Does Bordeaux have a new “normal”?

A new “normal” seems to be developing for Bordeaux.

After a fleeting trip around Bordeaux properties on both banks at the start of harvest, the Wine Lister team is excited to see the 2019 vintage take shape.

We must admit this was not our sentiment on the 23rd September, when, on arrival in a dreary, damp Bordeaux, our first thought went to the poor pickers, and of course to the grapes and potential spread of disease in such wet conditions.

Thankfully this worry was quickly cast aside – “the grapes are in an incredibly healthy state. For grape health, this has been a dream year”, said Château Dassault’s Valérie Befve. This, she further explained, was thanks to the combination of a good spring without too much humidity, budburst that was a little cold but without rain, and a dry summer that was hot without having placed too much water stress on the majority of the vines.

The summer heat wave and consequential drought, similar in timing and nature to 2018 (and to an extent, 2016), will likely result in another year where freshness and caution in extraction are key. Befve put this succinctly, noting that the “skin to juice ratio will require delicate management”. This theme, recurring in several of the last Bordeaux vintages, highlights the importance of careful handling in the cellars, and explains in part the purposeful movement towards a fresher, more approachable style, and away from big tannins and high alcohol that need time in bottle to soften.

Left: Sorting of the first Merlot grapes at Pichon Baron. Right: Pichon Baron now uses small vats on wheels to transport freshly-picked grapes into fermentation tanks, since they cause less breakage of grape skins than traditional pumps.

Comparable characteristics seem in play on the left bank too. At Pichon Baron we tasted some of the very first 2019 Merlot grapes, and though the berries are a little smaller than usual (because of the drought), they are in perfect health. Axa Millésimes’ Commercial Director Xavier Sanchez was quick to say that it was far too soon to speculate on quality levels, but that the very early analyses “resembled 2018 and 2016”.

Grapes of high sugar content will need to be vinified with caution in order to balance potentially high alcohol levels. The rain that has fallen in the past 10 days will likely be a welcome gift to the Cabernet Sauvignon from the “grands terroirs” on this front, the majority of which are set to be picked this week.

Sara Lecompte Cuvelier, Managing Director of Léoville Poyferré and Le Crock echoed the positive sentiment on the general quality of grapes for both her properties, in Saint-Julien as in Saint-Estèphe – “We’re hopeful it will be another beautiful vintage, for both quantity and quality this year”.

While successions of good years are by no means unusual for the bordelais, harvests following heatwaves are becoming a pattern. All that remains to be seen is how the winemakers of Bordeaux deal with this “new normal” in the cellar. We are looking forward to finding out next year!


Listed: top five Côte de Nuits under £200 by Quality score

Wine Lister’s first in-depth study of Burgundy published earlier this year was named “Mercury Rising” for a reason. With prices climbing more quickly than any other fine wine region, it is hard to consider the possibility of finding Burgundies of “reasonable value”. This week’s Listed blog brings you the top five Côte de Nuits by Quality score that won’t completely rupture the bank (or in other words, for under £200).

Dominique Laurent takes top spot this week with his Bonnes-Mares Vieilles Vignes, which has a Quality score of 954. Whilst this score sits comfortably amongst the highest of all Bonnes-Mares, the per bottle price of £174 does not – indeed, it is just under five times lower than the combined average price of the other eight best Bonnes-Mares on Wine Lister. Perhaps the lower price can, at least in part, be explained by its modest Brand score (531). For example, despite its Quality score sitting just one point higher, Georges Roumier’s Bonnes-Mares records a Brand score of 934, and is £1,046 more expensive.

In second place is Domaine Charlopin-Parizot’s Charmes Chambertin, with a Quality score of 944. Its high quality is not yet accompanied by an equal level of consumer recognition. With the lowest Brand score of the five (445) resulting from presence in only 2% of the world’s best restaurants and a search frequency ranking of 2,335 (of the c.4000 wines on Wine Lister), this Charmes Chambertin is a Hidden Gem (Wine Lister’s indicator that identifies under the radar wines that warrant discovery).

Domaine Jean Trapet Père et Fils’ Chambertin takes third place this week with a Quality score of 940 and just sneaking in under the £200 mark. While in third place for Quality, it has the highest overall Wine Lister score of the lot (906), thanks to its Brand (868) and Economics (896) scores. Indeed, it beats the combined average scores of the other four wines in this week’s top five in both categories by 310 and 319 points respectively.

The remaining two spots are taken by Domaine Arlaud Clos de la Roche, and Pierre Damoy Chambertin, each with a Quality score of 932. In addition to being by far the cheapest option of this week’s top five (£98 per bottle on average), Arlaud Clos de la Roche’s price is also the most stable, with volatility of just 5.7%. Conversely Damoy Chambertin’s price is the most volatile (8.7%), possibly the result of strong growth rates over both the long and short-term, having recorded a three-year compound annual growth rate of 15.6% and having added 6.5% to its price over the past six months alone.


Buzz Brands for Burgundy and the New World

Despite the annual bustle of the en primeur campaign, it is healthy to breathe some non-Bordeaux air once in a while. With Bordeaux 2017 behind us, we examine new Buzz Brands for June from contrasting locations – Burgundy and the New World. One of four Wine Lister Indicators, ‘Buzz Brands’ use Wine Lister’s bespoke algorithms to indicate trending wines found in the highest number of the world’s best restaurants, and with high online search frequency.

This month, 10 new wines have made the Buzz Brand cut, as shown in the image below.

Six Burgundian wines (four whites and two reds) become Buzz Brands in June. This aligns with results of our latest Founding Members’ survey, where Burgundy producers earned the most number of votes (50) from key members of the global fine wine trade as most likely to see the largest brand gains in the next two years.

Louis Jadot and Domaine Leflaive both have two new white Buzz Brand references. Jadot’s Chevalier-Montrachet Les Demoiselles and Corton-Charlemagne have the highest Quality scores of this month’s Buzz Brand additions – 951 and 925 respectively. Domaine Leflaive proves its popularity with presence of its Puligny-Montrachet les Combettes and/or Meursault Sous le Dos d’Ane in 28 out of c.150 of the world’s best restaurants, and votes from the trade as a consistent seller (see p.23 of Wine Lister’s Bordeaux market study 2018 for more).

Of the red Burgundian Buzz Brands, the popularity of Domaine Leroy’s Pommard Les Vignots is perhaps unsurprising, given the producer’s renown, and the wine’s relative affordability (£505 per bottle) compared with Leroy’s more expensive offerings, such as its Musigny Grand Cru (£8,365 per bottle). Denis Mortet’s Clos de Vougeot is the only Côte de Nuits to feature in this month’s Buzz Brand additions.

The remaining four wines all hail from the New World – three from South Australia, and one from California. The latter, Vérité’s Le Désir, wins on all fronts with the highest Quality (949), Brand (740), and Economics (603) scores. The Quality comparison is hardly fair, given Le Désir’s price of £233, over four times higher the average of the three Australian representatives. Torbreck’s The Steading and the Descendant combined are present in 15 of the world’s best restaurants. Henschke’s Cyril Cabernet Sauvignon joins its pricier and better-known siblings, Hill of Grace Shiraz and Mount Edelstone Shiraz, as the producer’s third Buzz Brand.

You can see a full list of Wine Lister Buzz Brands here


Bubbles are brand royalty

After a distinctly Burgundian start to 2018, we are ringing the changes this week to look at some of our most improved Brand scores, with Champagne dominating.

Alongside presence in the world’s best restaurants, Wine Lister’s Brand score measures a wine’s online popularity – as indicated by the number of searches received on Wine Searcher – as a marker of real consumer demand.

The search frequency data for December is in, and it is no surprise that searches in Champagne increased significantly leading up to the Christmas period.

During arguably the busiest period of the year for searching and purchasing wines, these five wines gained between 20% and 77% increase in search frequency. The appearance of Dom Pérignon Vintage Brut at the top of search frequency lists is a shock to no one considering its position as one of the most searched-for wines of all time. Indeed, it consistently held the number one search spot from July to September last year. The Christmas influence still managed to add 16,659 online searches, allowing this almighty brand to achieve Wine Lister’s first ever perfect Brand score (1000)!

Next on the list is Bollinger Grande Année. Its impressive 77% increase in search frequency at the end of last year can also be attributed to the festive season, but may also have been boosted by the release of the 2007 vintage earlier in the year. Bollinger’s new Brand score is up 16 points on the previous quarter at 975.

Our next two appearances hail from the same owner as the first, Champagne divinity LVMH. Moët & Chandon, often considered the definitive Champagne brand holds not one, but two spots in the top five most searched for wines of the last three months. Moët & Chandon Grand Vintage is perhaps a classic Christmas choice, but the appearance of a non-vintage cuvee, the Moët & Chandon Brut Impérial is testament to the power of the Moët & Chandon brand. Each earned an increase in search frequency of 33%, bringing Brand scores to 987 and 938 respectively.

Last but not least, Louis Roederer Cristal takes fifth place with a search frequency increase of 20%. While achieving a fractional increase in searches (4,271) compared with Dom Pérignon, its presence in 54% of restaurants and consistent high quality (Quality score 970) makes Cristal an all-round achiever, and therefore a choice that’s not just for Christmas.

Champagne’s Brand prowess is clear, but these five are the shining stars of their region. It is interesting to note that the sixth most searched-for wine on our most recent list is in fact not a Champagne at all, but Château Margaux (Brand score 998).

 


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: Bonnes-Mares’ best wines by Economics score

Wine Lister’s holistic, dynamic rating system tracks a wine’s performance over time. By constantly analysing a wine’s brand strength and economic performance, as well as updating its Quality score as it is retasted by our partner critics, Wine Lister’s ratings evolve over time, as demonstrated by our new score history tool.

Wine Lister’s Economics score is a perfect case in point. Reacting to the very latest market data, it analyses a wine’s performance across several criteria: three-month average bottle price; short and long-term price performance; price stability; and liquidity. A strong showing across these criteria is what defines the five wines in this week’s Listed section – Bonnes-Mares’ top wines by Economics score.

Listed - Top 5 Bonnes-Mares Economics scores

Whilst all five achieve Economics scores that put them amongst the very strongest on Wine Lister, it is Domaine Georges Roumier’s Bonnes-Mares that leads the way with an outstanding score of 970. It is the most liquid of the five, its five top-selling vintages having traded 414 bottles over the past four quarters.

In second-place is Domaine d’Auvenay’s Bonnes-Mares (967). Underlining the Queen of Burgundy’s continuing surge in demand, it has a remarkable three-year CAGR of 35.6% (nearly double that of Domaine Jacques-Frédéric Mugnier’s Bonnes-Mares, its closest rival in that criterion). Its price is the highest of the group by a considerable distance, at £1,902.

Domaine Comte Georges de Vögué fills the third spot with its Bonnes-Mares’ Economics score of 942. One of the group’s two Buzz Brands, it is the second most-traded of the five (327 bottles), and has strong short-term price performance, its price having increased 11.2% over the past six months.

The Bonnes-Mares from Domaine Jacques-Frédéric Mugnier and Maison Joseph Drouhin fill the last two spots. Whilst they display similarly modest levels of liquidity (having traded 63 and 68 bottles over the past four quarters respectively), Mugnier leads Drouhin thanks to its considerably higher price (£436 vs £281) and superior long-term price performance (three-year CAGR of 18.2% vs 13.9%).

And thanks to Wine Lister’s approach, these scores will continue to change over time, meaning that they are always relevant and reflect the wine’s evolving position in the market.


The Rhône’s most expensive dry whites

Having ushered in Autumn with some of Northern Italy’s foremost brands, our Listed section continues its whirlwind tour of the world’s great wine regions in the Rhône. Home to some of France’s most illustrious producers, the Rhône tends to garner the most attention for its reds. However, its whites are well worth a mention too, and don’t require quite the same budget. Here we look at the region’s five most expensive dry whites.

Listed - 5 most expensive Rhone whites image

Interestingly, all five wines are from the Northern Rhône, with Hermitage home to four of them. M. Chapoutier Ermitage Blanc L’Ermite tops the table. The first of two wines from Michel Chapoutier, at £233 per bottle it is by far the most expensive of the five. It also outperforms the others in the Quality category – with an outstanding average score of 961.

Château Grillet is the only wine of the five not produced in Hermitage. This 100% Viognier from the eponymous monopole (one of only a handful of single-estate appellations in France – can you name the others?) commands an average price of £134. It enjoys by far the best Economics score of the group (824), thanks to exceptional short-term price performance – its price having risen 22% over the past six months.

Snapping at its heels is similarly priced Domaine Jean-Louis Chave Hermitage Blanc. It achieves an average Quality score of 954, just six points behind that of its red counterpart. It is also the only Buzz Brand in the group, and enjoys the best Brand score (918).

Around the £120 mark, E. Guigal Ermitage Ex Voto Blanc and M. Chapoutier Ermitage Blanc De l’Orée fill the fourth and fifth spots. Underlining the outstanding quality of the group, they both achieve scores of over 900 in the category, ranking them amongst the very strongest on Wine Lister.

If we compare the quality to price ratio of these five whites and the Rhône’s five most expensive red wines, the whites look good value. Whilst the reds achieve a slightly better average Quality score (957 vs 919), you pay a significant premium for them – their average price is over 4.5 times higher than that of the whites (£671 vs £147).

Rhone Reds vs Whites chart image

 


Bordeaux 2016: value for money

A couple of months ago we looked at which Bordeaux 2016s received the best Quality scores, calculated from scores given by our three renowned partner critics: Jancis Robinson, Antonio Galloni, and Bettane+Desseauve. Such quality comes with a price, however, and if the £430 per bottle for Lafleur (Quality score 990) is a little beyond your price range, then we hope this blog is useful. Below are the nine wines from the vintage which qualify as Wine Lister Value Picks.

None of the Value Picks was among the top 15 in our previous blog. Nevertheless, they all enjoy strong or very strong Quality scores on the Wine Lister scale. Fombrauge scores 898, and was described as “rather opulent” and “very successful” by Jancis Robinson. Available at just £16 per bottle, it represents excellent value for money.

Even the wine with the highest Quality score, sweet white Doisy-Daëne (899), is only £25. Those wishing to spend slightly less on a sweet white might also consider Filhot, which achieves a Quality score of 709, and is available at just £14 per bottle.

Bordeaux 2016 Value Picks

Please see our previous blog for further information on Wine Lister’s Value Picks.


France dominates latest Value Picks

Like Buzz Brands, which we explored last week, Value Picks are one of the four Wine Lister indicators, designed to highlight particularly interesting wines for our subscribers by isolating sub-sets of data. The Value Pick indicator helpfully identifies the wines and vintages which have the best quality to price ratio (with a proprietary weighting giving more importance to quality, thus allowing the finest wines a look-in).

This month, five of our eight new Value Picks are from France – but with a Sauternes, Riesling and left bank Bordeaux to choose from the options are still diverse.  Most affordable is Domaine Cauhapé La Canopée Sec 2011, from Jurançon, at just £16 per bottle and with a Quality score of 733.

The most expensive wine – but still at only £34 per bottle – is one of the two Italians that feature this month: Elio Grasso Barolo Ginestra Vigna Casa Maté 2004, which has an exceptional Quality score of 971. The other wine in the table with a Quality score above 900 is Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Clos Windsbuhl Pinot Gris 2007, from Alsace, priced at under £30 and with a Quality score of 906.

June Value Picks

Please see our previous Value Pick blog for a note on prices.