Wine Lister is experiencing a touch of Bordeaux fever. Having re-tasted Bordeaux 2016s in January, Wine Lister’s founder, Ella, attended BI Wines’ “10 years on” tasting last week, revisiting the iconic 2009 vintage.
As expected, the vintage yielded some truly exceptional wines, thanks to excellent weather conditions, especially around harvest time. However, some producers fell into the trap of waiting too long to pick, and high quality in 2009 is not a given. Ella has picked out 26 of the most successful examples of a unique and pleasure-giving vintage, hailing from across all of the best-known red wine Bordeaux appellations (N.B. no white wines were tasted).
The most heterogenous appellation was Saint-Emilion, with some wines rendered hot and hard by high alcohol, while those at the very top level were some of the best 2009s out there. Cheval Blanc, for example, achieved a “mystical, beguiling bouquet…like a magic potion”.
Pomerol did not seem to suffer from the heat in the same way, and made beautiful wines in 2009. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Le Pin garnered some exceptional comments, including “the richest, most decadent, abundant nose of the whole tasting”. Other Pomerol picks displayed an unusually dark-fruited character. Petrus (“not worn on the sleeve like the Le Pin”), had a “refined dark fruit character”, Hosanna “piercing damson fruit”, and La Conseillante boasted a “carnal, purple-fruit sweetness”.
On the left bank, Pessac-Léognan and Saint-Julien achieve joint-first place, earning five highlights each. Arguably the most impressive of these were La Mission Haut-Brion and Haut-Brion with the former described as “sensual, ethereal, and breath-taking”. Pape Clément showed almost “Rhône-esque animality”, while Malartic-Lagravière was “opulent” and “left you wanting more”.
Saint-Julien presented expected names – second growths Gruaud-Larose and Léoville Barton (described as “ultra-classical” and “thoroughbred” respectively), as well as a surprise in the form of Château Gloria, the only Cru Bourgeois to make it into this list of Bordeaux 2009 tasting highlights.
The remaining left bank appellations did not go wanting of favourites. Latour earned the comment, “impeccably turned-out, this wine demands attention”. Elsewhere in Pauillac Pichon Comtesse was “beguiling” and “gradually confident”.
In Margaux the appellation’s first growth namesake was hailed “quite the showstopper”, while Brane-Cantenac was “lifted, lovely, and luminous”. While Saint-Estèphe earned only one mention, its representative, Montrose surpassed expectation, appearing “supremely poised”.
All those wines marked “*” above currently qualify as Wine Lister “buy recommendations”. The Wine Lister team has been working hard to create a data-driven list of the ultimate best wines to buy – watch this space while we fine-tune the algorithm!
Other wines featuring in the Bordeaux 2009 highlights are: Grand-Puy-Lacoste, Pichon Baron, Haut-Bailly, Angélus, Figeac, Pavie, Troplong Mondot, Branaire-Ducru, and Ducru Beaucaillou.
Yesterday we examined Wine Lister founder, Ella Lister’s top left bank picks from the recent re-tasting of 204 Bordeaux 2016s, now in bottle.
Almost as many wines stood out across appellations on the right bank, from a tasting the following day of 171 wines – testament to the fantastic quality available across the board in 2016. There is no doubting 2016 is a great vintage in Bordeaux. Tasting these wines from bottle only served to confirm the Wine Lister team’s enthusiasm during en primeur tastings in the spring of 2017. Revisit our blog post from the time for details of the unusual weather conditions behind this vintage.
Wine Lister right bank highlights include 11 Saint-Emilion wines vs. 10 in Pomerol, and the top pick overall was Figeac, which was “intellectual”, “fine-boned” and “gourmand”.
Several of its well-known Saint-Emilion neighbours also made the cut into Wine Lister tasting highlights, including Canon ( “feather-light, but generous”), Clos Fourtet, and La Gaffelière.
N.B. The tasting did not include wines such as Petrus, Le Pin, Vieux Château Certan, Trotanoy, Ausone, Cheval Blanc, or Pavie.
However, it was Pomerol that produced more “underdogs” than its neighbour: not-so-big names punching above their weight. Of particular note were Clos Vieux Taillefer and La Croix Saint-Georges.
Among Pomerol top dogs, La Violette was showing beautifully, with a “delicate, fresh” nose and “unctuous, satin” palate. Vray Croix de Gay was “refined” and “thoroughbred”, while La Conseillante produced a “gorgeous, fine-grained texture”.
Further afield, Domaine de l’A from the Côtes de Castillon impressed, as did Marsau, from Francs Côtes de Bordeaux.
Also included in Bordeaux 2016 right bank picks were: Gazin, Saint Pierre, Le Gay, Beauséjour Heritiers Duffau Lagarrosse, Larcis Ducasse, Angélus, Villemaurine, Fleur Cardinale, Clos René, Corbin, and Petit Figeac.
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.
This week’s top five require absolutely no introduction. As Buzz Brands – Wine Lister’s group of wines that achieve outstanding online popularity and restaurant presence, and are also identified by the global fine wine trade as trending or especially prestigious – that is perhaps a given. Couple that with the fact that they hail from Bordeaux, and are the region’s most expensive Buzz Brands, it would be nigh on impossible for you not to be familiar with them to some degree.
Pomerol is home to three of the five. With the limited production volumes of the plateau’s top wines, it is perhaps no surprise that they reach eye-watering prices. Petrus leads the way with an average price across all vintages of £2,111. It is Bordeaux’s best wine, and the fifth best in the world, its phenomenal score of 983 only bettered by Salon and three (!) DRC cuvées. Petrus is consistently brilliant across Wine Lister’s three rating categories with Quality, Brand, and Economics scores of 978, 998, and 972 respectively. It is worth focusing on its Brand score. Despite its relatively low production volumes, its rate of restaurant presence is outstanding. Visible in 45% of the world’s top establishments, and with more than five vintages / formats featuring on each wine list on average, it is clearly a wine that commands the utmost respect from sommeliers. Moreover, receiving over 60,000 online searches each month, it is well over five times as popular as its Pomerol neighbours Le Pin and Lafleur.
Le Pin comes next (£2,009). It enjoys Bordeaux’s second-best Economics score (979), pipped at the post by Carruades de Lafite (980). Its outstanding score comes courtesy not just of its high price, but also strong price performance, with a three-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 17% and having added 8% to its price over the past six months alone. With those sorts of figures, it will soon overtake Petrus as Bordeaux’s most expensive wine – its neighbour having recorded a three-year CAGR of 13% but only managing to add 4% to its value since March.
At roughly a quarter of the price of Petrus and Le Pin, Lafleur is Bordeaux’s fifth most expensive Buzz Brand (£523). It was Bordeaux 2017’s top red for Quality, its score of 978 putting it just ahead of Petrus (971). Across all vintages it is also the longest-lived of this week’s top five, with Wine Lister’s partner critics predicting an average ageing potential of 21 years.
We cross over to the left bank for the group’s remaining two wines, the first of which might come as a slight surprise. Haut-Brion Blanc is Bordeaux’s third-most expensive Buzz Brand (£584). It is of course its rarity that propels it up the price tables. Producing just 6,720 bottles on average each year – 15 times fewer than Haut-Brion Rouge – it is over 60% more expensive than its red counterpart, despite trailing across each category.
Rounding out the group – if it can ever be described as such – is Lafite (£546). With the best part of 200,000 bottles of it produced each year, it will come as no shock that it manages the best restaurant presence of the five, both in terms of the number of establishments in which it appears (54%) and the number of references per list (6.3 on average). It is also the most popular wine in the world, receiving over 80,000 online searches each month.
As a sort of postscript to the difficult 2017 en primeur campaign (read our CEO Ella’s thoughts here), over the past week or so Pomerol powerhouses Petrus and Le Pin were released at £1,480 and £1,750 per bottle respectively. With Pomerol wines achieving the top three Quality scores of all reds for 2017 – and five of the top 10 – it was the top-performing red appellation of the vintage.
Now that we have release prices for all of Pomerol’s top wines, we can see which came out on top in terms of overall Wine Lister score*.
With a score of 979, Petrus was not just Pomerol’s leading wine of 2017, but the number one wine in Bordeaux. This is perhaps unsurprising given that it received the joint-second best Quality score of the vintage of all reds (971) – alongside Vieux Château Certan – and also has a Brand score of 998 (beaten only by Lafite, Latour, Mouton, Yquem, and Dom Pérignon Vintage Brut) along with a wine-level Economics score of 978 (third-best in Bordeaux). With Wine Lister’s Founding Members voting it the second-most prestigious wine in the world in a recent survey, behind DRC La Romanée-Conti, Petrus is currently unbeatable in Bordeaux.
Number two on the 2017 Pomerol leaderboard is Vieux Château Certan (959). While the confidence rating attributed by Wine Lister’s Founding Members slipped a point over the past year from 9/10 to 8/10, it nevertheless achieves Pomerol’s second-best Brand score (972). Thus, despite its relatively modest Economics score (909) – still putting it amongst the very best on Wine Lister’s 1,000 point scale – the 2017, thanks to its excellent Quality score, manages to edge just ahead of Lafleur in terms of overall Wine Lister score (957).
Lafleur 2017, the best red wine of the vintage for Quality (978), was released in early May at £430 per bottle, a 7% decrease on the 2016 release price. This was Neal Martin’s favourite of the five, Wine Lister’s newest partner critic awarding it a score of 95-97 /100 and commenting: “This is an awesome 2017 from Baptiste Guinaudeau, one of the few that will oblige several years in the cellar”.
Le Pin 2017 was released in the UK at £1,750 per bottle, its 25% decrease on the 2016 release price the largest year-on-year reduction of the five. It experiences the lowest Quality score of the five for the vintage (951), and also has the group’s lowest Brand score (944). The fact that the 2017 betters Lafleur and La Conseillante in terms of overall Wine Lister score is thus the result of its formidable Economics score (980), which it achieves not just because of its high average price but also strong growth rates, which are the best of the group over both the long and short-term.
Rounding out the group is La Conseillante (945). Whilst it is by far the most affordable of the group, it is the only one of the five whose 2017 climbed the Bordeaux Quality score table compared to 2016, surging 21 spots to be the eighth best red and 11th best overall.
Remember that you can catch up on all of the campaign’s releases on our dedicated en primeur page.
* Please note that overall Wine Lister scores for en primeur wines use estimated Economics scores based on the performance of back vintages.
Petrus 2017 was released in the UK at £1480 per bottle (19% down on 2016), with a lower Quality score: 971 (vs 991).
You can download the slide here: Wine Lister Factsheet Petrus 2017
Vieux Château Certan 2017 released at €168 ex-négociant (13% down on 2016), with a UK release price of £172 (also 13% down on 2016), and a lower Quality score: 971 (vs 991).
You can download the slide here: Wine Lister Factsheet Vieux Château Certan 2017
Bordeaux 2017 en primeur scores are now out from Neal Martin for Vinous.com – our US partner critic, and one of the most prominent voices of international wine criticism today. (Antonio Galloni’s scores are due out this Thursday, 3rd May). This is the first time Wine Lister has featured Neal Martin’s scores after he joined Vinous in February this year. Below are his scores equal to or above 94-96:
No wines earned perfect scores this year (in contrast with 2016, where Martin awarded a potential 100 points to eight wines), with five wines achieving Martin’s highest potential score of 97.
With a score of 95-97, Yquem sits in the top score bracket for the third time, already awarded 18.5 and 19.5-20 by Julia Harding MW (on behalf of Jancis Robinson) and Bettane+Desseauve respectively.
Similarly to Bettane+Desseauve, Martin’s appreciation for the quality of Sauternes and Barsac in 2017 is clear, with five other sweet whites making his top 21 (L’Extravagant de Doisy-Daëne, Coutet, de Fargues, Rayne Vignaud, and Suduiraut).
Lafite is Martin’s highest scoring Médoc first growth, which he describes as “classic from start to finish”. Joining the high rankings are first growths Haut-Brion (and its white), Latour, and Mouton, all earning 94-96 points.
The right bank figures strongly too. Two Pomerols (Lafleur and L’Eglise-Clinet) equal Lafite’s score, with three more earning 94-96, alongside three wines from Saint-Emilion. Ausone, like Yquem, makes its third appearance in top scores for Bordeaux 2017 from Wine Lister partner critics. “What a great Ausone this is destined to be,” comments Martin.
Bélair-Monange is perhaps the stand-out entry, described by Martin as, “the jewel in the crown of J-P Moueix… an assured, and bewitching Saint-Emilion”.
Other wines scoring 94-96 from Neal Martin include: Angélus, Cos d’Estournel, Hosanna, Montrose, Petrus, and Vieux Château Certan.
All these scores are now live on the wine pages of our website for subscribers to view (alongside those of Bettane+Desseauve and Julia Harding), with links through to Neal Martin’s tasting notes on Vinous.com. Read Neal Martin’s coverage of Bordeaux 2017 here.
Vinous coverage will be completed by Antonio Galloni’s scores, due for release on Thursday 3rd May.
Bordeaux 2017 en primeur scores are now out from Julia Harding MW for JancisRobinson.com – our UK partner critic (Jancis Robinson herself was kept in London updating the World Atlas of Wine for its next, eighth edition).
Harding awarded 14 wines a score of 18 or above, with Pomerol the most featured appellation at the top of her scoreboard. Lafleur, Le Pin, Petrus, and Vieux Château Certan all scored 18.5, the highest score given by Harding to any Bordeaux 2017 (while last year Robinson granted seven 2016 Bordeaux 19 points, including four of Harding’s favourites this year).
This Pomerol quartet is joined by another right bank wine, Saint-Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classé B, Figeac, whose tasting note from Harding ends: “Silky, charming, mouth-watering. So succulent, so precise, unforced.”
The only other wine to score 18.5 is the king of Sauternes, Yquem. As we saw in yesterday’s blog summing up Bettane+Desseauve’s top scores, 2017 is successful vintage for sweet whites. Harding’s top wines include La Tour Blanche and Doisy Daëne’s tiny production Barsac – already released at £140 per half bottle – L’Extravagant.
Like our French partner critics, Harding also gives high scores to Ausone, Latour, La Mission Haut-Brion Rouge, and its white sibling – the only dry white in her top table. Mouton Rothschild and Léoville Las Cases also score 18 points.
All these scores are now live on the wine pages of our website for subscribers to view (alongside those of Bettane+Desseauve), with links through to Harding’s tasting notes on JancisRobinson.com. Read Jancis Robinson’s extensive Bordeaux 2017 coverage here.
Neal Martin’s and Antonio Galloni’s scores will be added on Tuesday and Thursday respectively.
Last week we were lucky enough to taste through the 2008 vintage of Bordeaux grands crus classés at BI Fine Wines’ 10 years on tasting. Below we explore what light Wine Lister scores have to shed on the quality and price performance of different appellations in 2008.
Wine Lister’s holistic and dynamic approach allows us to not only see which appellations produced the vintage’s best wines, but also demonstrates if and how the market has since reacted to each appellation’s relative quality.
You can download the slide here: Wine Lister Bordeaux 2008 vintage overview
Featured wines: Petrus, Lafleur, Yquem, Haut-Brion, Lafite