Popularity at a price: Bordeaux in 2020

Part I of Wine Lister’s annual in-depth Bordeaux report: For better, for worse, examines the state of the market for Bordeaux wines, in the context of 2019 en primeur.

As well as providing insight into the wine trade’s latest position on key wines of the region, the study examines Bordeaux’s disconnect between consumer popularity and its market performance at the start of 2020 (exacerbated by recent macro-economic hits to the UK, Hong Kong, and the US).

As illustrated below, Bordeaux has achieved the slowest price growth on the secondary market since May 2014, while Piedmont has seen the most impressive growth – likely due to increasing attention given to the region, and the rarity factor of many of its top wines, from which Burgundy also benefits.

The price performance of Bordeaux compared to four other key fine wine regions: Burgundy, California, Piedmont, and Tuscany. The price indices comprise the top five wine brands in each respective region.

A glance at its price performance since May 2019 tells a similar, if more unnerving story – Bordeaux has floundered over the past year, down nearly 5%.

Despite its price performance difficulties, Bordeaux nonetheless continues its legacy as the most popular wine region by a large margin, based on monthly searches made on Wine-Searcher.

The average search rank of Bordeaux compared to four other key fine wine regions: Burgundy, California, Piedmont, and Tuscany. Results are based on the average searches on Wine-Searcher for the 50 top-scoring wines per region over the last year.

Irrespective of its price performance struggles, Bordeaux remains a focus of fine wine buyers – within the trade and beyond – all over the world.  The en primeur campaign is a wheel that just keeps on turning, even in spite of a global pandemic. Trade and consumers alike can’t help but back Bordeaux, for richer and poorer.

More insight into the success of the 2019 en primeur campaign will be included in Part II of this study. In the meantime, visit the Analysis page to purchase Part I, or download using your Pro subscription (available in both English and French).


Which Bordeaux brands do the trade back in 2020?

With the Bordeaux 2019 en primeur campaign now behind us, Part I of Wine Lister’s 2020 Bordeaux Study examines the results of our latest in-depth trade survey. Answered by 50 key players across major fine wine markets, the results provide insight into the wine trade’s latest position on the region, including its level of confidence in specific wines.

The trade’s faith in Bordeaux brands has increased on the whole since last year, with more Bordeaux wines moving up in their confidence rating than down. For the fourth consecutive year, no Bordeaux wine received a confidence rating of 10/10. Brands that have retained their 9/10 confidence rating since last year are LafleurLe PinMargauxMoutonPetrus, and Vieux Châteaux Certan.

Joining them in 2020 are Canon, La Fleur-Pétrus, Lafite, and Pichon Comtesse, while Latour has moved down a rating since last year, to 8/10. The survey was, however, conducted prior to the first growth’s successful 2012 release (27th May) at c.£350 per bottle, marking its first release of a vintage exclusively as mature stock.

There are 28 Bordeaux wines that earn a confidence rating of 8/10 in 2020, with nine joining them since last year: Angélus, Ausone, Belair-Monange, Carruades de Lafite, Grand-Puy-Lacoste, La Mission Haut-Brion, Montrose, Palmer, and Pavillon Blanc.

Though Margaux’s Pavillon Rouge moves down to a rating of  7/10 in 2020, three younger siblings of first growths stay at a rating of 8/10:  Carruades de Lafite, Le Petit Mouton, and Les Forts de Latour.

Part II of the Bordeaux 2020 study, including a score breakdown of 2019s, and further retrospective analysis of the en primeur campaign, will be published shortly. Watch this space.

In the meantime, visit the Analysis page to purchase Part I, or download using your Pro subscription (available in both English and French).


Launch of the Lafite 2019s en primeur

As the first major week of Bordeaux 2019 en primeur releases draws to a close, this morning (Friday 5th June) saw the release of the “first of the Firsts”, and the other reds from the Lafite stable.

Carruades de Lafite 2019 opened the stage with a price of £158 per bottle (in-bond), making it the least expensive Carruades available on the market. The Wine Lister team felt the quality of Carruades saw a significant jump up in 2018, and from what we have heard, the 2019 matches it. With this in mind, and given that volume released onto the market is 50% less than last year, this is a sure buy for anyone seeking access to the Lafite prestige with more approachability.

The grand vin, Lafite 2019, has been released at £426 per bottle in-bond – a discount of c.20% on the 2018’s current market price. The crucial factor this year are the volumes available – also 50% less than last year. On top of this, the single tranche released means buyers will only have one shot to get their hands on the 2019 en primeur (as far as we know). Domaines Baron de Rothschild’s Commercial Director, Jean-Sébastien Philippe, calls Lafite a “modern classic” in 2019, with precision, length, and finesse, but impressive ripeness, making it more approachable than the likes of 2018 or 2016.

Both Lafite and Carruades were cited by the trade as seeing sharp rises in demand (see below) according to Wine Lister’s 2020 Founding Members’ survey. Competition to access both of these wines will therefore likely be high.

Lafite’s Pomerol property, L’Evangile, has released its 2019 grand vin at £146 per bottle in-bond, 15% below the current market price of the 2018. Once again, the Wine Lister team noticed a distinct quality step up in Evangile’s 2018, which we’ve heard has been equalled in 2019. The 2019 reportedly expresses well the move towards a more modern style, and a wine of increasing tension, florality, and freshness, without losing the plush Pomerol profile.

Duhart-Milon 2019 has also been released, at £52 per bottle in-bond. Though the release price puts it more or less in line with market prices of back vintages 2018 and 2016, there is justification to be found in the excellent quality that the Lafite team believe is there in 2019. Philippe explains that Duhart-Milon’s vines sit on a cooler terroir than those of the estate’s Pauillac neighbours, which means in cooler vintages, the wine can be somewhat “austere”. The increasing average temperatures that Bordeaux has seen during recent growing seasons (2018, 2016, and 2015 vintages) therefore only serve to improve the quality of Duhart-Milon, and 2019 certainly had its fair share of heat.

Keep up to date with further Bordeaux 2019 en primeur releases through Wine Lister’s twitter, or through our dedicated en primeur page.


Bordeaux wines that the trade is backing

Included in Part II of Wine Lister’s Bordeaux Study 2019 (released last week), are results of our latest trade survey. Wine Lister asks its Founding Members (c.50 key players in the global fine wine trade) to give “confidence” ratings to more than 100 key Bordeaux wines on a scale of 0 to 10; 0 being zero confidence.

For the third consecutive year, no Bordeaux wine received a perfect 10/10. Wines retaining their 9/10 confidence rating since last year are Le Pin, Margaux, Mouton, and Petrus. Joining them in 2019 are Lafleur, Latour, and Vieux Châteaux Certan – the latter being a particular source of interest, given its average price of £139, or just 13% of the average of the rest of the group.

Meanwhile the two remaining left bank first growths, Haut-Brion and Lafite, have slipped down into the next confidence band, receiving an average of 8/10. Saint-Émilion superstar, Canon, has also moved down one point since last year, despite also being cited by the same trade group as a wine seeing the sharpest rise in demand, and a wine of likely future prestige.

The 8/10 category contains 24 wines, compared with 21 in 2018. New entries into the 8/10 category include two of the best performers en primeur – Beychevelle and Les Carmes Haut-Brion. Others moving up to this category are Cos d’Estournel, Les Forts de Latour, and Léoville Barton.

The improved confidence in Pomerol within the top two groups is noticeable, with Lafleur and Vieux Château Certan effectively taking the places of Canon and Lafite, and two wines from the Moueix stable – La Fleur-Pétrus and Trotanoy moving up into the 8/10 category this year (at the expense of Ausone, La Mission Haut-Brion, Léoville Poyferré, Montrose, and Palmer, which have all moved down into the 7/10 group). As well as earning high confidence, Pomerol also achieves the highest number of wines in the 2018 Quality top-25.

Visit Wine Lister’s Analysis page to buy and/or download the full report, and see confidence ratings for all other wines in the study (available in both English and French).


Champagne – slow and steady wins the race

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

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

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

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

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

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


The rise of the grower vs. maison Champagnes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The second Founding Members’ tasting

Wine Lister’s Founding Members’ tasting (the second if its kind) was held last week in the most beautiful surroundings at Ten Trinity Square Private Club. Aside from showcasing how Wine Lister data relates to the actual liquid in the bottle, these tastings are an opportunity to thank friends and supporters of Wine Lister, from subscribers to Founding Members.

We were excited to share news of upcoming developments with our guests, including the imminent expansion of Wine Lister’s coverage (almost doubling from the current 20,000 wines scored), as well as the addition of a new rating criterion. Watch this space!

Wine Lister’s Founding Members, more than 50 major players in the international wine trade, make an invaluable contribution to Wine Lister’s research by sharing their market insights with us on a biannual basis. It is Wine Lister’s role as a fine wine intelligence agency to combine this qualitative information with quantitative data to shed analytical light on fine wines from across the world, for example in our regional reports and factsheets.

In one recent trade survey we asked Founding Members the question, “Which wines do you consider hidden gems (wines you rate highly but which are under-appreciated)?”. The responses inspired the wonderfully varied (but consistently delicious) selection of 24 hidden gems tasted last Thursday (see the full list of wines below).

From left to right: Antoine Forterre, Ella Lister, Giles Cooper, Henry Donne, Pascal Kuzniewski, Pierre-Marie Boury, Anthony Vertadier Mabille, Gareth Kristensen, Sara Guiducci.

In an illustration of how Wine Lister brings together market research with hard data, the “raw” hidden gems selected by our Founding Members are then overlaid with critics’ ratings, restaurant presence, and search frequency data. This gives us the final Hidden Gems presented on the Wine Lister website. In other words, Hidden Gems are wines that are rarely found in top restaurants, and not often searched for online, but which receive high ratings from our partner critics, and have been singled out by our Founding Members as not garnering due attention.

The Founding Members’ “raw” hidden gems featured several Bordeaux wines, including 10 out of the 24 wines shown in the tasting. However, none of these achieve final Hidden Gem status due to their already established brands.

To liven up the evening, we encouraged guests to play “guess the score” – to see how closely they could estimate the Wine Lister score of the wines that they tasted. All the wines were showing beautifully, but Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande 2005 was the wine that our guests successfully identified as having the highest Wine Lister score of the tasting, despite their guesses sitting an average 44 points below Pichon Comtesse 2005’s actual Wine Lister score of 931.

Conversely, Henschke Mount Edelstone Shiraz 2014, Pédesclaux 2014, and Louis Roederer Brut Premier were all awarded higher scores on average by our guests than their official Wine Lister ratings, but the biggest difference was for G.D. Vajra Barolo Albe 2013. It was awarded an average score of 746 by our guests, 73 points above its actual Wine Lister score, which is brought down by a very low Economics score of 124, due to very little price movement or liquidity. This illustrates how the data-driven elements of Wine Lister scores complement the tasting component.

The wine where our guests came closest with their guesses, just 10 points out, was Brane-Cantenac 2005, estimated at 840 compared to its real Wine Lister score of 850.

Congratulations to the game’s winner, Anneka Swann of BI Wines & Spirits, who was just 37 points out on average. We would also like to thank all our other guests for their valiant efforts at guessing the scores: Adam Brett-Smith, Andrea Frost, Chad Delaney, Charles Metcalfe, James Jackson-Nichols, Nicolas Clerc, Richard Stow, Rupert Millar, Tahir Sultan, and Will Hargrove.

Wines featured in the tasting: Louis Roederer Brut Premier, Philipponnat Clos de Goisses 2007, E. Guigal Condrieu La Doriane 2016, Casa Lapostolle Clos Apalta 2014, Seña 2010, Henschke Mount Edelstone Shiraz 2014Isole e Olena Syrah Collezione Privata 2011Tenuta San Guido Guidalberto 2016, Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco 2014, G.D. Vajra Barolo Albe 2013G.D. Vajra Barolo Bricco delle Viole 2009Domaine Duroché Gevrey-Chambertin Les Jeunes Rois 2015Domaine Duroché Chambertin Clos de Bèze Grand Cru 2015Domaine Tempier Cuvée Cabassou 2007Château La Gaffelière 2014, Le Marquis de Calon Ségur 2014, Château Haut-Bailly La Parde 2012, Château Les Carmes Haut-Brion 2014Château d’Issan 2011Château Branaire-Ducru 2012Château Pédesclaux 2014Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande 2005Château Brane-Cantenac 2005Château Lafon Rochet 2010.


Ten rising stars as predicted by the trade

Which producers will see the largest gain in brand recognition in the next two years? As part of our recent Bordeaux Market Study, we asked Wine Lister’s Founding Members – c.50 key members of the trade from the world’s largest merchants, top international wine auctioneers and several high-end retailers, together representing well over one third of global fine wine revenues.

While Burgundy achieved the largest number of producers mentioned at least once (50), all 10 of the most-cited producers hail from Bordeaux.

With the en primeur campaign finally in full swing, below are Bordeaux’s biggest rising stars: the region’s top 10 brands expected by Wine Lister Founding Members to see increased recognition in the next two years.

Château Canon received the highest number of votes for the brand likely to see most increased brand recognition over the coming two years, and is therefore the number one rising star in this year’s Bordeaux Study. Canon also achieves the joint-highest confidence rating from the trade (see last week’s blog for details), and appears in the top 10 wines for price performance after en primeur release .

In a show of strength by owner Chanel, another of its properties, Rauzan-Ségla, receives the second-highest number of votes, alongside Les Carmes Haut-Brion.

Haut-Batailley, recently acquired by the Cazes family – and having released no wine in 2016 – is seen as a brand with a bright future (and the new owners clearly think so too – it was released at a very ambitious price of £43 at the end of April).

Other Bordeaux wines voted likely to see the largest gains in brand recognition over the next two years are: Brane-Cantenac, Pavie, Calon SégurFigeac, Lafleur, and Pichon Comtesse.

Visit Wine Lister’s Analysis page to read the full report (available in both English and French). Go to p.24 to see how many votes each of the above wines received.


Confidence in Bordeaux – the trade’s view

As part of our recently-released Bordeaux study, Wine Lister asked its Founding Members (c.50 key members of the global fine wine trade) to give “confidence” ratings to more than 100 key Bordeaux wines on a scale of 0 to 10; 0 being zero confidence.

For the second year in a row, no wine received a perfect 10/10, unlike Burgundy, whose Domaine de la Romanée-Conti and Rousseau – as rated across all of their respective cuvées – achieved the perfect score in a survey carried out in Autumn 2017.

Seven wines received a confidence rating of 9/10 from the trade; Canon, Haut-BrionLafiteLe Pin, Margaux, Mouton & Petrus. These same seven were awarded 9/10 in last year’s founding members’ survey. Vieux Château Certan is the only château to have dropped down a spot to 8/10.

Canon’s place here is distinctive not just as the only Saint-Émilion to feature, but also as a wine with market prices around £74 per bottle, sitting amongst a group whose average price per bottle is £950. A Wine Lister Buzz Brand, Canon is one of the most talked about wines by the trade.

In carrying out the survey, we did not dictate what factors should influence the respondents’ confidence in the prospects of a wine. Given that they are members of the trade, their considerations are likely to be commercially-driven, taking into account everything from improvements in quality and investment in marketing to new management teams. Canon was deemed a success by trade members for both “ratings and quality improvement”, and its “sales and management team”.

Latour is the only first growth not to feature in the highest-rated group. It was given a confidence rating of 8/10, alongside 20 other wines shown below. Three of these, Pichon Comtesse, Calon Ségur and Rauzan-Ségla (alongside its abovementioned sibling from owners Chanel, Canon) also make the trade’s list of Rising Stars – wines that will see the largest gain in brand recognition in the next two years (more on Bordeaux’s Rising Stars to come next week).

Nine wines have dropped one point in 2018 to a confidence rating of 7/10, however these have been replaced in equal number by Cheval Blanc, Figeac, La Conseillante, Tertre-Rotebœuf, Léoville Las Cases, Pavillon Rouge, Montrose, Palmer, and Pichon Baron, all up one point from their ratings in 2017.

Other wines to receive a confidence rating of 8/10 from the international fine wine trade are Ausone, Ducru-Beaucaillou, Haut-Bailly, La Mission Haut-Brion, Lafleur, and Lynch-Bages.

Visit Wine Lister’s Analysis page to read the full report and see confidence ratings for other wines in the study (available in both English and French).


Bordeaux en primeur – what’s the magic number?

En primeur pricing is a crucial factor in the commercial success of top Bordeaux crus. With this in mind, Wine Lister has dedicated a section of this year’s Bordeaux study to the conundrum. We show historical pricing trends post release for a panel of 76 wines. The analysis indicates the effectiveness of release prices, based on the change between average ex-négociant release and current market prices (2009-2016 vintages):

Above are the top 20 best-performing Bordeaux wines post en primeur release (to view the performance of all 76 wines, see page 14 of the Bordeaux study). The second wines of Lafite and Mouton have enjoyed the greatest gains in the marketplace, with Pavillon Rouge not far behind in third place.

Clos Fourtet is the best of the rest, followed by Calon Ségur, BeychevelleClerc-Milon and Smith Haut LafitteLafite is the best-performing first growth, followed by Margaux and Mouton, with Haut-Brion making smaller gains.

This year’s en primeur campaign has not yet been met by the same enthusiasm as the 2016 or 2015 vintages. The average quality of 2017 is lower (by 10% if we take Wine Lister Quality scores for the same 76 wines) – a major factor in explaining price sensitivity, and why the average discount so far of 7% (9% excluding Haut-Batailley’s contrary price hike) is far from sufficient to oil the wheels of the campaign.

In our Bordeaux Market Study 2018, released just last week, we clarify an illustrative methodology for calculating release prices. Wine Lister looks at current market prices for similar recent vintages, and works backwards through three steps:

  1. Vintage comparison: As there is no obvious comparison for 2017, we apply the average quality to price ratio of the last nine vintages in order to arrive at a derived future market price, based on the average Wine Lister Quality score.
  2. Ex-château price: By removing the margins taken by the négociant and importer we reach the equivalent ex-château price.
  3. En primeur discount: Finally, we apply a discount of 10%-20% to incentivise buying en primeur, rather than waiting until the wine is physically available.

The chart below shows the theoretical application of this methodology to a basket of top wines. See page 13 of the Bordeaux study for a more detailed explanation.

Prices released in the campaign thus far have varied from 20% discounts (PalmerDomaine de Chevalier Rouge) to a 46% increase (Haut-Batailley) on last release prices.

Follow Wine Lister on Twitter for realtime en primeur release information, and use our dedicated en primeur page to compare 2017 release prices to last year.

Other wines featured in the top 20 best-performing Bordeaux post en primeur release are: LabégorceCanon, Haut-BatailleyFerrièred’ArmailhacHaut-BaillyGiscoursPape Clément, Durfort-VivensPedesclauxAngélus, and Talbot.

Subscribers can download a copy of the full Bordeaux Study 2018 from the analysis page.