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 £35 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).


Saving some of the best until last?

The final stretch of en primeur releases came yesterday – Tuesday 23rd June (excepting Petrus and Le Pin, which are generally always released at the end of the campaign).

First out of the blocks was the en primeur darling, Les Carmes Haut-Brion. Wine Lister’s CEO, Ella Lister, believes Director, Guillaume Pouthier and his team have produced another stunning effort in 2019, continuing their streak of achieving consistently high scores from critics since the 2014 vintage. She names the wine “heady” and “hypnotising” with aromas of “dark fruit, graphite, and mature roses” on the nose. On the palate she describes the wine as “silky, seductive, and generous”, adding that it is “incredibly pure”.

Aside from Les Carmes Haut-Brion’s clear qualitative success, the additional factors of its small production levels and smart en primeur pricing once again make it one of the most obvious buys of the campaign. One top UK merchant tells me, “we sold out in a matter of seconds”. The bittersweet irony of its huge demand is, of course, that it is reserved only for the lucky few. Indeed, its popularity has soared since the release of the 2016 vintage, which has more than doubled its price since. Its impressive price performance post en primeur release (the 2019 released at £58, 28% below the current price of the 2018) is the cherry on Bordeaux buyers’ favourite cake – Les Carmes Haut-Brion is, perhaps unsurprisingly, the number one Bordeaux wine voted by the trade to have seen the sharpest rise in demand, as shown in the chart below.

Results from Wine Lister’s 2020 trade survey show Les Carmes Haut-Brion achieves first place for sharpest rise in demand of Bordeaux wines.

Joining the fray of hot ticket releases from yesterday was Vieux Château Certan. Wine Lister partner critics were collectively impressed with the 2019, placing its quality on par with the 2018 (which achieves a WL score of 96). Writing for JancisRobinson.com, James Lawther describes the 2019 as a “classic VCC”, while Neal Martin for Vinous hails it a “brilliant follow-up to the 2018”. Releasing at £177 per bottle (in-bond), the latest vintage comes onto the market 20% below the current market price of the 2018.

Four releases from Tuesday 23rd June land within the top 10 Bordeaux wines to be voted by key members of the trade as most likely to see future prestige – Les Carmes Haut-Brion, Vieux Château Certan, Canon, and Rauzan-Ségla.

Chanel siblings Canon and Rauzan-Ségla also released their 2019s onto the market yesterday, adding weight to a day full of releases set for bright futures (see image above).

Saint-Émilion star, Canon, released its 2019 to the market at £73 per bottle (in-bond) – 23% below current prices of the 2018 and 2016 vintages. The Canon team characterise 2019 as a “metronome” vintage, referring presumably to the swinging back and forth between climatic extremes. The wet spring and the risk of frost, followed by the strong heat of the summer resulted finally in a perfect finish to the vineyard cycle at the time of harvest, and a wine that sings at perfect pitch. Lister describes Canon 2019 as a “sweet, seductive temptress”, with “voluptuous, racy acidity”, which Director Nicolas Audebert tells us, “2019 is a combination of 2015 and 2016”.

Canon’s Margaux sister, Rauzan-Ségla, also joined the stage, at £57 per bottle (in-bond). A “luscious”, and “lithe” wine, Lister notes the 2019 has “melting fruit, from red to black and back”, and a “toasty, flirty, refined length”. Entering the market 34% below the current price of the 2018 vintage, and offering the second most generous discount on 2018 market prices of the entire campaign (behind only Lafleur), this is sure to see high levels of demand.

A different time – a throwback to 2018 and a celebration at Château Berliquet, of its acquisition by the Chanel group.

The Chanel group’s new baby, Berliquet, is also growing up fast, releasing its 2019 at £34 per bottle (in-bond). Lister describes “ripe, juicy strawberries” on the nose, adding that it is “very complete, accomplished, and reassuring, with a mineral lift”. On the palate, she finds Berliquet 2019 “rich, full, but very clean-lined”, with “lovely acidity which brings out definition on the finish”. Judging by the immense success of its big siblings, Berliquet has a bright future ahead, and the 2019 is worth snapping up.

Also released yesterday were: Beau-Séjour Bécot and Beauséjour Héritiers Duffau Lagarosse


En primeur latest – packed with potential

As we approach the tail end of this busy campaign, the last two working days have seen some promising releases from both banks. Below we examine some of the highlights.

Friday 19th June

Haut-Bailly 2019 was released at £70 per bottle (in-bond), 20% below the 2018 release price. Wine Lister partner critics collectively award the 2019 its highest WL score ever (96), with laudable comments to boot – Antonio Galloni states, “it is easily one of the highlights of the vintage”, while Wine Lister’s CEO, Ella Lister, finds the wine “dark fruited and brooding”, on the nose, and “bewitching, languorous, and layered” on the palate. Haut-Bailly 2019 places second of all Pessac-Léognan reds, after a joint-first WL score of 97 for La Mission Haut-Brion 2019 and Haut-Brion 2019). With a record-high quality, and as a brand on the up, this is a release not to be missed.

Also released on Friday were wines from the Las Cases stable. The flagship wine, Léoville Las Cases, came onto the market at £145.50 per bottle (in-bond) – also a 20% discount from 2018’s opening price. Tasting in Bordeaux two weeks ago, Lister notes the 2019 is “magisterial” with “building power on the finish”. Wine Lister partner critic, Neal Martin, awards Léoville Las Cases 2019 96-98 points, and adds, “there is a clarity to this Grand Vin that places it amongst Jean-Hubert Delon’s finest releases in recent years”.

Picnic with Director Pierre Graffeuille – Wine Lister’s CEO, Ella Lister, tasted the Las Cases 2019s in Bordeaux two weeks ago, and describes the Grand Vin as “Luminous, transparent, and lyrical”.

Clos du Marquis and Nénin were also released, each offering good value in the context of similar quality wines produced in their respective appellations – Saint-Julien and Pomerol. Léoville Las Cases’ little brother, Petit Lion, is also exceptionally good value.

Perhaps the most notable release of a very busy Friday was l’Église Clinet 2019. Coming onto the market around the same price as the 2018 at £214 per bottle (in-bond), this is a sure exception to the trade’s “-30%” rule, given its circumstances – the last vintage of owner, the late Denis Durantou, who sadly passed away one month ago. Critics’ scores suggest that this final vintage was his best yet – Neal Martin awards it 97-99 points, and notes, “the perfect way to remember and raise a toast to one of Pomerol’s finest vignerons”. For Thierry Desseauve, l’Église Clinet is one of the wines of the vintage.

Pavie Macquin and Larcis Ducasse also released their 2019s on Friday. The former was one of Lister’s stand-out wines in 2019. She describes it as “bright and self-assured” on the nose, and “juicy and unctuous” on the palate. The latter shows particularly well against the wider Saint-Émilion backdrop. Saint-Émilion Grand Cru Classé “B” Larcis Ducasse 2019 earns a WL score of 95 – one point less than the likes of Cheval Blanc and Pavie, and is priced at just £47 per bottle (in-bond), or an average six times less than its Classés “A” comrades.

 

Monday 22nd June

Pichon Comtesse made for a powerful kick-off to the Bordeaux 2019 en primeur campaign’s fourth (and possibly final) week. Releasing at £111 per bottle, the latest vintage comes onto the market c.15% below the 2018 and 2016 vintages, if at a c.10% premium to the highly-scored 2015. Wine collectors will nonetheless likely be desperate to get their hands on this, given its resounding praise from critics, not to mention the impressive popularity of the estate. A perennial Wine Lister favourite, CEO, Ella Lister notes the wine has “perfectly poised fruit, interwoven with savoury complexity”. Neal Martin awards Pichon Comtesse 2019 98-100 points, and says, “Whisper it…it reminds me of their First Growth next door neighbour”. Dare we say it – this is Latour-level quality for roughly a quarter of the price.

Also released today is Saint-Émilion superstar, Troplong-Mondot. Its 2019 comes onto the market comfortably below the preceding four vintages on the market, with a price of £63.50 per bottle. Continuing the impressive quality increase and style evolution lead by Aymeric de Gironde and his team, critics are impressed with Troplong-Mondot 2019. Antonio Galloni states, “this is a wine that simply can’t be denied”, and Neal Martin agrees, adding that it is “just a wine you are going to want to drink”.

Further releases from Friday 19th June and Monday 22nd June are: LascombesPotensac, Réserve de la Comtesse, Smith Haut Lafitte, and Smith Haut Lafitte Blanc.


A dozen days of en primeur

Today is the 12th working day since the first major 2019 en primeur release, and over 60 wines are already out.

Among others, the last couple of days have seen the 2019 release of another first growth, a Pauillac powerhouse brand, and a major up-and-comer.

Haut-Brion released its red and white grands vins yesterday, at £295 and £560 per bottle in-bond respectively. While the red enters the market a solid 25% below the current market price of the 2018, the white is the campaign’s most expensive wine yet, and offers a smaller discount, of 5% on 2018.

Following Mouton Rothschild’s lead, Haut-Brion’s red looks well-priced within the current economic context, though buyers may note that the 2014 is available on the market around the same price. The 2012 also looks good – earning a WL score of 96, it is a Wine Lister MUST BUY (and available for c.£260 per bottle in-bond).

Also released from the Clarence Dillon family are Haut-Brion’s baby brother, Le Clarence (at c.£100 per bottle in-bond), and cousins La Mission Haut-Brion red and white. Of the two flagship reds, Haut-Brion is likely the stronger horse to back, based on its first growth status, as well as its position according to the trade among top Bordeaux wines for future prestige (see below).

According to Wine Lister’s 2020 trade survey, Haut-Brion is one of top Bordeaux wines most likely to be worth including in collectors’ future cellars.

Three further pairs of releases from Pessac-Léognan have emerged over the last two days, comprising Malartic-Lagravière, Latour-Martillac, and Carbonnieux.

On Thursday 10th June, Pauillac star-brand Lynch Bages was released, and has resulted in an onward UK selling price of c.£66 per bottle in-bond. Wine Lister’s CEO, Ella Lister, tasted it last week, and found it to be “lifted, precise”, and “a classic”. The price positioning under £70 has reportedly been well-received.

Haut-Batailley was also introduced to the market, at £36 per bottle in-bond. As its second en primeur release under Cazes ownership (the same family as Lynch Bages), the 2019 is 20% under the current market price of the 2018. Following a repositioning of Haut-Batailley’s pricing during en primeur last year, the 2019 release looks good value – the wine’s strong reputation will likely only become stronger with a new wave of investment, and prices are likely to rise accordingly. Lister describes Haut-Batailley 2019 as “pretty”, “elegant”, and “very harmonious”, with a “long, saline, dark chocolate finish” – this is a wine to buy now.

Better late than never – Wine Lister’s CEO, Ella Lister, has now tasted the majority of Bordeaux 2019s. Watch this space for her favourites, and Bordeaux 2019 MUST BUYs coming soon.

One further release for each side of the river caught Wine Lister’s eye this week: La Gaffelière 2019 was released 13% beneath the current 2018 market price. The château’s director, Thomas Soubes, told Wine Lister that he was very happy with the quality of their 2019, and Lister concurs –  she finds the wine “serious” and “charming”, with “velvet tannin” and “seductive red fruit”. La Gaffelière continues to present excellent value for its impressive quality, relative to wines sharing the Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Classé “B” classification.

Calon Ségur 2019 was also released yesterday. As one of the top rising stars of Bordeaux, its 2019 came onto the market 10% below the 2018 release price, but crucially 31% below 2018’s current market price. Calon Ségur is one of the “poster children” for the true benefits of buying en primeur. Lister found Calon Ségur 2019 to be “perfumed”, “juicy”, and “unctuous”, with “spice on the mid-palate” and a “saline, super-precise finish”. As ever, this is worth snapping up before its price inevitably increases post en primeur release.

Also released during the same period were: Cantenac-BrownCapbern, Clos FourtetClos RenéCos Labory, KirwanMonbousquetMoulin Saint-GeorgesPaviePhélan SégurPibran, and Suduiraut.

Keep up to date with further Bordeaux 2019 en primeur releases through Wine Lister’s dedicated en primeur page.


Bordeaux MUST BUYs

Faced with a new generation of fine wine buyers seeking more of the “weird and wonderful”, let alone recent economic obstacles – Coronavirus keeping drinkers off the streets, US tariffs on European wines – Bordeaux can struggle to find space to thrive.

Bordeaux’s traditional image compared to more fashionable regions such as Burgundy, Piedmont, or Champagne means its prices are lagging behind. The silver lining is that Bordeaux appears excellent value for the high quality available in comparison.

Wine Lister’s dynamic buy recommendation tool currently identifies 219 Bordeaux wines as MUST BUYs – just 19 fewer than the original MUST BUY list from September 2019.

The above table shows each Bordeaux appellation by number of MUST BUYs, as well as average price and WL score of each MUST BUY appellation group. Marking the delayed opportunity presented by slow price evolution post-en primeur, 2016 is the most-featured vintage, achieving 40 entries out of the 219 Bordeaux MUST BUYs (or 18%).

Leading MUST BUY appellation Pessac-Léognan is made up of 28 reds and eight dry whites. Producer Domaine de Chevalier features particularly heavily, earning MUST BUY status for 1981, 2009, 2014, 2015, and 2018 for its red wine, and 2004, 2009, 2010, and 2013 for white. Its second red wine, L’Esprit de Chevalier, appears for the 2016 vintage.

Smith Haut Lafitte and La Mission Haut-Brion share the remaining white places between them, while Haut-Bailly, Haut-Brion, Latour-Martillac, and Malartic-Lagravière achieve multiple entries for reds only. Price-rising superstar Les Carmes Haut Brion features for just one vintage – the 2017.

Right bank appellations Saint-Emilion and Pomerol share second place, with 33 MUST BUYs each. They both earn slightly better average WL scores than Pessac-Léognan, but at prices 26% and 366% higher respectively on average than Pessac counterparts.

The large price difference is hardly surprising in Pomerol, given that its MUST BUY hoard includes five vintages of Petrus, and one of Le Pin. Without these, the average price of Pomerol MUST BUYs is £171, and there are still options at the more affordable end (such as 2016 Vray Croix de Gay).

Powerhouse Pauillac comes next, and includes 14 first growth entries. Mouton takes the lion’s share of these, featuring seven vintages from 1996-2018. Latour earns five places (including one much older vintage – 1964), and Lafite two. Pichon Comtesse also features heavily, earning five MUST BUYs for its grand vin, and one for the Réserve de la Comtesse.

In terms of pure value for money, the one MUST BUY from the Médoc appellation – Potensac 2018 – wins out, followed more generally by Saint-Estèphe’s 22 MUST BUY entries. Perhaps unsurprisingly, its crowned king is Calon Ségur, earning MUST BUY status for five vintages – 2005, 2009, 2014, 2015, and 2016.

Explore all 219 Bordeaux MUST BUYs here.


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.


The Bordeaux 2018 harvest: another 2010?

As ripe, healthy grapes are being picked across Bordeaux, winemakers are anything but shy about the potential of the 2018 vintage. “2015 and 2016 are five-star vintages, but 2009 and 2010 are five-star plus,” said Olivier Bernard, president of the Union des Grands Crus Classés de Bordeaux. At his own property in Pessac-Léognan, Domaine de Chevalier, “2018 has 2009-2010 potential,” he declared on Wednesday morning, just as the red harvest was beginning.

Bernard is not the only Bordeaux producer daring to hope that the region has another great vintage on its way into the cellars. Part of the Wine Lister team is just back from four days in Bordeaux, where we visited châteaux on right bank and left, from Saint-Estèphe in the very north to Pessac-Léognan south of the city. We tasted lots of berries, spoke to oenologists, and even picked some grapes.

Members of the picking team at Petrus during the 2018 harvest

Producers’ smiles were big, and all the signs were promising, but after such a rollercoaster growing season, can 2018 really match up to the historic pair of 2009 and 2010? I asked straight-talking winemaking consultant Stéphane Derenoncourt if this comparison was justified. “More 2010,” he confirmed, adding, “There are going to be some delicious wines.”

Spring in Bordeaux was interminably wet, and mildew a serious threat throughout the region. “We thought there might not be a harvest at all,” recalls Nicolas Audebert, Managing Director of Châteaux Canon and Rauzan-Ségla. “It rained non-stop, and with high humidity and the high temperatures in June, it was almost tropical,” he said. Some members of Audebert’s team had never seen mildew so rife in 40 years of working the vines in Bordeaux.

Many top producers were affected, especially those practising organic or biodynamic viticulture and therefore unable to treat the vines systematically to protect from the fungus. In Saint-Estèphe, at the top of the Gironde Estuary nearest the Atlantic Ocean, Lafon-Rochet, organic since 2010 (though uncertified), abandoned the practice this year, and for good, in order to fight the rain.

However, mildew “is primarily a problem for quantity, rather than quality,” explained Axel Marchal, consultant and researcher at Bordeaux University, because the affected grapes are easily removed and discarded. “Badly hit vines can see a slight quality impact too, if the stress caused to the plant is enough to delay maturity,” he clarified.

At Canon in Saint-Emilion, quantity lost to mildew was recouped by less green harvesting later in the season. Its larger Margaux sister property, Rauzan-Ségla, was not so lucky, and yields will be lower than average. The two properties are organic (again not certified), allowing them to treat the vines when “really necessary”. However, many strictly organic or biodynamic estates will produce much smaller quantities of wine this year, meaning yields will be very varied from château to château, ranging from around 15 hl/ha to 50 hl/ha or more.

Grapes ripe for picking at Petrus

Potential quantity started off high, with the rain acting as “a signal for the plant to produce lots of fruit,” explained Bernard. The incessant spring downpours had another positive effect: they left the ground full of water, helping the vines to withstand the hot, dry summer that unfolded from 20th June onwards. “Looking at our vines, it’s hard to believe it’s been one of the driest summers in 50 years,” marvelled Bernard.

Audebert thinks the 2018 Canon will be soft and rounded, but livelier than 2005 or 2009, with phenolic potential above that of the 2010 (which of course is renowned for its intense colour and high levels of ripe tannin). When I asked if it could be as good as 2010, my question was met with silence and a roguish smile.