The Rule of Five Tasting – Château d’Issan

Wine Lister recently teamed up with 67 Pall Mall for a vertical tasting of five d’Issan vintages led by owner, Emmanuel Cruse, and Commercial Director, Augustin Lacaille. Last Wednesday, Emmanuel transported over 60 members of the UK fine wine trade and press to the historic Margaux property, guiding them through four of his favourite recent vintages: 2000, 2005, 2010, and 2015.

By invitation only: a selection of snaps from guests’ home tasting set-ups. Photos from (from top left anticlockwise): Bud Cuchet (@budcuchet), Charlie Goblet (@charliegoblet), Will Lyons (@mrwill_lyons), Wine Lister (@winelister), Emily O’Hare (@emilyowine), Wine Lister (@winelister), Charlie Goblet (@charliegolet), and Tom Harrow (@winechapuk)

Tasting kits were accompanied by individual copies of The Four Seasons of Château d’Issan – a cookbook assembled by the property’s head chef, Frédéric Braud, with seasonal recipes from a year in the kitchen at d’Issan. Following a short introduction video including aerial scenes of the château and close-ups on its vines, Emmanuel commenced the vertical tasting with the 2000 vintage.

Having taken over as managing director in 1998, he proclaimed that the 2000 was the last “old school” d’Issan. Indeed, the property’s winery has since been almost entirely rebuilt, with a new cellar inaugurated in 2002. The vintage marks the last to be composed of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Merlot, the Cabernet proportion being decreased to 60% in 2005.

Emmanuel was not shy in praising the 2005 d’Issan, calling it “the first great vintage” under his watch. He notes there was “perfect weather all year”, recounting how the summer was so warm that the pickers all worked in swimsuits, leading to abnormally regular visits from inquisitive négociants.

According to Emmanuel, 2010 is “from a technical perspective, maybe the best ever vintage made in Bordeaux”. The year had an excellent growing season, void of the hailstorms that had blighted d’Issan in 2008 and 2009. He informed us that the year was also personally special to him, marking the year he married his wife, Virginie. While still on the younger side, Emmanuel suggests decanting the 2010 for three hours ahead of its enjoyment.

The tasting concluded with the 2015 vintages of the property’s Grand Vin and its second wine, Blason d’Issan. Emmanuel stated that it was a broadly excellent year for Bordeaux, and specifically Margaux, which received “less rain than other appellations in the Medoc”. The ratios shifted slightly more towards Cabernet Sauvignon in 2015, which makes up 65% of the blend – Emmanuel’s personal preference.

Hailing from the estate’s younger vines, which are around 15-20 years old, Blason comprises 60% Cabernet Sauvignon in 2015. Emmanuel specifies the same winemaking practices are applied to the second wine, which he hopes to be “an introduction to the flagship”.

D’Issan owner, Emmanuel Cruse, and Commercial Director, Augustin Lacaille, in “The Rule of Five” virtual tasting

D’Issan 2020 will be released en primeur this year, and we look forward to finding out what the latest edition of “The Rule of Five” will bring – especially since the property’s acquisition of neighbouring Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot vineyards in March 2020. While the official blend for the 2020 vintage has not been finalised, Emmanuel is sure that the added varietals will be a “real plus”. If the serendipitous pattern of five is anything to go by, especially with the excellent growing season in 2020, the “rule” has every chance of continuing to reign.

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


Bordeaux MUST BUYs for the Christmas table

If ever there is a time for claret, it’s Christmas. While Bordeaux generally provides excellent quality for its prices relative to other regions all year round, it is an especially good source for festive bottles with a bit of age. Below Wine Lister offers one MUST BUY under £100 per Bordeaux appellation – a selection that promises to please with your Christmas meal.

Aside from its lustrous gold label providing an appropriate centrepiece to any festive feast, d’Issan 2009 offers good value for its appellation, earning a WL score of 93 at £56 per bottle (in-bond). Château owner, Emmanuel Cruse, is also the “Grand Maître” of the Commanderie du Bontemps – a Bordeaux organisation uniting trade members in the preservation of Bordeaux’s excellent quality reputation. D’Issan embodies the values of its maker, exemplifying the traditional claret style with added Margaux elegance. It is available to purchase by the case of 12 from Nickolls and Perks.

Pauillac powerhouse Pichon-Baron 2008 is described by Wine Lister partner critic, Neal Martin (Vinous), as one of the property’s “overachievers in recent years”. Often noted for being one of the most concentrated wines of the vintage in its appellation and beyond, Martin writes that the 2008 is “full of tension and energy […] delivering real brightness and vivacity on the finish”. At £90 per bottle (in-bond), it is the most expensive wine featured in this article, however, its Second Growth status and an abundance of critics’ praise make it worthy of consideration. Pichon-Baron 2008 can be acquired by the case from Lay & Wheeler.

A top-quality substitute to some of Haut-Bailly’s more costly back vintages, the 2012 achieves the property’s second-best WL score ever, as well as second place for quality among Pessac-Léognan reds for the vintage. Wine Lister partner critic, Antonio Galloni (Vinous), states that “the decision to lower temperatures in fermentation and go for a soft, gentle extraction, along with strict selection has paid off big time” in 2012, revealing notes of “dark raspberries, mint, crushed flowers, spices and rose petals”. Haut-Bailly 2012 is just entering its drinking window, and can be bought from Cru Wine.

Finding value on Bordeaux’s right bank can be trickier, particularly in Pomerol. Le Gay 2012 nonetheless offers excellent quality (WL 94) for the relatively reasonable price of £61 per bottle (in-bond). Wine Lister partner critic, Jancis Robinson, notes that it reaps “real Pomerol reward in terms of concentration”, offering a “very well-integrated nose […] sweet and focused”. In neighbouring Saint-Emilion, Larcis-Ducasse 2010  is described as “simply stunning” by Antonio Galloni, who notes “violet, lavender, graphite and menthol” that “give the 2010 its energy and tension”. It gains a WL score of 94, at £87 per bottle (in-bond). Both of these right bank picks can be purchased from Cult Wines.

Achieving Value Pick status, Saint-Estèphe’s Meyney 2015 has a WL score of 93 at £25 per bottle (in-bond), providing a veritable steal for your Christmas meal. After sampling at the annual Southwold Bordeaux tasting, Neal Martin writes that it “was the shock of this blind tasting – in a positive sense […] I thought it might be Montrose but it turned out to be Meyney. Chapeau!” Though the 2015 could benefit from a few more years of ageing, it is a brilliant gift option for your more patient guests, and can be acquired from Goedhuis & Co.

Saint-Julien star, Branaire-Ducru’s 2010 vintage was described as “dancing” by Jancis Robinson. Neal Martin’s tasting note suggests a wine of complexity: “a lovely mélange of red and black fruit, hints of dried blood and autumn leaves suggesting that this is moving into its secondary phase”. With a WL score of 93, Branaire-Ducru 2010 can be purchased by the case of 12 from Farr Vintners for £52.50 per bottle (in-bond).

For a sweet end to your Christmas meal, Wine Lister suggests Doisy-Védrines 1989. With 30 years of ageing under its belt, it achieves a WL score of 94 – the château’s highest ever. It is described by Neal Martin as boasting “a captivating bouquet of gorgeous wild honey, Seville orange marmalade, fig jam and light lemongrass scents”. He adds, “it is simply everything you desire in a sweet Bordeaux”. Purchase Doisy-Védrines 1989 by the bottle from Hedonism Wines for £62.80 (in-bond).


Bordeaux 2018 in bottle: UGC tasting highlights

As well as marking the year that France won the World Cup Final, 2018 will be remembered in Bordeaux as a tumultuous growing season, starting with nightmare weather conditions, and finishing “in ecstasy” (recap more on the 2018 vintage in Wine Lister’s post-harvest and vintage assessment blogs).

Now that the wines have settled in bottle, it is the world around them that has been thrown into a state of chaos, though one managed impeccably by the organisers of Wednesday’s UGC tasting (see photo below). Tasting around 130 wines, members of the Wine Lister team have chosen a selection of highlights, as examined in this post.

The team’s highlights include seven of the 19 Bordeaux 2018s MUST BUYs, and 11 other picks that were showing the best out of those present at the UGC tasting.

Pauillac and Pessac-Léognan were our top two appellations, with four picks apiece. The two Pichons – Baron and Comtesse – were showing beautifully, the former impressing with a “ripe, autumn berry profile” and a “dense but silky texture”. Pichon Comtesse – one of Wine Lister’s favourites during 2018 en primeur tastings – exhibited toasty notes of “tobacco, coffee, and mocha” on the nose, that opened into an elegant and energetic palate of “black cherry with chai spices”.

In Pessac-Léognan, Domaine de Chevalier presented subtly at first, but opened up into a “heady nose of plum and cassis”, matched with an equally sumptuous palate that was “deep in tone, but lifted in structure”. Malartic-Lagravière displayed a distinct Pessac minerality, and featured an intense, perfumed nose of “morello cherry and lavender”. The palate showed more savoury flavours, nonetheless endowed with a “velveteen texture”.

Elsewhere on the left bank, Margaux had three highlights, including the “sensual and floral” Giscours, and Brane-Cantenac – a “powerball of ripe, layered, and energetic fruit”. MUST BUY Rauzan-Ségla displayed nuanced aromas of “blueberry and raspberry”, with a notably generous and glossy mouthfeel.

Both Saint-Estèphe highlights offered complex profiles, sharing a comparable first note of “smoke and cured meats”. Lafon-Rochet prevailed in savoury finesse, opening up into “sandalwood and black pepper” on the nose, while Ormes De Pez developed into a “sweet and plummy” bouquet, providing “crunchy red apple and bramble” on the palate.

In Saint-Julien, MUST BUY Branaire-Ducru 2018 showed at the same time a “welcoming warmth” and a plethora of pure and precise fruit notes; “blackcurrant, blackberry, red plum” and a long, floral finish.

On the right bank, Saint-Emilion was well-represented by Canon 2018, which the Wine Lister team noted as “multi-dimensional”, encompassing an opening minerality that swiftly released into a refreshing bouquet of “luscious cherry, raspberry, and crushed strawberries”. Its palate was “utterly moreish”, with “delicate cherry notes” lingering on the finish – “this just goes on and on”, we noted.

In Pomerol, La Croix de Gay stood out with a distinct, potpourri character on the nose, and an “elegant palate of ripe berries”. L’Evangile, displayed a wealth of “black fruit flavours, overlaying its rich but balanced mouthfeel”.

Other wines included in Wine Lister’s 2018 tastings highlights are: Duhart-Milon, Grand-Puy-Lacoste, La Gaffelière, Langoa Barton, Latour-Martillac, and Les Carmes Haut-Brion.


Bordeaux 2020 harvest: optimism in the face of uncertainty

Despite this year’s unparalleled circumstances, mother nature has had no choice but to persevere – members of the Wine Lister team visited Bordeaux during September, to get a feel for the 2020 harvest. After a turbulent nine months, 2020 has reportedly yielded another excellent vintage for Bordeaux, though the region’s vines experienced their own set of ups and downs. Outside of its macro-economic turmoil, 2020 proved an uncertain growing season too, as microclimatic weather patterns appear to have been more influential than ever. Small areas on both banks experienced hail, and rainfall differed by hundreds of millimetres from one property to the next. With a bit of luck, this is a vintage the international trade will be able to taste by next spring – and it will need tasting, in order to gain a comprehensive understanding of the best examples of the vintage.

Common to several properties was an early start to harvest, with masked pickers dispersing across many vineyards up to two weeks ahead of a “normal” year. Indeed, Pavie began harvesting its white grapes (for Monbousquet Blanc) at the end of August – a fortnight earlier than last year. Merlot grapes began to be collected on the 21st of September – nine days earlier than in 2019 (pictured below on the 22nd September).

 Masked workers sort Pavie’s 2020 Merlot grapes (22nd September 2020)

Pavie saw lower rainfall in 2020 than parts of the Médoc. The position of its vineyards at higher altitude on the south-facing slope of its renowned limestone plateau allows for both phenolic maturity and the retention of freshness. Its new Commercial Director, Olivier Gailly, notes that the mid-harvest showers also helped with the latter, freshening up the Cabernets prior to picking, and that subsequent high wind speeds dried the grapes, and prevented mildew from setting in.

Just a few kilometres north-west, Saint-Émilion star Angélus did not have a particularly early harvest in 2020, starting on the 15th of September – just three days earlier than last year. The estate saw mildew at the beginning of the season, which they managed to control ahead of a good flowering. Eighth-generation manager, Stéphanie de Boüard is confident in the new vintage, aligning it with the iconic 1947 or 2010 – “my father told me not to be ashamed to say it”, she notes of the comparison. Early analyses show the 2020 will likely be high in alcohol, but with a low pH, creating a freshness and an overall balance that was encouraged by mid-harvest rain. “This year picking dates have been more important than ever”, she adds, referring to the retention of fresh fruit, as opposed to more cooked aromas than can occur in warmer Bordeaux vintages.

Further north-west still in Pomerol, Beauregard also received much-needed rain during harvest, which similarly helped to soften the skins of its Cabernet grapes. Summer drought was more apparent here, repeating the 2018 phenomenon of hydraulic stress on the vines, and resulting in a smaller yield than 2019.

Moving to the Médoc, more properties saw the same hot and dry climatic conditions in 2020, resulting in instances of small grapes with high alcohol potential and lower acidity. In Margaux, d’Issan saw 16% potential alcohol in some of its early Merlot grapes (the highest ever recorded), and consequently welcomed the mid-September showers. Neighbouring Palmer anticipated the rain, and held off picking its Cabernet Sauvignon grapes until it came and went, ensuring the thinning of skins on smaller berries, and an overall reduction in alcohol percentage. The estate saw limited yields due to the dry summer, and Managing Director, Thomas Duroux, quipped that although “négociants would have liked a vintage with high volume and lower prices, [2020] will be a small vintage…” While he implies it might be more expensive than the trade had hoped, he nonetheless expects the 2020 to be “rich and exuberant”, sharing the power and concentration of 2018.

In Saint-Julien, owner of Branaire-Ducru, François Xavier Maroteaux describes a 2020 growing season of neat balance. The estate had a “wet post-harvest Autumn in 2019”, which helped to prevent drought stress throughout the new growing season. As the summer began to dry out, the estate saw 100 millimetres of rainfall in a short period (at the end of August), followed by a sunny and warm September. The season itself, Maroteaux muses, is similar to the 2011 vintage. He believes the resulting wine is worth excitement, after a steady and successful ripening, avoiding any disease.

In Pessac-Léognan, Malartic-Lagravière expects a concentrated wine in 2020, having also seen low volumes of mainly small berries due to the heat. Neighbouring Domaine de Chevalier echoed the sentiment, and we were surprised to hear from owner, Olivier Bernard, that there had not been a drop of rain at estate the day before our first visit (21st September), despite it raining throughout the same day in the Médoc, and in Bordeaux itself.

The last day of picking at Domaine de Chevalier (30th September 2020)

“There have been lots of choices to make this year”, he continues – one of which no doubt was whether to trust the weather forecasts, particularly around harvest. With fewer planes flying around, forecasts were less accurate, and while rain fell further north, Pessac often remained dry. Bernard explains that the picking windows were tight in 2020: “instead of four days where the grapes are fine to pick, there’s one day” – since the drought and heat would cause alcohol to rise, and acidity to deplete quickly.

It seems therefore that we have another winemaker’s vintage on our hands. Mirroring somewhat the choppy commercial seas of this year, Bordeaux has had to navigate unpredictable viticultural waves too. What we have heard of the 2020 harvest thus far nonetheless leaves us hopeful, and anticipating eagerly the en primeur tastings of next spring.


Palmer’s propitious “N-10” release?

Château Palmer launched its first back-vintage release yesterday (Thursday 24th September). Named “N-10”, this new release phenomenon is planned as an annual event henceforth, releasing each year the vintage celebrating 10 years of age.

N-10 therefore begins on an exceptional note for quality, with Palmer’s 2010 vintage (which earns a WL score of 96 – its second-highest ever). It is also worth noting that 2010 was the second vintage of Palmer to benefit from some biodynamic experimentation, ultimately leading to its full certification in 2017.

Wine Lister partner critic, Neal Martin, awarded Palmer 2010 96 points after tasting at BI Wines’ 10 years on tasting in February this year. “This is an outstanding Palmer, but it needs more time in bottle”, he notes. Wine Lister’s CEO and Founder, Ella Lister, concurs, stating, “the wood still apparent after spitting will certainly integrate more with time – because this needs lots of time”, though her overall assessment is perhaps more generous than Martin’s 96 points. She adds, “There’s a quiet, dreamy poise to this wine. [It is] enigmatic, brooding, and spellbinding”.

The last remaining ex-château stocks of Palmer 2010 entered the UK market at £293 per bottle (in-bond), making them the highest-priced recent vintage on the market. The new price of Palmer 2010 therefore sits at a 33% premium to previous remaining market availability.

This is a bold hike up from Palmer 2010’s initial release price, however Director Thomas Duroux’s communication on production quantities and pricing as a direct result of the château’s uncompromising commitment to biodynamics and exceptional quality has prepared the market for it. The last few en primeur releases have set a solid scene for Palmer’s new strategy, and provide definitive proof that the château has outgrown the bounds of its classification.

We understand that immediate take-up for the N-10 release has been good, if not quite at the fast sell-out pace of en primeur. That is not the objective here – Duroux is confident that this ex-château stock will satisfy demand in the mid-term.

Indeed, even at its higher price, Palmer 2010 remains a Wine Lister MUST BUY.


The best for your buck: Bordeaux 2019 at five different price points

Thanks to solid discounts on existing market prices from many châteaux, the Bordeaux 2019 en primeur campaign can be considered a success, and may prove in the long-term to have helped the en primeur system find its feet once again, in terms of the cost benefit it offers to buyers.

Part II of Wine Lister’s Bordeaux Study, In sickness, in health discusses this in more detail. In the meantime, below we have selected top MUST BUYs at different price points, to help those still on the hunt for Bordeaux 2019.

Under £25 – Grand-Puy-Ducasse

Grand-Puy-Ducasse 2019 is both a MUST BUY and a Value Pick, achieving its best ever WL score of 93 in 2019, available at £23 per bottle (in-bond) when buying by the case. The latest release illustrates the contrasting climatic conditions of 2019, with critics noting its complexity and nuance. Wine Lister partner critic, Neal Martin, notes, “crisp tannins, a fine bead of acidity, cohesive and harmonious with a lovely saline/briny note”, adding “this is one of the best Grand Puy Ducasse wines that I have encountered from barrel. Excellent”. Grand-Puy-Ducasse 2019 is available to purchase by the case from Justerini & Brooks.

More Bordeaux 2019 MUSY BUYs under £25: Capbern, Gloria, Laroque, Meyney, Potensac, and Siran.

Under £50 – Larcis-Ducasse

At £47 per bottle (in-bond), Larcis-Ducasse 2019 is priced notably well within the wider context of Saint-Émilion Grand Cru Classé “B” releases. As examined in a recent en primeur blog, it earns a WL score of 95 – just one point less than the likes of Cheval Blanc and Pavie (costing on average six times less than its Classés “A” neighbours). Winemaker, David Suire, observes that the vintage reflects clearly its limestone terroir, showing floral notes and an overriding minerality. Wine Lister partner critic, Antonio Galloni, concurs, noting “graphite, menthol, licorice, tobacco and cedar notes” in the bouquet, coining it “one of Bordeaux’s most under the radar gems”. While demand for this wine has likely been strong, Larcis-Ducasse 2019 is still available through Millésima’s UK and Hong Kong branches.

More Bordeaux 2019 MUST BUYs under £50: Brane-Cantenac, Giscours, Grand-Puy-Lacoste, La Gaffelière, Malescot Saint-Exupéry, and Pavie-Macquin.

Under £100 – Haut-Bailly

At £70 per bottle (in-bond), Haut-Bailly 2019 shares the château’s top WL score (95) with recent vintages 2018, 2016, 2015, and 2014. Managing Director, Veronique Sanders, told the Wine Lister team of their need to light fires five times to prevent frost in the spring of 2019, escaping unscathed. In the end, challenges throughout the growing season concluded in perfect harvest conditions, and a wine of impressive balance and energy. Indeed, the 2019 has received unanimous confidence from critics – Neal Martin states that the 2019 is a “more terroir expressive Haut-Bailly that has an effortless allure and a sense of sophistication”, concluding that it is “wonderful”. Haut-Bailly 2019 can be acquired by the case through Goedhuis & co.

More Bordeaux 2019 MUST BUYs under £100: Calon Ségur, Canon-la-Gaffelière, Canon, Clinet, Léoville Poyferré, Pontet-Canet,  Lynch-Bages, Montrose, and Troplong-Mondot.

Under £200 – Léoville Las Cases

Léoville Las Cases 2019 achieves a WL score of 97, at £145 per bottle (in-bond). While volumes of the 2019 released onto the market were down 35% on last year, there is still some availability of this Saint-Julien super second, and we highly recommend getting your hands on some. Wine Lister’s CEO, Ella, describes it as “luminous and lyrical”, noting a bouquet of “English garden – raspberry blossom, cow parsley, fraises de bois, and then a deeper note of ripe cherries”. James Lawther for JancisRobinson.com is similarly impressed, awarding it 19 points and noting it as “one of the greats from this estate”. The latest vintage can be purchased through Fine+Rare.

More Bordeaux 2019 MUST BUYs under £200: Figeac, Haut-Brion, La Conseillante, La Mondotte, Le Petit Mouton, La Mission Haut-Brion, Palmer, Pichon Comtesse, and Vieux Château Certan.

Over £300 – Mouton

While the release price of this Pauillac Premier Cru, let alone the quality of its 2019, likely makes it one of the most popular buys of the campaign, there may still be opportunities to secure some en primeur. Released at £299 per bottle (in-bond), Mouton 2019 achieves a WL score of 97 – the second-highest score achieved by the château in recent years, following the 2016’s 98. Wine Lister’s CEO, Ella Lister, describes Mouton 2019 thus: “velveteen tannins, long and caressing”, recounting “complex, savoury flavours of graphite and slate intermingled with the generous fruit”. Farr Vintners still appears to have some availability of Mouton 2019 (albeit at a slightly higher price than its release).

More Bordeaux 2019 MUST BUYs over £300: Cheval Blanc, Lafite, and Lafleur.

French readers can find this blog in French translation on Le Figaro Vin’s website

Wine Lister Pro members can read Part II of the Bordeaux study here. All free users can purchase the report for £125 from Wine Lister’s Analysis page (available in both English and French).


Rising through the ranks: Bordeaux 2019

This week, Wine Lister published Part II of its annual in-depth Bordeaux Study, In sickness, in health, which, among other inquiries, examines the 40 top-quality crus in 2019. As illustrated in the study, tastings have so far indicated high quality levels across the board in 2019, while numerous wines have made significant advancements, shaking up this year’s rankings.

Following this line of investigation, below we examine the top 25 Bordeaux 2019s by WL score (as separated by mere decimals), and consider the biggest movers since last year. These scores are informed by the recently-released ratings of Wine Lister partner critics, Bettane+Desseauve, Antonio Galloni and Neal Martin for Vinous.com, and James Lawther for JancisRobinson.com.

Consistent with last year’s ranking of Bordeaux 2018s by Quality score (conducted before the introduction of Wine Lister’s free site, featuring WL scores out of 100), Pomerol earns the highest number of places (six) in the top 25 2019s by WL score. Neighbouring Saint-Emilion follows closely behind with five spots in this year’s ranking, including the top-scoring wine of the vintage, Figeac 2019, which achieves a WL score of 98.

The four first growths to release their 2019s en primeur appear in third through seventh places, intersected by La Mission Haut-Brion’s entry at fifth place. This promising Pessac-Léognan climbs an impressive 26 spots in 2019, and, as mentioned in our previous blog, has been recently assigned MUST BUY status. Neal Martin scores La Mission Haut-Brion 2019 98-100 points, declaring: “I wager that ultimately this will become one of the wines of the vintage”, concluding that the wine is “breathtaking”.

L’Eglise Clinet sees an impressive upwards shift of 33 places this year, entering the top 10 with a WL score of 96. A poignant tribute to its late winemaker, Denis Durantou, its 2019 has received significant praise, with Antonio Galloni noting that it is “very clearly one of the wines of the year. A Pomerol of soaring, majestic intensity, L’Eglise-Clinet dazzles from start to finish”.

Pichon-Baron and Angélus both climb eleven places in this year’s top-25 ranking, to 11th and 16th place, respectively, with the former receiving top scores from both Neal Martin and Antonio Galloni. Both critics allude to the depth of Pichon-Baron’s 2019, with Galloni stating that “pomegranate, chocolate, licorice and spice are all lavishly expressed”. This represents one of Pauillac’s four entries on this year’s top-25 ranking, which also comprises Mouton, Lafite, and Pichon Comtesse.

Haut-Bailly makes a sizeable leap of 18 places since last year, ranking in 21st place with a WL score of 95. At £70 per bottle (in-bond) Haut-Bailly 2019 is also a Wine Lister MUST BUY. Fellow Pessac-Léognan producer, Smith Haut Lafitte, climbs an impressive 32 places with its 2019 vintage, rounding out the top 25 list. Having tasted twice, Neal Martin describes its “intense, very pure bouquet with blackberry, briary and cherry compote and a hint of black olive tapenade in the background”.

Also featured in the top 25 Bordeaux 2019s by WL score are: Belair-Monange, Cheval Blanc, Cos d’Estournel, Ducru-Beaucaillou, Haut-Brion, La Conseillante, Lafleur, Léoville Las Cases, Léoville Poyferré, Margaux, Palmer, Pavie, Petrus, Trotanoy, and Vieux Château Certan.

Wine Lister Pro members can read Part II of the Bordeaux study here. All free users can purchase the report for £125 from Wine Lister’s Analysis page (available in both English and French).


Bordeaux 2019 en primeur MUST BUYs

With the Bordeaux 2019 en primeur campaign now concluded, we bring you 38 new Wine Lister MUST BUYs. The tasting of Bordeaux 2019 has thus far confirmed the notable quality of the vintage, from which we have filtered some obvious campaign buys that can be expected to see increased prices, and decreased availability in the future.

Wine Lister’s MUST BUY recommendation algorithm takes into account a wine’s quality and value within its vintage and appellation, as well as the latest industry intelligence from key players in the global fine wine trade. These results are then filtered through an intelligence-based, human overlay, which identifies MUST BUY wines based on our tasting of Bordeaux 2019, and observation of the reception of each release in the market.

As illustrated below, there are 38 Bordeaux 2019s that are now recognised as MUST BUYs – suggesting that the benefit of buying en primeur is more obvious than last year (there were 24 Bordeaux 2018 en primeurs recognised as MUST BUYs following its campaign). They are all red:

In keeping with last year’s MUST BUY picks, Saint-Emilion once again ranks as the most recommended appellation – this year offering 10 MUST BUYs, including the top-scoring wine of the vintage: Figeac 2019. With a WL score of 98, Figeac’s latest vintage has sustained the château’s upward quality trajectory.

With a WL score of 93 at £18 per bottle (in-bond), Laroque 2019 exhibits excellent value relative to 2019 Saint-Emilions of comparable quality. Alongside its MUST BUY status, Laroque’s latest vintage is also a Value Pick, making it an essential acquisition for the savvy Bordeaux buyer. Wine Lister partner critic, Antonio Galloni, notes, “raspberry jam, spice and red plum meld into the juicy finish”, stating that “the 2019 is very nicely done”.

Pauillac houses eight Bordeaux 2019 MUST BUYs, including first growths Lafite and Mouton, which both achieve WL scores of 97. Grand-Puy-Ducasse 2019 is both a MUST BUY and a Value Pick, having achieved a WL score of 93 at £23 per bottle (in-bond). Writing for Jancisrobinson.com, James Lawther muses whether the 2019 is the, “best of recent vintages?”, suggesting that it “certainly has more structure and power with additional mid-palate flesh”. As proposed in a previous Bordeaux 2019 en primeur blog, Pichon Comtesse is another notable Pauillac purchase for wine collectors, given the estate’s impressive popularity, and its vast reduction in volume released this year.

Within its five MUST BUY picks (four at under £50 per bottle in-bond), Margaux contains two Value Picks, with Malescot Saint-Exupery and Siran priced at £31 and £20 per bottle (in-bond), respectively. At £167 per bottle (in-bond) Palmer 2019 shows good value within the context of its previous vintages (31% below the 2018 and 2016 release prices), which, alongside its limited quantity released en primeur, makes this a must for Margaux enthusiasts.

In Pomerol, La Conseillante, Lafleur, and Vieux Château Certan achieve WL scores of 96, while Clinet follows shortly behind with 95. At £54 per bottle (in-bond) the latter is notably cheaper than its Pomerol peers, and has made a major leap up in quality from previous vintages. Awarding it 97-99 points, Neal Martin writes that Clinet 2019 “is just so fragrant on the nose”, stating that, “the purity that Ronan Laborde and his team have achieved should be applauded”.

Calon Ségur and Montrose lead Saint-Estèphe’s four MUST BUYs with a shared WL score of 95, while Meyney and Capbern provide testament to the value proposition available in the appellation, having been priced at £19 and £15 per bottle (in-bond), respectively.

Sharing three picks apiece are further left bank appellations Saint-Julien and Pessac-Léognan, which are both home to high-scoring 2019s. In Saint-Julien, Léoville Las Cases achieves a WL score of 97 – matched by Pessac-Léognan first growth Haut-Brion, and neighbour, La Mission.

Other wines featured in Wine Lister’s Bordeaux 2019 MUST BUYs are: Brane-Cantenac, Canon, Canon-la-Gaffelière, Cheval Blanc, Giscours, Gloria, Grand-Puy-Lacoste, Haut-Bailly, Le Petit Mouton, La Gaffelière, La Mondotte, Larcis-Ducasse, Léoville Poyferré, Lynch-Bages, Pavie-Macquin, Pontet-Canet, Potensac, and Troplong-Mondot.

Wine Lister has now released Part II of its annual in-depth Bordeaux Study, examining the price and quality of Bordeaux 2019, relative to previous vintages. Purchase the full report here, or download using your Pro subscription (available in both English and French).


Bordeaux 2019 en primeur – who’s in the lead?

Despite wide speculation over whether an en primeur campaign could proceed at all in 2020, this year’s campaign is now more or less complete, and Wine Lister’s scores are in. Bordeaux 2019s exhibit high quality across the board, receiving frequent comparison with recent great vintages – 2016, 2015, 2010, and 2009.

Wine Lister has now published its latest Wine Leagues on the new vintage – examining which Bordeaux 2019s rank best for WL score in each major appellation.

Pauillac First Growths, Lafite and Mouton, lead the appellation’s league of top 2019s by WL score, with a joint score of 97. Pichon Comtesse and Pichon Baron follow suit with 96 – the latter achieving its highest WL score since its 2016 vintage. Wine Lister partner critic Neal Martin describes Pichon-Baron 2019 as having “a very refined bouquet” and a “silky smooth, creamy texture”, stating it “retains all the classicism you could ask for”.

The league of Margaux 2019s by WL score is topped by the appellation’s namesake property, whose latest release joins fellow Pauillac Firsts with a score of 97. Following Palmer’s entry with 96, Malescot Saint-Exupéry 2019 achieves the château’s highest ever WL score (95). Wine Lister partner critic, Antonio Galloni notes that the 2019 is “a striking wine that is sure to find many admirers”, recounting an “interplay of earthy and savoury notes with rich, dense fruit… utterly captivating”.

There are four Value picks featured in the league of Margaux 2019s by WL score, with Labégorce, Malescot Saint-Exupéry, Marquis d’Alesme, and Prieuré-Lichine all achieving scores of 93 and above, at under £35 per bottle (in-bond).

In Saint-Julien, Léoville Las Cases 2019 achieves a WL score of 97, matching that of its 2018 and 2016 vintages. Ducru-Beaucaillou and Léoville Poyferré appear in joint-second place with 96 – achieving their highest WL scores since 2016 and 2015, respectively. Ducru-Beaucaillou 2019 performed notably well at tastings, with Neal Martin, awarding it  96-98 points. He notes its “filigree tannins, pitch perfect acidity and a sensual, satin-like texture”, concluding that the wine is “outstanding in terms of persistence”.

With a score of 96, Cos d’Estournel 2019 tops the league for Saint-Estèphe 2019s by WL score, matching its successful 2018 and 2016 vintages. Writing for JancisRobinson.com,  James Lawther describes the vintage as “powerful but carefully constructed and precise”, noting “a lovely mellow quality to such a muscular wine”. While both falling one WL score below their previous vintage, Calon Ségur and Montrose appear second in the appellation’s league, with a shared score of 95.

Branaire-Ducru 2019 and Meyney 2019 exhibit notable value within their appellations – both achieving WL scores of 93 at £29 and £19 per bottle (in-bond), respectively.

Haut-Brion and La Mission Haut-Brion perform notably well in 2019, achieving joint-first place in the league of top Pessac-Léognan 2019 reds by WL score. As examined in a previous Bordeaux 2019 en primeur blog, the en primeur darling, Les Carmes Haut-Brion, shows clear qualitative success in 2019, and its small production levels and smart en primeur pricing has once again made it a clear campaign buy. Another promising pick from Pessac-Léognan, Olivier 2019 achieves Value pick status at c.£20 per bottle (in-bond), and achieves the château’s highest WL score (92). Antonio Galloni recounts “smoke, licorice, cured meat, graphite and savory herbs infuse the 2019 with striking aromatic intensity to play off its sumptuous fruit”, concluding that the wine is “Very good”.

Haut-Brion and La Mission Haut-Brion attain joint-first place for their whites as well as reds in 2019, achieving scores of 95 in the league of top Bordeaux 2019 whites by WL score. Latour-Martillac Blanc 2019 achieves the highest WL score seen across its vintages (93) – one WL score above Pape Clément Blanc’s 92. At c.£21 per bottle (in bond) Latour-Martillac Blanc 2019 enters the market 10-30% below the current market prices of vintages 2016-2018, showing good value for its quality. Neal Martin notes on the latest vintage: “subtle tropical notes of pineapple and orange rind with hints of strawberry come through on the finish”.

On the right bank, the league of top 10 Saint-Emilion 2019s is crowned by Figeac’s high-scoring 2019. Up one point on its 2018, Figeac’s latest release achieves the highest WL score of all Bordeaux 2019s (98). Figeac 2019 illustrates the château’s impressive upward quality trajectory, which has seen its WL score slowly but surely increase from 91 in 2008. Neal Martin gives the latest vintage 97-99 points, describing it as “exquisitely defined… a deeply impressive, intellectual Figeac”.

La Conseillante, Lafleur, l’Eglise Clinet, Petrus, Trotanoy, and Vieux Château Certan share the top WL score of Pomerol 2019s (96), separated by mere decimals. A release of note, l’Eglise Clinet 2019 is the last vintage of the late Denis Durantou, who sadly passed away in May. Neal Martin’s impressive score of 97-99 suggests the last vintage was his best, adding, “the perfect way to remember and raise a toast to one of Pomerol’s finest vignerons”.

Click here to view all Wine Leagues. Pro users have access to a more extensive set of Leagues and can log in to access here.


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).