Wine Lister’s founder, Ella Lister, was in Burgundy last week and gained insight into how the 2018 vintage is shaping up. Benjamin Leroux explained that Burgundy is “getting used to picking in August”. He says that grapes picked early enough in 2018 are “showing amazingly”.
With the potential of another superb vintage under Burgundian belts, this week’s top five examines the region’s best whites by Wine Lister score. Unsurprisingly, the quality of these five wines is extremely high, their brand strength is well-established (all five are Wine Lister Buzz Brands), and the prices are eye-watering (with an average per-bottle price of over £2,500).
In first place of this week’s top five with a score of 976 is Domaine de la Romanée-Conti’s Montrachet. Sweeping up the top spots across all three Wine Lister score categories, Quality (978), Brand (964), and Economics (992), it is hard to fault the top white offering from arguably the world’s most famous, and exclusive, wine estate.
Next is Domaine Leflaive’s Chevalier-Montrachet. It stands out amongst this week’s top five with a market price of £547, or just 17% of the average of the remaining wines in the group. While the all-white-producing domaine earns Buzz Brand status for its Chevalier-Montrachet, its highest-scoring wine for quality is actually the Montrachet, with a Quality score of 985. Sitting 18 points above the Chevalier-Montrachet, it also comes with a much larger price tag of c.£6,500 per bottle in-bond.
Third and fourth places in this week’s top five are occupied by the same producer – Jean-François Coche-Dury. The domaine’s Corton-Charlemagne actually comes in second of the group for quality, with a Quality score of 971, just six points behind Romanée-Conti’s Montrachet.
Coche-Dury’s Meursault Perrières is very close behind, sporting a Quality score of 959. The only Meursault to feature in this week’s top five, Wine Lister partner critic Antonio Galloni names the 2009 vintage – its highest-scoring in the last 10 years – “pure seduction” and “insanely beautiful”. The Meursault Perrières does not live up to these surrounding grands crus in quality alone – it also comes at a four-figure sum per bottle (of almost £2,000 in-bond).
Finally, in fifth place is Ramonet’s Montrachet, with an overall score of 931. Despite earning this week’s least-strong Quality score of 958, it wins the number one spot for long-term ageing, with an average wine life of 19 years – seven years longer than the average of the remaining four wines of the group. A wine to lay down then, and it also has impressive long-term price performance – the second best of the group after DRC’s Montrachet, with a compound annual growth rate of 27.7%.
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.
This week’s Listed blog will for most be an exercise in window shopping (or perhaps lèche-vitrine might be more appropriate). Not just the eye-watering prices, but also the extreme rarity of this week’s top five – just 500 bottles of d’Auvenay’s Chevalier-Montrachet are produced each year – act as bouncers stopping all but the most fortunate from entering this exclusive Burgundian showroom. Nevertheless, we can at least vicariously get as close to Chardonnay nirvana as possible with the Côte de Beaune’s five most expensive wines.
And these five really do get close to Chardonnay perfection, with a remarkable average Quality score of 975, putting them all amongst the top 15 still dry whites for Quality on Wine Lister. Perhaps reassuringly, Leflaive’s Montrachet, the Côte de Beaune’s most expensive wine, achieves the group’s best Quality score (985). 2010 was its best ever vintage, with a Quality score of 990, Jancis Robinson awarding it 19.5/20 and calling it: “[…] Not rich but gorgeous. Pale gold and obviously much fuller and deeper than Leflaive’s other grands crus. Rich yet so fresh! Nutty. Amazing concentrated fruit has already triumphed over the new oak. Very racy […]”. Interestingly, at £4,400 per bottle the 2010 is currently priced below all recent vintages other than the 2003.
Descending from the dizziest of heights, in second place is DRC’s Montrachet (£4,807). It is not just the Côte de Beaune’s overall top-scoring wine, but the best still dry white on Wine Lister (972). It is remarkably consistent across each of Wine Lister’s three rating categories, with Quality, Brand, and Economics scores of 975, 960, and 987 respectively. It is its Brand score that helps it nudge ahead in this Côte de Beaune showdown, with Coche-Dury’s Corton-Charlemagne the only one of the group to get close (924), the other three lagging c.250-290 points behind. Its brand superiority is the result of dominating both in terms of restaurant presence (visible in 26% of the world’s best establishments, comfortably above the Coche-Dury’s 19%) and online popularity (receiving 65% more searches each month than the Coche-Dury).
Whilst the Coche-Dury can’t quite match DRC’S Montrachet in the Brand or Quality categories, it does achieve the same phenomenal Economics score (987), having registered a superior three-year compound annual growth rate (25% vs 22%) and being the most-traded of the group at auction.
Lalou Bize-Leroy features twice in the list, first with d’Auvenay’s Chevalier-Montrachet (£3,368) and secondly with Domaine Leroy’s Corton-Charlemagne (£2,238). If ever there was proof of the life-altering potential of these hallowed wines, of his first taste of d’Auvenay’s Chevalier-Montrachet 1996, Wine Lister’s newest partner critic Neal Martin writes: “I took a large sip. It was like a thunderbolt hitting my senses: the tension, the complexity and intensity sent shivers down my spine. It was difficult to put down in words, yet this wine became instantly and indelibly etched onto my brain. Now I understood why oenophiles genuflected at the altar of white Burgundy”. With the d’Auvenay achieving a three-year compound annual growth rate of 45% and having added 18% to its value over the past six months alone, experiences such as Martin’s are only getting further out of reach for most.
The d’Auvenay is not alone in its soaring prices. As the chart below shows, demand for all of this week’s top five has skyrocketed over the past three years, each having added at least 62% to its value since July 2015. It seems the majority of us will have to satisfy ourselves with window-shopping for a little while longer.
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.