France’s 50 best winemakers: Maison Dom Pérignon’s Vincent Chaperon

The 35th interview in Le Figaro Vin’s series finds us once more in Champagne to meet Vincent Chaperon, #16 of France’s 50 best winemakers and cellar master of the emblematic champagne house: “I have quite an extreme nature”.

With his slender and athletic physique, preppy haircut, sharp gaze framed by thick-rimmed eyeglasses, and perfect diction, Vincent Chaperon is the kind of person one could easily find annoying, as he seems to have been unfairly graced with every enviable quality. But digging deeper, one might also sense a darker part, an urgency, and an eagerness to do well that is at odds with the hazardous conditions of a career that is at the mercy of its environment. Yet it is this tension, this fear of failure, that has crowned the young cellar master with success after success, where others might have settled for safety. “My time at Dom Pérignon has been something of a Bildungsroman: I was plucked straight out of school by my predecessor, Philippe Coulon (who passed in June 2023, ed.), and then raised in the maison” he recalls. “Despite my Bordeaux upbringing, to which I remain very attached, my adult life took shape in Champagne.”

Following a brief trip abroad, he was named oenologist in 2000, forming a virtually symbiotic duo with his predecessor Richard Geoffroy. “I arrived here with many expectations and ambitions, I wanted to prove something, and I had the chance to be inspired by people whom I loved very much, such as Richard, who helped me make the right decisions at times when I was growing impatient.”

This restraint bore its fruits: in 2017, the maison announced that he would be appointed cellar master the following year. “That day, I walked down the same hallways I always did, but everything had a different dimension, I looked back at the path that brought me here. It was an incredibly emotional moment.”

For the past five years, Vincent Chaperon has followed his ambition to fully embrace his role, without ever sacrificing its creative and sensitive dimensions on the altar of the operational. Eternally dissatisfied, he nevertheless describes himself as “profoundly happy”.

Le Figaro Vin: How does it feel to be crowned a winemaking champion?

Vincent Chaperon: “I’m overwhelmingly happy and grateful to be where I am today. There is something exciting about this acknowledgement, that I really enjoy, because I am a fierce competitor. My friends call me “champion” because I’m always up for a challenge!

Have you been training for long?

Yes, for a very long time, at times excessively. I’ve always been conscientious and engaged. It’s a gauge for me: in moments of doubt, when my motivation is low, when I question myself. I have a real thirst for life, for this career, for people.

Who is your mentor?

Three people have guided my career. Firstly, my paternal grandfather, who was an admiral in the marine, on the Libourne side of my family. He passed on to me his passion for wine, indirectly and subtly. Later, Philippe Coulon and Richard Geoffroy, at Dom Pérignon. I was also lucky to meet Jeff Koons, who, in just a few hours, made me realise things about my career that resonated with me, particularly its eminently artistic dimension. More recently, I crossed paths with the chef Massimiliano Alajmo: we understood each other right from the start. These are people who open doors.

Is wine a team sport?

Totally. With a maison the size of Dom Pérignon, you need to know how to share, which is both a blessing and a curse. Having a common vision implies having a close-knit team for the long run, because you need to understand each other beyond words, through emotions, through memories.

What is the key to making a good wine? The terroir or the winemaker?

Both. I consider a “fine wine” to be first and foremost the story of an encounter between Nature and Man – which I don’t see as being in opposition, as long as humans work in harmony with their surroundings and strive to enhance Nature’s fruits. One must choose a place and attempt to give a part of oneself in return.

To what do you owe your success?

To this thirst I mentioned earlier. I have quite an extreme nature, unpredictable, I like to see things through and to do so in a radical fashion. I lost my brother early in life, and my thirst for life is unquenchable. Various encounters I made were also decisive, and one must put their faith in providence. I truly believe things happen for a reason. The people you meet have an impact on your path in life.

Is your family proud of you?

They are proud of who I am. I have often tried to compartmentalise, to find the right balance, but I’m realising that if I want to grow as a person, whether on a personal or a professional level, I need to be both mind and body. This is something that gives me a lot of thought. We are living in a very rational world, which thinks intelligently, through concepts, but we sometimes forget we are also bodies. One must have a holistic approach to better understand one’s heritage.

Your favourite colour? 

Navy blue. Beyond being my favourite colour to wear, it says something about me: both my grandfathers were sailors, one admiral and the other a naval commissioner, and I think I am a sailor myself. In a way, this is my heritage.

Your favourite wine variety?

Pinot Noir, which I discovered through Dom Pérignon. It fascinates me. I love its tension, its versatility, its elusiveness, its fragility, it says a lot about us. And I say this as a Merlot man, which is not a contradiction!

Your favourite vintage?

2022 – I’m very attached to it, and had a very strong emotional connection with this vintage. Since 2018, I have always gone further, to affirm myself, to chart my own course, and this is what is conveyed in this vintage.

If your wine was a person, who would it be?

It would be the person who is enjoying it. Wine is the mirror of people, and what I am seeking is for people to have a connection with our wines.

Have you ever thought about chemically enhancing yourself, or your wine? 

No. When I arrived, at 23 years old, it was like arriving at the town hall and seeing the motto “Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité” (“Liberty, Equality, Fraternity”, the French motto, ed.). At Dom Pérignon, simple and natural winemaking was the house philosophy. It was quite visionary. There has always been a willingness to be transparent, to not overuse oak. There had been some in the 1960s, but when we started to work with stainless steel, everything changed. We have strived to build balance and complexity through the fruit, the blend, and time – these are the three essential components.

Who is your strongest competition?

Me. This taming of the self, this quest for knowledge, what our calling is, and wondering where we bring the most to the world.

Which competition do you dread the most?

Marathons. I have run three to this day, and notice that, although I can go the distance, I am still an impulsive person. I need to learn to endure waiting over time. My objective for next year is the New York marathon, and I am going to train to experience it fully.

What is your greatest trophy?

My family, and my role as cellar master for Dom Pérignon, which is a reward rather than a trophy, because it is not something I display.

What has been your most innovative strategy in the vineyard and in the cellar?

I have made many changes thanks to my research, such as making creative decisions early in the process. This means having very strong cultural and emotional biases for what is going to go into each vintage. I want to blend technique and emotions to give things direction from the start. This requires making the body and intuition priorities, through observation, tasting, etc.

Who would be your ideal successor on the podium?

We are not a family-run maison, and yet, we think of things over the long term, with long-lasting mentorships, in ways that are similar to family bonds. There may not be a set candidate today, but there are many people that I am watching over and accompanying along their career path. I truly believe in working in pairs, in complementary duos. Ideally, my successor would be a disciple in the Eastern sense of the word, someone who is here for the long run, who can prove themselves. At Dom Pérignon, one must approach this holistically: right brain, left brain, concrete and conceptual, with true emotional intelligence. In the end, I would want it to be a good person.

France’s 50 best winemakers: Maison Drappier’s Hugo Drappier

Winemaker of his family-owned Champagne House in Urville: “At Drappier wine is a family sport”.

For the 23rd interview in Le Figaro Vin’s series we pay a fourth visit to Champagne to meet Hugo Drappier, #28. Son of Michel Drappier, and grandson of André Drappier, it is now his turn to create the family wines at their estate in Urville, which lies at the southernmost edge of the Champagne region. In that neck of the woods, despite their global success, they keep their feet firmly on the ground.  

Le Figaro Vin: How does it feel to be crowned a winemaking champion?

Hugo Drappier: I’ll just have to take it on the chin! I wasn’t expecting that at all! That’s really nice. The whole family has put in a lot of work over recent years. We can see the results in the desirability of our wines. It was hard to believe at first. We had to figure out why what we were doing worked. Hopefully we can sustain it over time, and our wines will continue to please the customer base of wine lovers that we have managed to build up over the past few decades. As for now, we still have work to do in terms of the quality of our wines, since we are not always 100% satisfied, so we will go all out to ensure that our wines continue to improve.

Have you been training for long?

Yes, and I think that the training is far from over. There is still a great deal of work to be done to get to where we would like to be every year. We have some challenges to deal with, like global warming and natural disasters. We plan to upgrade our cellars to help keep our wines over the long term. Getting to grips with global warming is one of the generational challenges that will affect us for the next twenty years. We are only seeing the start of it, and we know that it’s going to intensify. We are going to have to reinvent ourselves.    

Who is your favourite mentor?

I cannot give you just one name. I have, in the natural course of things, encountered quite a few people who have knowingly and unknowingly influenced my choices and provided guidance in tasting. We all have our favourite styles of wine in Champagne, in France, and even internationally. Every wine I have tasted that has resonated with me has subconsciously exerted some small influence over my technical choices and over the style of the wines that I make. It is difficult to answer this question, although obviously my father has a big influence on me now. Plenty of others have also brought a little something to the table.

If you had to name names?

There are, of course, wines that we really enjoy and that we drink as a family. I could name the Amoreau family in the Bordeaux region. And then there are good friends of mine, winemakers in Burgundy who also work with Pinot, even though we make different kinds of wine. I am very close to the Richoux family in Irancy. Despite the contrast in our winemaking approaches our terroirs are very similar and we have many shared values which inspires me.   

At Drappier, is wine a team sport or a family sport?

I would say that it’s a family sport, above all because the history that pervades the house was written by the family in the first place, and that continues to be the case. Transitions take place down through the generations, and today these work themselves out between brothers and sisters. It is truly the family that has written our story and ties of parentage and blood inevitably predominate. That remains a cornerstone of our story. The family is at the centre of our daily activity, in both professional and family spheres, and I hope that is the way things stay. Unfortunately this is becoming increasingly rare, but we are trying to maintain this vital family core.  

What is the key to making a good wine? The terroir or the winemaker?

This is something that has evolved through the way that Champagne winemakers have always contrived to plant their terroir in accordance with their chosen combinations of plots, grape varieties, and wines. The interesting thing about this region is that the terroir is read, perhaps more than elsewhere, through the lens of the winemaker. Every winemaker has their own way of interpreting their terroir. There are many aspects to the concept of terroir: the geological and climatic sides, and a human meaning…In Champagne, human meaning is more significant, carries more weight, than in other regions. The winemaker has a more leading role.

To what do you owe your success?

It’s all down to the family. I haven’t succeeded yet and I don’t know if I will ever get there. Either way, any success is shared. I would say, above all, that we share a love for the art of wine. I am proud to have learnt and to have travelled, values that my father and grandfather passed on to me. In terms of my winemaking education, my grandfather has played a major role, while my father has had more of a hand in my love of research and innovation. In terms of my personal fulfilment, I see it as a success to have fallen in love with this profession, to see different things every day, and never to be satisfied with what we have done.

Who is your biggest supporter?

The emotional support of fellow winemakers with whom I have been able to talk things over. I have had a few setbacks and to be able to discuss things with my winemaker friends, from Champagne and elsewhere, to appreciate that I am not the only one to have experienced technical problems, and to be able to come up with solutions together, this is a big moral support in these testing times.

Your favourite colour? 

It’s not so much a favourite colour as a colour that challenges me, especially in the world of Champagne, namely orange. That may not be terribly original, but I find it challenging.

Your favourite wine?

2018, because it strikes me as original and sums up very well what we are capable of and what we want to achieve in the years ahead.


Your favourite vintage?

2017 was really interesting, a real test. Also 2018 and 2022.

If your wine was a person, who would it be?

Perhaps the renowned monk, St Bernard of Clairvaux, in terms of personality. I don’t believe that you can make wines that everyone likes. But they should be relatively straightforward, forthright, and offer something relatively unembellished, assured and slightly sharp.

What are the best circumstances in which to taste your wine?

On a daily basis, with friends. And spontaneously.

France’s 50 best winemakers: Maison Ruinart’s Frédéric Panaïotis

Cellar Master of Champagne’s oldest house: “I see myself as a craftsman”.

For the 19th interview in Le Figaro Vin’s series, we pay our third visit to Champagne to meet Frédéric Panaïotis, #32, chef de caves of Maison Ruinart for the past 16 years. He is now, beyond question, one of the most influential figures in Champagne, fashioning wines of outstanding precision and purity from every vintage.

Though always at home in the world of wine – his grandparents owned a small winery – his original ambition was to be a vet. However, a seminal encounter with a great Burgundy set him on a different path: after graduating in agronomy he became an oenologist, cutting his teeth in California before working for 12 years at Veuve Cliquot. He then joined Maison Ruinart in 2007, going on to become one of the most inspiring chefs de caves of his generation.

Le Figaro Vin: How does it feel to be crowned a winemaking champion?

Frédéric Panaïotis: That’s something to celebrate, isn’t it? It calls for champagne! And a Blanc de Blancs would be perfect. More seriously, my congratulations go, first of all, to the entire team that works alongside me.

Have you been training for long?

For 39 harvests (make that 40 including one in New Zealand in 2001!).

Who is your mentor?

I would say there are two of them: on the one hand the natural elements, especially the climate which sets the tempo, and on the other, Frédéric Dufour, President of Ruinart, who keeps challenging me and is always driving us forward.

Is wine a team sport?

Completely. Wine is always the product of the collective effort of talented men and women, from the vine all the way through to its development and its launch. And we really do have a mixed team at Ruinart, with genuine parity, specifically in our winemaking team.

What is the key to making a good wine? The terroir or the winemaker?

If your definition of terroir includes the selection of grape varieties and the way the vines are trained, in addition to the climatic elements and the soil – and that is how I see it – then the terroir is indisputably the foundation for making great wines.

To what do you owe your success?

To a combination of passion for the world of vines and wine, a lot of hard work, and also the good fortune to have been in the right place at the right time…but as the saying goes, “God helps those who help themselves!”.

Is your family proud of you?

I hope so! Whether on earth or in heaven…In any case, as far as my nearest and dearest are concerned, they appear to enjoy our wines. And naturally, that allows them a touch of pride.

Your favourite colour? 

Sea blue.

Your favourite grape variety?

Chardonnay, of course!

Your favourite wine?

Dom Ruinart Blanc des Blancs.

Your favourite vintage?

2010, while awaiting 2019.

What are the best circumstances in which to taste your wine?

Always among friends, because I cannot imagine opening lovely bottles without sharing them. And sometimes it only needs two of you!

Have you ever thought about chemically enhancing yourself, or your wine? 

To be honest, I’m more the sort of person to implement anti-doping controls. So the answer is no, never.

For what price would you be prepared to sell your estate?

Maison Ruinart doesn’t belong to me, and in any case, I don’t believe it’s for sale.

Who is your strongest competition?

Rather than a competition, I prefer to think of it as a rivalry among those who are, in many cases, good friends. This means we are always looking to improve, aspiring to excellence. Nothing beats rivalry for making you test your limits and give it your all!

Which competition do you dread the most?

The next harvest, because you never know what it will bring. And in the longer term, climate change, which will affect us more and more profoundly. We are going to have to get to grips with it and reinvent ourselves, which is what we have started to do with our new wine, Blanc Singulier.

What is your greatest trophy?

The title of Supreme World Champion, awarded by the CSWWC (Champagne and Sparkling Wine World Championship) in 2022 for Dom Ruinart Blanc de Blancs 2010, because it represents the culmination of a project begun by my predecessors in 1998, which involved trialling tirage under cork. I was lucky enough to inherit this project and see it to fruition.

But the best reward comes through conversations and shared moments with our customers when they have enjoyed tasting one of our champagnes.

What has been your most innovative strategy in the vineyard and in the cellar?

I see myself more as a craftsman than an artist or a researcher. So my strategy is to try to evaluate and understand in minute detail every step from the vine to the wine. The aim is to replicate, and where possible enhance, what we already do. I am not sure that is a very innovative strategy, but it does help us improve!

Who would be your ideal successor on the podium?

Ask me the same question in six years’ time, in 2029, when we celebrate the 300th anniversary of Maison Ruinart!

Now published: Wine Lister’s 2022 Leagues

As the year draws to a close, Wine Lister has published its 2022 Wine Leagues – the third of our annual reports celebrating the top-performing wines and producers within several categories over the past year. The Leagues reveal exciting developments in the world of fine wine, shining a light on consumer trends and estates on the rise, informed by an in-depth trade survey with key industry figures.

Please see some of our key findings below, or click here to download the full study.

Wine Lister Leagues 2021: New Year’s Eve Champagne MUST BUYs

22 Champagnes for 2022

Considering the latest industry insights shared in our annual end of year study, Wine Lister explores an eclectic range of Champagne MUST BUYs worth celebrating. With an initial selection made by our proprietary recommendation algorithm, based on quality and value within the category, we have singled out some top picks to pop open as we ring in 2022.

Wine Lister Leagues 2021: New Year’s Eve Champagne MUST BUYs (p. 17)

With demand for Champagne reaching record heights this year, Wine Lister’s latest Leagues explore a selection of top bottles to take you into 2022, featuring a variety of styles and price points across four categories: Major Marques, Connoisseur’s Collection, Varietal Vins, and Captivating Cuvées.

What Champagne should I buy?

Major Marques

 A selection of Champagne’s strongest brands, the list of Major Marques features Krug’s Grande Cuvée and Clos de Mesnil alongside Louis Roederer’s Cristal, Perrier-Jouët’s Belle Epoque, and Dom Pérignon’s P2. The latter is considered a top Investment Staple, receiving recognition from the global fine wine market as a relatively stable and liquid option (discover our list of 2021 Investment Staples on p. 16).

Connoisseur’s Collection

Favourites among the trade and fine wine lovers alike, these insider icons include Philipponnat’s Clos des Goisses, Pol Roger’s Sir Winston Churchill, Salon Le Mesnil, and Taittinger’s Comtes de Champagne. Bollinger is featured twice in the line-up with its Grande Année and R.D. cuvées; with a distinguished history dating back to 1829, the estate has the only two vineyards in Champagne to remain phylloxera-free throughout the late 19th-century epidemic.

Varietal Vins

Our selection of Blanc de Blancs worth seeking out include Agrapart et Fils Minéral Extra-Brut, Pierre Gimonnet et Fils Fleuron Brut, and Charles Heidsick’s Blanc des Millénaires. Produced only in exceptional years, there have been four vintages of Blanc des Millénaires released since its inaugural 1983 vintage, with the cuvée spending a minimum of fifteen years maturing in the heart of Charles Heidsieck’s 2000-year-old underground chalk cellars (a UNESCO world heritage site) before release.

Made exclusively from Pinot Noir, Jacques Selosse’s La Cote Faro and Paul Bara’s Comtesse Marie de France also feature in the MUST BUY selection. A seventh-generation family business, Champagne Paul Bara is one of the few grower producers in Bouzy – a village widely regarded as amongst Champagne’s top sites for the production of Pinot Noir.

Captivating Cuvées

Sure to impress during the festive season, our list of Captivating Cuvées includes key grower producers Bruno Paillard, Bérêche et Fils, Vilmart et Cie, and Egly-Ouriet, whose featured wines each offer relative value within the selection of Champagne MUST BUYs. Henriot’s Cuvée des Enchanteleurs and Billecart-Salmon’s Cuvée Elisabeth Salmon complete the list – the latter being the only rosé Champagne featured, comprising a blend of around 50% Chardonnay and 50% Pinot Noir, of which 10% is vinified as red wine and incorporated into the final blend.

For further analysis on quality consistency, increased popularity, and a list of 2021s most compelling wines, download the Winer Lister Leagues 2021 here. 

Drinking with experts: your favourite sommeliers’ favourite wines

Wine Lister speaks to 10 top sommeliers to find out more about their bottles of choice

 From left to right: Lupo Theones, Victor Petiot, Gareth Ferreira, Beatrice Bessi, and Paul Lo 

What top wines do sommeliers recommend?

Whether offering the perfect food pairing or serving an unforgettable glass, sommeliers are often responsible for creating moments of vinous magic shared by wine lovers far and wide. Our latest blog flips the script, with some of the world’s leading sommeliers sharing with us their most memorable pours, providing the ultimate guide on how to drink like a pro.

Read our blog on your favourite winemakers’ favourite wine for more insight into what the experts are drinking here.

Lupo Theones – Head Sommelier at Hélène Darroze at The Connaught, London

Lupo Theones shares the same sentiment as many of his peers: “it is challenging to choose a single wine when you taste so many great wines as a sommelier”. He nonetheless mentions Egon Müller’s Scharzhofberger Riesling Kabinett 2011 as a wine that “deeply impressed” him, having tasted it soon after moving to London to join The Connaught. Describing a “perfectly balanced” palate that “shows a great acidity and minerality”, Lupo notes that it is a wine you can drink on its own, or paired with the likes of sushi and shellfish, as well as Foie Gras.

Victor Petiot – Wine Director at Caprice at Four Seasons, Hong Kong

Having discovered the vintage just last year, Victor Petiot cites Toro Albalá Don PX 1931 as his favourite wine, due to its “uniqueness” after sleeping in barrel for over 90 years. He explains that it provides “the perfect balance between powerful and well-balanced” with a “sweet and creamy texture yet high acidity”. On the topic of pairing, Victor tells us that the wine prompted the creation of a new dish to be served with it, comprising “a pigeon cooked in a coffee dough with salsify, hazelnut, pan-fried foie gras and pigeon sauce with coffee and a bit of Toro Albalá 1931”.

Gareth Ferreira – Head Sommelier at Core by Clare Smyth, London

Gareth Ferreira recalls being “immediately hooked” on his first real trip to visit the great producers of Burgundy during his early career. He tells us of the first time he tried Jean-Marie Fourrier’s Gevrey-Chambertin Clos Saint-Jacques, which made him question, “how can wine taste this good?”. It has since remained a wine he “looks forward to opening, no matter what the vintage is”, though the first he tasted – 2009 and 2010 – “will always have a special place in [his] heart” and 2002 is one of his favourites in Burgundy.

Beatrice Bessi – Head Sommelier at Chiltern Firehouse, London

“The reason that I became a sommelier is the Nebbiolo grape” exclaims Beatrice Bessi, who fell in love with Barolo in particular over 10 years ago. It is her “never-ending love”, as the region takes a lifetime to know in its entirety (“similar to Burgundy in that respect”, she notes). While citing Bruno Giacosa and Bartolo Mascarello as “traditionalist” producers that she would turn to on special occasions, Beatrice recently “fell in love with the wines of a super modern producer”, Domenico Clerico. In regards to pairing, she tells us that there is “nothing more satisfying” than an amazing glass of Barolo with pizza –  there “doesn’t need to be an occasion to have a great glass”.

Paul Lo – Wine Director at Grand Lisboa, Hong Kong

Unable to choose a favourite, Paul Lo instead recalls an exclusive dinner he hosted in May 2014, at which the late chef Joël Robuchon’s menu was paired with 10 wines from the Lisboa cellar hailing from the 1959 vintage. Listing Dom Pérignon Oenothèque, Margaux, Palmer, Latour, Haut-Brion, Lafite, Mouton, La Mission Haut-Brion, Cheval Blanc, and a Steinberger Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese, he tells us that “uncorking the wines in a single event was unforgettable”. He gives particular praise to the Steinberger, noting “so many elements inside – nectar coupled with dried nuts, dry fruits, cigar, caramel, noble spices”, presented with “delicate and perfect acidity”.

From left to right: Stefan Kobald, Victoria O’Bryan, Julien Sarrasin, Jonathan Charnay, and Pascaline Lepeltier

Stefan Kobald – Head Sommelier at Pollen Street Social, London

Stefan Kobald tells us that current favourite wine is Philippe Colin Montagny 2016. Having always known of the producer, Stefan discovered this specific cuvée before the first lockdown and has been “hooked ever since”. He describes its “fresh acidity, stunning aromas of ripe apple, citrus notes of lemon peel, and grapefruit”, with a “hint of butter coming from the light oak usage”. Sharing the same philosophy for when he buys wine for the restaurant and himself, he seeks freshness and drinkability, and a wine that invites you back to take another sip – which this wine “definitely does”.

Victoria O’Bryan – Wine Director at Addison Restaurant, California

Narrating her recent encounter with Krug Clos du Mesnil Blanc de Blancs 2002, Victoria O’Bryan tells us that it made her “weak at the knees”. She explains that the wine opened up with surprising ferocity, “like a jolt of electricity giving power and lift to bright citrus tones and a stunning limestone minerality”, with an expression that was “at once creamy and piercing with layers of intensity”. When pairing a wine with “this flair of tension and drama”, Victoria would recommend pouring it alongside caviar or oysters.

Julien Sarrasin – Head Sommelier at Hide, London

 “Every wine aficionado would understand the emotion I felt when I first tried this unique wine”, notes Julien Sarrasin, referring the Rhône’s renowned Reynaud family, and specifically a 2004 Rayas Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Now under the influence of the “Rayas effect”, Julien also cites a rosé called Parisy from another Reynaud property, Château des Tours – a blend of Grenache and Cinsault that provided his “most exciting experience” of rosé wine. He describes its “intense bouquet of crushed wild ripe raspberries, jammy strawberries, liquorice stick, and Mediterranean herbs”, which pairs with “intense seafood and fish dishes, as well as meat”.

Jonathan Charnay – Beverage Director at Masa, New York

Echoing Lupo Theones’s choice, Jonathan Charnay tells us that his “absolute favourite wine” is Egon Müller’s Scharzhofberger Riesling, though cites the Auslese as his top wine.  He muses on its “great complexity and depth” with “intense aromas of white flowers and honey” that he immediately fell in love with when tasting with Egon Müller during a visit to the winery in 2013. While it is sweet when young, Jonathan points out that it can “age for decades, turning into a delicate elixir” with notes of “apricots, ginger and bergamot”.

Pascaline Lepeltier – formerly Managing Partner at Racines, New York

Pascaline Lepeltier informs us that if she “had to go back to a wine over and over again” it would be Benoit Courault’s Gilbourg – a Chenin Blanc from Anjou in the Loire, where she grew up. “Benoit was one of the first vignerons I met over 15 years ago” she explains, noting that her path was paved by time spent with him in his vineyards in the Coteaux du Layon. Produced with grapes from different plots on schists, Gilbourg is made organically and with minimal intervention – “a real paragon” according to Pascaline. Admiring its “tremendous” ageing potential, she notes its evolution into “the most complete, complex, powerful but ethereal Chenin”.

Explore Wine Lister’s own MUST BUYs for 2021 in our recent blog here.

21 for 2021: Wine Lister’s Champagne MUST BUYs

The end of 2020 is perhaps reason enough to pop open a bottle of champagne. With Christmas and New Year around the corner, Wine Lister has compiled a list of 21 Champagne MUST BUYs to enjoy over the last days of this year, and into 2021. Whether you have a penchant for discovering grower champagnes, or prefer to relish in those the top Grandes Maisons have to offer; whether you enjoy the purity of a Blanc de Blancs, the balance of an assemblage, or the opulence of a Blanc de Noirs, the selection of vintage champagnes below is sure to offer guidance for any preferred style.

Find out more about our 21 Champagne MUST BUYs for 2021 below.

Long-established house, Charles Heidsieck, is represented in our MUST BUY selection with two vintages of its Blanc des Millénaires – 1995 and 2004. The wine is so-named to reflect its high ageing potential, and is only created in vintages worthy of the label (since its inception, just five have been made). The 2004 achieves a WL score of 95, and is praised by Wine Lister partner critic, Jancis Robinson, as having “sheer confidence, appeal and completeness”. Earning one more WL point, the 1995 shows “just how compelling this often-overlooked vintage can be”, according to Wine Lister partner critic, Antonio Galloni (Vinous). Both vintages can be bought by the case of six in-bond from Cru World Wine.

Also the crown jewel of its own house, Perrier-Jouët’s Belle Epoque carries its own portion of history within its name, referencing the Art Nouveau movement of the early 1900s. The prestige bottling can be appreciated on the inside and out, particularly in the spectacular 2008 vintage. Wine Lister tasted it recently, and found it to have a concentrated nose of white peaches, brioche, and a hint of honeysuckle, with brilliant tension on the palate. 2008 Belle Epoque is available to purchase by the bottle from Lay & Wheeler, for £129 (in-bond).

A further two MUST BUYs hail from the boutique house, Philipponnat Clos des Goisses. The 5.5-hectare Clos de Goisses parcel is the oldest and steepest “Clos” in champagne. The 2006 and 2008 vintages of this single-vineyard cuvée both receive a WL score of 96. Jancis Robinson praises both vintages, writing that the 2006 “positively screams for attention”, while the 2008 is “explosive… like a firework on the palate”. They can both be acquired in-bond from Bordeaux Index.

Included in our 21 MUST BUY champagnes are two grower offerings lying outside of champagne’s more widely-declared vintages. Notorious for its killer heatwave, 2003 is not well-appreciated among the champenois. Bruno Paillard’s 2003 N.P.U. challenges this perception, offering a “dancing” palette of “open and floral notes” according to Jancis Robinson. Acknowledging that the vintage was hugely criticised, Paillard says that for him, “it’s a great vintage”. Another elusive grower champagne rounds off our list. Jancis Robinson hailed the 2005 Vilmart Coeur de Cuvée as “a wine to wallow in”, praising its complexity and “refreshing finish”.

Also featured in the list of 21 Champagne MUST BUYs for 2021 are: 2006 Billecart-Salmon Cuvée Elisabeth Salmon Rosé, 2008 Bollinger Grande Année, 2002 Bollinger Grande Année2002 Dom Pérignon P21990 Krug Collection2004 Larmandier-Bernier Vieilles Vignes de Levant2000 Louis Roederer Cristal2009 Pierre Gimonnet et Fils Fleuron Brut Blanc de Blancs2006 Pol Roger Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill2002 Pol Roger Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill2006 Salon Le Mesnil2002 Salon Le Mesnil2004 Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs, and 2007 Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Rosé

Topping off the 2008s – Taittinger Comtes de Champagne

Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 2008 was released yesterday (1st October) at c.£89 (per bottle in-bond), marking one of the last 2008s from the “Grandes Maisons” to enter the market. The release has reignited discussion on the success of the vintage in Champagne, which has been declared one of the best of the decade along with 2002. Below we investigate top 2008s, and where the latest addition from Taittinger fits within them.

Characterised by a consistent, dry, and cool growing season, climatic conditions in 2008 encouraged slow veraison across Champagne, which enabled grapes to achieve their full phenolic maturity while retaining acidity. The combination of both gives the vintage considerable ageing potential, and unyielding structural integrity.

As illustrated above, the top 10 2008 champagnes by WL score exhibit impressive quality, with the top three wines gaining scores of 97 and above. This has not been achieved in the past four vintages, with Krug Brut Vintage 2003 being the most recent back vintage of a champagne to achieve a WL score of 97. Indeed, the top 10 champagnes gain an average WL score of 95.8 in 2008, compared to an average of 94.6 across the top 10 champagnes from the previous vintage.

The newest addition to the top 10 haul, Taittinger Comtes 2008 shows good value within the wider context of the vintage, despite entering the market at a 26% premium on the current market price of its 2007 vintage. While achieving the same WL score as MUST BUY Philipponat Clos des Goisses 2008 (96), Taittinger’s latest release is available for 34% less, (£89 vs. £135 per bottle in-bond). Similarly, it achieves one more WL point than Bollinger Grand Année 2008 (available for £85 per bottle in-bond), for a very slight premium.

Wine Lister partner critic, Antonio Galloni awards Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 2008 98+ points, stating it “is simply breathtaking” and “represents the purest essence of the Côtes des Blancs in a great, historic vintage”. He concludes, “readers who can find the 2008 should not hesitate”.

Taittinger Comtes de Champagne is historically one of the top 10 most liquid champagne brands, giving it further investment appeal. Additionally, Taittinger announced that it has not produced any 2009, 2010, or 2011 Comtes de Champagne, due to poor weather conditions during these years – a fact that may well increase interest in this latest release.

Also featured in the list of top 10 2008 Champagnes by WL score are: Salon Le Mesnil, Cristal, Dom Pérignon Vintage Brut, Marc Hébrart Spécial Club Millésimé, Joseph Perrier Cuvée Josephine, De Sousa Cuvée des Caudalies, and Pol Roger Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill.

Buying beyond the label – brands to buzz about

If 2020 has given any gift at all, it would be time at home, which many have used to read more, and learn new things on topics familiar and foreign. Today’s blog helps you discover the unique stories behind some of the world’s most recognisable wines. Read on below to discover beyond the label of these notable names.

Krug – Cracking the code

Beyond its reputation as one of the most admired Champagne brands, Krug has also pioneered an industry innovation: Krug iD. Since 2011, a six-digit “identification code” has been printed on the back label of every Krug bottle. Scanning the code with a smartphone gives drinkers access to the unique story of the individual bottle, including a vintage report, as well as offering food pairing suggestions, and recommendations for its storage and serving.

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Aside from its technical innovation, the quality of Krug is simply undeniable. The latest NV Krug Brut Grand Cuvée (168ème Édition) achieves MUST BUY status, and receives a score of 19/20 from Wine Lister partner critic, Jancis Robinson, who notes a “remarkable acidity underpinned by great depth of flavour and beautiful balance on the finish”. It is available to purchase by the bottle from Crump, Richmond & Shaw Fine Wines for £133 (in-bond).


Cheval Blanc – Cultivation experimentation

Saint-Emilion superstar, Cheval Blanc, has illustrated significant long-term investment in its viticulture in recent years. Initiated by Managing Director, Pierre Lurton, the estate has conducted countless soil analyses, viticultural experiments, and regular phenological surveys to establish the best grape variety for each of its three different terroirs (gravel over clay, deep gravel, and sand over clay). Experiments have tested each possible variation of soil type for the Bordeaux varietals used in Cheval Blanc – 52% Cabernet Franc, 43% Merlot, and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon – to establish which combination delivers the best quality of fruit. Indeed, the château found its plot of sandy terroir to be particularly well suited to Cabernet Franc, providing a reference point for the best that can be achieved with the grape in Bordeaux.

Released en primeur in July this year, the  2019 Cheval Blanc was awarded 18 points from Jancis Robinson, who describes it as “beautifully poised on the palate with a density of fruit and silky texture of finely matted tannins. Pure, seductive and persistent”. It can be bought by the case of six for £2,400 (in-bond) from Farr Vintners.


Bond – Truth in terroir

With grapes sourced from select hillside plots across Napa Valley, Bond’s portfolio of Cabernet Sauvignon-based wines aims to reflect each wine’s specific sense of place. The estate owns five sites featuring some of the region’s best terroirs, and has dedicated its viticultural practice to preserving the best expression of its individual plots; Melbury, PluribusQuella, St. Eden, and Vecina.

The fruit from each site is vinified separately, while winemaking procedures are kept the same across all of the Bond wines in order to honour terroir differences. The Vecina vineyard, for instance, sits on volcanic soil at between 221 and 330 feet above sea level, causing a thermal amplitude of cool nights and hot afternoons, which renders its wines complex and layered, with concentrated tannins. The 2015 Bond Vecina was awarded 97 points from Wine Lister partner critic, Antonio Galloni (Vinous), who indeed describes it as “super-expressive. A big, dense wine, the 2015 possesses stunning richness and dimension”. It is available by the bottle for £443 (in-bond) from Fine+Rare Wines.

A line-up of Bond wines, that communicate the differences in the estate’s Napa Valley sites.


Ornellaia – An artist’s interpretation

Outside its global renown as a reference for quality in Tuscany, Ornellaia also stands out for its own special label tradition. Established in 2006, the estate’s annual artist program, Vendemmia d’Artista, commissions a new artist each year for the creation of the limited-edition label, inspired by a single word chosen by winemaker, Axel Heinz, to capture the essence of the new vintage. The latest release (2017) was named “Solare” due to the especially hot growing season, in which both the Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc grapes were harvested as early as August for the first time in history. This inspired contemporary artist, Tomás Saraceno’s label design (below).

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Awarding the Ornellaia 2017 97 points, Wine Lister partner critic, Antonio Galloni describes it as “sumptuous and racy, as Ornellaias from warmer years tend to be, but it is not at all heavy or overdone. In a word: superb!”. The vintage can be bought by the case of six from Justerini & Brooks for £765 (in-bond).

The four above-mentioned wineries provide just a small handful of innovative and engaging examples of how to make a wine stand out from the crowd. Wine Lister has launched a dedicated PR and communications service in order to help more producers do the same on the UK market. To find out more, please contact us at

Plan ahead with MUST BUYs to put away

With so many interesting offers coming in from different merchants, it can be tricky to keep track of what wine you have, let alone where it is, and when it should be drunk. To help you get the most out of your wine collection, Wine Lister has opened up its data analysis and fine wine expertise to private clients, who can now commission all kinds of portfolio analysis, from detailed geographical split and purchase advice, to investment forecasting and a fully-fledged “drink vs. sell” plan.

Wine Lister’s “fantasy cellar”

The current list of Wine Lister MUST BUYs – wines showing notable quality and value within their respective vintages and appellations, and wide praise from the international trade – is 1,728 picks strong. While the Wine Lister team would love to own (and enjoy) all of them, below is a short selection to be put away and enjoyed at their best in five, ten, and twenty years, respectively.

Riesling to reserve

With remarkable ageing potential, and good value across the board, Riesling constitutes a brilliant white addition to any wine collection. To be opened within ten years, the 2018 A. Christmann Idig Riesling Grosses Gewächs hails from Germany’s famed Mosel, and is described by Wine Lister partner critic, Jancis Robinson as “the thinking-person’s Riesling”. She notes the “understatement of individual components” in the wine,  “which allows the taster to focus on balance and elegance”. Creeping over the border into the Alsace, where Riesling tends to be drier in style, Albert Mann’s 2008 Schlossberg l’Epicentre is ready but will improve – offering optimum enjoyment within the next five years. Another Alsatian, the 2010 Marcel Deiss Altenberg de Bergheim can endure another 20 years of ageing, also providing a reliable white to add to any cellar. Wine Lister partner critic, Antonio Galloni, describes its “perfumed aromas of nectarine, apple blossom, minerals and honey”, calling it “vibrant and penetrating”. With notable value for their quality, the three Rieslings achieve a shared WL score of 96, at £54, £98, and £59 per bottle (in bond), respectively. For something to stash away, the latter is available by the case of six from Millésima UK.

Burgundy on standby

Louis Jadot Corton Charlemagne 2012 is a similarly reliable white to be stored in the cellar, achieving a WL score of 95 at £126 per bottle (in-bond). Barrel-fermented and aged for a further eight to ten months in 100% new oak barrels, the wine has developed complexity and enhanced ageing potential. Production in 2012 was kept notably small – indeed winemaker Frédéric Barnier states, “it is critical to control the yields in Corton-Charlemagne to make a wine of real Grand Cru quality.” It can be purchased by the case of 12 from Fine+Rare Wines, and can be opened within five years. Burgundy also offers an abundance of reds with promising ageing potential, including the 2010 Sylvie Esmonin Gevrey-Chambertin Clos Saint-Jacques, and the 2012 Vougeraie Corton Clos Du Roi. Both wines achieve a WL score of 95, at £192 and £90 per bottle (in-bond), respectively.

Champagne to store

A sure pick to pop open within five years, the 2002 Louis Roederer Cristal was aged on lees for six years, before being matured for a further eight years in bottle after its disgorgement in 2009. Wine Lister partner critic, Jeannie Cho Lee notes that it is a “gorgeous Cristal with a fine line of acidity running through it – it vibrates on the palate”. With a WL score of 96, at £192 per bottle (in-bond), it is available in cases of three from Vinum Fine Wines. With an identical WL score of 96, the 2008 Philipponnat Clos des Goisses can be acquired by the case of six for £850 (in bond) from Justerini & Brooks, to be enjoyed within the next decade.

New World to wait for

For some New World picks that are worth putting away for the future, Napa Valley offerings include the 2005 Bond Vecina (owned by the famed Harlan family) and the 2010 Joseph Phelps Vineyards Insignia. In regards to the former, Antonio Galloni stated that he would “prefer to cellar it, as the future for this wine is unquestionably very, very bright”. With a WL score of 97, at £347 per bottle (in-bond) it is an opulent option to be enjoyed within the next twenty years. Of the 2010 Joseph Phelps Vineyards Insignia, Galloni states similarly that “the 2010 will enjoy a long drinking window once it softens”. Achieving a WL score of 96, at £158 per bottle (in-bond), it is available in cases of six from Goedhuis & Co.

Also featured in the above MUST BUY recommendations are: 2016 Cheval des Andes, 2016 La Conseillante, 2015 Fontodi Flaccianello della Pieve, 2015 Jean-Louis Chave Hermitage, 2012 Marc Sorrel Hermitage Le Gréal, 2009 Margaux, 2007 Roberto Voerzio Barolo Cerequio, 2006 Bodegas Vega-Sicilia Unico, 2006 Castello dei Rampolla Sammarco,  2006 Gaja Barolo Sperss, and 1996 Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande.

For personalised, impartial fine wine purchase recommendations, as well as further wine collection analysis, get in touch with our team at, or download the full Cellar Analysis information pack.