Bordeaux 2009 vintage tasting highlights

Wine Lister is experiencing a touch of Bordeaux fever. Having re-tasted Bordeaux 2016s in January, Wine Lister’s founder, Ella, attended BI Wines’ “10 years on” tasting last week, revisiting the iconic 2009 vintage.

As expected, the vintage yielded some truly exceptional wines, thanks to excellent weather conditions, especially around harvest time. However, some producers fell into the trap of waiting too long to pick, and high quality in 2009 is not a given. Ella has picked out 26 of the most successful examples of a unique and pleasure-giving vintage, hailing from across all of the best-known red wine Bordeaux appellations (N.B. no white wines were tasted).

The most heterogenous appellation was Saint-Emilion, with some wines rendered hot and hard by high alcohol, while those at the very top level were some of the best 2009s out there. Cheval Blanc, for example, achieved a “mystical, beguiling bouquet…like a magic potion”.

Pomerol did not seem to suffer from the heat in the same way, and made beautiful wines in 2009. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Le Pin garnered some exceptional comments, including “the richest, most decadent, abundant nose of the whole tasting”. Other Pomerol picks displayed an unusually dark-fruited character. Petrus (“not worn on the sleeve like the Le Pin”), had a “refined dark fruit character”, Hosanna “piercing damson fruit”, and La Conseillante boasted a “carnal, purple-fruit sweetness”.

On the left bank, Pessac-Léognan and Saint-Julien achieve joint-first place, earning five highlights each. Arguably the most impressive of these were La Mission Haut-Brion and Haut-Brion with the former described as “sensual, ethereal, and breath-taking”. Pape Clément showed almost “Rhône-esque animality”, while Malartic-Lagravière was “opulent” and “left you wanting more”.

Saint-Julien presented expected names – second growths Gruaud-Larose and Léoville Barton (described as “ultra-classical” and “thoroughbred” respectively), as well as a surprise in the form of Château Gloria, the only Cru Bourgeois to make it into this list of Bordeaux 2009 tasting highlights.

The remaining left bank appellations did not go wanting of favourites. Latour earned the comment, “impeccably turned-out, this wine demands attention”. Elsewhere in Pauillac Pichon Comtesse was “beguiling” and “gradually confident”.

In Margaux the appellation’s first growth namesake was hailed “quite the showstopper”, while Brane-Cantenac was “lifted, lovely, and luminous”. While Saint-Estèphe earned only one mention, its representative, Montrose surpassed expectation, appearing “supremely poised”.

All those wines marked “*” above currently qualify as Wine Lister “buy recommendations”. The Wine Lister team has been working hard to create a data-driven list of the ultimate best wines to buy – watch this space while we fine-tune the algorithm!

Other wines featuring in the Bordeaux 2009 highlights are: Grand-Puy-Lacoste, Pichon Baron, Haut-Bailly, Angélus, Figeac, Pavie, Troplong Mondot, Branaire-Ducru, and Ducru Beaucaillou.


On the table for Lunar New Year

In honour of Lunar New Year, Wine Lister decided to examine wines with the strongest restaurant presence across parts of one of the major fine wine markets of today. Analysing presence in the best restaurants of mainland China, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan, the resulting top wines prove to be appropriate for this year of the pig – a Chinese symbol of wealth or fortune. The 12 wines (in this lunar year of the twelfth zodiac animal) with the best restaurant presence in these countries achieve an average price of £407 per bottle in-bond.

Latour achieves the strongest presence, appearing in 86% of the best restaurants across China, Singapore, and Taiwan. On top of breadth, Latour also achieves depth, with an impressive average of 13.6 vintages and/or formats in each of these restaurants.

Louis Roederer’s Cristal shares the horizontal presence top spot, even beating Wine Lister’s perfect Brand scorer, Dom Pérignon – the number one wine for presence in best restaurants worldwide.

The remaining wines all achieve presence in 79% of the best restaurants across China, Singapore, and Taiwan, and make for an interesting mix of traditional candidates with some a little less expected. Perhaps the biggest surprise of all is not what appears, but what doesn’t – Lafite is conspicuous by its omission from the top 12 (with 71% presence). Though not making the top spot horizontally, Lafite does achieve vertical presence equal to that of Latour, with particular concentration in Hong Kong and Macau. The other three Bordeaux left bank first growths, Haut-Brion, Margaux, and Mouton all appear in the top 12.

Achieving the opposite effect is Gruaud Larose, the only non-first-growth Bordeaux to feature in this top-12 list. Its restaurant presence across China, Singapore, and Taiwan is an impressive 115% higher than in the rest of the world. It is also by far the least expensive of the group at £53 in-bond (over seven times less than the average price of the group).

The sole Burgundy to feature is Domaine de la Romanée-Conti’s Romanée-Saint-Vivant, achieving 60% more presence across China, Singapore, and Taiwan than its worldwide average. For vertical presence it is overtaken by a handful of its rarer siblings – La Tâche, Richebourg, and Echézeaux, which achieve a collective average depth of 5.2 vintages and/or formats.

Earning the most impressive concentration of presence compared to its global average is Opus One. It not only appears in 147% more restaurants across China, Singapore, and Taiwan than in the rest of the world, but does so with an average of 5.4 vintages and/or formats per restaurant.

Also featuring among the top 12 wines for restaurant presence in China, Singapore, and Taiwan are Krug Grande Cuvée, Salon le Mesnil, and Vega-Sicilia Unico.



The impact of price movements according to Wine Lister

Price nearly always plays a part in the decision-making process of purchasing wine. Typically, much emphasis is placed on the importance of “value” – “how much quality am I getting for the price of this bottle”, for which Wine Lister has its very own indicator, Value Picks. However is simply offering “good value” enough?

Wines purchased for long-term cellaring carry financial risk just as investment does. With this in mind, Wine Lister’s Economics scores reflect not only a wine’s price, but the performance of that figure over time. As well as a three-month average market price, and six-month / three-year price growth, Wine Lister’s algorithm takes into account price stability as a factor in determining a wine’s Economic strength.

Using historical prices provided by our data partner, Wine Owners, we calculate the standard deviation of a price over the last 12 months, expressed as a proportion of the average price over the same period.

Volatility can be caused by price movements both up and down. Nobody wants to see the price of a wine plummet after purchase, but equally, wines with prices rising too high and too fast display risk too, and are therefore also sanctioned with lower Economics scores.

Below is an extract from this year’s Bordeaux Market Study featuring the 15 most stable Bordeaux wines. All five left bank first growths appear, testament that higher-scoring wines tend to experience less volatility. This is also tied in with liquidity: frequently traded wines tend to benefit from multiple reference points allowing a consistent market price to be determined. Conversely, a wine traded less frequently often sells at a markedly different price from one transaction to the next, resulting in a much more volatile market price.

While Château Latour’s slow and steady price growth (as shown in the chart below) results in relatively low six-month price performance and three-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) ratings, its strong Economics score is thanks to a high three-month average price, a high volume of bottles traded at auction, and a low price deviation of just 2.4% over the last 12 months.

The chart below shows a very different picture – this wine has experienced a 14.7% price increase in six months. Though this in itself is positive, its price has therefore deviated 12.5% in the last 12 months, and the yo-yoing nature of the price over the longer term earns it a much lower Economics score (492).


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.




Piedmont and Burgundy prices march ahead

In this blog we look at the price performance of five major fine wine regions over the past two years. Wine Lister’s regional indices use price data from Wine Owners, and each comprises the top five brands in its respective region (according to the Wine Lister Brand score).

In Bordeaux, for example, the top five strongest brands (measured by looking at restaurant presence and online search frequency), are the five first growths, Haut-Brion, Lafite, Latour, Margaux, and Mouton. Posting gains of 28% over two years, and largely stagnating over the last year, the Wine Lister Bordeaux index is the worst performer of the five wine price indices shown below.

WL price indices Image 24_10_17

Piedmont, meanwhile, has enjoyed a remarkable couple of years. Not only has its index grown by an astonishing 58% over the period, it has also been very consistent, experiencing just three months of negative growth – November 2015, May 2016, and April 2017. Sustained high growth rates suggest a region in demand. The Wine Lister Piedmont index consists of two wines from Gaja – Barbaresco and Sperss (now labelled as a Barolo again after several years of declassification to Langhe Nebbiolo), two Barolos from Conterno – the Monfortino and the Cascina Francia, and finally Bartolo Mascarello’s Barolo.

Next comes the Burgundy index (consisting entirely of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti wines), which has grown by more than 50% over the past 24 months, but with a few more blips. It decreased in value by 4% in December 2015, only managing to recover in March 2016. In a repeat of this festive dip, the index dropped over 5% in December 2016, but recovered the losses in just one month on this occasion. It has started to close the gap on Piedmont over recent months, adding over 15% since May.

Tuscany and California* made similar gains to Bordeaux over the period – up 33% and 29% respectively. The Tuscany index has progressed fairly serenely over the past two years, thanks to its liquid Super Tuscan components. Meanwhile the prices of California’s top wines have been less consistent, enduring a fall of nearly 9% in October 2015, recovering with a dramatic 8% rise in February 2016. This year, having enjoyed strong gains during February and March, their growth rate has since cooled off, adding just 1.5% over the past six months.

*As you will know, California has suffered tragic wildfires in recent weeks. Wine Lister’s partner critic, Vinous, is donating to relevant charities the profits from all maps purchased before the end of November 2018.

 


Latour 2005 and Les Forts de Latour 2011 released

This morning sees the ex-château release of Latour 2005, along with second wine, Les Forts de Latour 2011. We have put together two factsheets bringing together all the most important information about these two formidable wines, both approaching their drinking windows.

The 2005 Grand Vin has the third-highest Wine Lister Quality score of the last three decades, and looks reasonable value next to the 2009 and 2010:

Latour 2005 thumbnail

The 2011 vintage of Château Latour’s second wine, Les Forts de Latour, is an economic powerhouse, with impressive price growth since its release:

Forts de Latour 2011 thumbnail

You can download the slides here: Wine Lister Factsheet Latour 2005 / Wine Lister Factsheet Les Forts de Latour 2011