As en primeur 2018 picks up pace, we consider the 10 Bordeaux wines that any fine wine collector should acquire for their collection. These are based on the results of Wine Lister’s latest Founding Member survey, gathering the views of over 50 key players in the global fine wine trade.
You can download this slide here: 10 must have Bordeaux wines for your collection
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.
Last week Wine Lister shared top picks from Burgundy 2017 tastings. This week the focus is Bordeaux, after Wine Lister’s founder, Ella Lister, re-tasted through the 2016 vintage with Wine Lister partner critics Michel Bettane and Thierry Desseauve, thanks to négociants Joanne and CVBG.
We are in the process of updating Wine Lister Quality scores based on new, in-bottle scores from Wine Lister partner critics Bettane+Desseauve, Antonio Galloni, and Neal Martin, and in the meantime we share Ella’s left bank picks below.
N.B. The tasting did not include first growths, or wines such as Cos d’Estournel, Palmer, Léoville Las Cases, Ducru Beaucaillou, and Pontet-Canet.
The spread of favourites from across left bank appellations reflects the homogeneity of the 2016 vintage overall.
Saint-Estèphe was a standout appellation in 2016. Two top dogs, Calon-Ségur and Montrose earned significant praise – Calon is described as having “ballet slipper poise” and a “core of energetic fruit”, where Montrose appeared “elegant, silky and delectable”, with a much-improved integration of oak than the en primeur sample. Beside these sit two underdogs, Capbern and Phélan Ségur, which punch above their expected qualitative weight.
Saint-Julien earns three picks, with Beychevelle being a particular highlight, hailed “ravishing, with vitality and a satin finish”. In Pauillac, Pichon Baron and Pichon Comtesse were both notable, with the former appearing “refined, aristocratic and accomplished”, the latter “exciting, racy, and moreish”. Both Brane-Cantenac and Malescot Saint-Exupéry brought signature Margaux elegance to the tasting mix.
Pessac-Léognan reds were showing particularly well, earning an equal number of highlights as powerhouse Pauillac overall. Haut Bailly made the cut alongside Domaine de Chevalier, Pape Clément and Smith Haut-Lafitte. Bouscaut stood out as the underdog of the Graves.
A few further surprises arose across red appellations, including Gloria, Lacoste-Borie (the second wine of Grand-Puy-Lacoste), and Branas Grand Poujeaux.
Less surprising was the high quality of sweet staples, Climens, Doisy Daëne, and Coutet. Of dry whites, the stand-outs were Smith Haut-Lafitte Blanc (labelled “tonally a step above”), and de Fieuzal Blanc.
Other wines featured in the Bordeaux 2016 left bank highlights are: Branaire-Ducru, Le Baron de Brane, and Les Griffons de Pichon Baron.
One of the major trends identified in Wine Lister’s first Champagne study was the rise of grower Champagnes. While maison offerings dominate the top 20 highest-quality Champagnes from the basket of 108 studied, growers achieve a higher average Quality score overall (862 vs. 853). This week’s top five looks at the top Champagnes under £100 by Quality score, and helps us examine the grower vs. maison phenomenon further.
The first of this week’s top five is grower Champagne Egly-Ouriet’s Vieillissement Prolongé Extra Brut with a Quality score of 919. Though top of the leader board for Quality, it is the least expensive of this week’s group at an in-bond per bottle price of £55 (or 34% less than the average price of the other four Champagnes). This is perhaps due to it being the only non-vintage Champagne of the group, and provides testament to the great price to quality ratio of N.V. Champagnes across the board.
Next up of this week’s top five is Henri Giraud’s Fût de Chene with a Quality score of 913. For the purposes of Wine Lister’s Champagne study, Henri Giraud was in fact not classed as a grower Champagne, since our definition of ‘grower’ signified properties who use 100% of their own grapes (Henri Giraud buys in 20%). The 1999 vintage earns 18 points from Wine Lister partner critic Jancis Robinson, who calls it “a sort of Montrachet of Champagne”.
Third of this week’s top five is R&L Legras’ St. Vincent. Earning a Quality score of 900, it is the only Blanc de Blancs of the group. In true grower fashion, this little-known Champagne ranks as the 1,985th most-searched-for wine of the c.4,000+ wines on Wine Lister and is present in just 3% of the world’s best restaurants.
The last two Champagnes of this week’s top five may have the same Quality score of 899, but have very different profiles. It is surely a satisfying conclusion that, despite maison Champagne’s stronger brand position overall, these two wines (one maison and one grower) prove the opposite to be true. Maison offering Joseph Perrier’s Cuvée Josephine has the lowest Brand score (474) of this week’s top five, while grower Champagne Vilmart et Cie Coeur de Cuvée earns the highest (779), with a search rank in 854th place and presence in 11% of the world’s best restaurants. The rise of grower Champagnes is in full force.
For a more in-depth look at Champagne, subscribe or log-into read the full report here. Alternatively, all readers can access a five-page executive summary. (Both versions are also available to download in French).
Much of the U.K. wine trade gathered last week for the first wine ‘event’ of 2019 – Bourgogne Week. To the Wine Lister team members attending tastings in London, one thing was abundantly clear – the quality across the board is impressive (Wine Lister’s founder, Ella, discussed what a positive surprise the 2017 Burgundy vintage has been in a recent podcast – watch here).
Since there is so much to choose from, and with Burgundy’s popularity continuing to grow (read more in Wine Lister’s Burgundy study here), the Wine Lister team has put together its own list of buys based on tastings attended last week.
The Côte de Nuits has produced many rich examples in 2017. All of Comte Liger-Belair’s wines were stunning, but a particular highlight was his Vosne-Romanée. Both Clos de Vougeots from Faiveley and Jacques Prieur possessed great intensity, while Fourrier’s Gevrey-Chambertin Combe aux Moines was pretty and elegant in style.
The Côte de Beaune has performed wonderfully in 2017. The team settled on a Volnay, a Corton Bressandes and three Pommards, with two particular favourites – Comte Armand’s Clos des Epeneaux and De Montille’s Les Pézerolles.
Finally, the team were impressed by an array of whites from the Mâconnais right up to the premiers crus from the Côte de Beaune. Hubert Lamy’s Saint-Aubin En Remilly was selected unanimously by Wine Lister team members. Bernard Moreau’s Chassagne-Montrachet impressed, while Bret Brothers’ Pouilly-Vinzelles Les Quarts was a great discovery.
See the rest of the wines included in this post here: Bruno Clair Bonnes-Mares, Duroché Gevrey-Chambertin Les Jeunes Rois, Ghislaine Barthod Chambolle-Musigny Les Charmes, Henri Gouges Nuits-Saint-Georges Clos des Porrets-Saint-Georges, Jacques-Frédéric Mugnier Nuits-Saint-Georges Clos de la Maréchale, Jean Grivot Vosne-Romanée Aux Brûlées, Maison Joseph Drouhin Chambertin Clos de Bèze, Mongeard-Mugneret Vosne-Romanée En Orveaux, Olivier Bernstein Bonnes-Mares, Thibault Liger-Belair Nuits-Saint-Georges Les Saint-Georges, Courcel Pommard Les Croix Noires, Henri Boillot Volnay Chevrets, Tollot-Beaut Corton Bressandes, Étienne Sauzet Puligny-Montrachet Les Perrières, Jean-Noël Gagnard Chassagne-Montrachet La Boudriotte, Jean-Philippe Fichet Meursault Les Tessons, Laroche Chablis Les Blanchots.
At the end of November Wine Lister spent three days in Burgundy meeting with producers across the length of the Côte d’Or. With more wine in their barrel cellars than for a very long time (in some cases more than ever), the mood was light and easy. The 2017 vintage saw the first normal-sized crop since 2009 (and 2018 was even more generous). “It’s the first year we’ve had barrels three rows high,” marvelled Thibaut Gagey as he showed me round Maison Louis Jadot’s vast cellars in Beaune, currently housing a record 6,000 fûts.
Thibaut Gagey in the Maison Louis Jadot cellars
The 2017 vintage is a “belle surprise” for Gagey, who admits, “we weren’t very confident at first.” This pleasant surprise was something expressed time and again by growers during our tastings of 2017 from barrel. With Burgundy Week about to unfold, here we look back over some of those conversations.
In Volnay, Guillaume d’Angerville calls the 2017 “a huge positive surprise.” He explained that “a lot of people had discounted the vintage early on,” because “they thought it would be diluted.” Our tastings, at Domaine d’Angerville and elsewhere, proved this supposition to be mistaken, the wines having taken on weight and complexity during their élevage. Jasper Morris MW refers to 2017 wines as “relatively homogenous, some with more concentration and others with less.” Either way, the wines are juicy, luminous, and downright delightful.
Tasting from barrel with Guillaume d’Angerville
Boris Champy, Manager at Domaine des Lambrays, calls the vintage both “classic” and “modern” at once, because he believes there’ll be many like it in the future. He compared 2017 to 2009. Angerville is reminded of the “tenderness” of 2007 (“but more substantial”) and the “harmony and elegance” of 2002 or 2010. “It’s going to give a lot of pleasure,” he pronounced. Gagey also cited 2007 for its positive surprise factor, and 2014 for its “accessibility”. The immediate pleasure these wines offer up is almost disconcerting, but this early approachability does not mean they won’t age. The 2017 might not be the longest-lived vintage, but it has everything in place for a good innings.
However, it “won’t be the vintage of the century,” Gagey states. “What it doesn’t have is that extra grip, depth, and drive of a great vintage,” confirms Morris. Meanwhile, the whites are superlative. “Apart from 2014,” Morris calls it the “most consistently good white vintage for a long time.”
The growing season was early, but otherwise unexceptional, apart, of course, from the threat of frost once more rearing its ugly head. This time, though, the Burgundians fought their nemesis with a thick veil of smoke. The fires they lit around their vineyards may have served to raise the temperature a fraction, but just as importantly, their smoke prevented the morning sun being magnified through the ice and burning the buds. And so, apart from in Chablis, yields were back to normal levels.
One might assume therefore that prices will come down – after all, the consistent increases over the last eight years have been put down to limited supply. This would be naïve, though, with global demand and secondary market values for Burgundy’s top wines continuing to spiral upwards, even to the bewilderment of some Burgundians (after the record-breaking results of the latest Hospices de Beaune auction of 2018 wines in November, Louis-Fabrice Latour, president of the BIVB (Bureau interprofessionnel des vins de Bourgogne), said he was “surprised prices went up, and by so much”).
The fact is, momentum is with Burgundy. The region’s top 50 wines grew in popularity by 26% over the last year, while Bordeaux’s search rank on Wine-Searcher remained stable, and other regions saw search levels drop. This means that top producers can almost certainly raise prices again this year and still sell through. We spoke to a few domaines who planned to do so, and some by significant margins. Mostly, though, prices should be flat on 2016 or see only modest increases (less than 10% up on 2016 prices). A minority have even come down in price. Either way, this is surely a vintage worth getting your hands on for unadulterated drinking pleasure.
Wine Lister’s Burgundy Market Study published this time last year for subscribers is now free for all to read. Download it in English or in French.
At the beginning of this new year, Wine Lister is prolonging the festive sparkle through a look at the major trends to emerge from our first Champagne report. Wine Lister’s Champagne study analyses a basket of 109 top wines from the world’s premier sparkling region, and includes insight into the major trends of the Champagne market as identified by Wine Lister Founding Members (c.50 key players in the international fine wine trade).
While quality across the board is something to keep us celebrating well in to 2019 (see more on this here), the notable trends could indicate an increase in year-round enjoyment of Champagne. The chart below shows responses to our question, “What are the most important trends in Champagne?” by number of votes.
The trend most-frequently ranked as number one or two by Wine Lister Founding Members was the rise of grower Champagnes, closely followed by the increased emphasis on terroir / site Champagnes. One U.K. merchant remarked that “Consumers are now identifying with specific terroir in Champagne and understanding the value of the grower…” – a comment that further leads us to suspect an increased appreciation of Champagnes as wines, and not just celebratory bubbles.
The “rise of the grower” trend is, however, juxtaposed by continued demand for big brands. Of the basket of wines treated in the study, the grower Champagne segment has seen an increase in popularity (measured by search rank) of 9% since the beginning of 2017. Though this performance is superior to the maison segment’s slight decline in popularity (-4%), grower Champagnes still sit twice as far down the popularity rankings, with an average search rank of 1,620 compared to 775.
Perhaps predictably, big brands still win the race when it comes down to the bottom line. A U.K. merchant commented, “Small growers are getting much better press, but I suspect the big name cuvées still rule the roost for sales/investment”. Indeed, when asked to award confidence ratings to specific Champagne producers, the trade cited only one grower champagne within the top two confidence scores (9/10 and 8/10), Jacques Selosse. The houses to earn top confidence ratings were Dom Pérignon, Krug, Louis Roederer, Salon, Bollinger, Pol Roger, and Taittinger, as shown on the chart below.
A top tier merchant offers some explanation into the difference in picture painted between the top Champagne trend and Champagne confidence ratings: “Production needs to be small but not so small as to result in a proliferation of Champagnes which the vast majority have never heard of. The big brands which produce great quality are still finding serious demand in the market!”
For a more in-depth look at Champagne, subscribe or log-into read the full report here. Alternatively, all readers can access a five-page executive summary. (Both versions are also available to download in French).
Wine Lister periodically studies the movements of wines in and out of the four Wine Lister Indicator categories. One of these, Buzz Brands, denotes wines that achieve outstanding online popularity (measured through search rankings based on monthly searches on Wine-Searcher), and presence in the world’s best restaurants.
After analysing newcomers to the Buzz Brand segment in June, Burgundy dominates once again in our findings for October. Red Burgundy, and in particular, Gevrey-Chambertin, takes three out of the four places of this month’s new Buzz Brands.
However, it is in fact the only white, Domaine Leflaive’s Bourgogne Blanc, that achieves the highest Brand score of the group at 815. All of the Domaine Leflaive wines on Wine Lister are now Buzz Brands but one – their most expensive Grand Cru, Montrachet (at £6,059 per bottle compared with £218, the average price of the rest). Indicative, maybe, of drinkers being priced out of the top wines and refocussing their interest lower down the ladder.
Perhaps it is also the sign of a good brand strategy in action, with the rising profile of the Domaine’s top wines filtering all the way down to the regional wines, via the premiers crus. The new addition of the regional offering here follows two previous new Leflaive mentions in Wine Lister’s last Buzz Brand audit (of Puligny-Montrachet Les Combettes and Meursault Sous le Dos d’Ane).
Of the three reds, two hold the same Brand score of 722, and near identical Brand profiles (see restaurant presence and search rank in the image below). The Gevrey-Chambertin Clos Saint-Jacques is the first of Bruno Clair’s wines to become a Buzz Brand. Domaine Fourrier’s Combe aux Moines Vieilles Vignes has the highest Quality score of all three new red Burgundy Buzz Brands with a score of 889. This, coupled with a slightly better Economics score helps bring it very slightly ahead for overall Wine Lister score.
Though Domaine Armand Rousseau’s Les Cazetiers is third of the Gevrey group qualitatively, it is geographically sandwiched between the first two. These wines together form a neat representation of three of the best premier cru vineyards of Gevrey-Chambertin. Incidentally, this is the last of Rousseau’s wines on Wine Lister to achieve Buzz Brand status. The domaine’s highest Brand score is won by the better-known Clos Saint-Jacques (unsurprising given that it owns roughly one third of the entire vineyard parcel) with a Brand score of 964.
As part of our Brand score, Wine Lister measures popularity using the three-month rolling average searches on the world’s most visited wine site, Wine-Searcher.
We have recently updated our treatment of this data to provide relative results for all 4,000+ wines on Wine Lister. Expressing each wine’s search frequency as a ranking will make it easier for our users to interpret the data. For example, Mouton is the #1 most searched-for wine of all wines on Wine Lister, according to monthly searches on Wine-Searcher.
To mark this transition, here we examine the top 50 most popular fine wines in the world.
The first seven most searched-for wines for the period of May, June, and July include the five Bordeaux left bank first growths (Mouton, Lafite, Margaux, Latour, and Haut-Brion), right-bank powerhouse, Petrus, and Champagne super-brand, Dom Pérignon. It is perhaps of no surprise that these rankings remain unchanged since the previous period (February to April) .
Burgundian searches in the top 50 are dominated by Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, with Romanée-Conti, La Tâche, Echezeaux, and Romanée-Saint-Vivant all achieving better rankings versus the previous period. These four together achieve an average ranking of 30th place, and an average movement up the search ranking of 11 places.
Other than Dom Pérignon, the two remaining Champagnes featured in the top 50 most searched-for wines have moved up the rankings for May-July 2018 compared to the previous three-month period. Louis Roederer’s Cristal was up 12 places, presumably due to the release of its 2008 vintage in June. Krug’s most recent Grande Cuvée (166th edition) was released in late May, explaining its jump four spots up the rankings into 24th place.
More than half of the top 50 most popular wines are Bordeaux, with 30 wines hailing from the region. However, Bordeaux did not see the boost to their search ranking one might have expected during Bordeaux’s en primeur 2017, with one fewer of the region’s wines featuring in the top 50 than before the campaign kicked off. In fact, supporting Wine Lister’s analysis of this year’s lacklustre campaign, searches for many top Bordeaux châteaux actually fell during this period. For instance, Figeac, despite achieving Bordeaux’s 10th best Quality score of the 2017 vintage, slipped nine spots down the rankings.
Having spent the start of the Northern Hemisphere summer focusing on Old World wines of various regions, colours, styles, and prices, this week the Listed section is feeling flush and has journeyed Down Under to take a look at Australia’s five most expensive wines.
Leading the way is Penfolds Bin 60A at a cool £430 per bottle. The rarest of the rare, this has only been produced twice – once in 1962 and again in 2004 as a reaction to the vintage conditions being very similar to those from 42 years previously. As might be expected given that it is only produced in the very best vintages, the 2004 is a worthy follow-up to the fabled 1962, achieving a formidable Quality score (976). Fortunately, Wine Lister’s partner critics expect it to be drinking well until 2040, which might just give enough opportunity for a third bottling in the meantime.
Penfolds features twice more on the list, with its flagship Grange (£330) and Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon (£222). Grange is Australia’s strongest Brand (991) and also enjoys the country’s top Economics score (916). The former is the result of being both Australia’s best-represented wine in the world’s top restaurants (visible in 34%) and also its most popular, receiving on average 21,118 searches each month on Wine-Searcher, four times more than any other Australian wine. The Bin 707 is more of an anomaly in the group, its Quality score (859) over 100 points below the rest. Whilst its Economics score (871) can’t quite match Grange’s, it has comfortably achieved superior growth rates over the past three years, with a Compound Annual Growth Rate of 13% compared to its more renowned stablemate’s 8%.
Australia’s second most expensive wine is Torbreck’s The Laird (£416). First produced in 2005, it enjoys Australia’s best Quality score (984), but, similarly to Penfolds Bin 60A, its Brand score is unable to keep pace (635). This is probably the result of the fact that very few vintages of it are available and it has an average annual production of just 6,750 bottles each year – it is perhaps too young to have built up a significant following and there are not enough bottles of it for restaurants to get hold of.
Rounding off the group in third place is Henschke’s Hill of Grace Shiraz (£388). Again, this has an excellent average Quality score (961). It also achieves Australia’s second-best Brand score (913), present in 19% of the world’s top establishments – sommeliers are clearly very confident in the wine’s quality.