En primeur week #3 – the last first, super-seconds, and serious steals

The second half of this week has seen releases from first growth Margaux, Super-seconds Pichon Baron, Ducru-Beaucaillou, and more.

The two highest-priced wines released over the last two days have bucked discount trends set by their peers earlier in the campaign. Ausone 2019 was released on Wednesday 17th June, and merchants have been offering the wine for c.£432 per bottle in-bond (or 22% less than the 2018 vintage). Earlier in the campaign, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Classé “A” neighbour, Cheval Blanc offered a healthier discount on its 2019 (of 32%), resulting in the competitive price of £375 per bottle.

Similarly, the last first growth of the campaign emerged yesterday, its grand vin entering the market at £350 per bottle. Margaux 2019 offers a 16% discount on last year’s release price. Sitting more or less in the middle of 2019 prices from its two Pauillac comrades, Margaux nonetheless looks good when one considers Managing Director Philippe Bascaules’ poignant comment, naming the 2019 “much more Château Margaux” than the 2018. The 2019 also achieves Margaux’s best WL score (98 points) since the 2009 vintage. Volumes released onto the market are identical to last year, which will no doubt help to gain further appeal from buyers missing out on Lafite and Mouton.

Margaux’s second wine, Pavillon Rouge, and dry white, Pavillon Blanc were also released, at £125 and £168 per bottle (in-bond) respectively.

Of the c.100 wines released so far that Wine Lister covers, just eight of them have provided a 30% discount or above on 2018’s release price, while almost 40 wines have offered discounts of less than 15%.

Pauillac powerhouse Pichon Baron also entered the market with its 2019 at £99 per bottle (15% below the current market price of 2018). Wine Lister partner critic, Neal Martin, awards it 96-98 points, simply saying, “this is an outstanding Pauillac”. The same score was given by Martin to Saint-Julien super-second, Ducru-Beaucaillou, which also released yesterday. While both 2019 releases will no doubt find homes among followers of the brands and big en primeur buyers, in each case a recent back vintage also looks appealing in comparison – the 2015 Pichon Baron, and 2014 Ducru-Beaucaillou.

The Barton family wines joined the release fray this week – Léoville Barton, Langoa Barton, and value buy Mauvesin Barton. Wine Lister partner critics give high praise to the flagship release – Léoville Barton. Neal Martin and Antonio Galloni both award it 94-96 points, the latter saying, “what a gorgeous wine the 2019 is”. Together with James Lawther’s score of 18/20 for JancisRobinson.com, Léoville Barton 2019 achieves its highest Wine Lister score since the 2015 (95 points), which still has some availability in the market at around the same price.

Brane-Cantenac released yesterday at £41.50 per bottle. Its 2018 was one of Wine Lister’s absolute favourites during last year’s en primeur tastings, and judging by the latest critical acclaim, the 2019 has achieved another quality step up – James Lawther gives it 17.5 points, and names it “the epitome of fine Margaux”. This wine continues to provide excellent value when compared to similar quality offerings of its appellation.

La Lagune 2019 also entered the market, at £25 per bottle (in-bond). Having produced no wine in 2018, the latest release is priced 19% below the 2017, and is the cheapest recent vintage available on the market. Neal Martin awards it 92-94 points, naming the wine “not impactful, but intellectual”, and noting it will give “25-30 years of drinking pleasure”. With a potential record-level quality at such an attractive price, La Lagune could be the value buy of the entire campaign.

A further favourite, and poster child for good value, Meyney, also released its 2019 on Wednesday. Coming onto the market under £20 per bottle, and as the cheapest Meyney available, the wine is a no-brainer, as it continues to punch above its weight for quality.

Also released on Wednesday 17th and Thursday 18th June were: Canon-la-Gaffelière, Chapelle d’Ausone, Clinet, Clos de l’Oratoire, Croix de Beaucaillou, d’Aiguilhe, and La Mondotte.



Larrivet Haut-Brion sees trading volumes lift

For the second consecutive quarter, the five wines which saw trading volumes rise most were all from Bordeaux. Four of the wines below are big hitters, with overall Wine Lister scores ranging from 921 (Château Montrose) to 963 (Château Lafite Rothschild).

These top crus are also mainstays at global fine wine auctions, with over 2,000 bottles of the top five traded vintages of each wine selling at auction every year, and over 5,000 for Lafite. So, while auction trading volumes – a measure of liquidity – feed into a wine’s Economics score, none of the four has seen a significant enough increase to find their Economics score significantly changed.

There is one anomaly. Château Larrivet Haut-Brion has an average price of £23 per bottle, and from the period of July 2016 until June 2017 its top five vintages sold only 103 bottles at auction. At the end of last month, however, 228 bottles of the wine’s 2000 vintage were sold at a Bonham’s auction, making the wine the most popular of the day.  The update to Larrivet Haut-Brion’s trading volumes has had a strong impact on its Economics score, which has risen from 567 to 667, and boosted its overall Wine Lister score from 663 to 684.

Volume changes Oct

We calculate which wines have seen the greatest incremental increases in bottles traded by using figures collated by Wine Market Journal from sales at the world’s major auction houses.


Flying fifths: in a class of their own

The 1855 Bordeaux classification might well be considered one of the earliest examples of a wine rating system. Classifying wines by six categories – including “unclassified” – might seem restrictive now (compared to Wine Lister’s 1,000 point scale), but the classification has proven to be highly influential and durable. This week’s Listed section focuses on the five Bordeaux fifth growths with the highest overall Wine Lister score, giving us an opportunity to see how the 160-year-old classification stacks up today.

Listed - Top Fifth Growths Image

Whilst the 1855 classification used price as the yardstick by which a wine should be rated, Wine Lister’s holistic approach also takes into account quality, brand strength, and other economic metrics. The outcome is that with an average Wine Lister score of 881, these flying fifths outperform both the top five performing third growths and fourth growths (average of 863 and 834 respectively), beating the two classes across every category. Nonetheless, the top fifth growths trail the most highly-rated second growths and the five first growths by 48 and 86 points respectively overall.

Pontet-Canet is the leading fifth growth, with a score of 912. While all five wines perform well in terms of Brand score, Pontet-Canet’s first place position is supported by an excellent Quality score of 905, nearly 60 points above Grand-Puy-Lacoste, the second highest rated of the five in terms of quality.

Lynch-Bages comes next. Whilst it performs well in the Quality and Economics categories, it is in the Brand category that it comes into its own, with a near-perfect score of 998 putting it alongside first growths Haut-Brion and Margaux.

Grand-Puy-Lacoste takes third place with 886, scoring well across the board. It is one of the four Buzz Brands of the group, a fact which confirms that these top fifth growths currently confer more prestige than their third and fourth growth counterparts, which see fewer Buzz Brands within their respective top fives.

The last two spots are filled by wines from the Baron Philippe de Rothschild stable – Clerc-Milon and d’Armailhac. The former achieves the highest Economics score of the group – 908 – thanks to excellent price performance over both the long and short-term. Meanwhile, d’Armailhac’s score of 840, whilst 30 points below Clerc-Milon, puts it above all but four third and fourth growths.

These results blur the lines between the traditional classifications, demonstrating that price can no longer be looked at in isolation, and suggesting that a more nuanced and flexible approach needs to be taken in rating wines.

Remember that there are many ways to search Wine Lister, including by score, geography, and classification – which is how we calculated the findings above.

 


Château Margaux 2016 en primeur release

Château Margaux was the final first growth to release its 2016 wines en primeur yesterday (although we still await a second tranche from Château Lafite – see our blog post on the first tranche). The price of €420 per bottle ex-négociant matched that of Mouton and Haut-Brion, and represents an increase of 9% on 2015.

The reception was very positive all round, with pricing and volumes were both considered to be expertly judged, with one member of the Place de Bordeaux referring to the release as “very professional”, and another saying it was difficult to imagine any problems selling the stock, and “we’d be more than happy to hold a bit more back if necessary!”

Margaux

A particularly astute move by the commercial team at Margaux was the decision to set a UK RRP this year, which effectively served to negate the weak pound, by curbing any possibility for UK merchants to allow themselves a larger margin, as they had done last year (when they quite rightly judged the immense demand for the very well rated 2015 – Wine Lister Quality score of 988). This means the 2016 represents a relatively modest year-on-year increase of 9% in pounds as well as in euros, rendering the RRP of £432 per bottle more palatable to UK customers.

Margaux also kept the trade happy releasing at least the same amount of the grand vin as last year, if not a little more in some cases, with UK merchants still clamouring for more. The second wine, Pavillon Rouge, was up 20% in volume terms. Bien joué.