Weekly MUST BUY update – 22 new entries

Since its launch in September, Wine Lister’s MUST BUY list has unveiled fine wines across multiple regions, vintages, price points, and drinking occasions, all with the common theme of being so good, that they simply must find their place in fine wine fanatics’ cellars. Wine Lister’s prices are updated weekly, and since price (in the form of value) plays a major part in the MUST BUY algorithm, MUST BUYs too will henceforth be updated weekly.

Since its last update, the MUST BUY list has grown by four wines (to 1,697), with 22 new entries, and 18 wines that have fallen off the list. Following the same trend as last week, nine out of the 22 new MUST BUYs (or 41%) are Burgundian. Big names in Burgundy continue to do well, with three new white Buzz Brands hailing from Raveneau, Jean-François Coche-Dury, and Pierre Yves Colin-Morey respectively.

Elsewhere within white entries are two Rieslings, the Alsatian Hidden Gem, Albert Mann’s l’Epicentre 2008, and the indomitable Joh. Jos Prüm’s Wehlener Sonnenuhr, whose 2011 is now one of seven MUST BUY vintages of this sensational Value Pick.

With the clocks turned back and a wintry chill in the air, there are twice as many new red MUST BUYs as white. Burgundy and Italy make the strongest showing, with five reds apiece. Maison Joseph Drouhin sees the addition of its Chambolle-Musigny Les Baudes 2008, bringing the house’s MUST BUY total to 21 wine vintages. Meanwhile Italy’s new MUST BUYs hail from four big name growers: Gaja, Roberto Voerzio, Castello di Ama, and Isole e Olena.

Bordeaux achieves just one entry in Le Tertre-Rotebœuf 2008 (one of nine Bordeaux 2008 MUST BUYs). California also makes its mark, with Vérité’s La Joie 2013 and Colgin Cellars IX Estate Red 2011. Outside of “classic” fine wine regions, Château de Pibarnon’s Bandol Rouge 2000 also enters the fray.

See the full list of current MUST BUYs here.


Champagne – slow and steady wins the race

At the end of last year, Wine Lister released its first ever Champagne report. As well as exploring a handful of key trends as identified by Wine Lister’s Founding Members, the report also sheds light on top Champagnes as compared to other regions in terms of economic performance.

Prices of the top Champagnes (Dom Pérignon, Krug Vintage, Louis Roederer Cristal, Salon Le Mesnil and Dom Pérignon Rosé) have seen a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.8% over the last six years. Relative to other major fine wine regions, this long-term growth is slow, as shown in the chart below, but also stable.

One notable advantage of Champagne as an investment option it its low volatility. Indeed, Champagne prices show a much better level of stability in the secondary market (deviating by just 2.5% from the average price over 12 months) than any other major fine wine region. Slow and steady wins the race.

Moreover, recent price performance shows Champagne accelerating. Prices of top Champagnes are starting to grow at a faster rate than their counterparts in California, Bordeaux, and Tuscany, beaten only by Piedmont and the seemingly unmatchable Burgundy. Indeed, as of December 2018 top Champagnes had seen a 12-month price growth of 11%. The region’s potential for long-term investment is already being acknowledged by the trade, with one of our Founding Members, a top tier UK merchant commenting “Champagne (Salon especially) has experienced solid growth and has become a reliable investment for collectors”.

Salon Le Mesnil is the number one performing Champagne for price performance, with an Economics score of 978, closely followed by Krug’s Clos d’Ambonnay (962). Krug also tops the Champagne Economics charts with its Clos du Mesnil, Brut Vintage, and Collection. Interestingly the only NV Champagne to appear within the top 10 Champagnes for Economics is grower Jacques Selosse’s Brut Initial, with an Economics score of 911. Its price, £106 (per bottle in-bond), is a mere 18% of the average price of the other nine top Champagnes by Economics score.

To read more key findings from our in-depth Champagne study, read the free summary here. (The key findings and full study are also available to download in French on the Analysis page.)


Top five Champagnes under £100 by Quality score

One of the major trends identified in Wine Lister’s first Champagne study was the rise of grower Champagnes. While maison offerings dominate the top 20 highest-quality Champagnes from the basket of 108 studied, growers achieve a higher average Quality score overall (862 vs. 853). This week’s top five looks at the top Champagnes under £100 by Quality score, and helps us examine the grower vs. maison phenomenon further.

The first of this week’s top five is grower Champagne Egly-Ouriet’s Vieillissement Prolongé Extra Brut with a Quality score of 919. Though top of the leader board for Quality, it is the least expensive of this week’s group at an in-bond per bottle price of £55 (or 34% less than the average price of the other four Champagnes). This is perhaps due to it being the only non-vintage Champagne of the group, and provides testament to the great price to quality ratio of N.V. Champagnes across the board.

Next up of this week’s top five is Henri Giraud’s Fût de Chene with a Quality score of 913. For the purposes of Wine Lister’s Champagne study, Henri Giraud was in fact not classed as a grower Champagne, since our definition of ‘grower’ signified properties who use 100% of their own grapes (Henri Giraud buys in 20%). The 1999 vintage earns 18 points from Wine Lister partner critic Jancis Robinson, who calls it “a sort of Montrachet of Champagne”.

Third of this week’s top five is R&L Legras’ St. Vincent. Earning a Quality score of 900, it is the only Blanc de Blancs of the group. In true grower fashion, this little-known Champagne ranks as the 1,985th most-searched-for wine of the c.4,000+ wines on Wine Lister and is present in just 3% of the world’s best restaurants.

The last two Champagnes of this week’s top five may have the same Quality score of 899, but have very different profiles. It is surely a satisfying conclusion that, despite maison Champagne’s stronger brand position overall, these two wines (one maison and one grower) prove the opposite to be true. Maison offering Joseph Perrier’s Cuvée Josephine has the lowest Brand score (474) of this week’s top five, while grower Champagne Vilmart et Cie Coeur de Cuvée earns the highest (779), with a search rank in 854th place and presence in 11% of the world’s best restaurants. The rise of grower Champagnes is in full force.

For a more in-depth look at Champagne, subscribe or log-into read the full report here. Alternatively, all readers can access a five-page executive summary. (Both versions are also available to download in French).



The rise of the grower vs. maison Champagnes

At the beginning of this new year, Wine Lister is prolonging the festive sparkle through a look at the major trends to emerge from our first Champagne report. Wine Lister’s Champagne study analyses a basket of 109 top wines from the world’s premier sparkling region, and includes insight into the major trends of the Champagne market as identified by Wine Lister Founding Members (c.50 key players in the international fine wine trade).

While quality across the board is something to keep us celebrating well in to 2019 (see more on this here), the notable trends could indicate an increase in year-round enjoyment of Champagne. The chart below shows responses to our question, “What are the most important trends in Champagne?” by number of votes.

The trend most-frequently ranked as number one or two by Wine Lister Founding Members was the rise of grower Champagnes, closely followed by the increased emphasis on terroir / site Champagnes. One U.K. merchant remarked that “Consumers are now identifying with specific terroir in Champagne and understanding the value of the grower…” – a comment that further leads us to suspect an increased appreciation of Champagnes as wines, and not just celebratory bubbles.

The “rise of the grower” trend is, however, juxtaposed by continued demand for big brands. Of the basket of wines treated in the study, the grower Champagne segment has seen an increase in popularity (measured by search rank) of 9% since the beginning of 2017. Though this performance is superior to the maison segment’s slight decline in popularity (-4%), grower Champagnes still sit twice as far down the popularity rankings, with an average search rank of 1,620 compared to 775.

Perhaps predictably, big brands still win the race when it comes down to the bottom line. A U.K. merchant commented, “Small growers are getting much better press, but I suspect the big name cuvées still rule the roost for sales/investment”. Indeed, when asked to award confidence ratings to specific Champagne producers, the trade cited only one grower champagne within the top two confidence scores (9/10 and 8/10), Jacques Selosse. The houses to earn top confidence ratings were Dom Pérignon, Krug, Louis Roederer, SalonBollingerPol Roger, and Taittinger, as shown on the chart below.

A top tier merchant offers some explanation into the difference in picture painted between the top Champagne trend and Champagne confidence ratings: “Production needs to be small but not so small as to result in a proliferation of Champagnes which the vast majority have never heard of. The big brands which produce great quality are still finding serious demand in the market!”

For a more in-depth look at Champagne, subscribe or log-into read the full report here. Alternatively, all readers can access a five-page executive summary. (Both versions are also available to download in French).


Who wins the battle of the best bubbles?

With the festive season fast approaching, what better time to take a look at Wine Lister’s first Champagne study, giving you the inside track on the best Champagnes that money can buy?

The in-depth report covers all angles of this fabled region, from the views of the international trade to all three Wine Lister score categories. In this blog post we drill down to focus on Champagne’s quality. Specifically, here we look at the top 20 Champagnes by Quality score:

The top maison-led Champagnes dominate the top 20 Champagne Quality scores. Dom Pérignon Oenothèque tops the chart with a score of 983, and its successor (P2) comes in fourth, scoring 979. Krug manages an impressive five wines in the top 10 and six in the top 20, testament to the house’s consistently exceptional quality across its whole range. Krug Brut Vintage is second overall with a score of 982, while Krug Brut Grande Cuvée comes fifth, scoring 978. Krug Clos du MesnilCollection, and Clos d’Ambonnay round out the top 10 for Krug.

Salon Le Mesnil, the top scoring Champagne by overall Wine Lister score, comes third for Quality with a score of 982. Cristal Rosé is the highest scoring rosé, coming in sixth place overall with a score of 976, six points ahead of Cristal. Krug Rosé, scoring 963, is the only other rosé to make this top 20.

One of the most important trends identified in Wine Lister’s newly-released study is the rise of grower Champagnes. However, this is nascent enough that only one grower producer threatens the top Champagne houses at the top of the Quality leaderboard. That is cult grower Jacques Selosse, with three wines in the top 20, the same number as Dom Pérignon, trailing only behind Krug. The top wine from Selosse based on Quality score is La Côte Faron, coming in seventh with a score of 975. Substance and Les Carrelles also feature.

Despite the maison-led dominance of the top 20 Quality scores, grower Champagnes win the Quality crown overall. Of the 109 wines included in the study, the 29 grower Champagnes received an average Quality score of 862, while the 80 maison bottlings averaged 853, reflecting the excellent quality that grower Champagne can provide:

Watch this space for more on grower vs maison Champagnes, and commentary on other major trends featured in the study.

For a more in-depth look at Champagne, subscribe or log-into read the full report here. Alternatively, all readers can access a five-page executive summary. (Both versions are also available to download in French).

Other wines featured in the top 20 Champagnes by Quality score are: Charles Heidsieck Blanc de Millénaires, Bollinger Vieilles Vignes Françaises, Philipponnat Clos des Goisses, Bollinger R.D., and Taittinger Comtes de Champagne.


Champagne trends

Our latest Listed blog focused on the top Grand Cru Champagnes by Wine Lister score. As the holiday season approaches, we look at a different kind of ‘top five’ on a sparkling theme – five of the major trends for the Champagne region, determined by a recent survey of Wine Lister’s Founding members.

Key members of the global fine wine trade identified the rise of grower Champagnes as an emerging trend. Jacques Selosse reigns supreme, with its Blanc de Noirs La Côte Faron achieving the best Quality score of any grower Champagne on Wine Lister (975). Only an average of 1,250 bottles are produced of this each year – half of the production volume of its Substance Brut.

Founding Members also identified an increased emphasis on terroir as something to look out for. Single vineyard expressions of Champagne are well-known and already extremely sought-after, particularly Krug’s Clos du Mesnil and Clos d’Ambonnay. The latter achieves a Quality score of 970, just 10 points above Philipponnat’s Clos des Goisses, but is over 12 times the price (£1,867 vs. £147).

The phenomenon of increased information transparency is perhaps a sign that buyers are becoming more interested in Champagnes as wines, as opposed to just celebratory bubbles. Krug’s Grande Cuvée has used “Krug ID” numbers since 2011, allowing drinkers to see the vintages, vineyard plots, and grapes included in each bottle. Library releases also cater to more “wine-focused” buyers – Champagne Brand King Dom Perignon’s P2, or Bollinger R.D. are the obvious choices for this.

Finally, interest in biodynamically farmed Champagnes is on the rise, such as Louis Roederer’s Cristal, or any cuvée from Jacques Selosse.

Download a PDF of the slide above here.

First published in French in En Magnum.


Listed: top 5 Grand Cru Champagnes by Wine Lister score

Wine Lister recently looked at red Christmas drinking options with the best Bordeaux under £50, and now that the official ‘sparkling season’ is almost upon us, it is high time to consider options for holiday bubbles. Below we examine the all-round best of the best – the top five Grand Cru Champagnes by Wine Lister score.

The number one Grand Cru Champagne is the indomitable Salon Le Mesnil (983). It fires on all Wine Lister cylinders, with impressive Quality, Brand, and Economics scores of 980, 989, and 981 respectively, meaning that it leads this week’s top five across each category. Moreover, it is the number one white wine on Wine Lister – still, sparkling, dry, or sweet. If you’re after a memorable bottle to kickstart the holiday season, then look no further than Salon 1996, its best ever vintage. As proof of the extraordinary longevity of top Champagne, the 1996 will be drinking well until at least 2025. Though expensive (£550 per bottle in-bond), you would be well-rewarded for paying the high price, Antonio Galloni calling the 1996 “the ultimate expression of Champagne as a wine”.

Next comes Taittinger’s Comtes de Champagne, whose main strength is its Brand score (976). This is helped by a production volume of c.170,000 bottles per annum – almost twice that of the other four Champagnes of this week’s group combined. It consequently also achieves the highest auction-trading volumes of the group, having traded 789 bottles over the past four quarters, according to our data partner, The Wine Market Journal.

In third place is Bollinger Vieilles Vignes Françaises. The term “vielles vignes” tends to get banded around quite frequently without much meaning, but in this case it carries rare significance. These old vines are planted on French rootstock, predating the spread of phylloxera which lead to the introduction of louse-resistant American rootstock onto the vast majority of France’s vines. As might be expected given the wine’s unique heritage, it comes with a hefty price tag (£713 per bottle in-bond). However, this rarity backs up its high price with an outstanding Quality score (963) – the joint-second best of this week’s top five.

In fourth place is Jacques Selosse’s Substance Brut (904). The only non-vintage wine of the five, it matches the Bollinger Vieilles Vignes Françaises’ excellent Quality score (963). Its outstanding quality, coupled with its tiny production volume of 2,700 bottles per annum, start to explain the £203 price-tag of this NV grower Champagne.

Finally, in fifth place, is Pierre Péters’ Cuvée Spéciale Les Chétillons Blanc (897). Though in fifth place, its impressive Quality (923) and Economics (922) scores suggest it could be a prime choice for cellaring. It achieves the best short and long-term price growth of this week’s top five, having added 16.7% to its price over the past six months, and recording a three-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 36.5%. Any recent vintage would perhaps therefore be better placed under the Christmas tree (for an extremely lucky recipient), rather than on the Christmas table.


Restaurant presence: Italy in deep

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 BussiaBartolo 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.


Restaurant presence: branching out with grower bubbles

Part of Wine Lister’s Brand score includes a measure of prestige, achieved by analysing a wine’s presence in the world’s best restaurants. Whether a restaurant makes the cut depend on a combination of measures including the Michelin Guide, San Pellegrino 50 Best Restaurants, and World of Fine Wine Best Wine List Awards.

The chosen wine lists are then analysed to give us the breadth (how many restaurants) and depth (how many formats and/or vintages in each restaurant) of presence achieved by each wine on Wine Lister. Looking at the former criterion, the chart below shows the top 20 biggest gainers since our last blog on the subject. (Next week we will be looking at wines with the greatest increase in depth of representation.)

Six out of the 20 wines with the biggest increase in restaurant presence are Champagnes. Ruinart appears twice, with its NV rosé having made the greatest improvement, now appearing in 33% of the world’s best restaurants. However, the overall winner – present in more than double the number of restaurants, is Dom Pérignon’s Vintage Brut. Despite not featuring in the top 20 biggest risers above, the Champagne Brand king is now present in 69% of top restaurants worldwide, overtaking last year’s winner, Yquem.

Contrary to our last analysis on the subject, not all the biggest Champagne gainers in restaurant presence are big brands. Ruinart Rosé, Dom Pérignon P2, and Ruinart Blanc de Blancs may well fit this bill, with an average Brand score of 878, but the lesser-known three, grower Champagnes Roses de Jeanne Blanc de Noirs Les Ursules, Jacquesson Dégorgement Tardif Avize Grand Cru, and Egly-Ouriet Blanc de Noirs Les Crayères Vieilles Vignes, do not, as shown by a lower collective Brand score average of 664.

If this alone is not an indication of restaurant wine lists branching out, then perhaps the absence of Bordeaux is (indeed, a handful of Bordeaux wines with strong restaurant presence have lost a little ground since last year’s analysis). This diversification does however appear exclusive to the Old World, with no New World wines in the top 20 gainers.

Burgundy is well-represented amongst the top gainers, with one white, Raveneau’s Chablis Blanchot, and four reds: Sylvain Cathiard’s Vosne-Romanée Aux Malconsorts, Denis Mortet’s Clos de Vougeot, Armand Rousseau’s Gevrey-Chambertin, and Fourrier’s Gevrey Chambertin Vieilles Vignes.

Italy brings a show of diversity with six wines hailing from four different appellations across the 20 biggest movers. Vietti’s Barolo Ravera – one of three Barolos to feature in this list – has the lowest restaurant presence of the group (5%) and Solaia’s younger sibling, Tignanello the highest (47%).