Rampolla’s Alceo (£128).
Whilst the 2010 is not quite ready to drink, the 2006 has just entered its drinking window. Underlining the wine’s longevity, Galloni, who awarded the wine a 97-point score, remarked: “Readers will have to be exceedingly patient here. There is no denying the 2006’s greatness, though.” The 2006 will be drinking well until 2036, and available for as little as £34 per bottle, looks like an excellent long-term investment (if you can refrain from opening it).
Flying the flag for Chianti is Fontodi’s best ever Chianti Classico Vigna del Sorbo Riserva – the 2010 (£43). Whilst its Quality is not in doubt, its economic performance is slightly less impressive, its price having fallen 11% over the past six months.
The remaining spots are filled by Isole e Olena Collezione de Marchi Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 (£46) and San Giusto a Rentennano Percarlo 2013 (£41). Isole e Olena Collezione de Marchi 2010’s Quality score is the furthest above its wine-level average Quality score (993 vs 934) of the five. The market has not yet reacted to this standout vintage, its price being no different to the wine-level average price. Meanwhile San Giusto a Rentennano Percarlo 2013’s Quality score is the closest to its (formidable) wine-level average (992 vs 967), yet its price is 36% below the wine-level average, underlining the 2013’s excellent value.
Please note that prices shown are excluding duty and VAT, and often reflect prices available only when purchasing a full case. They are provided by our price partner, Wine Owners, whose own proprietary algorithms process millions of rows of incoming price data from Wine-Searcher to calculate a more realistic market level price – the price at which a wine is likely to find a ready buyer – based on market supply and spread models. As lower retail prices are likely to sell first, the prices you see on Wine Lister may be below the Wine-Searcher average in some instances.
In this week’s top five, we take a break from June’s Bordeaux bias on the vinous calendar to look at the rising prices of Tuscany’s top wines.
However, there’s no escaping Bordeaux with Tuscany’s most expensive wine, since Masseto is distributed through the Place de Bordeaux. With tiny quantities available to purchase via the Place each year – average annual production is 32,000 bottles – Masseto’s price of £511 per bottle makes it well over a third more expensive than the rest of this weeks’ top five, and also the second-most expensive Italian wine on Wine Lister (beaten only by Giacomo Conterno’s Barolo Monfortino Riserva).
Masseto also achieves the group’s best Brand score (977), the result of featuring in the highest number of the world’s top restaurants (24%) and being over 2.5 times more popular than any of the other four. The chart below confirms a strong relationship between Brand score and price for these wines, with Masseto’s formidable brand strength playing a key role in its high price.
At £367 per bottle, Soldera Case Basse Sangiovese takes the second spot. It achieves the highest Quality and Economics scores of the five (976 and 957 respectively). With an impressive three-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 18.4% – by far the highest of the group – and having added 7.3% to its value over the past six months, Soldera Case Basse continues to cement its position as Tuscany’s second-most expensive wine, and close the gap on Masseto.
Two Brunellos feature amongst Tuscany’s most expensive wines: Biondi Santi’s Brunello Riserva (£289) and Casanova di Neri’s Brunello Cerretalto (£157). Whilst Biondi Santi Brunello Riserva’s appearance might be expected, considering its heritage, the fact that Casanova di Neri Cerretalto is amongst Tuscany’s most expensive wines might be more of a surprise, indicating that Riserva status alone does not currently guarantee higher prices than straight Brunellos.
Rounding out the five is Tuscany’s fourth-most expensive wine and the group’s second 100% merlot – Tua Rita’s Redigaffi. At an average price of £180 per bottle, it is over 2.5 times cheaper than its varietal companion in the group, Masseto.