Saint-Estèphe: An appellation on the rise

The eyes and ears of the industry are focused on Bordeaux 2017. Price is always a key factor in the commercial success of a fine wine, but never more so than during the annual en primeur period, when release pricing can make or break a wine’s en primeur campaign.

It is therefore timely to take a look at some Bordeaux Economics score successes, this week from Saint-Estèphe. Wine Lister’s Economics score combines five criteria – based on price and volume data – to measure a wine’s commercial success (read more on the Economics score calculation here).

Calon-Ségur has the highest Economics score of all Saint-Estèphe wines (943). Not only does it score 53 points higher than the next wine in its peer group, it is also the number one third growth for Economics score, sitting in eleventh place for Economics of all Bordeaux wines. This is particularly impressive, considering that the average price per bottle of those ranking in the top 10 is £614, nine times higher than Calon-Ségur’s comparatively modest average price tag of £69 (read more about Calon-Ségur’s pricing in the en primeur: part II blog).

The number two Economics score in Saint-Estèphe is held by Montrose (889). It has the highest average Quality score of the five (936) and an average wine life of 15 years. Its steady price growth over the last two years (30%) makes it one to watch for investment potential.

Cos d’Estournel is the most expensive Saint-Estèphe wine at £104 per bottle. Though it comes in third place for Economics, it has the best Saint-Estèphe Brand score of 996, thanks to presence in 52% of the world’s best restaurants and over 23,000 online monthly searches. Its popularity is also clear from its position as the most traded of the five at auction (calculated using data from one of our partners, The Wine Market Journal).

Lafon-Rochet and Les Ormes de Pez take fourth and fifth places, with Economics scores of 694 and 682 respectively. Both are a level below the top three in terms of price per bottle and Quality score, but they match Montrose on long term price performance, with compound annual growth rates (CAGR) of 9%. Saint-Estèphe is an appellation on the rise.

Listed: top five white Burgundy 2015s by Wine Lister score

2015 was a phenomenal vintage for reds in Burgundy. However, parts of the Côte de Beaune were affected by frost, and the quality of 2015 whites is therefore less consistent. Below we examine the top five white Burgundy 2015s by overall Wine Lister score.

Domaine Leflaive takes two of the five top spots. Its Chevalier-Montrachet has the highest overall Wine Lister score of all white Burgundies in 2015 (963). This is thanks to a Quality score of 962 (four points higher than the wine’s average across the last fifteen vintages) and an impressive Economics score of 991.

Domaine Leflaive’s Bâtard-Montrachet comes in third place. Both wines benefit from Domaine Leflaive’s position as a superstar white Burgundy brand. Indeed, five of the 10 highest white Burgundy Brand scores are held by wines from Domaine Leflaive.

The second highest overall scorer of white Burgundy 2015 is Domaine Bonneau du Martray’s Corton-Charlemagne (958). It is both the highest Quality scorer (977, 10% above its average) and the lowest priced (£106 per bottle) of the five, presenting an interesting value opportunity. It is also to be found in 36% of the world’s top restaurants, the most prestigious count of this week’s top five.

Chablis is represented by Vincent Dauvissat’s Grand Cru Les Clos. Identified as one of only three Chablis Buzz Brands on Wine Lister, Dauvissat’s Cru Les Clos is present in 23% of the world’s top restaurants, helping it to a Brand score of 907. Its overall Wine Lister score of 938 for the 2015 vintage is completed by a Quality score of 947 and its second strongest ever Economics score of 969.

Finally, Maison Joseph Drouhin’s Montrachet Grand Cru Marquis de Laguiche has the fifth highest Wine Lister score for white Burgundy 2015s (917). Though it has the lowest global restaurant presence, it is more present than the other four wines in top restaurants in Asia.

Demystifying fine wine economics

Wine Lister Economics scores not only reflect a fine wine’s economic clout, but also predict its future price performance. The economics of fine wine are increasingly important. Some purists wish it weren’t the case (wouldn’t it be wonderful if quality could exist in isolation from pecuniary concerns?), but consider the plight of the producer making an exceptional wine, that without any brand recognition or commercial strategy doesn’t ever see the light of day. It never finds an importer, or its way into the consumer’s glass, let alone the investor’s portfolio.

That is why Wine Lister scores capture 12 data points across three rating categories, to measure the all-round performance of a fine wine in its journey from vine to glass. After Quality and Brand, the third Wine Lister rating category is Economics. The Economics score shows the producer whether its commercial strategy is working, but more than that, it can also serve to indicate to the collector whether the wine makes an economically sound investment.

Bordeaux wines with an Economics score above 900 in November 2016 had increased by 17% in price on average by January 2018. By contrast, those with Economics scores below 600 gained just 8% subsequently. We can see this pattern in action in the chart below, which looks at Saint-Estèphe wines over the same 14-month period. The wines with the highest Economics scores at the beginning of the period proceeded to increase more in price than those with lower scores as a general rule.

The below screenshots of Wine Lister’s price history tool illustrate graphically the difference between two wines with different economic profiles. Vieux Château Certan’s Economics score lies in the “strongest” portion of the Wine Lister 1000-point scale at 907/1000. While Château La Providence’s Quality score is strong (708/1000) its low Economics score of 389 is the result of a lower price, weak price performance, volatile prices, and modest trading volumes.

Wine Lister analyses five criteria in order to measure a wine’s economic strength, expressed as an Economics score out of 1,000. Four of these criteria use pricing data from our data partner, Wine Owners, while the fifth uses trading volume figures from the Wine Market Journal:

  1. 3 month average bottle price

This “market price” is the ultimate measure of what people are willing to pay for each wine in each vintage. Data is updated weekly, and bases prices on a three-month rolling average. Prices are shown In Bond per bottle.

  1. Short-term price performance

A wine’s financial strength also depends on its price performance. Wine Lister calculates price changes over six months for an indication of short-term price trends.

  1. Long-term price performance

Long-term performance measures a wine’s compound annual growth rate over three years.

  1. Price stability

Price fluctuations over a 12-month period are distilled into the measure of a wine’s stability. Wines with less volatility are more consistent, less risky and therefore earn a better Economics score.

  1. Volume traded

Added to pricing information is data on a wine’s liquidity. A wine can have good price performance but lack the current market demand, potentially making it a less attractive wine for investment.

Listed: Barbaresco’s best wines

For some, Piedmont is virtually synonymous with the DOCG appellation of Barolo. While wines from this famous appellation rank amongst the very best on Wine Lister, its understated sibling Barbaresco also holds its own, as we discover looking at the top five Barbarescos by Wine Lister score below.

With an overall score of 924, Gaja’s Barbaresco takes the top spot. It leads thanks to its excellent Brand score (977), over 120 points ahead of Barbaresco’s second-strongest brand. As the only one of the group with brand as its strongest suit, Gaja’s Barbaresco is present in 33% of the world’s top restaurants, has the widest range of vintages and formats on each wine list, and receives over five times more searches each month on Wine-Searcher than the second-most popular wine of the group. Consequently, the wine has the joint-highest Brand score of all Piedmont wines – alongside Giacomo Conterno’s Barolo Monfortino Riserva.

Numbers two to five on the list share the same legendary producer. The recently departed Bruno Giacosa has left behind him a formidable legacy, reflected in his four-fold appearance in this top five. The domaine Azienda Agricola Falleto’s and Giacosa’s negotiant arm expressions of Barbaresco excel across all three categories that make up their overall Wine Lister score.

Azienda Agricola Falletto’s Asili Riserva has the best Economics score of all Barbarescos (967), with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 18.5%. It is also the most expensive at £222 per bottle, and most traded of the five.

Giacosa’s Barbaresco Rabajà takes third place, but holds the best Quality score (963) and best long-term price performance (27.0%). The former is reflected in the wine’s impressive average ageing potential of 22 years, five years longer than the Asili Riserva. Indeed, Rabajà 2004, which achieves an outstanding Quality score of 993, has only recently entered its drinking window, and will be drinking well until 2034.

Fourth and fifth spots are taken by Giacosa’s Barbaresco Santo Stefano (di Nieve / Albesani) and Barbaresco Asili. They display very similar profiles, each performing best in the Economics category, followed by Quality, and then Brand. Both wines still rank as “very strong” on the Wine Lister 1000-point scale, with overall scores of 874 and 860 respectively.

This is a poignant week for Azienda Agricola Falletto, with many of the great estate’s wines being released for the first time since the passing of Bruno Giacosa.

Champagne breaks the Bordeaux bias in trading volumes

After two quarters of Bordeaux dominance, the latest trading volume data has room at the top for one non-Bordeaux wine. Among the five wines with the greatest incremental increase in trading volumes for the period of January-December 2017 (calculated using figures collated by Wine Market Journal from sales at the world’s major auction houses), sits Louis Roederer’s Cristal in second place.

Volumes of Cristal traded increased by 267 bottles, helped along by a Sotheby’s auction in New York in November where 37 bottles went under the hammer. While this translates into a small Economics score increase of just one point, the wine nevertheless holds the highest overall Wine Lister score of the five at 975/1000.

Château Pavie appears high up the list for a consecutive quarter, with a further 228 bottles added to its trading volume count compared to October 2016-September 2017. Though in third place for incremental change, Pavie has the highest overall volume of bottles traded of the top five (2,466).

The number one spot for increased trading volumes is taken by Château Pape Clément, with 293 more bottles traded over the course of 2017 compared to the previous dataset period. Pape Clément has the lowest Quality score of the top five (825), however high Economics (952) and Brand (960) scores pull the overall score up to 898.

Château Calon Ségur and Château Troplong-Mondot fall in fourth and fifth place for biggest change in trading volumes.

It is interesting to note that Larrivet Haut-Brion Blanc has the highest growth of Economics score, moving up a huge 376 points since Q4 2016, to 669. With the recent spike in trading volumes of the red (as seen in our last analysis), trading volumes of the château’s wines are increasing across the board.


Top 5 Saint-Emilion 2015s by Economics score

The Bordeaux 2015 vintage broke a more lacklustre run since the formidable 2010, and seemed to prove the wine trade legend of vintages ending in 5. En primeur tastings took place at the crest of “Bordeaux Bashing”, with some journalists reluctant to praise the vintage too highly, and there was talk of inconsistency between appellations. Saint-Estèphe was said to have suffered from more rain than its southerly neighbours, for example. Meanwhile in Saint-Emilion, a lack of homogeneity allowed each wine to express its terroir and its identity to the utmost.

Now that the wines have been bottled, it seems a suitable time to revisit the vintage. Our CEO, Ella Lister, has just got back from tasting over 200 wines from across the two banks with Wine Lister’s partner critics Michel Bettane and Thierry Desseauve. She reports Saint-Estèphe as “exceptional and wrongly dismissed as rained-out”, and names Figeac and Canon as two highlights, both “stunning”. The two Saint-Emilion wines are among the top five Quality scores for the vintage on Wine Lister.

Figeac and Canon both also feature in this week’s top 5: Saint-Emilion 2015 Economics scores, showing that the market recognises their worth. Coming in second and fourth place, both hold premier grand cru classé B status since the reclassification of Saint-Emilion in 2012. Château Figeac 2015 achieves its best Economics score to date with an impressive six-month price performance of 18%.

However, Château Canon is the real surprise here. One of the most talked-about wines by the fine wine trade, its Wine Lister scores are improving from vintage to vintage, with its Economics scores, in particular, soaring. It comes in second place among all Bordeaux wines for Economics score in the 2016 vintage. Both Figeac and Canon are Buzz Brands and also Investment Staples (two of the four Wine Lister Indicators), and so is number one on the list…

Beating both of these is premier grand cru classé A, Château Ausone, with an Economics score of 991 – a record high for this producer, even against the strong 2005 vintage. The château also gains the number one spot across all Saint-Emilion 2015s in Quality, with a score of 990. In the context of overall Wine Lister scores, Ausone is just behind Petrus and Margaux as the third highest-scoring Bordeaux of 2015.

Magrez-Fombrauge and Péby Faugères are the ‘underdog’ entries among Saint-Emilion Economics performers. With Quality and Brand scores ranging from average to strong, the overall score of both wines is “strong” according to the Wine Lister 1,000-point scale (the other three entries sit comfortably in the “strongest” category, with overall scores significantly above 900).

In contrast, one might expect some bigger names, such as Cheval Blanc (a Wine Lister Buzz Brand) to appear higher up the list. Its Economics score of 946 puts it in seventh place, with slower price growth (3% over the last six months). Its price per bottle currently stands at around £500, over five times higher than that of Péby Faugères, and seven times more than Magrez-Fombrauge.

Burgundy’s top price performers revealed

Our most recent market study is out, this time analysing 175 of Burgundy’s finest wines. Last week’s blog gave an overview of the study’s key findings. This week we take a deeper look into one of the upward trends, exploring some of Burgundy’s best price performers.

While it is impossible to argue the position of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti at the top of the Quality and Brand leaderboards, a greater mix of producers excel in long-term price performance. Lalou-Bize Leroy’s Domaine d’Auvenay is a frequent and expected feature within the top price performers, but the list is not without surprises.

Arnaud Ente, while well known by those in the trade, is a quieter name in the global wine world. What Ente lacks in brand presence he makes up for in exceptional quality. Vines, notably his enviable Meursault plots, tend to be harvested late, giving wines their signature opulence. With a Quality score of 909 and a 3-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 34%, Ente’s Meursault Les Gouttes d’Or is one of the best performing whites in Burgundy and the best 5-year price performer.

The Meursault village as a whole steals the show on price performance, accounting for 6 of the top 10 wines in the Economics score-criterion. Domaine Roulot, another producer flying slightly under the radar of Burgundy’s biggest brands also demonstrates strong long-term price performance across all three of their Meursault cuvées.

Meursault is not the only white village on the up. According to our Founding Members’ survey, which accompanies the Burgundy market study, the popularity of Saint-Aubin is increasing. Whether searching for the highest quality or the best value, it seems the white vineyards of Burgundy are the places to be this year.

You can read about more Burgundy trends in the full Burgundy market study by subscribing here. Alternatively, a preview of the first 15 pages is available here.

Listed: top five red Burgundies under £300 per bottle by Wine Lister score

Today marks the close of a busy week of Burgundy 2016 en primeur tastings, with offer prices largely stable on 2015 despite tiny volumes, thanks to the more generous 2017 in the wings. However, prices have been escalating in the secondary market for several years now, with eight of the region’s top wines averaging more than £3,000 per bottle). Eyewatering, yes, but as illustrated in our recently published study, the majority of the region’s top wines are priced between £100 and £500.

To mark this week’s Burgundy en primeur tastings, the latest Listed section picks out the top five red Burgundies priced under £300 per bottle by Wine Lister score. With an outstanding average score of 913 – putting them amongst the very strongest on Wine Lister – and four of the five achieving Buzz Brand status, these wines are worth the price tag.

Leading the way is Grand Cru monopole Clos de Tart with a score of 947. Recently acquired by Artemis Domaines – Latour owner François Pinault’s holding company – it achieves the best Brand and Economics scores of the group (956 and 964 respectively), and is just pipped into second place in the Quality category by Trapet Père et Fils Chambertin Grand Cru (932 vs 940). Its price  has increased 9% over the past six months, and now at £275, it looks like it won’t qualify for this group much longer!

Next comes Domaine des Lambrays Clos des Lambrays – part of LVMH’s portfolio since 2014 – with a score of 919. Alongside Marquis d’Angerville Volnay Premier Cru Clos des Ducs, this is the cheapest (or least expensive) of the group (c.£150 each). It enjoys its best score in the Brand category, with the group’s highest level of restaurant presence (25%), and the second-best average monthly online search frequency (5,079).

In third place is Rousseau’s Clos de la Roche Grand Cru with a score of 910. At almost £300 per bottle, it is the most expensive of the group, contributing to its boasting the best score in the Economics category (937). It is also partner critic Jeannie Cho Lee’s favourite wine of the group; she awards it a score of 95/100 on average.

Dropping just below the 900-point mark are Marquis d’Angerville Volnay Premier Cru Clos des Ducs and Trapet Père et Fils Chambertin Grand Cru (899 and 891 points respectively). They display very different profiles. The latter leads the Quality category, with the former lagging 60 points behind (still with a very strong score of 879). However,Trapet’s Chambertin struggles in other categories, with the group’s lowest scores for Brand and Economics (867 and 823). Meanwhile, thanks to the group’s strongest long and short-term growth rates, Marquis d’Angerville’s Volnay Clos des Ducs enjoys an excellent Economics score (939) – the second-best of the five.

If you’d like to discover more about Burgundy and its top wines, then click here if you are a subscriber to view the full regional study, or here to see a preview if you haven’t yet subscribed.

Burgundy study – mercury rising

With the Burgundy 2016 campaign underway, our first blog of the new year sheds some light on an all too often complex region. In our inaugural Burgundy study, Wine Lister reveals some key findings. Read on to find out more or click here to access the full study (non-subscribers can see a preview of the study here).

Price: the unstoppable force?

While the region’s Brand scores are no match for Bordeaux, Burgundy’s supply and demand dynamic(emphasised by a five-year stock shortage) and high quality are driving prices ever skywards. The majority of top Burgundy wines cost between £100 and £500 a bottle, with 18 wines costing more than £2000 per bottle.

Among the impressive Economics scores (994 being the highest) it is no surprise that producers such as Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (DRC) and Domaine Leroy hold many of the top spots (note that the only whites to enter into the Top 25 for Economics are from Coche-Dury). However, the region as a whole rises above the rest on price performance. Burgundy‘s prices have risen more quickly than any other top fine wine region and show no sign of decelerating.

Quality: the clear winners

Indeed, DRC and Domaine Leroy consistently top the charts across all Wine Lister scores. However, Lalou Bize-Leroy is Quality queen, with 11 wines in the Quality top 25 between Leroy and d’Auvenay.

DRC and Armand Rousseau stand out as being the only two producers to gain the trade’s full confidence. Our Founding Members give the domaines a confidence rating of 10/10 (no Bordeaux chateau scores above 9/10).

Trends: what the future holds for Burgundy

Further insight from Wine Lister’s 52 Founding Members (key global fine wine trade figures)includes growth trends for Burgundy.

One commonality throughout the trade was the noticeable rise in the popularity of Saint-Aubin (Burgundy is the region home to more “rising star” producers than any other fine wine region). Other observations included a general shift towards higher quality and greater purity in winemaking style, as well as less sulphur and more whole bunch fermentation.

Subscribers can read the full study here. Non-subscribers can access a preview of the full version or subscribe here.

Listed: top 5 sweet Alsace whites by Wine Lister score

As we edge ever closer to Christmas, it feels appropriate to take a look at sweet wines. Here we consider Alsace’s top 5 sweet whites by overall Wine Lister score. Produced in a thin sliver of land in the far East of France, Alsace’s top sweet whites are separated by just nine points (less than one hundredth of Wine Lister’s 1,000-point scale!). The five wines display very similar profiles, all outperforming in the Quality category, achieiving middling Brand scores, and trailing economically.

Four break the 900-point boundary in terms of Quality scores, putting them amongst the very top quality wines on Wine Lister. Hugel et Fils Riesling Vendange Tardive (VT) falls just short with 881 points, still a very strong Quality score (thanks to 17/20 from both Jancis Robinson and Bettane+Desseauve, and 92.5/100 from Vinous). The same producer’s Gewürtzraminer VT scores even higher for quality (910) thanks to a 95/100 from Jeannie Cho Lee:

Hugel Gewurz

Moving categories, scores drop sharply from an average Quality score of 915 to 550 for Brand – still above the average for all wines on Wine Lister:

Hugel Gewurz brand

Economics scores trail even further behind, averaging 338, hindered by low liquidity. For example, Hugel’s Gewürtzraminer VT failed to trade a single bottle at auction over the past four quarters (as measured by Wine Market Journal). The chart below shows Economics score in the context of all the wines on Wine Lister – its is well below the average, with a score below 400 putting in the “weak” score band:

Hugel Gewurz Econ

Other wines making the top five are Zind-Humbrecht Jebsal Pinot Gris VT (675) and Trimbach Gewürztraminer VT, which achieves the best restaurant presence of the group. However, featuring on just 6% of the world’s best restaurant lists, this suggests that Alsace’s sweet whites are not every sommelier’s must-list bracket, even when produced by the region’s most famous producer. Incidentally, Trimbach’s Clos Sainte Hune appears in 34% of wine lists (compared to 69% for Sauternes’ Château d’Yquem).

The last wine making it into this week’s Listed section is Marcel Deiss Altenberg de Bergheim Grand Cru. The only non-single varietal wine of the group, it is a blend of 13 different varietals planted in the same plot, and is by far Bettane+Desseauve’s preferred wine of the group – the French duo award it an average score of 19/20. It is also the most popular wine of the group. However, its modest average search frequency (380 per month on Wine-Searcher) confirms that Alsace’s sweet whites currently fly well under the radar.

So, when you’re stocking up your cellar for Christmas, give Alsace’s sweet whites a go. They might not be the most prestigious, but the quality is there and prices are pleasing.