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.
The final Wine Lister partner critic to release their Bordeaux 2020 scores, Jeannie Cho Lee’s latest ratings provide further insight into the best of Bordeaux’s latest vintage.
Recap the top scores from Bettane+Desseauve, JancisRobinson.com, Neal Martin and Antonio Galloni (Vinous), or read more below.
Giving a near-perfect score of 99, Jeannie Cho Lee praises Lafite 2020, calling it a “classic Lafite with a soft, almost effortless entry” and a “long lingering finish”.
Along with La Mission Haut-Brion Rouge, First Growths Haut-Brion, Margaux, and Mouton follow shortly behind with 98 points. Haut-Brion Blanc gains 94 points, while several siblings of the Premier Crus clan also appear on the list, with Carruades de Lafite and Pavillon Rouge scoring 95.
Of the 27 wines that earn 94 and over from Jeannie Cho Lee, 13 hail from Saint-Emilion – once again suggesting the success of the appellation in 2020. Angélus, Monbousquet, and Pavie lead the pack with a score of 98, while Pavie’s second wine, Arômes de Pavie also makes an appearance.
Further top-scoring Bordeaux 2020 from Jeannie Cho Lee are: Pichon Baron, Bellevue-Mondotte, Canon, l’Evangile, Laroze, Pavie-Decesse, Rauzan-Ségla, Smith Haut Lafitte Rouge, Clos des Jacobins, Bellevue, Cos d’Estournel, Destieux, Duhart-Milon, Fleur Cardinale, Arômes de Pavie, and Quintus.
Watch this space for Wine Lister’s latest Wine Leagues on the new vintage – examining which Bordeaux 2020s rank best for WL score in each major appellation.
With Bordeaux en primeur releases trickling through, the fine wine trade continues to speculate behind the scenes on which properties will provide the top picks from the 2020 vintage. To shine some light on the perennial châteaux to watch, we are looking back on the results of our latest in-depth trade survey, showing results of properties receiving the highest number of mentions in response to the following question:
Which Bordeaux properties do you think have the most potential in the near- to mid-term to see the highest increase in demand?
As answered by the 49 CEOs, MDs, and wine department heads from across the globe, wines from properties mentioned below are likely to see high demand again in this year’s en primeur campaign, thanks to their astute marketing and storytelling, usually coupled with a real step-up in quality.
The survey results and graph above are extracted from Wine Lister’s latest Bordeaux Study
But how have they gained the confidence of the trade? Storytelling, backed up by real quality, thanks to serious investment:
Canon and sister property, Rauzan-Ségla have benefitted from investment by their owner, Chanel, as well as painstaking and perfectly judged branding efforts, accompanied by impeccable winemaking – with Managing Director, Nicolas Audebert front and centre of both undertakings. Calon-Ségur has been on a similar trajectory, reviving a sleeping beauty of a property with irresistible branding, excellent communication with the trade, and grand events. Pichon Comtesse has likewise benefitted from a perfect combination of exceptional wines, management and investment by its owners, Group Roederer.
If any one château were to serve as a masterclass in storytelling around a single event – in this case the 2018 vintage – it is Palmer, who turned the loss of the majority of its crop due to mildew into a silver lining, and turned the remaining production into something of a myth.
Figeac has made incredible wines the last three years with Managing Director, Frédéric Faye at the helm, returning it to the great quality of the last century – and better – and showing the true potential of its terroir. Significant investment by the Manoncourt family has also played a crucial role.
A rising star in recent years, Les Carmes Haut-Brion ties for joint-first alongside Canon. Small production levels, rising demand, and attractive en primeur pricing for the last few years has made Les Carmes Haut-Brion a top buy.
Lafite is the sole first growth to make an appearance, with three respondents mentioning it in their list of top properties likely to see the highest increase in demand, no doubt thanks to a raft of initiatives and modernisation thanks to a new generation of management in the form of Saskia de Rothschild and Jean-Guillaume Prats.
Also featuring are cult Pomerol pick Vieux Château Certan, Margaux staple Giscours, and from Saint-Emilion, up and coming La Gaffelière and newly fresh Troplong-Mondot.
Results are extracted from Part I of Wine Lister’s annual Bordeaux Study. You can download the study digest in English here: Wine Lister 2021 Bordeaux Study – Digest or French here: Wine Lister 2021 Bordeaux Résumé d’étude. The full report can be purchased on our Analysis page, while Pro subscribers can access their free copy here.
As another week of Bordeaux 2020 en primeur releases draws to a close, the campaign has begun to show signs of speeding up, with some compelling releases entering the market over the past three days.
Below we examine releases from Laroque (Wednesday 19th), Lafon-Rochet (Thursday 20th), and Branaire-Ducru and Batailley (Friday 21st).
Lafon-Rochet’s latest release is a “very successful 2020”, according to Wine Lister partner critic, Jancis Robinson
Released at £18.95 per bottle (in-bond), Laroque was described by Wine Lister CEO, Ella Lister as having an “ebullient, classy, very cassis nose”, developing into a “serious, structured wine on the palate”. The estate has seen recent improvements and investments to achieve a higher quality, starting with the hiring of David Suire in 2015, and the 2020 is no exception in the recent pattern of excellent value for money.
Lafon-Rochet’s latest vintage also illustrates the property’s upward quality trajectory. Having been awarded 17 points from Wine Lister partner critic, Jancis Robinson, (up from 16.5+ for the 2019) she describes it as a “very successful 2020” and congratulates owner, Basile Tesseron, for “producing something so appetising and groundbreaking”. Entering the market yesterday at c.£27.10 per bottle (in-bond), the vintage marks a year of development at Lafon-Rochet. As well as embarking on an agroforestry scheme in 2020 to enrich its environment, the latest release marks the inaugural collaboration of Jean-Claude Berrouet and Eric Boissenot, who worked together on its blending (recap our blog here). The price positioning of this top-quality vintage 10% below the 2019 market price has reportedly been very well-received.
Cru Classés Branaire-Ducru and Batailley were released this morning. Having made a name for itself as offering exceptionally good value within the Saint-Julien appellation, Branaire-Ducru’s latest release (at £31 per bottle in-bond) enters the market at an average 11% and 22% below than current availability of the 2019 and 2018 respectively.
Writing for JancisRobinson.com, James Lawther awards Batailley 2020 17 points, describing it as “Solid, subdued and distinctly Pauillac”. At c.£28 per bottle (in-bond), it enters the market under current average market prices of the last six vintages.
Keep track of en primeur releases on Wine Lister’s dedicated En Primeur Page here.
Cheval Blanc 2020 was one of the first key releases out of the gate for this year’s Bordeaux en primeur campaign yesterday.
Having tasted in Bordeaux last week, Wine Lister’s CEO, Ella Lister, hails the wine “restrained and profound” on the nose, with “dark, hypnotic fruit”. The palate, she says, is “straight-lined, mineral, mouth-watering and fresh”, with an “incredibly long, saline finish”. As one of her favourite wines of the vintage, she would potentially give it a perfect score.
Technical Director, Pierre-Olivier Clouet notes that 2020 is cut quite differently from recent years at the estate. He characterises the vintage at Cheval Blanc in “three major waves”. First, the humid spring encouraged the vines to grow calmly and homogenously, accumulating water and nutrients much needed later in the season. The second wave was one of drought, which Clouet explains gives Cheval Blanc 2020 “a deep, tannic structure – dense but not hard, firm but not dry, ripe but not cooked”. Balancing this is Clouet’s “third wave” – a period of intense heat towards the end of the summer. With temperatures during harvest reaching 38-39 degrees Celsius, the hot spell translates into a very “expressive, intense, crisp, and aromatic nose”, and a freshness on the palate thanks to quick picking, within 20 days (half the usual duration).
Cheval Blanc 2020 was being offered by UK merchants at around £380 per bottle in-bond – 3% above the 2019 release price, but well under the price of any small remaining quantities of 2019 currently available on the British secondary market. Last year’s gesture on pricing was exceptionally well-received, and the 2020 will likely be no exception.
With the bank holiday weekend approaching, Wine Lister has selected 10 mature Bordeaux MUST BUYs that promise to please with your Easter Sunday lunch. Boasting at least nine years of ageing, these top picks are available to purchase for under £100 (per bottle in-bond, when purchasing by the case in general).
Check out all of our Bordeaux MUST BUYs here, or read more below.
Regarded as a top-quality year for Bordeaux across appellations four of the 10 MUST BUY picks hail from 2009. Following a wet spring that provided plentiful water reserves, the summer of 2009 saw almost perfect growing conditions with minimal disease pressure, and many great wines from the vintage are beginning to either their optimum drinking window.
Described by Wine Lister partner critic, Jancis Robinson, as “very winning and opulent” with “massive volume and finish”, Margaux’s Malescot Saint-Exupery achieves a WL score of 93 in 2009. The property has exhibited an upward quality trajectory since the turn of the century, with the legendary Michel Rolland consulting on its production of a single, unfiltered and unfined wine. The 2009 vintage can be purchased from Fine+Rare for £71 per bottle (in-bond).
Grand-Puy-Lacoste’s 2009 vintage receives 18 points from Robinson, who notes; “a very sweet start. Herbal and interesting. Lots of fine tannin and savour. Very distinctive and ambitious”. Marking the estate’s highest WL score since its 1990 vintage (94), the 2009 is available to purchase from Bordeaux Index for £59 per bottle (in-bond).
Another classic left bank brand, Gruaud-Larose’s 2009 is described by Wine Lister partner critic, Neal Martin (Vinous), as offering refined aromas of “blackberry, cedar and leather”, and a “fine bead of acidity [with] great precision on the brown spice infused finish”. Hailed for the longevity of its wines, this can be enjoyed now, or aged for at least 10 more years. It is available from Bordeaux Index for £81 per bottle (in-bond).
Moving across to the right bank and back a few vintages, 2005 Le Bon Pasteur achieves the property’s highest ever WL score (94), and is described by Wine Lister partner critic, Bettane+Desseauve as offering notes of “dark fruits and fine chocolate”, and a “refined tannic structure, brilliant length and freshness”. With over 15 years of age, and only 2,500 bottles released, it has limited remaining market availability, but can be sought out for £100 per bottle (in-bond) from Cru World Wine.
Slightly south in Saint-Émilion, our chosen younger offering from Larcis-Ducasse – the 2012 – is available from Cult Wines for £41 per bottle (in-bond), making it the least expensive of the group. While rain in October forced many left bank estates to pick their late-ripening Cabernet Sauvignon earlier, the predominance of Merlot on the right bank saw its wines perform comparably better in 2012. Wine Lister partner critic, Jeannie Cho Lee, describes the 2012 Larcis-Ducasse as an “elegant, full bodied red with opulent tannins and wonderful energy”.
Last but not least, Saint-Estèphe star Cos d’Estournel makes the cut for its 2008 vintage. Robinson describes it as “very luscious and round” with a “strong blackcurrant element” and “surprisingly gentle tannins”. Achieving a WL score of 94, it is available to purchase by the bottle from Lay & Wheeler for £88 (in-bond).
Home to a range of grape varieties, styles, and DOCGs, Tuscany also offers excellent wines at a variety of price points. To help you on your hunt for a top Tuscan bottle within your budget, Wine Lister has compiled a selection of Tuscany MUST BUYs at five different price points.
Click here to view all Tuscan MUST BUYs, or read more below.
Prices are shown per bottle in-bond (when buying by the case).
Under £20 – 2011 Fattoria La Massa La Massa
Founded in 1992 by prominent Chianti winemaker, Giampaolo Motta, Fattoria La Massa represents his aim of applying Bordeaux vinification techniques to a Tuscan terroir. With the counsel of famed Bordeaux vigneron, Stéphane Derenoncourt, Motta now grows Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Petit Verdot alongside native Sangiovese. La Massa comprises 60% Sangiovese, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 10% Merlot in 2011, and is described by Wine Lister partner critic, Antonio Galloni as “jumping from the glass with dark red cherry, raspberry jam, plum, spices, violets, smoke and cloves”. With a WL score of 92, it is available to purchase from Bordeaux Index for £16 per bottle (in-bond).
Under £50 – 2015 Felsina Fontalloro
Felsina has seen a significant shift toward organic and biodynamic practices since its founder, Domenico Poggiali’s son-in-law, Giuseppe Mazzocolin, took over in the late 1970s. As well as investing heavily in a more natural viticulture, the estate has adopted a dedication to revealing the expression of its terroir. The 2015 Felsina Fontalloro was awarded 96 points from Antonio Galloni, who indeed notes that “sandy soils confer aromatic intensity to this super-expressive, arrestingly beautiful wine”. It can be purchased from Brunswick Fine Wines for £44 per bottle (in-bond).
Under £100 – 2016 Tenuta Tignanello Tignanello
Antinori’s Tenuta Tignanello property fared notably well in 2016, with its namesake wine, Tignanello achieving its joint-highest WL score alongside its 2015 vintage (98). Antonio Galloni describes the 2016 Tignanello as “flat out stunning”, and muses, “I don’t think there is another wine anywhere in the world made entirely from estate fruit that can match Tignanello for quality, consistency and value”. A blend of 80% Sangiovese, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 5% Cabernet Franc, it can be acquired from Fine+Rare Wines for £92 per bottle (in-bond).
Under £200 – 2015 Montevertine Le Pergole Torte
Considered a difficult place for any agricultural production, Radda was an unusual location for Montevertine’s founder, Sergio Manetti to establish his property in 1967. In one of the highest and rockiest sites in Chianti Classico, its steep hills are now home to top-quality Sangiovese vines from which its three wines – Pian del Ciampolo, Montevertine, and Le Pergole – are produced. Antonio Galloni awards 97 points to the 2015 Montevertine Le Pergole Torte, calling it “deep, powerful and resonant […] exotically ripe and flamboyant, not to mention utterly captivating”. It can be bought from IG Wines for £129 per bottle (in-bond).
Over £300 – 2008 Soldera Case Basse Sangiovese
Achieving 18 points from Wine Lister’s partner critic, Jancis Robinson, Soldera’s 2008 Case Basse Sangiovese is described as “so different from most Brunello” with a “reserved nose of autumnal leaves”, and a “real tang on the end”. Having separated from the Brunello di Montalcino DOCG in 2006, all vintages from 2007 onwards are labelled as Toscana IGT. The 2008 marks a shift away from the estate’s usual vinicultural methods, having been aged for a period in stainless steel before bottling. Antonio Galloni notes that it is indeed “quite different from virtually every other wine made at Case Basse”. The 2008 Case Basse Sangiovese can be bought from Fine+Rare Wines for £387 per bottle (in-bond).
Over two years ago, Wine Lister published a blog on Tuscany’s 2018 vintage (recap here), which has since become the second most-read article on our site. With several 2018s entering the market over the past six months, and more scheduled for release this year, news of the vintage remains relevant.
To complete the picture first painted in our report on the 2018 harvest, we examine how some of the wines discussed have performed so far, and whether predictions on the vintage have come to fruition.
A prized picking – the 2018 harvest at Castello di Fonterutoli
Predicting in 2018 that “the vintage might fall between the opulent 2015s and the structured 2016s in terms of quality and style”, Castello di Fonterutoli’s Giovanni Mazzei underestimated the year. The estate’s 50% Sangiovese and 50% Merlot blend, Siepi, achieves its highest score from Wine Lister’s partner critic, Antonio Galloni in 2018 (97) – five and two points above the 2015 and 2016, respectively. Antonio notes it is “rich, pliant and creamy”, offering “all of the seductiveness of Merlot with the bright acids and grip of Sangiovese”. The 2018 Siepi can be bought from Petersham Cellars for £70 per bottle (in-bond).
Estate Director at Ornellaia and Masseto, Axel Heinz told Wine Lister in 2018 that his “fermenting wines are silky and fragrant”, and that he predicts “a more delicate vintage”. Indeed, Antonio Galloni recently wrote on the 2018 Ornellaia that “readers should expect a silky, aromatic Ornellaia in line with vintages such as 2004 that are more about finesse than raw power”. Having been previewed by members of the fine wine trade and press in a virtual seminar last week (recap our recent blog here), it was awarded a score of 97 by Antonio. The 2018 Ornellaia will be released onto the market at the beginning of April.
Due for release through the Place de Bordeaux in September, Masseto’s 2018 vintage was the first to be made in its own winery, having previously been vinified at Ornellaia. Awarding it 98 points, Antonio notes that it is “silky, mid-weight and supremely gracious”, with notes of “inky red/purplish fruit, cedar, lavender, espresso, sage and mint”. Wine Lister sampled the second release of Masseto’s second wine, 2018 Massetino, in September 2020, and was certainly impressed by its complexity, with expressive notes of dark fruit, cocoa, and spice. While it has limited remaining market availability, it can be purchased from Cru World Wine for £307 per bottle (in-bond).
Describing 2018 as “a good year”, Fattoria Le Pupille’s owner, Elisabetta Geppetti, told Wine Lister that the Bordeaux varietals of her flagship wine, Saffredi, fared particularly well. Antonio Galloni gives it 96+ points, and writes that “the 2018 Saffredi is a regal, elegant, supremely polished wine”, which “may very well be the most refined Saffredi I have ever tasted”. Recalling notes of “sweet red cherry, plum, mocha, licorice and cinnamon”, he concludes; “don’t miss it”. It can be bought from Berry Bros & Rudd for £60 per bottle (in-bond).
Keep track of new Tuscany 2018 scores from Wine Lister partner critics here, and watch this space for future analysis on the vintage.
Last week, Wine Lister joined members of the fine wine trade and press, gathered behind their screens, for the unveiling of Ornellaia’s annual Vendemmia d’Artista collaboration. With each new vintage release, the Ornellaia team chooses a word to characterise the latest growing season and its resulting wine, and selects an artist to bring the word to life on limited-edition labels of the Ornellaia bottle.
Marking the winery’s 13th edition of Vendemmia d’Artista, the 2018 vintage has been coined “La Grazia” – Grace. Estate Director, Axel Heinz, explains that the choice of name is due to 2018 being “a wine that has no hard edges”, and one “all about symmetry, proportion…a graceful expression of Ornellaia”.
Indeed, the higher proportion of Merlot than Cabernet Sauvignon in the latest vintage blend – an exception for the estate – has produced what we found to be a soft and silky wine with a lively perfume and elegant, precise fruit. Ornellaia’s CEO, Giovanni Geddes da Filicaja, notes that the wine really came together “at the time of blending”. He adds, “all the pieces were good, but once we put them all together, it became a really gracious wine”.
That the wine should be so-named came as somewhat of a surprise to Heinz. He reveals that “it was really after the year of ageing and when we sat down in the blending room, that the wine revealed itself to us”. He describes the vintage as “one not without challenges”, expanding thus: “usually [we have] a relatively dry Mediterranean climate. In 2018 we had Mediterranean sun but at the same time enough rainfall to slow the ripening down, and create a wine that is all about balance”.
Belgian artist, Jan Fabre, was chosen to bring La Grazia to life, and limited-edition bottles in various formats will feature his work, as shown in the image below.
Photo: courtesy of Ornellaia winery – featuring sculpture and drawings by Jan Fabre.
Ornellaia’s art curator, Bartolomeo Pietromarchi, explains the artistic concept as “a way to express balance between beauty and taste”, as well as to “explore the relationship between the senses”. Fabre has sculpted three works from precious red coral, which adorn Salmanazars due for auction in September; “A Candle of Mercy”, “The Crown of Kindness” and “The Heart of Virtue”.
Further bottles feature drawings that bring out the texture of these sculptures – indeed a limited number of 12-bottle cases of Ornellaia 2018 will each contain one bottle with Fabre’s crown label design.
The 111 limited-edition, large-format bottles will be auctioned through Sotheby’s in September 2021, and all proceeds will go towards Ornellaia’s ongoing support of the Mind’s Eye project at the Guggenheim museum.
Widely considered the most romantic (if most expensive) day of the year, Valentine’s day often brings with it pressure to spend more to prove one’s admiration. To help you avoid compromise on your Valentine’s day drinking, Wine Lister has put together a list of red Value pick MUST BUYs with WL scores above 95.
Click here to view all red Value pick MUST BUYs, or read more below.
Of the 37 red Value Pick MUST BUYs earning WL 95 and over, a substantial 27 wines hail from Italy, suggesting the impressive quality-to-price ratios offered by many of the country’s producers.
A passion for Piedmont
Famed Piedmont cooperative, Produttori del Barbaresco appears three times on the list, with the 2014 vintages of its Montefico Riserva, Montestafano Riserva, and Ovello Riserva. Despite hailstorms damaging several Barbaresco vineyards in 2014, Produttori’s premium sites are subject to rigorous grape selection, meaning its single-vineyard wines retained quality in the vintage. Achieving the highest score of the three labels from Wine Lister partner critic, Antonio Galloni (96) who calls it a “potent, structured Barbaresco”, the Montefico Riserva can be purchased from Hatton & Edwards for £42 per bottle (in-bond).
Tenderness for Tuscany
Moving further south, Podere Poggio Scalette’s Il Carbonaione is represented by its 2009, 2013, and 2014 vintages, which all achieve WL scores of 95. With over 10 years of age, the 2009 is described by Wine Lister partner critic, Jancis Robinson, as offering a “very voluptuous, exotic nose”, with notes of “both herbs and spices – and some meatiness […] very exciting and bursting with health”. It can be bought from Atlas Fine Wines for £33 per bottle (in-bond).
A romance with the Rhône
Family-owned, micro-négociant, Tardieu-Laurent represents five of the eight Rhône Value picks, with its 2016 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Speciale, 2010 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Vieilles Vignes, 2016 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Vieilles Vignes, 2005 Cornas Vieilles Vignes, and 2007 Hermitage. Despite its small-scale production (a consequence of its meticulous selection process), Tardieu-Laurent offers excellent value across its labels. Jancis Robinson awards 18 points to the 2016 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Vieilles Vignes, noting it is “very aromatic and then so sweet and round on the palate! You want to gobble it up immediately”. It can be purchased by the case of 12 from Tardieu-Laurent’s exclusive UK agent, Corney & Barrow for £390 (in-bond).
Caring for California
Representing the New World, Ridge Vineyards’ Geyserville appears in the line-up with its 2016 vintage. A single-site blend of 73% Zinfandel, 17% Carignan, 7% Petite Syrah, and 3% Alicante Bouschet, it achieves a WL score of 95, and is described by Antonio Galloni as offering “black cherry, graphite, lavender, and spice”, with “a purity […] that is absolutely striking”. Also noted by Jancis Robinson as having “snug, focused aromatics with hints of floral lift” and “a palate bursting with flavour”, the 2016 Geyserville can be acquired by the bottle from Lay & Wheeler for £33 (in-bond).