Bordeaux 2017 in bottle: top dogs and underdogs

2017 was perhaps the most difficult of recent Bordeaux vintages. Looking back at our harvest report on this frost-ridden vintage, the Wine Lister team attended the annual UGC re-tasting with some trepidation last week.

Indeed, new president of the Union des Grands Crus Classés, Ronan Laborde, reminded us that 2017 had been a “vintage of challenges”, requiring “patience, determination, and energy” to battle against the frost. Even still, some producers lost their entire crop, and many that didn’t produced their “smallest quantities of recent years”.

Troubled though the vintage might have been, you wouldn’t know it from the hoards of London trade that flocked to taste Bordeaux’s latest deliverable vintage, nor indeed from many of the wines we tasted, which followed a general trend of being exceedingly approachable.

Out of some 120 wines tasted, the Wine Lister team highlights its selection of 17 top dogs, and four underdogs below.

The team’s highlights include five out of the six 2017 Bordeaux WL MUST BUYs (vs. 19 in 2018 Bordeaux), while the other 16 are those we felt showed the best of those in attendance at the UGC tasting, in the context of the 2017 vintage.

Saint-Julien was our top-performing red appellation, with exemplary wines such as “poised” Léoville Barton, as well as two great successes from Domaines Henri Martin: Saint-Pierre was a “real triumph in the vintage,”, while underdog Gloria was “lithe, lovely, and beguiling”. Elsewhere on the left bank, Margaux and Pauillac earn three highlights apiece, including “hedonistic” Giscours and Wine Lister’s top pick of the tasting, “magical, brooding” Pichon Comtesse.

Pessac-Léognan performed equally well for whites as reds. Domaine de Chevalier Blanc was “explosive yet precise”, and underdog Latour-Martillac Blanc showed impressive roundness and balance. Haut Bailly had “an incredible elegance”, while Les Carmes Haut Brion showed “purity and savoury spice”.

Saint-Emilion’s Figeac was the best of the right bank bunch – “muscular” in texture but balanced by “succulent fruit”. Pomerol was well-represented by “floral and velveteen” Clinet, and “powerful” Petit Village.

Other wines included in Wine Lister’s 2017 tasting highlights are: Rauzan-Ségla, D’Armailhac, Lynch Bages, Bouscaut, La Gaffelière, Canon, Beychevelle, and Malartic-Lagravière Blanc.


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.


Listed: top five Bordeaux reds under £50 by Wine Lister score

With just over eight weeks to go until Christmas, part of the pre-season ritual of any respectable wine lover is surely agonising over which wines to drink with the holiday meal. Whether that means digging into the cellar or making new purchases, perhaps this week’s top five can provide some inspiration. Since claret is a frequent feature at the Christmas table, this week we consider the best red Bordeaux under £50 by Wine Lister score (although note that prices are based on the per bottle average of in-bond case prices across vintages).

Each of this week’s top five are Buzz Brands, with every wine earning its best score in the Brand category. They also all hail from the left bank, and achieve an average Wine Lister score of 863, 75 points higher than the right bank’s top reds under £50 (788).

First of this week’s top five both overall and for Quality is Domaine de Chevalier, with scores of 883 and 885 respectively, and an average price of £44 per bottle. Though its most qualitative vintage (2015) is only just physical, and therefore not suitable for drinking straight away, there are plenty of vintages around the same in-bond per-case price point to choose from. For example, the 2011 holds a Quality score of 864 and a price of £36, and the 2008 a Quality score of 855 for £40.

Next on the list is Grand-Puy-Lacoste, with a Wine Lister score of 873, and coming in at £48 on average. The 2014 Grand-Puy-Lacoste provides by far the best Quality to price ratio of recent vintages, with a Quality score of 946 and an in-bond per-case price of £41 per bottle. Wine Lister partner critic Neal Martin awards it 95 points, and notes, “the purity and elegance of this Pauillac cannot be denied – a quite brilliant contribution to the 2014 vintage”. This is a wine to give to a loved one for Christmas for them to stow away and open several years down the line – its drinking window ranging from 2022 to 2040.

To view quality to price ratios for every wine on Wine Lister, on each wine page use the Value Pick score on Vintage Value Identifier charts, as above.

Wines three, four, and five of this week’s Listed blog stand within a mere four points of each other. The two Margaux wines to feature, Giscours and Brane-Cantenac, achieve Wine Lister scores of 854 and 850 respectively, and have an identical Quality score (804). However, their profiles differ elsewhere, Brane-Cantenac being the better performer for Economics (806 vs 791), whereas Giscours excels for Brand strength (956 vs 934).

Sandwiched between the two in this week’s top five line-up is Talbot, which claims the group’s highest Brand score (984), if also the lowest Quality score (748), and an average price of £46.

A final commonality of all five wines (and of course of top Bordeaux red as a whole) is the long ageing potential. These five left bank reds have an average drinking window of 13 years, with some more recent vintages expected to be drinking well until beyond 2040 – testament to the tradition of buying claret to lay down for life, and not just for Christmas.


Listed: top 5 Bordeaux third growths by Wine Lister score

As the Place de Bordeaux reawakens for September releases this week, Wine Lister examines some “place-distributed” wines from closer to home, namely the top five Bordeaux third growths by Wine Lister score. The successful 2009 and 2010 vintages in Bordeaux helped to coin the term “super seconds”, and despite a trickier en primeur campaign this year, these five wines make a good case for a new term: “thrilling thirds”.

In first place, and one of the first out of the blocks for en primeur this year, is Palmer. With an overall score of 937, it is not only the best of this week’s top five, but also sits 69 points ahead of the average Bordeaux second growth Wine Lister score. Aside from its impressive Quality score (909), Palmer’s strength lies in its Brand, with a score of 995, thanks to presence in 47% of the world’s best restaurants, and being ranked 22nd out of all wines on Wine Lister for searches on Wine-Searcher.

Calon Ségur comes in second place, with an overall score of 930. It is the only Saint-Estèphe with third growth status, and the only one of this week’s top five not from Margaux (unsurprising, given that 73% of all Bordeaux left bank third growths hail from the appellation). Calon’s Economics score of 941 is the fifth-best of all Bordeaux left bank reds (beaten only by Carruades de Lafite, Château Margaux, Lafite, and Mouton). This is achieved through a three-year compound annual growth rate of 17% and short-term price performance of 8% – both the highest of this week’s top five.

Giscours is next with an overall score of 853. While Brand is its strongest score category (956), its Quality and Economics scores (804 and 782 respectively) still sit within the “very strong” section of the Wine Lister 1000-point scale. Furthermore, alongside Lynch Bages, Giscours was voted the most consistent seller (in volume terms) by the Place de Bordeaux in our 2018 Bordeaux Market Study.

The last two places of this week’s top five are taken by d’Issan in fourth place, and Malescot Saint-Exupéry at number five with scores of 836 and 825 respectively. The latter is the only one of this week’s top five that is not a Wine Lister Buzz Brand. As the least-known of the five, it might be considered the best value, with a Quality score of 811 and an average price of £43.