Wine Lister Leagues 2021

The insider’s guide to fine wine trends, and the most compelling wines to watch

Wine Lister has released its second annual Wine Leagues, celebrating some of the top-performing wines and producers in today’s new and much-diversified fine wine era. Informed by an in-depth trade survey with leading industry figures, the report provides a 360° view of those regions, producers, and wines that have seen strides in quality, popularity, economic promise, and more in 2021.

Wine Lister’s annual in-depth survey sees our expert panel of 47 CEOs, MDs, and wine department heads share their insight on some of the fine wines to have on your radar, as we ask them:

“What are the most compelling wines and producers in the market today?”

Respondents singled out 188 wines and producers collectively, that span no less than 20 major regions. Within the list, our team identifies Bibi Graetz, Les Carmes Haut-Brion, Roberto Voerzio, Berthaut-Gerbet, and Fürst as wines to watch in the Old World, whilst calling out the New World wonders of Catena Zapata, Errazuriz, Pedro Parra, Rhys Vineyards, and Ridge Vineyards.

The report also includes rankings across:

  • Biggest quality improvers, which show impressive movement from Italy (occupying five places in the list of the top 20 by Quality score progression), with Isole e Olena Chianti Classico leading the pack
  • Best search rank movers, wherein Bordeaux represents eight of the top 20 wines whose popularity has increased most in terms of online searches (including Smith Haut Lafitte, Domaine de Chevalier, Figeac, and Léoville Poyferré)
  • Burgundy superstars, focusing on popularity movements from the trade’s darling region – Arnoux-Lachaux features 10 times in the list of top 20 Burgundian wines whose online searches have increased the most over the last two years
  • Wine Lister’s top-10 recommendations per Wine Lister Indicator; Hidden GemsValue PicksBuzz Brands, and Investment Staples in 2021

For the full analysis, download your free copy of Wine Lister’s 2021 Leagues here.

 


Another victorious vintage: the brilliance of the Brunello Riserva Millecento 2016

Tales of the 2016 told by Castiglion del Bosco

One of the highest-scoring vintages in recent decades, 2016 has been described as a milestone for Montalcino and its flagship wine, Brunello. Providing the first taste of 2016 Riserva in the UK, WLPR was honoured to accompany Castiglion del Bosco through an early preview of its monumental Riserva Millecento 2016 release (set for January 2022) at London’s Enoteca Turi, joined by a handful of the city’s leading trade figures and fine wine collectors. 

Bespoke menu (left), Castiglion del Bosco’s Marketing Manager, Gemma Grieco talking guests through the line-up (middle), Enoteca Turi owner, Giovanni Turi pouring the wines (right)

The 2016 Riserva – some of the best from Brunello?

With big shoes to fill following the release of the highly-praised 2015, the 2016 marks the second great year in a row for Brunello di Montalcino, though very different from its predecessor. Whilst the 2015 growing season was hot and dry, 2016 was slightly cooler, with greater diurnal range during the ripening season. These climatic differences result in the 2015s being more generous in both texture and body, while the successive vintage is pure and elegant, with significant ageing potential.

Having been at the property since its acquisition by Massimo Ferragamo in 2004, Castiglion del Bosco’s winemaker Cecilia Leoneschi describes the 2016 as the estate’s “best ever” Brunello. The mild summer encouraged a long, slow ripening, while good conditions at harvest allowed the estate to “harvest each vineyard at the perfect moment” – resulting in “rich wines with outstanding elegance”.

Cecilia hails the 2016 vintage of Castiglion del Bosco’s Riserva Millecento (so-named due to the property’s original construction in 1100) as having  “arrived at our intention”. She refers to creating a wine that reflects the magnificence of the estate’s past, while “representing what we want our future to be”. Finally, she adds that the 2016 relays the estate’s key message with absolute purity, as the growing season allowed her to finetune her senses, and “listen to the land” completely.

Campo del Drago 2017 (left), Riserva Millecento 2015 and 2016 (middle), and Riserva Millecento 2004 (right)

Bringing to life the best of Brunello

The Castiglion del Bosco team came to London on Thursday 14th November to tell the tales of the Riserva Millecento 2016 to an audience of 25 industry members and fine wine collectors. Bringing Tuscany to Chelsea, and the estate’s historic past to the present, all guests left with a short storybook, detailing key moments at Castiglion del Bosco that shape the estate’s future, and of course, its wines.

The chosen pouring order of wines, paired with a traditional Tuscan fare from Enoteca Turi’s Head Chef, Massimo Tagliaferri was also symbolic of the changing hands of time, and those traditions maintained – vintages 2004, 2010, 2015, and 2016 we served side-by-side, and tasters were invited to try from 2004 upwards, and back down again.

2004 was the first Riserva made under the current team, while the 2010 was the first to be released under the “Millecento” name. A direct comparison of the 2015 and 2016 – the latest Riserva released, and that which is yet to come – illustrates what Cecilia describes as “two different approaches to quality” in consecutive years.

Table designed by Isabelle Buckland (top left), Castiglion del Bosco’s CEO, Simone Pallesi greeting the guests (top right), guests enjoying their aperitivo, Zuppa di Cipolle (bottom left), and the complete Riserva line-up (bottom right)

Wines tasted: Brunello 2017, Campo del Drago Brunello 2017, Riserva Millecento 2016, Riserva Millecento 2015, Riserva Millecento 2010, and Riserva Millecento 2004 (from Massimo Ferragamo’s private cellar), and a Vin Santo 2014 to finish.

For more information on our organisation of tastings and events, please contact the WLPR team here.


The start of the Place de Bordeaux’s September campaign

New World icons join top Tuscan wines for the first week of releases

A trading system used to distribute Bordeaux wines for almost 800 years, the Place de Bordeaux has, in more recent years, provided an international stage for many wines originating beyond its own borders. The first non-Bordeaux bottle to join La Place in 1998 was Almaviva, followed by Opus One in 2004, Masseto in 2008, and Solaia in 2009. Over the past decade, a further flurry of eminent estates from around the world have joined the distribution network, and together they form a campaign of new vintage releases every September.

Seña and Chadwick owner, Eduardo Chadwick, and daughter, Magui

Which fine wines were released through the Place de Bordeaux this week?

South American superstars

Clos Apalta 2018 kicked off this year’s campaign on Tuesday 31st August, at £71.50 per bottle (in-bond). At this year’s CVBG London tasting at Berry Bros. & Rudd, Wine Lister enjoyed the elegance of the latest release, which boasted red fruits, pepper, and a hint of smokiness on the nose, and a fresh acidity and energy on the palate. Another vintage that adheres to the estate’s impressive quality consistency over the past five years, demand for the 2018 is further encouraged by Clos Apalta’s status as one of Chile’s leading wine brands.

Across the Andes, Catena Zapata released its 2018 vintage on Wednesday 1st September, with Nicolàs Catena Zapata entering the market at £53 per bottle (in-bond). Having gained 96 points from Joaquín Hidalgo for Wine Lister partner critic Vinous.com, the latest vintage achieves its highest ever-score from the critic outfit. He calls it “breathtaking”, with “layers of aroma, beginning with black currant and moving on to intense, precise notes of lavender and mint along with hints of black tea, sage and cigar box”.

Released yesterday (Thursday 2nd September) at £80 per bottle (in-bond), Seña 2019 was the product of a “long, stable ripening season”, according to owner, Eduardo Chadwick. Tasting with Wine Lister on Zoom, he explains that while “January did begin warmer than usual, summer in March was cooler than normal”, retaining freshness. Indeed, our team found the 2019 to be beautifully balanced, perfumed with muddled berries, sweet spice, and promising complexity of cherries and rustic earth, with satin tannins, on the palate. Supplemented by its high quality, the special-edition 25th-anniversary bottling should stimulate interest in Seña’s latest offering.

Describing Viñedo Chadwick 2019 as “one of the best recent vintages”, Eduardo tells us that, as ever, the character of the wine is shaped by the estate’s altitude. He explains that the great diurnal range throughout the warm growing season allowed freshness, encouraging what Wine Lister found to be both remarkable lift and flavour intensity, with aromas of iris, fresh herbs, and blackberry. Released onto the market at c.£230 per bottle, the 2019 was awarded 99 points by James Suckling, who echoes the sentiment that the wine is “refined, yet powerful”.

South African sweetness

On Wednesday 1st September, Klein Constantia released its Vin de Constance 2018 at £41 per bottle (in-bond). Wine Lister tasted the latest release on Zoom alongside Winemaker, Matt Day, and found notes of citrus and stone fruits complemented with notes of ginger on the nose, complete with a generous and balanced palate with a lightness and freshness that defies the stereotypes of “sweet wine”. Matt told us he believes the vintage represents an embodiment of his “fine-tuned” craft, which also coincided with “a perfect [growing] season”, encouraging the continuation of its positive quality trajectory this year. Indeed, the latest release (as yet not scored by any Wine Lister partner critics) gains 98 points from James Suckling in his most recent tasting.

Tasting Vin de Constance 2018 alongside Klein Constantia Winemaker, Matt Day

Top Tuscan offerings

Bibi Graetz’s Testamatta and Colore 2019 entered the market yesterday (Thursday 2nd September), at £73 and £180 per bottle (in-bond), respectively. Marking its 20th anniversary vintage, both wines feature special-edition bottles designed by artist turned vigneron, Bibi Graetz, with colour and text applied directly onto the glass. Wine Lister was particularly impressed with Colore 2019, which boasted a perfumed nose of violets, frangipane, and crushed berries, following through to a vibrant and juicy palate with silky tannins.

Click here to recap last year’s September Place de Bordeaux releases: The start of September releases: contributions from all continents or sign up to Wine Lister’s newsletter for coverage delivered straight to your inbox: http://wine-lister.com/subscribe/info

Wines likely to be released through the Place de Bordeaux next week include: Opus One 2018, Overture NV, Masseto 2018, Massetino 2019, Latour 2005, Almaviva 2019, Epu 2019, Cheval des Andes 2018, Solaia 2018, and Beaucastel Hommage à Jacques Perrin 2019.


Wine Lister expands its fine wine database

As Wine Lister enters its fifth year in business, we are excited to announce the addition of 650 new wines onto Wine Lister’s information hub. Thanks to scores from our trusted partner critics, prices through our official pricing partner, Wine Owners, and data measuring popularity, as determined by the number of searches on Wine-Searcher (Pro and Pro+ site only), website users can now discover Wine Lister scores, prices, and apply decision-making analysis tools to a broader range of fine wines.  With the latest additions, our database now extends across 4,450 wines, and over 40,000 wine-vintages, providing further insight to inform wine investment choices and strategic solutions.

Below we examine the regional split of the additional wines, and take a closer look at some of the properties featured in the expansion.

Burgundy represents 36% of the new selection, with more cuvées added from the likes of Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey, Cécile Tremblay, Benjamin Leroux, and more. A further 42 wines (6%) are added to the already-established set of Bordeaux properties featured on the Wine Lister site, including Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnels, Cambon La Pelouse, and Malescasse. Domaine des Roches Neuves represents seven out of the 10 new additions from the Rhône, alongside Bernard Baudry and Domaine du Closel.

Wine Lister’s Italian listings grow by 24% in the latest update, including 118 additions from Piedmont, 22 from Tuscany, and 16 from Sicily. The new Piedmontese picks include Arnaldo Rivera Barolo, Elvio Cogno, Figli Luigi Oddero, Giuseppe Mascarello e Figlio, and more. A region on the rise, Sicilian additions include new wines from organic Etna producers, Tenuta delle Terre Nere and Passopisciaro.

Wine Lister has also expanded its New World portfolio, which now features more additions from California (10% of the latest haul), Australia, and Oregon, among other regions. Featured amongst the new Californian picks are rising estates such as Littorai, Quintessa, Bevan, and Cardinale. Moving up the West Coast, Oregon additions include five new wines from Evening Land, four new bottles from Bergstrom, and three new picks from Antica Terra.

For more industry insights and advice on which wines and regions to buy, sign up for Wine Lister’s free newsletter here. Members of the trade can sign up to the Pro account to search and filter wines by Wine Lister Pro metrics.

Any of the producers recently added to the Wine Lister website can provide us with additional information on their wines, including production volumes, grape varieties, and label images. Email us at: team@wine-lister.com.


New MUST BUYs to put a spring in your step

To mark the first day of spring (Saturday 20th March), this week’s blog takes a deep dive into Wine Lister’s latest MUST BUY update, helping you to discover some excellent wines to enjoy over the next few months. The 19 new MUST BUYs cover a range of regions, varieties, and styles, providing inspiration for top picks to drink now or put away for the future.

Click here to view all MUST BUYs, or read more below.

Piedmont constitutes over a quarter of the new MUST BUY picks, with entries from five of the region’s leading producers. Currently at its peak drinking, Luciano Sandrone’s 2005 Barolo Le Vigne comprises a blend of fruit from four of the estate’s top vineyards, each with different terroirs, altitudes, and exposures. Harvested, vinified, and aged separately, the final assemblage is intended to express the best characteristics of each plot. Wine Lister’s partner critic, Jancis Robinson, describes it as “complex”, with “already very integrated aromas”. It can be purchased from Farr Vintners for £79 per bottle (in-bond).

In Burgundy, Thibault Liger-Belair’s 2018 Richebourg achieves its highest WL score since the successful 2010 vintage (96), and is described by Wine Lister’s Burgundy specialist critic, Jasper Morris, as possibly “[Thibault’s] best Richebourg to date”. Awarding it 95-98 points, Jasper notes that “the oak […] is so suffused by a brilliant dense entirely red fruit, soft strawberry and more pronounced raspberry”. It is available to buy from Corney & Barrow for £450 per bottle (in-bond).

Representing the Southern Hemisphere, Shaw and Smith’s 2019 Pinot Noir also has Value Pick status, with a WL score of 92 at £26 per bottle (in-bond). The first vintage to include fruit from the property’s Lenswood vineyard, which boasts mature vines and high altitude, it marks an exciting development for Shaw and Smith. Richard Hemming for Jancis Robinson describes it at “superbly fragrant” and representative of “the sheer pleasure of the variety”. It can be bought from The Fine Wine Company.

Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey makes up two of three Burgundy whites to feature in the latest MUST BUY update, with its 2016 Meursault Perrières and 2018 Corton-Charlemagne. At £210 per bottle (in-bond), the former achieves 94 points from Jasper Morris, who notes “riper fruit, almost some orange blossom, but still an underlying freshness”. Meanwhile, Julia Harding for Jancis Robinson awards 19 points to the 2018 Corton-Charlemagne, describing it as “powerful and elegant” with a “smoky and quite subtle” nose. While both wines are more difficult to source, it is worth informing your merchant of your interest in purchasing them.

Other wines featured in the new MUST BUY selection are: 2005 Rayas Châteauneuf-du-Pape, 2009 Gaja Barbaresco Sori Tildin, 2009 Peter Michael Les Pavots, 2010 Giacomo Conterno Barbera d’Alba Cascina Francia, 2010 La Spinetta Barbaresco Gallina, 2014 Bouchard Père et Fils Montrachet, 2015 Bond Quella, 2016 Giacomo Grimaldi Barolo Sotto Castello di Novello, 2017 Gangloff Condrieu, 2017 Kistler Vineyards Hudson Vineyard Chardonnay, 2017 Kistler Vineyards McCrea Vineyard Chardonnay, 2018 Castello di Fonterutoli Siepi2018 Georges Mugneret-Gibourg Echezeauxand 2019 l’Evangile


Buying Brunello – Producers to look out for

Following a successful campaign for Brunello 2015s in 2020, this year’s releases of Brunello 2016 will surely take one of Italy’s prominent winemaking appellations to new heights. Below we take a closer look at a handful of Brunello producers to look out for, as the region as a whole continues to rise in fine wine spheres.

Il Poggione

With a family history dating back to the 1800s (and beginning with Lavinio Franceschi), Il Poggione’s multi-generational winemaking experiences have given its wines quite the reputation. As the number one most popular Brunello (as measured by Wine Lister’s search rank, based on monthly searches conducted on the world’s most-visited wine website, Wine-Searcher), is it most certainly deserved – indeed, for the 2016 vintage, Il Poggione achieves a Wine Lister score of 97 – it’s best ever. Writing for Vinous, Eric Guido names it “a classic in the making”.

Il Marroneto

A comparatively young project, Il Marroneto was born from the purchase of vines by lawyer, Giuseppe Mori in 1974, and the ensuing passion for winemaking held by one of his sons, Alessandro. Strict commitment to quality has since seen the estate rise to become a quiet reference for the region, fetching high prices to match. Small availability from the latest vintage (2016) of the flagship wine, Madonna delle Grazie impressive is still available, at c.£263 per bottle in-bond).

Conti Costanti

Stemming from one of the most influential Sienese families of the 15th century, Costanti is another Brunello estate with wealthy history, and strong family traditions. As one of the first producers to present a wine under the name we know as “Brunello” today, its style has evolved beautifully under the watchful eye of winemaker, Andrea Costanti (indeed two recent vintages, the 2013 and 2010 achieve Wine Lister MUST BUY status). Awarding the 2015 vintage 17.5 points, Walter Speller writing for JancisRobinson.com notes, “True precision but definitely ‘sexy’ and sheer pleasure”.

Castello di Romitorio

Romitorio’s impressive castle possesses a rich history dating back to the Etruscans, while both its interior and the vines it overlooks benefit from the modern influence of its current ownership. Purchased by artist, Sandro Chia in 1984, his son, Filippo now runs the estate and makes its wine. Having attended a virtual tasting with him recently, organised by Honest Grapes, the wines appear to reflect their estate’s history in their timelessness, balancing a traditional style with contemporary energy and elegance. Some availability of the 2016 Brunello di Montalcino and single-vineyard offering, Filo di Seta, remains.

Castelgiocondo

A few kilometres southwest, lies “the castle of Giocondo”  – another imposing Tuscan structure, originally constructed in the 12th century (AD) to guard the road leading from Siena to the sea, and owned since by one of the most famous families in Tuscany – the Frescobaldis. Joining Il Poggione’s Franceschi family in being one of the very first to produce Brunello in the 1800s, Castelgiocondo’s straight Brunello offering is also among the top-ranking wines of its kind in popularity. Those wishing to snap up the latest vintage offering may need to give it some time – writing for Vinous, Antonio Galloni notes the 2016 “needs some time to come together […] yet it has all the balance necessary to mature into a real beauty”.

Explore more top-scoring Brunello here.


International women’s day: words with some of the world’s top winemakers

Having commenced the week with International Women’s Day (Monday 8th March), Wine Lister’s latest blog celebrates some of the leading female figures in winemaking. Interviewing a handful of top producers across six regions, whose practices embody a range of principals, we put a spotlight on the wines made by some of the industry’s most exceptional women.

 From left: Ashley Hepworth, Caroline Frey, and Stéphanie de Boüard-Rivoal

Ashley Hepworth – Joseph Phelps Vineyards

Following a degree in Chemistry and Biology, Ashley Hepworth spent two years cooking at Charlie Trotter’s legendary Chicago restaurant, where she realised she “wanted to learn more about wine and utilize [her] science background”. After studying the restaurant’s wines, and quizzing its Master Sommeliers, she applied for a harvest internship at Joseph Phelps where she continued to work her way “up the ladder”, eventually becoming winemaker in 2008. She is “particularly fond” of the 2008, 2015, and 2017 vintages of Joseph Phelps’ flagship wine, Insignia, explaining that each are “distinctive of the given vintage and the interplay of the six estate vineyards” that the wine is blended from.

Caroline Frey – La Lagune and Paul Jaboulet Aîné

Having taken the helm of third-growth property La Lagune from her father in 2004, Caroline Frey has since assumed an additional winemaking role in the Rhône, at Paul Jaboulet Aîné, after its acquisition by her family in 2005. Like several of the producers we spoke to, Caroline informs us that working “in harmony with nature is a long-term project” for her, with both properties now certified biodynamic. She explains that “to produce great wine the grapes must be the fruit of nature and not of synthetic chemistry”, and the more she “improves in working in harmony with nature” the “more wonderful” her wine will be. 

Stéphanie de Boüard-Rivoal – Angélus

Having spent her childhood at Angélus, Stéphanie de Boüard-Rivoal was seven years old when she told her grandfather, Jacques de Boüard de Laforest, that she wanted to join him and her father, Hubert, in running the estate. After an early career in London’s financial sector, Stéphanie returned to Angélus in 2012, and has since continued a “quest for excellence while endeavouring to keep the estate in [her] family”. Noting “purity, tension, and focus” as key words to describe the style of her wine, she tells us that she is currently fond of Angélus’ 2005 and 2010 vintages, and anticipates enjoyment of the 2016 and 2018 in the coming years.

From left: Charlène Pinson, Florence Heresztyn-Mazzini, Eva Fricke, and Donatella Cinelli Colombini

 Charlène Pinson – Pinson

One of the longest-established families in Chablis, records show that the Pinsons have been producing in the region since 1640. Having joined her father, Laurent, at the estate in 2008, Charlène Pinson tells us of her respect for tradition and the work that her family has done before her, with the aim to “pass on the passion” to her two sons. Producing 13 different wines, she explains that each is a “reflection of their terroirs”, and are “more or less floral and fruity” depending on the slope and soil of the parcel. For those new to Pinson, she recommends the 2017 Chablis Mont de Milieu, describing it as a “pure expression of our Kimmeridgian limestones […] classic, mineral, balanced, and fresh”.

Florence Heresztyn-Mazzini – Heresztyn-Mazzini

Taking over her family’s estate (Domaine Heresztyn) in 2012, Florence Heresztyn-Mazzini and her  husband, Simon Mazzini have overseen numerous developments under its new name. Introducing biodynamic practices in 2015, and achieving organic certification in 2019, Florence continues to “experiment with natural treatments” to fulfil her goal of “fighting the challenges of climate change”, including more “cover crops and sustainable pruning”. Explaining that many recent vintages have been difficult due to global warming, she tells us that she is particularly proud of her “fights” in 2013 and 2016, creating top quality wines in years that “remind us that we are small in the face of Mother Nature!”.

Eva Fricke – Eva Fricke

After making wine in Australia, Spain, and Germany, Eva Fricke returned to Germany in 2006 to start her own estate, which now holds 17ha across the Rheingau. Achieving organic certification in 2016 and membership in The Vegan Society in 2017, the property also employs several biodynamic practices including its adherence to the lunar calendar. She tells us that these principals guide her goals of developing a domain that “stands for organic, sustainable, and socially conscious standards”. Eva notes the “2019 Lorcher Schlossberg, 2019 Lorcher Krone Trocken, and 2019 Lorcher Krone Trockenbeerenauslese” as some of her top wines.

Donatella Cinelli Colombini – Casato Prime Donne and Fattoria del Colle

Born into a family of winemakers whose production in Montalcino can be traced back to 1592, Donatella Cinelli Colombini tells that it is “for this reason” that winemaking comes naturally to her. Founding Italy’s first winery run solely by women, she explains that her decision to have an all-female staff at Casato Prime Donne “leaves an imprint of acute accuracy in each step of the production process”. She notes of Casato Prime Donne wines that they are some of the first “chosen, and produced by women, for women”.


Coming in hot: Barolo 2017 vintage report

Like many of the world’s winemaking regions, Barolo is increasingly subject to dramatic weather patterns as a result of global warming. With significant frost in spring followed by an extremely hot summer, its 2017 growing season was no exception to these severe shifts. Akin to its vines, Barolo’s producers are now more than ever demonstrating their resilience to change, as evident in its latest offerings.

To guide those buying Barolo 2017 over the coming weeks, Wine Lister has spoken to nine of the region’s top producers to get a better picture of the vintage and its viticultural demands.

Chiara Boschis and her team during the 2017 harvest at E.Pira e Figli

A reduction in production

As cited by several producers, spring frost and summer drought resulted in reduced yields across the board in 2017. Situated in the heart of Barolo, Chiara Boschis tells us that production at E.Pira e Figli was down between 10-20% on the 2016. The estate had to carefully select “clusters that were compact when picked”, as heat stress was preventing complete berry development. Marco Marengo notes that yields at his estate were 25% lower than average in 2017, while owner and winemaker at La Spinetta, Giorgio Rivetti, saw levels down by roughly 30%. A representative at Giacomo Conterno, Stephanie Flou tells us that its 2017 vintage was particularly affected by it being “the second year in a row in which [the estate] has suffered drought”. She states that while yields were limited “because the grapes dried out”, they are “positively surprised with how the vintage has ended up”.

Finding shade from the sun

Numerous estates noted the need for rigorous canopy management in 2017 – one of many adjustments applied across the region to cope with the extreme heat. Elio Altare’s second-generation winemaker, Silvia Altare tells us that hydric stress forced her to be amongst the vines, “meticulously managing the canopies to protect the grapes from the sun”. The team at Cantina Cooperativa Terre del Barolo also explain that this “was key in 2017 in order to keep bunches in shade, without suffocating them”, while “conservation tillage – mulching or grass covering in between the rows –was crucial to limit evaporation, and to protect the vines from the ‘mirror effect’ of the soil”. Vietti’s winemaker, Luca Currado notes that he similarly used “uniform, dense foliage to provide clusters with greater shade” and “grass cover between the rows to prevent sunlight reflecting directly onto the clusters”. The estate also started harvest significantly earlier than usual in 2017 – another recurring theme across the properties.

Keeping cool: the family dog at Elio Altare finds shade under the vines during the estate’s 2017 harvest

A crucial cooling 

As mentioned by several of his peers, Azelia’s fifth-generation winemaker, Lorenzo Scavino tells us that a large diurnal temperature range helped to “preserve the freshness and the aromas of the grapes” in such a hot year. He states that while these cool nights “usually do not occur in warmer vintages, they were really a blessing”. Poderi Luigi Einaudi’s team echoed this sentiment, add that the temperature changes between day and night helped to develop the “polyphenolic profile of the Nebbiolo”, allowing “an excellent accumulation of tannins”. Rainfall in early September also helped to ensure balance in the 2017 vintage, with Luca Currado informing us that Vietti’s “Nebbiolo and Barbera benefited in particular, with highly complex polyphenolic profiles compared to other particularly rich vintages”, and “an unexpected freshness on the palate”.

The final freshness

Indeed, according to Wine Lister’s discussions with producers, freshness has been the great surprise of the 2017 vintage – a description applied repeatedly by Wine Lister’s partner critic, Antonio Galloni, in his notes on the region’s latest offerings. Chiara Boschis notes that E. Pira e Figli’s 2017 is “generous but very fresh”, while Azelia’s Lorenzo Scavino explains that rigorous vineyard management allowed them to “preserve the acidity, which is why even in this vintage we can find a great freshness”. Silvia Altare also tells us that while “2017 is definitely a warmer, more open knit vintage than 2016”, she has  “noticed over the past few months the wines have integrated more and there’s a bit more freshness”.

The successful conception of balance in a year defined by drought aptly illustrates the resilience of Barolo’s producers in 2017, which may well be described as a winemaker’s vintage. Barolo 2017 scores have so far been high across the board, giving further merit to those who have created a wine of complexity and quality in a year of climatic uncertainty.

Keep track of new Barolo 2017 scores from Wine Lister’s partner critics here.


The best bottle for your budget: Tuscany MUST BUYs at five different price points

Home to a range of grape varieties, styles, and DOCGs, Tuscany also offers excellent wines at a variety of price points. To help you on your hunt for a top Tuscan bottle within your budget, Wine Lister has compiled a selection of Tuscany MUST BUYs at five different price points.

Click here to view all Tuscan MUST BUYs, or read more below.

Prices are shown per bottle in-bond (when buying by the case).

Under £20 – 2011 Fattoria La Massa La Massa

Founded in 1992 by prominent Chianti winemaker, Giampaolo Motta, Fattoria La Massa represents his aim of applying Bordeaux vinification techniques to a Tuscan terroir. With the counsel of famed Bordeaux vigneron, Stéphane Derenoncourt, Motta now grows Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Petit Verdot alongside native Sangiovese. La Massa comprises 60% Sangiovese, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 10% Merlot in 2011, and is described by Wine Lister partner critic, Antonio Galloni as “jumping from the glass with dark red cherry, raspberry jam, plum, spices, violets, smoke and cloves”. With a WL score of 92, it is available to purchase from Bordeaux Index for £16 per bottle (in-bond).

Under £50 – 2015 Felsina Fontalloro

Felsina has seen a significant shift toward organic and biodynamic practices since its founder, Domenico Poggiali’s son-in-law, Giuseppe Mazzocolin, took over in the late 1970s. As well as investing heavily in a more natural viticulture, the estate has adopted a dedication to revealing the expression of its terroir. The 2015 Felsina Fontalloro was awarded 96 points from Antonio Galloni, who indeed notes that “sandy soils confer aromatic intensity to this super-expressive, arrestingly beautiful wine”. It can be purchased from Brunswick Fine Wines for £44 per bottle (in-bond). 

Under £100 – 2016 Tenuta Tignanello Tignanello

Antinori’s Tenuta Tignanello property fared notably well in 2016, with its namesake wine, Tignanello achieving its joint-highest WL score alongside its 2015 vintage (98). Antonio Galloni describes the 2016 Tignanello as “flat out stunning”, and muses, “I don’t think there is another wine anywhere in the world made entirely from estate fruit that can match Tignanello for quality, consistency and value”. A blend of 80% Sangiovese, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 5% Cabernet Franc, it can be acquired from Fine+Rare Wines for £92 per bottle (in-bond).

Under £200 – 2015 Montevertine Le Pergole Torte  

Considered a difficult place for any agricultural production, Radda was an unusual location for Montevertine’s founder, Sergio Manetti to establish his property in 1967. In one of the highest and rockiest sites in Chianti Classico, its steep hills are now home to top-quality Sangiovese vines from which its three wines – Pian del Ciampolo, Montevertine, and Le Pergole – are produced. Antonio Galloni awards 97 points to the 2015 Montevertine Le Pergole Torte, calling it “deep, powerful and resonant […] exotically ripe and flamboyant, not to mention utterly captivating”. It can be bought from IG Wines for £129 per bottle (in-bond).  

Over £300 – 2008 Soldera Case Basse Sangiovese

Achieving 18 points from Wine Lister’s partner critic, Jancis Robinson, Soldera’s 2008 Case Basse Sangiovese is described as “so different from most Brunello” with a “reserved nose of autumnal leaves”, and a “real tang on the end”. Having separated from the Brunello di Montalcino DOCG in 2006, all vintages from 2007 onwards are labelled as Toscana IGT. The 2008 marks a shift away from the estate’s usual vinicultural methods, having been aged for a period in stainless steel before bottling. Antonio Galloni notes that it is indeed “quite different from virtually every other wine made at Case Basse”. The 2008 Case Basse Sangiovese can be bought from Fine+Rare Wines for £387 per bottle (in-bond).


Tuscany’s 2018 vintage – two years on

Over two years ago, Wine Lister published a blog on Tuscany’s 2018 vintage (recap here), which has since become the second most-read article on our site. With several 2018s entering the market over the past six months, and more scheduled for release this year, news of the vintage remains relevant.

To complete the picture first painted in our report on the 2018 harvest, we examine how some of the wines discussed have performed so far, and whether predictions on the vintage have come to fruition.

A prized picking – the 2018 harvest at Castello di Fonterutoli

Predicting in 2018 that “the vintage might fall between the opulent 2015s and the structured 2016s in terms of quality and style”, Castello di Fonterutoli’s Giovanni Mazzei underestimated the year. The estate’s 50% Sangiovese and 50% Merlot blend, Siepi, achieves its highest score from Wine Lister’s partner critic, Antonio Galloni in 2018 (97) – five and two points above the 2015 and 2016, respectively. Antonio notes it is “rich, pliant and creamy”, offering “all of the seductiveness of Merlot with the bright acids and grip of Sangiovese”. The 2018 Siepi can be bought from Petersham Cellars for £70 per bottle (in-bond).

Estate Director at Ornellaia and Masseto, Axel Heinz told Wine Lister in 2018 that his “fermenting wines are silky and fragrant”, and that he predicts “a more delicate vintage”. Indeed, Antonio Galloni recently wrote on the 2018 Ornellaia that “readers should expect a silky, aromatic Ornellaia in line with vintages such as 2004 that are more about finesse than raw power”. Having been previewed by members of the fine wine trade and press in a virtual seminar last week (recap our recent blog here), it was awarded a score of 97 by Antonio. The 2018 Ornellaia will be released onto the market at the beginning of April.

Due for release through the Place de Bordeaux in September, Masseto’s 2018 vintage was the first to be made in its own winery, having previously been vinified at Ornellaia. Awarding it 98 points, Antonio notes that it is “silky, mid-weight and supremely gracious”, with notes of “inky red/purplish fruit, cedar, lavender, espresso, sage and mint”. Wine Lister sampled the second release of Masseto’s second wine, 2018 Massetino, in September 2020, and was certainly impressed by its complexity, with expressive notes of dark fruit, cocoa, and spice. While it has limited remaining market availability, it can be purchased from Cru World Wine for £307 per bottle (in-bond).

Describing 2018 as “a good year”, Fattoria Le Pupille’s owner, Elisabetta Geppetti, told Wine Lister that the Bordeaux varietals of her flagship wine, Saffredi, fared particularly well. Antonio Galloni gives it 96+ points, and writes that “the 2018 Saffredi is a regal, elegant, supremely polished wine”, which “may very well be the most refined Saffredi I have ever tasted”. Recalling notes of “sweet red cherry, plum, mocha, licorice and cinnamon”, he concludes; “don’t miss it”. It can be bought from Berry Bros & Rudd for £60 per bottle (in-bond).

Keep track of new Tuscany 2018 scores from Wine Lister partner critics here, and watch this space for future analysis on the vintage.