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.


Ornellaia 2018 – La Grazia

Last week, Wine Lister joined members of the fine wine trade and press, gathered behind their screens, for the unveiling of Ornellaia’s annual Vendemmia d’Artista collaboration. With each new vintage release, the Ornellaia team chooses a word to characterise the latest growing season and its resulting wine, and selects an artist to bring the word to life on limited-edition labels of the Ornellaia bottle.

Marking the winery’s 13th edition of Vendemmia d’Artista, the 2018 vintage has been coined “La Grazia” – Grace. Estate Director, Axel Heinz, explains that the choice of name is due to 2018 being “a wine that has no hard edges”, and one “all about symmetry, proportion…a graceful expression of Ornellaia”.

Indeed, the higher proportion of Merlot than Cabernet Sauvignon in the latest vintage blend – an exception for the estate – has produced what we found to be a soft and silky wine with a lively perfume and elegant, precise fruit. Ornellaia’s CEO, Giovanni Geddes da Filicaja, notes that the wine really came together “at the time of blending”. He adds, “all the pieces were good, but once we put them all together, it became a really gracious wine”.

That the wine should be so-named came as somewhat of a surprise to Heinz. He reveals that “it was really after the year of ageing and when we sat down in the blending room, that the wine revealed itself to us”. He describes the vintage as “one not without challenges”, expanding thus: “usually [we have] a relatively dry Mediterranean climate. In 2018 we had Mediterranean sun but at the same time enough rainfall to slow the ripening down, and create a wine that is all about balance”.

Belgian artist, Jan Fabre, was chosen to bring La Grazia to life, and limited-edition bottles in various formats will feature his work, as shown in the image below.

Photo: courtesy of Ornellaia winery – featuring sculpture and drawings by Jan Fabre.

Ornellaia’s art curator, Bartolomeo Pietromarchi, explains the artistic concept as “a way to express balance between beauty and taste”, as well as to “explore the relationship between the senses”. Fabre has sculpted three works from precious red coral, which adorn Salmanazars due for auction in September; “A Candle of Mercy”, “The Crown of Kindness” and “The Heart of Virtue”.

Further bottles feature drawings that bring out the texture of these sculptures – indeed a limited number of 12-bottle cases of Ornellaia 2018 will each contain one bottle with Fabre’s crown label design.

The 111 limited-edition, large-format bottles will be auctioned through Sotheby’s in September 2021, and all proceeds will go towards Ornellaia’s ongoing support of the Mind’s Eye project at the Guggenheim museum.


The final word on Burgundy 2019 – Jasper Morris’ top scores

The last lot of Burgundy 2019 scores are in, from Wine Lister’s regional specialist critic, Jasper Morris (Inside Burgundy).

Below we explore Jasper’s top scores by Burgundy “subset”, as defined in Wine Lister’s recent study on the region (recap its key findings here).

While no wines earned perfect scores this year, Jasper’s highest score was in fact awarded to a Premier Cru performing beyond its classification – Arnoux-Lachaux’s Vosne-Romanée Aux Reignots. He notes that the wine is “completely heartbreakingly suave and sensational”, offering “crisply ripe cherries, alpine strawberry, the lightest raspberry touch, then a generous pure clear long finish”.

In Gevrey and its surrounding Grands Crus areas, Armand Rousseau fares well, its Chambertin and Chambertin Clos de Bèze earning scores of 98 and 97 respectively. Up-and-comer Domaine Duroché ties for first place within the subset with its Chambertin Clos de Bèze. Jasper describes it as having “a little lick of oak, which is entirely in place, a light, but fresh acidity, a sense of harmony throughout and a deepening of the fruit on the second half of the palate”, creating a “glorious conclusion”.

Georges Roumier proves king of Chambolle and its surrounding Grands Crus, earning two places among the top scorers for the domaine’s Musigny and Bonnes-Mares. Adding testament to the improving quality of maisons de négoce (as mentioned in Wine Lister’s Burgundy study), Maison Henri Boillot makes an appearance among the top ranks for its own Bonnes-Mares.

Domaine de la Romanée-Conti understandably dominates the Vosne Grands Crus category, though star producer Arnoux-Lachaux features among the top 11, in addition to its high-scoring Vosne-Romanée Premiers Crus. Speaking to Wine Lister following the completion of his Burgundy 2019 reports, Jasper notes that Arnoux-Lachaux has “unequivocally joined the greats with a faultless array of stunning wines in 2019, hitting heights of ethereal elegance without sacrificing power”.

Jasper reports that Morey-Saint-Denis has done well in 2019, as “the village which had the benefit of the best rainfall figures in August”. He adds, “not only are Clos des Lambrays and Clos de Tart progressing well under their new ownerships and winemakers, but class acts such as Domaine Dujac and Christophe Perrot-Minot have filled their boots, while Domaine Arlaud have produced their best set of wines ever”.

Interestingly, no Côte de Beaune red scores above 96 from Jasper in 2019 (though the top scorer at 95-96 points is Méo-Camuzet’s Corton Rognet). See all top scores for Côte de Beaune reds in 2019 here.

Whites in 2019 do not reach the dizzy score heights of their red counterparts. The above chart therefore takes into account Côte de Beaune white Premiers Crus with scores above 95, and Côte de Beaune Grands Crus achieving 96 points or above.

In the latter subset, maisons de négoce Bouchard Père et Fils and Maison Jadot achieve two entries apiece, for their Chevalier-Montrachet La Cabotte and Montrachet, and Corton-Charlemagne and Montrachet respectively.

Producers Bachelet-Monnot, Comtes Lafon, Domaine Henri Boillot, and Marc Colin also all appear twice in the top Côte de Beaune white rankings for 2019.

View more Burgundy 2019 scores here. Wine Lister Pro users can search and filter by critic scores, and can view all of Jasper Morris’ top Burgundy 2019 scores here. Click here to find out more about the Pro subscription.


Neal Martin’s top Burgundy 2019 scores

The majority of Burgundy 2019 en primeur scores have now been published by another Wine Lister partner critic, Neal Martin (Vinous), offering further insight into the best bottles from the latest vintage.

Explore all Burgundy 2019 WL scores here, or read more below.

While no wines earned perfect scores this year, fittingly there are 19 Burgundy 2019s that earn 96-98 and above (compared to 15 in 2018). Domaine de la Romanée-Conti La Tâche, Dujac Clos de la Roche, Jean Grivot Richebourg, and Armand Rousseau Chambertin Clos de Bèze fare notably well with scores of 97-99.

Domaine de la Romanée-Conti occupies a further three places on the list, with its Grands Echezeaux, Richebourg, and Romanée-Conti, compared to two Domaine de la Romanée-Conti wines that appear in this score bracket in 2018.

Also scored generously by Jancis Robinson this year (recap our recent examination of her Burgundy 2019 here), Georges Roumier is awarded 96-98 for his Bonnes-Mares, Musigny, and Ruchottes-Chambertin. Featuring on both critics’ list of top-rated wines from the vintage, the Musigny is described by Neal Martin as “beautifully defined on the nose”, offering “a mixture of red and black fruit laced with blood orange, it fans out wonderfully toward the finish”.

The only white Burgundy to gain a score of 18.5 from Jancis Robinson so far, Comtes Lafon’s 2019 Montrachet is one of three whites awarded 96-98 by Neal Martin, alongside its Meursault Perrières and Louis Jadot’s Chevalier Montrachet Les Demoiselles. Members of the Wine Lister team sampled the latter at Louis Jadot’s 2019 en primeur tasting in November 2020 (recap here), and were also impressed, detecting notes of honey and brioche to complement its defined acidity.

Also featured on the list of Burgundy 2019s earning 96-96 and over from Neal Martin are: Armand Rousseau Ruchottes-Chambertin Clos des Ruchottes, Bernard Dugat-Py Mazis Chambertin Vieilles Vignes, Claude Dugat Chapelle-Chambertin, Clos de Tart Clos de Tart, Comte Liger-Belair La Romanée, Denis Bachelet Charmes-Chambertin Vieilles Vignes, Dujac Romanée-Saint-Vivant, Duroché Chambertin Clos de Bèze, Georges Mugneret-Gibourg Ruchottes-Chambertin, Georges Noëllat Grands Echezeaux, Hudelot-Noëllat Richebourg, Jean Trapet Père et Fils Latricières-Chambertin, Joseph Drouhin Musigny, Marquis d’Angerville Volnay Clos des Ducs, and Robert Groffier Père et Fils Chambertin Clos de Bèze.


Jancis Robinson’s top Burgundy 2019 scores

Though Wine Lister are missing what would have been London’s Bourgogne tasting week this week, our partner critic, Jancis Robinson, has now released the majority of her scores for the 2019 vintage, providing a better picture of the top en primeur picks.

Explore all Burgundy 2019 scores here, or read more below.

A drought year resulting in wines of extreme concentration, yet balanced by energising acidity (recap Wine Lister’s report on Burgundy’s 2019 vintage here), there are 22 Burgundy 2019s that have so far been given a score of 18.5 or above.

Jancis awarded 19 points to Leroy’s Chambertin, Corton Les Renardes, Musigny, and Richebourg, after having not published any scores for Leroy since the 2013 vintage. The property fares extremely well in 2019, occupying eight places in the list of 22 wines earning 18.5 and over. Leroy’s Clos de la Roche, Latricières-Chambertin, Romanée-Saint-Vivant, and Vosne Romanéee Les Beaux Monts all achieve a score of 18.5.

Armand Rousseau occupies four places in the list, with its Chambertin Clos de Bèze, Gevrey-Chambertin Clos Saint-Jacques, Mazis-Chambertin, and Ruchottes-Chambertin Clos des Ruchottes all earning 18.5 points. While slightly down on her ratings for the property’s 2018 offerings (she awarded 19 points to Rousseau’s Clos de la Roche and Ruchottes-Chambertin Clos des Ruchottes in 2018, and a further 18.5 points to its Chambertin, Chambertin Clos de Bèze, and Gevrey-Chambertin Clos Saint-Jacques), it nonetheless continues its excellent quality performance in 2019.

Comtes Lafon’s 2019 Montrachet is the only white Burgundy to gain a score of 18.5 from Jancis Robinson so far, continuing its series of top scores awarded by the critic in recent years. She describes it as “Both rich and savoury. Not remotely fat but with massive intensity. Throbbing and jewel-like”, concluding that “Dominique [Lafon] must be thrilled by this”.

Also featured on the list of Burgundy 2019s earning 18.5 and over from Wine Lister partner critic, Jancis Robinson are: Bernard Dugat-Py Chambertin, Bernard Dugat-Py Mazoyères-Chambertin, Comte Liger-Belair La Romanée, Georges (or Christophe) Roumier Chambolle-Musigny Les Amoureuses, Georges (or Christophe) Roumier Musigny, Joseph Drouhin Musigny, Michel Lafarge Volnay Clos du Château des Ducs, Perrot-Minot Chambertin Clos de Bèze Vieilles Vignes, and Perrot-Minot Mazoyères-Chambertin Vieilles Vignes.

View more Burgundy 2019 scores (including those of Jasper Morris and Neal Martin) here.


Burgundy 2019: a bright future ahead

The first of the Burgundy 2019 en primeur releases began this month, reigniting conversation of last year’s growing season, and its subsequent offerings. Wine Lister has spoken to several key Burgundy producers, and has sampled the 2019s from leading négociant, Louis Jadot, to get a better picture of this promising vintage.

Burgundy’s 2019 growing season was marked by a notably hot and dry summer, resulting in wines of extreme concentration. Due to a combination of spring frost, uneven flowering, and summer drought across many sites, yields in 2019 are significantly lower than average.

A line-up from Louis Jadot’s 2019 en primeur tasting, organised by Hatch Mansfield at Vagabond, Monument on the 3rd of November 2020

Sourcing grapes from across the region, including its own holdings in some of Burgundy’s most prized plots (e.g. Chapelle Chambertin, Clos Vougeot, and Vosne-Romanée), Louis Jadot’s production in 2019 is down 50% for Chardonnay, and 30% for Pinot Noir. A cool and windy spring caused millerandage across Jadot’s sites, leading to many of the smaller, unripe berries being discarded. Warm temperatures in 2019 meant that grapes had high natural sugar levels, and correspondingly high alcohol across the region. Deputy General Manager, Thibault Gagey, tells us that several Louis Jadot wines are approaching 14 degrees in 2019, however, they nonetheless offer “good acidity, so they are powerful but balanced”, and there “isn’t a feeling of high alcohol”.

Wine Lister agrees whole-heartedly, and was particularly impressed by the quality of the whites. The Chablis Blanchot was “pure and lithe with an already-sumptuous texture”, while the Chassagne Montrachet Morgeot Clos de la Chapelle offered a delightful nose of “honey, truffle, and brioche”, with “rich citrus” on the palate. For reds, Wine Lister enjoyed the “complex and earth-toned” Clos Saint-Denis, and the “powerful but poised” Gevrey-Chambertin Clos Saint-Jacques. Gagey informs us that he is indeed “very proud of the 2019s”, and is “confident that it will be a good vintage”.

Across the Côte de Beaune, harvests were small in 2019. Arnaud Ente tells us that his namesake domaine saw “a spell of spring frost”, which caused significant damage and loss of yield, and “uneven weather patterns during flowering”, caused coulure and millerandage. The summer was mostly hot and dry, causing hydraulic stress to the vines, but “20-30mm of rainfall in late August” helped to unblock phenolic maturation, and allow the grapes to reach “impressive levels of maturity while maintaining good sugar levels, and also a very lovely acidity”. Ente notes that his 2019s have achieved “extraordinary balance, due to the acidity in the grapes developing slowly”. The vintage is of “enormous potential”, if down 20% on an average year in terms of volume.

Domaine Jean-Noël Gagnard similarly experienced significant frost in 2019; the principal cause of its small harvest. Winemaker Caroline Lestimé echoes the experience of  “millerandage followed by hydraulic stress on the vines during the summer drought”, resulting in “small, but thankfully exceedingly concentrated berries”. Due to the two extremes of conditions throughout the season, Lestimé analysed the sugar / acid balance frequently near to harvest, so as to pick the optimum window for picking. Once again, quality here is likely a triumph, but Lestimé adds that “Jean-Noël Gagnard has not seen such a small harvest since 1999”.

Guillaume d’Angerville tells us that in Volnay, “frost risk was on everyone’s mind”, however, “dry and windy conditions helped to avoid frost damage” across Marquis d’Angerville’s plots. Water and heat stress in summer was a problem here too, “stopping the plant’s evolution, and veraison was delayed as a result”. He similarly explains that “selecting the correct harvest date proved difficult”, in part due to the “heterogenous grape maturation”, however in the end, “the entire range benefitted from the perfect maturity of the grapes”, despite yields being down 20-30% on the average year. He tells us that his 2019s are “succulent and full of energy”, without being “jammy” from such a hot year, and therefore providing “another successful vintage ending in 9”.

Akin to Louis Jadot, Winemaker Jean-Nicolas Méo tells us that Méo-Camuzet’s 2019s are “well-ripened”, with “fairly high alcohol levels, around 14 degrees”. He states that there is nonetheless “a nice acidity to start”, which provides the wines “a good freshness and a certain structure”, as well as lengthy ageing capacity. Echoing d’Angerville’s sentiment on the success of 9s, Méo foresees “an evolution of this vintage like the 2009: rich and greedy at first, then gradually closing, to emerge in a decade more tense and structured than suggested today”.

Despite the significantly reduced volumes in 2019, the quality of Burgundy’s latest vintage release clearly suggests a long and promising future ahead. The combination of these two factors will surely see demand outweigh supply for en primeur once again. For more guidance on buying Burgundy 2019 en primeur, and essential analysis to inform your wider Burgundy investment decisions, purchase our in-depth Burgundy study here.


Mind the gap: the positioning of Burgundy prices

Wine Lister’s recent in-depth Burgundy study considers the much-contended topic of the region’s rising prices, providing additional information for those planning on purchasing Burgundy 2019 en primeur over the coming months.

Below we examine the current distribution of prices of the 175 wines featured in the study, compared to the same wines two years ago. While 5% of wines were priced above £3,000 two years ago, a substantial 11% are today.

The graph above reveals a significant shift towards the higher end of the price scale, with multiple Burgundy wines previously priced between £1,900 and £2,700 now over £3,000. This comprises Comte Liger-Belair La Romanée, d’Auvenay’s Mazis-Chambertin and Bonnes-Mares, Domaine de la Romanée-Conti La Tâche, Jean-François Coche-Dury Corton-Charlemagne, and Leroy’s Richebourg, Romanée-Saint-Vivant, Clos de la Roche, Corton-Charlemagne, and Latricières-Chambertin.

Alongside the figures, feeling from Wine Lister’s recent Founding Member survey confirmed that Burgundy’s seemingly boundless prices are a concern, with over half of respondents voicing apprehensions on the topic. The most common sentiment is nonetheless that little will change for wines at the very top end, and that their prices will continue to climb, as demand continues to outweigh supply significantly. One specialist merchant in the Asian market informed us that they indeed foresee “Burgundy prices heading higher at the top end”, and that they “don’t see demand slowing despite the economic issues.”

The polarised prices illustrated in the graph are echoed by the trade, who cite a phenomenon of divergence between the top-end wines, and those at mid-range or entry-level. One respondent noted “an oversupply of generic and village Burgundy”, with another predicting that “when the smoke clears, all that remains will be Bourgogne Rouge/Blanc and the crown jewels, with no market in between”.

Despite the geopolitical context of the past two years, the buzz surrounding Burgundy remains strong, and competition will be hot for accessing the best wines of the 2019 vintage, particularly given its reduced production volume.

Visit the Analysis page to purchase Wine Lister’s in-depth 2020 Burgundy study, or download it using your Pro subscription here (available in both English and French).


Wine Lister 2020 Burgundy Study: Out of this world

Burgundy prices continue to rise, and top wines are becoming ever-harder to access – but must what goes up really come down?

Wine Lister has published its second in-depth Burgundy report, with contribution from partner critic and leading Burgundy expert, Jasper Morris. With insights from key fine wine trade players from across the globe, the report investigates the state of Burgundy compared to other major fine wine regions, and discusses projections for its future performance.

Please see our key findings below:

You can download the study digest in English here: Wine Lister Burgundy Study Digest 2020 or French here: Wine Lister Étude Bourgogne 2020 – Résultats Clés. The full report can be purchased on our Analysis page, while Pro subscribers can access their free copy here.


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.


Topping off the 2008s – Taittinger Comtes de Champagne

Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 2008 was released yesterday (1st October) at c.£89 (per bottle in-bond), marking one of the last 2008s from the “Grandes Maisons” to enter the market. The release has reignited discussion on the success of the vintage in Champagne, which has been declared one of the best of the decade along with 2002. Below we investigate top 2008s, and where the latest addition from Taittinger fits within them.

Characterised by a consistent, dry, and cool growing season, climatic conditions in 2008 encouraged slow veraison across Champagne, which enabled grapes to achieve their full phenolic maturity while retaining acidity. The combination of both gives the vintage considerable ageing potential, and unyielding structural integrity.

As illustrated above, the top 10 2008 champagnes by WL score exhibit impressive quality, with the top three wines gaining scores of 97 and above. This has not been achieved in the past four vintages, with Krug Brut Vintage 2003 being the most recent back vintage of a champagne to achieve a WL score of 97. Indeed, the top 10 champagnes gain an average WL score of 95.8 in 2008, compared to an average of 94.6 across the top 10 champagnes from the previous vintage.

The newest addition to the top 10 haul, Taittinger Comtes 2008 shows good value within the wider context of the vintage, despite entering the market at a 26% premium on the current market price of its 2007 vintage. While achieving the same WL score as MUST BUY Philipponat Clos des Goisses 2008 (96), Taittinger’s latest release is available for 34% less, (£89 vs. £135 per bottle in-bond). Similarly, it achieves one more WL point than Bollinger Grand Année 2008 (available for £85 per bottle in-bond), for a very slight premium.

Wine Lister partner critic, Antonio Galloni awards Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 2008 98+ points, stating it “is simply breathtaking” and “represents the purest essence of the Côtes des Blancs in a great, historic vintage”. He concludes, “readers who can find the 2008 should not hesitate”.

Taittinger Comtes de Champagne is historically one of the top 10 most liquid champagne brands, giving it further investment appeal. Additionally, Taittinger announced that it has not produced any 2009, 2010, or 2011 Comtes de Champagne, due to poor weather conditions during these years – a fact that may well increase interest in this latest release.

Also featured in the list of top 10 2008 Champagnes by WL score are: Salon Le Mesnil, Cristal, Dom Pérignon Vintage Brut, Marc Hébrart Spécial Club Millésimé, Joseph Perrier Cuvée Josephine, De Sousa Cuvée des Caudalies, and Pol Roger Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill.