With Christmas and New Year celebrations now behind us, the first Listed blog of 2019 has us dreaming of warmer climes. As an antidote to the January blues, we suggest a dose of California sun in the form of Chardonnay from Sonoma and/or Napa Counties. Below we examine the top five whites from the Golden State by Wine Lister score.
In the context of Chardonnay world-wide, it is worth glancing at regional differences to place the Californian scores in context. While the top five white Burgundies by Wine Lister score outperform their American counterparts by 147 points (953 for Burgundy vs. 806 for California), the Burgundian average price is over 15 times higher (£2,383 vs. £153).
The first of this week’s top five is Marcassin Vineyard’s Chardonnay with a score of 893. Though it beats the other four wines in all three Wine Lister score categories (Quality 927; Brand 843; Economics 903), its Economics score sits 123 points above the next best Economics performer. This is thanks to achieving the highest market price of £335 per bottle (in-bond), and the largest volume of bottles traded in the past four quarters (353).
In second place is Kongsgaard Chardonnay with a score of 834. At vintage level it actually achieves the highest Quality score of all wines in the group – the 2013 earns 966 points, thanks to a score of 95+ from Wine Lister partner critic Antonio Galloni, who calls it “a real knock-out”. This is all the more impressive considering the wine’s average price of £93 per bottle in-bond – just over half the average of the group’s other four wines combined (£168). Given this price to quality ratio, it is perhaps unsurprising that Kongsgaard has the strongest restaurant presence of this week’s top five, featuring in 15% of the world’s best.
Next in this week’s top five is the first of two wines from Kistler Vineyards. Its straight Chardonnay and McCrea Vineyard Chardonnay earn 791 and 743 points respectively, placing them third and fifth. The straight Chardonnay’s Quality score of 892 sits just two points under the quality achieved by Kongsgaard, however its overall score is balanced by a much lower Economics score of 640. This is due to a recent price drop, resulting in short-term price performance of -10.3%. The performance of its sibling from McCrea Vineyard is quite the opposite, with the best short-term price performance of the group (7.7%), and the second-highest Economics score of this week’s top five (780).
Sandwiched between the two Kistler wines in fourth place is Peter Michael’s Belle Côte Chardonnay with an in-bond price of £108 per bottle, and a Wine Lister score of 770.
Analysis of Dominus 2015, which was released late last week at £183.33 per bottle, with a Quality score of 988.
You can download the slide here: Wine Lister Factsheet Dominus 2015
Analysis of Opus One 2015, which has been released this morning at €208 ex-négociant (up 9% on the 2014), with a UK release price of £225 (up 7% on 2014), and a higher Quality score: 978 (vs 944).
You can download the slide here: Wine Lister Factsheet Opus One 2015
While wines made in The Golden State are not as affected by vintage variation as their European counterparts, the 2013 vintage was for California as close to perfect as they come. The long, hot summer led to Cabernet Sauvignons with extreme fruit concentration and firm structure – a recipe for long-term cellaring. The vintage’s economic credentials seem equally promising, with Economics scores of the top five Californian reds from the 2013 vintage outperforming their respective wine-level average by 114 points (averaging 979 in 2013 versus 864 across all vintages).
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the number one spot is taken by Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon. At 996, its Economics score is not only the highest of this week’s top five, but of all 2013s on Wine Lister (matched only by 2013 DRC Richebourg). It is also by far the most expensive of the five at £2,363 per bottle – over twice as high as the price of the other four combined. Screaming Eagle’s “mailing list” sales model teamed with tiny production quantities (7,800 bottles per annum on average) means that demand for this wine consistently outweighs supply. This could explain the wine’s strong presence on the secondary market, with 855 bottles traded at auction over the last 12 months (according to figures collated by the Wine Market Journal).
In second place is 2013 Pahlmeyer Proprietary Red. Interestingly, it has the lowest Quality score of the group. Indeed, its 2013 Quality score is 74 points lower than Pahlmeyer’s average (848). Contrastingly, the 2013 vintage receives its best ever Economics score of 979, boosted by a six-month price performance of 18.7%.
The third spot of this week’s top five is occupied by the only Pinot Noir of the group, Kistler Vineyards Pinot Noir, with an Economics score of 972. It is the only wine of the five to have been released before 2016, and thus the only one with a three-year compound annual growth rate (28.2%), whereas Economics scores for the other four 2013s are based upon price performance over the short term only. Kistler’s place in the top five 2013 Californian reds by Economics score is impressive, given its lower price point (£101 per bottle, compared with an £843 average for the other four wines).
The penultimate wine of this week’s top five is 2013 Scarecrow. Alongside its best ever Quality score (987), the 2013 vintage achieves an Economics score of 965, helped by the second-highest three-month average price (£663) and the best price stability of the group (with standard deviation of just 4.1% over the last 12 months).
Last but by no means least is Philip Togni Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, with an Economics score of 964. Though fifth for economics, it is number one for Quality, thanks to a 100-point score from Wine Lister partner critic, Antonio Galloni, who calls it “a majestic, towering wine… one of the wines of the vintage”.
Despite the annual bustle of the en primeur campaign, it is healthy to breathe some non-Bordeaux air once in a while. With Bordeaux 2017 behind us, we examine new Buzz Brands for June from contrasting locations – Burgundy and the New World. One of four Wine Lister Indicators, ‘Buzz Brands’ use Wine Lister’s bespoke algorithms to indicate trending wines found in the highest number of the world’s best restaurants, and with high online search frequency.
This month, 10 new wines have made the Buzz Brand cut, as shown in the image below.
Six Burgundian wines (four whites and two reds) become Buzz Brands in June. This aligns with results of our latest Founding Members’ survey, where Burgundy producers earned the most number of votes (50) from key members of the global fine wine trade as most likely to see the largest brand gains in the next two years.
Louis Jadot and Domaine Leflaive both have two new white Buzz Brand references. Jadot’s Chevalier-Montrachet Les Demoiselles and Corton-Charlemagne have the highest Quality scores of this month’s Buzz Brand additions – 951 and 925 respectively. Domaine Leflaive proves its popularity with presence of its Puligny-Montrachet les Combettes and/or Meursault Sous le Dos d’Ane in 28 out of c.150 of the world’s best restaurants, and votes from the trade as a consistent seller (see p.23 of Wine Lister’s Bordeaux market study 2018 for more).
Of the red Burgundian Buzz Brands, the popularity of Domaine Leroy’s Pommard Les Vignots is perhaps unsurprising, given the producer’s renown, and the wine’s relative affordability (£505 per bottle) compared with Leroy’s more expensive offerings, such as its Musigny Grand Cru (£8,365 per bottle). Denis Mortet’s Clos de Vougeot is the only Côte de Nuits to feature in this month’s Buzz Brand additions.
The remaining four wines all hail from the New World – three from South Australia, and one from California. The latter, Vérité’s Le Désir, wins on all fronts with the highest Quality (949), Brand (740), and Economics (603) scores. The Quality comparison is hardly fair, given Le Désir’s price of £233, over four times higher the average of the three Australian representatives. Torbreck’s The Steading and the Descendant combined are present in 15 of the world’s best restaurants. Henschke’s Cyril Cabernet Sauvignon joins its pricier and better-known siblings, Hill of Grace Shiraz and Mount Edelstone Shiraz, as the producer’s third Buzz Brand.
You can see a full list of Wine Lister Buzz Brands here
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%).
With Burgundy having dominated our thoughts recently, we thought it was time for a change. So this week, our Listed section continues on its travels, this time stopping in the USA, to consider the country’s overall top five whites. However, whilst the landscape might be different to the Côte d’Or, the grape certainly is not. As might be expected, the USA’s top five whites are all Chardonnays – and all Californian.
Leading the pack is Marcassin Vineyard Chardonnay, with an excellent score of 918 – putting it amongst the very best on Wine Lister. Its score – 55 points above second-placed Kongsgaard Chardonnay – is the result of excellent consistency across Wine Lister’s three categories. Whilst it comes second in terms of Quality (927), it leads in the Economics category (968), and is well out in front in the Brand category (879). The dominance of its brand is the result of achieving the group’s best restaurant presence – both horizontal and vertical – and being the most popular of the five – it receives nearly twice as many searches each month on Wine-Searcher as the second-most popular wine in the group.
Next comes Kongsgaard Chardonnay (863). The cheapest of the five (£86 per bottle), it experiences the group’s second-weakest Economics score (873). However, it starts to climb back up the table with the group’s third-best Quality score (894), and cements its position with the second-best Brand score of the five (817).
The three final wines in the group are evenly matched, with just 27 points separating Kistler’s straight Chardonnay, Peter Michael’s Point Rouge Chardonnay, and Kistler’s Vine Hill Vineyard Chardonnay. The two Kistlers display contrasting profiles. Whilst the straight Chardonnay comfortably outperforms the Vine Hill Vineyard in the Quality category (892 vs 805), the roles are reversed in the Economics category, with the Vine Hill Vineyard’s very strong three-year CAGR (16.5%) helping it to an excellent score of 951, c.70 points ahead of the straight Chardonnay. In the Brand category, despite achieving very similar scores, again they display contrasting profiles. The straight Chardonnay is over twice as popular as the Vine Hill Vineyard, but features in half the number of the world’s top restaurants.
Peter Michael Point Rouge Chardonnay – the USA’s fourth-best white – has a somewhat topsy-turvy profile. It enjoys the group’s best Quality score (933), but the worst Brand and Economics scores (641 and 827 respectively). Thanks to an extraordinary three-year CAGR of 47.7% it is also by far the most-expensive of the five, with a three-month average price of £457.
In this blog we look at the price performance of five major fine wine regions over the past two years. Wine Lister’s regional indices use price data from Wine Owners, and each comprises the top five brands in its respective region (according to the Wine Lister Brand score).
In Bordeaux, for example, the top five strongest brands (measured by looking at restaurant presence and online search frequency), are the five first growths, Haut-Brion, Lafite, Latour, Margaux, and Mouton. Posting gains of 28% over two years, and largely stagnating over the last year, the Wine Lister Bordeaux index is the worst performer of the five wine price indices shown below.
Piedmont, meanwhile, has enjoyed a remarkable couple of years. Not only has its index grown by an astonishing 58% over the period, it has also been very consistent, experiencing just three months of negative growth – November 2015, May 2016, and April 2017. Sustained high growth rates suggest a region in demand. The Wine Lister Piedmont index consists of two wines from Gaja – Barbaresco and Sperss (now labelled as a Barolo again after several years of declassification to Langhe Nebbiolo), two Barolos from Conterno – the Monfortino and the Cascina Francia, and finally Bartolo Mascarello’s Barolo.
Next comes the Burgundy index (consisting entirely of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti wines), which has grown by more than 50% over the past 24 months, but with a few more blips. It decreased in value by 4% in December 2015, only managing to recover in March 2016. In a repeat of this festive dip, the index dropped over 5% in December 2016, but recovered the losses in just one month on this occasion. It has started to close the gap on Piedmont over recent months, adding over 15% since May.
Tuscany and California* made similar gains to Bordeaux over the period – up 33% and 29% respectively. The Tuscany index has progressed fairly serenely over the past two years, thanks to its liquid Super Tuscan components. Meanwhile the prices of California’s top wines have been less consistent, enduring a fall of nearly 9% in October 2015, recovering with a dramatic 8% rise in February 2016. This year, having enjoyed strong gains during February and March, their growth rate has since cooled off, adding just 1.5% over the past six months.
*As you will know, California has suffered tragic wildfires in recent weeks. Wine Lister’s partner critic, Vinous, is donating to relevant charities the profits from all maps purchased before the end of November 2018.
The annual spate of releases in September has influenced this month’s gainers in online search frequency. For the third consecutive month, Dom Pérignon Vintage Brut has seen the largest increase in average monthly searches, which we calculate using three-month data from Wine-Searcher measured against the previous period. Dom Pérignon 2009 was released in early September, and the wine’s increase of 5,154 searches is the largest incremental monthly increase seen this year, taking it to 60,241 average searches per month: the highest of any Champagne and fifth highest of all wines.
Following last month’s narrowing of regions within the top five (only two were featured), the breadth in September significantly increased, with icons from California, Bordeaux, Piedmont, and Chile joining Champagne. The number of searches has also increased dramatically after the summer slowdown, with 19 wines seeing an increase of over 1,000 average monthly searches. The release of Opus One 2014 at the beginning of September – judged “a gorgeous wine” by our partner critic Antonio Galloni – has boosted interest in this Napa Valley stalwart, with an increase of 4,651 searches taking it to over 40,000 searches per month.
Château d’Yquem is another wine to see online search frequency rise on the back of a September release. The 2015 was released alongside Opus One 2014 at €250 ex-négociant.
The next in the table, Bartolo Mascarello Barolo, has the lowest search frequency of any of the wines above, with an average 10,075 per month. Nevertheless, with an overall Wine Lister score of 941/1,000 the wine is one of the great names of Barolo: the fourth best overall on Wine Lister.
Almaviva celebrated its twentieth anniversary in June, while its producer Viña Concha y Toro has recently entered the global ranking inside the Top 10 Beverages category within the Dow Jones Sustainability Index for the first time. With the release of Almaviva 2015 in early September adding to the interest, the wine has seen an increase of 2,858 online monthly searches, taking it to 11,291.
Champagne continues to find itself a popular tipple amongst summer drinkers, the latest Wine Searcher data shows. 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. Last month’s data featured two Champagnes in the top five, and this month’s – looking at data from June to August – features three.
For the second month in a row, Dom Pérignon Vintage Brut finds itself in first place, with an increase of 1,919 searches taking the wine to an impressive 57,000 searches on average per month. This also makes it the fifth most searched-for wine on Wine Searcher from June to August, beaten only by Bordeaux heavyweights Lafite, Mouton, Margaux, and Petrus.
The producer’s Rosé takes the second spot, although with 9,300 searches on average per month it falls some way behind the dizzy popularity of its sibling. Proving the unquenchable appeal of drinking pink Champagne in the sun, Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque Rosé makes up this month’s trio. Starting from the lowest number of average searches of the five wines, at around 1,600 per month, it jumps to 2,300 searches with the latest data update.
The breadth of regions has narrowed this month, with the remaining two wines both Cabernet-based and hailing from Napa: Harlan Estate Proprietary Red and Caymus Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon. The former is one of the region’s biggest names, a self-proclaimed “First Growth” of California, costing on average £665 per bottle. Caymus Vineyards, meanwhile, averages £100 a bottle but is a favourite amongst consumers, and with an overall score of 747/1,000 shows that high quality doesn’t always come with a high price to match.
Champagne and Californian Cabernets: the drinks of the summer. You heard it here first.