Winemaker of the storied family-run estate: “Passion isn’t something you can pass down”.
Our next interview in Le Figaro Vin’s series finds us in the Northern Rhône, where we meet Jean-Louis Chave, who stands at #8 in the rankings, a winemaker perpetuating not only his family’s legacy but that of an entire region.
The sixteenth generation in a long line of winemakers, Jean-Louis Chave has proven to be a worthy successor. His wines, known for their precision and purity, express all the character of the Hermitage terroir. During the 1990s, the Rhône winemaker set himself a new goal: to reinvest in the Bachasson hillside, located in Saint-Joseph, the very place where the family’s ancestors began their viticultural journey. From the start of his career, Jean-Louis Chave turned to practices of days past to tend to his vineyard. Long before receiving the certification it holds today, the estate was already employing organic methods. However, the winemaker does not want to rest on the laurels of his success, in France and around the world, but remains on a relentless quest for perfection. Through this interview, we meet with a man of remarkable humility.
Le Figaro Vin: How does it feel to be crowned a winemaking champion?
Jean-Louis Chave – This achievement is thanks to the terroirs that we represent, and we strive to live up to their standards. The winemaker is entirely reliant on the terroir – there is no great winemaker without great terroir.
Have you been training for long?
For us, it’s a family affair, as I’m a sixteenth-generation winemaker. This makes me think about the question of transmission, which I’ve often thought about and continue to think about now I have children.
What are we passing down?
You can pass down a profession, and all its ways of working, but passion isn’t something you can pass down. I started working in the vines in 1992 or 1993, it’s been 30 years now. This is a long-term commitment, the practice of winemaking. An athlete will try to repeat an achievement or try to improve on it in a short amount of time, but us winemakers, we need to wait a cycle, an entire year, to express ourselves again. Rather than speaking of training, I prefer to think of it in terms of interpreting the terroir. To really achieve this, you must understand it, and this takes time.
Who is your mentor?
My father, definitely. But also, the wine enthusiasts who follow our approach, to whom we have a sense of responsibility, a duty of excellence.
Is wine a team sport?
Yes, especially in our region, where the vineyards are planted on steep slopes, and are cultivated the same way my ancestors cultivated them, without any machinery. We think of ourselves as “gardener-winemakers”. You need one and a half people per hectare of vines, whereas, in other regions, one person can easily cover 12 to 15 hectares.
What is the key to making a good wine? The terroir or the team?
What counts is the terroir. The winemaker is just an interpreter. They mustn’t damage what Nature has given them; they are there to accompany the terroir to its fullest expression, which is the wine they will make from it.
To what do you owe your success?
To our good fortune in having certain terroirs that have been in our family for a very long time. We also owe it to our philosophy of a job well done, and to our craftsmanship that has developed over the years, always driven by the idea of continuous improvement.
Is your father proud of you? And your children?
With my father, I think the pride goes both ways, the satisfaction of seeing the story continue to unfold. As for my children, I don’t want to force them to be part of our story, of our profession. It needs to come from them. That’s another philosophy we’ve always embraced: that our story, no matter how long, can end, or transform itself. The Hermitage was here before us, and whatever happens, it will be here long after us.
Who has been your biggest sponsor throughout your career?
The world of wine enthusiasts, the people who encourage us in our work. Wine exists when it is enjoyed, when it conveys an emotion, a reaction. These emotions, these reactions, they encourage us to keep telling our story. Restaurateurs also play a very important role because they give life to our wines.
Your favourite colour?
The gradient of greens you find in the natural world, and the blue of the sky. As for wines, you can’t separate what you drink from what you eat, so the colour is going to depend on the dish. Ideally, you would pick a wine and adapt the dish to it. Unfortunately, we are living in a time where chefs receive a lot of media attention, which means wine often plays second fiddle.
Your favourite variety?
Our form of expression is Syrah for the reds, Marsanne and Rousanne for the whites. I can’t say I prefer Syrah to Marsanne, it’s like being asked to pick your favourite child. The variety matters little, what really matters is the terroir. The variety is the prism through which the terroir is expressed.
Your favourite cuvée?
Historically, at the estate, our favourite cuvées have been Hermitage wines. It’s my generation’s mission to give a certain importance to another appellation which is hard to define, but very captivating: Saint-Joseph. We are trying to raise the bar.
Your three favourite vintages?
I would say 1991, a vintage that has fully matured, and that embodies what a great wine of Hermitage should be.
If your wine was a person, who would it be?
I would want it to be someone who resembles the terroir it hails from. When you make a wine, you think of its hills, of its landscapes. What I want is for people, when they taste our wine, to recognise a piece of its birthplace. For those who don’t know our terroirs, I hope they find the harmony, the softness, the strength, and the colours that characterise the great wines of Hermitage.
What’s the best way to enjoy it?
The best way to discover our wine is always with food, whether it’s at a restaurant, or sitting around a table at home.
Have you ever thought about chemically enhancing your estate?
What is chemical enhancement? Adding a bit of sugar, a bit of tartaric acid, the tannins brought by oak? What counts, is remaining true to yourself, and true to the wine. Wine must be natural, not in the sense that it’s free from additives, but in the sense that it must be true, sincere. It takes work, despite all this, to ensure wine is its truest expression, in relation to its origins and to what it should be. You can’t take a hands-off, laissez-faire approach, because without any intervention, wine would be vinegar! It’s a fine line: you must stay close to the purest of truths, but that isn’t going to happen automatically. At the estate, everything is organised so we can do as little as possible, but we sometimes need to accompany the wine so it can express itself fully.
For what price would you be prepared to sell your estate?
Everything is meant for the estate to remain in the family, but should that not be the case, we will probably sell, and this sale will be its own kind of transmission. It won’t be a question of price, because the most important question is knowing who will be taking on the estate and turning a new leaf in its story.
What is your greatest achievement?
The vine-covered slopes of Saint-Joseph, including one that belonged to my family from 1481 until the phylloxera epidemic in 1880. My ancestors worked on those steep slopes for almost 400 years and were forced to abandon them without really understanding what was happening. I’m proud of having been able to replant them, over 100 years later. They are located close to a town called Bachasson, next to a place known as Chave. I started this long-term project in 1995, and the last vines were replanted in 2007.
What has been your most innovative strategy in the vineyard and in the cellar?
My most innovative strategy has been working just as they did back in the day. When I first started, people would tell me: “You work like they did in the olden days.” At the time, what was groundbreaking was knowing all the names of the chemical molecules, or working with chemistry, whereas now, if you’re working with chemistry you’re stuck in the olden days! I’ve been interested in biodynamics for 15 years. I had counterparts and friends in other regions that followed biodynamic principles – Aubert de Villaine (previously co-manager of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, ed.) for example. I can’t explain why, but I feel like this method works.
Who would be your ideal successor on the podium?
There is no hierarchy: it could be a young, passionate winemaker who does their job right, with a bright future. Every winemaker who does their job right deserves all the recognition they get.
Fifth-generation winemaker of this renowned family estate: “My first internship supervisor was Aubert de Villaine, of Domaine Romanée-Conti”
For the 16th interview in Le Figaro Vin’s series we head south down the Rhône Valley to one of its finest appellations, Châteauneuf du Pape, where we meet César Perrin, #35. Vintage after vintage he and his family devote themselves to their labours with total commitment.
An Eden in the Rhône Valley, surrounded by hills, vines, and olive trees, Château de Beaucastel is widely recognised as one of the most inspiring estates in Châteauneuf du Pape. While its origins date back to the 16th century, it was in the early 1900s that Pierre Perrin took it over. His son Jacques proved to be a true master of the winemaking craft, capable of taming the wilfulness of Grenache, while his innovative spirit led to the estate’s early adoption of biodynamic viticulture at the start of the 1970s. Today César is part of the fifth generation to carry the torch, alongside eight other members of his family, made up of his parents, uncles, brothers, and cousins. Through each successive vintage we have found ourselves utterly enchanted by the supple grace of their reds, perfectly balanced between the intensity of the fruit, the smoothness of the tannins, and an aromatic complexity which just keeps on growing deeper.
Le Figaro Vin: How does it feel to be crowned a winemaking champion?
César Perrin: I don’t think of myself as a champion. We are, more than anything, champions for our generation, continuing the achievements of our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents before us. We have to be champions in preserving and passing on our inheritance, for we are all just passing through. It is always gratifying to know that our wines are tasted all around the world.
Have you been training for long?
Winemaking is a vocation, so we all devote a great deal of time to it, much to the detriment of our families. We train every day from a very young age. Whether in the cellar, among all the smells, or playing Le Nez du Vin and trying to recognise the fragrances, it is a little like The Drops of God. Already with my daughters, aged three and two, we taste different fruits, such as unripe cherries.
Who is your mentor?
I would say my father, who initiated us. Apart from him it would have to be my first internship supervisor, Aubert de Villaine, in 2008. He told me something that has always stuck with me: “Here at Romanée-Conti, no matter what your task is, whether it takes you an hour, or a day, or a month, you have to do it perfectly.” Ever since, I have tried to do my best on a daily basis.
Is wine a team sport?
It is for me, but most importantly wine is made to be shared and is, in that respect, a team sport. Wine is, above all, a moment for sharing, a shared emotion. You can go fast on your own, but together you go further.
What is the key to making a good wine? The terroir or the winemaker?
A great wine requires four elements: the terroir, the vine selected for planting, the climate that supports it, and the man who tends that vine. It is a combination of the four.
To what do you owe your success?
To my grandfather Jacques and my grandmother Marguerite, who turned Beaucastel into a jewel. They were pioneers, going organic in the 1950s and biodynamic in the 1970s. In rejecting the incursions of chemistry they were true visionaries.
Is your family proud of you?
I hope so. In any case, that is the great benefit of working as a family: we are very candid with each other and there is a real honesty between us. That only adds to the pressure and makes it even more imperative that we ensure our family can be proud to represent our wines.
Who is your biggest supporter?
Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape Hommage à Jacques Perrin, which is our finest wine.
Your favourite colour?
Your favourite grape variety?
Mourvèdre. My grandfather was very fond of it. The grape variety was introduced to Beaucastel in the early 1930s. My grandfather went to school with Lucien Peyraud of Domaine Tempier, which is still, in my view, the greatest of the Bandols. I have noticed that the great Bandol wines were always made in the northernmost part of that appellation, while here in Châteauneuf we are at the northern boundary of our appellation. That explains why we brought Mourvèdre, which is an archetypal Bandol grape variety, to our own terroirs.
Your favourite wine?
Our whites. We have relatively very few of them, only eight to ten per cent of our production. But our Roussanne Vieilles Vignes is my favourite.
Your favourite vintage?
My first, 2012.
If your wine was a person, who would it be?
It would be a countryman.
What are the best circumstances in which to taste your wine?
Have you ever thought about chemically enhancing yourself, or your wine?
No, quite the opposite, we have to preserve the distinctive quality of each vintage, and take what nature gives us. Nature is not always congenial, but it is what it is.
For what price would you be prepared to sell your estate?
Everything has a price, apart from family. So the question will never arise, since we want to pass it on forever.
Who is your strongest competition?
Which competition do you dread the most?
Pruning the vines, which is such a key moment in their development.
What is your greatest trophy?
My grandmother’s pride. When she made family meals, she used to say to us: “When I am gone there is a case of wines with vintages made by me and your grandfather. I want you to open it together.” They were old magnums from 1950 and the family drank them together. It was a uniquely special experience.
What has been your most innovative strategy in the vineyard and in the cellar?
That goes back to my grandparents, with their decision to reject chemical products after the war. That has allowed us to maintain a unique ecosystem, with soils that have never been touched by chemicals.
Who would be your ideal successor on the podium?
A member of the Perrin family.
With a bank of knowledge on some of the world’s most delectable wines, sommeliers have the ultimate insider insight into which bottles are worth picking up. With this in mind, Wine Lister asked some of the world’s top sommeliers to share with us their favourite wines retailing for under £35 per bottle.
Clockwise from top left: Joshua Castle (Noble Rot), Lesley Liu (Odette), Marc Almert (Baur au Lac), Martin Jean (Domaine les Crayères), Sara Rossi (Trinity)
Joshua Castle (Noble Rot, London)
Joshua contends that “without a shadow of a doubt, Greece is producing some of the best value-for-money wines”, noting that “the most successful producers are tapping into the country’s long viticultural history, wealth of old vines, and indigenous varieties”. He cites white wines produced from grapes such as Robolla, Roditis, and Savatiano “have been a huge success in the UK on-trade” while his pick his for “a great-value Greek wine is the red Agiorgitiko ‘Natur’ from Tetramythos, a producer based in the Peloponnese”. “Acidity, fresh flavours, and light extraction are on the agenda”, according to Joshua, who admires winemaker Panagiotis Papagiannopoulos’ tempering of Agiorgitiko’s often tannic profile – resulting in a bright crunchy expression. “I first drank it at the fantastic central Athens wine bar ‘Heteroclito’ where its energetic fruit, moderate alcohol, and glou-glou style has me hooked.”
Agiorgitiko ‘Natur’ 2021 can be found in Noble Rot’s London wine shop, Shrine to the Vine, for £17 per bottle
Lesley Liu (Odette Restaurant, Singapore)
Lesley recommends a Torrontés, citing how well it compliments the tropical climate of Singapore with its refreshing minerality and “lingering floral and sweet notes of delicate exotic fruit, fleshy citrus, and wild honey”.
Lesley is particularly impressed by the barrel-fermented Torrontés produced by Susana Balbo – the first woman in Argentina to graduate with a degree in oenology. Lesley describes it as “a new chapter for Torrontés”, due to the complexity imparted by the French oak barrels – “an unusual choice for aromatic varieties”. She commends the versatility of the grape, which lends it to being a great match for all manner of Asian dishes as its “acidity can cut through the oil present”.
Susana Balbo Signature Barrel Fermented Torrontés 2019 can be found in Roberts and Speight from £18 per bottle.
Marc Almert (Baur au Lac, Zürich)
Marc points to the wines of Côtes du Rhône for “some of the true best-buys in French wine”, and advocates looking beyond the big-name appellations such as Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Côte Rôtie, and instead towards smaller regional appellations which “often offer great ‘bang for your buck’, whilst displaying a sense of terroir”.
Marc recommends the Mistral Domaine de Ferrand. “The Bravay family named this highly-quaffable entry into their portfolio after the namesake northwesterly wind which is key to Rhône Valley viticulture.” He praises its palate, which boasts “a rich array of violet, spice, and of course dark red fruits” and says that “it possesses a great acidity back-bone, soft tannins despite its youth, and is the kind of red wine I like to enjoy after a long service.”
Mistral Domaine de Ferrand 2020 is available from Hedonism Wines for around £19 per bottle.
Martin Jean (Domaine les Crayères, Reims)
Martin shares a recent favourite from a blind tasting with friends – “a sommelier friend had brought the Jaspe 2016 cuvée from Dominique Hauvette. It was a real favourite during the tasting, and something that I would want to share around a barbecue, with some grilled spiny lobster, decorated with some Provençal tomatoes, and an eggplant pie – simple dishes to share with family and friends.”
Martin praises this biodynamic, Roussanne-dominated cuvée for “its balance, its vibrancy, and saline notes”.
Domaine Hauvette ‘Jaspe’ 2016 is currently difficult to find in the UK, but can be found in outlets abroad such as Terroirs in Dublin from around £34 per bottle (excl. shipping).
Sara Rossi (Trinity Restaurant, London)
Sara has always been “fascinated by Slovenian wines because of their unique style and personality”. She particularly recommends Cotar Terra Rossa, a blend of Teran, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon, describing its “delicate aromas of violet, sour red cherries, rosemary, and sage”. Sara praises its “refreshing acidity and firm tannins”, as well as its “long and complex finish”. Her ideal pairing for Terra Rossa would be “homemade truffle linguini pasta or roast grouse”.
Though currently unavailable in the UK, Cotar Terra Rossa 2009 can be found in European retailers such as Germany’s Vinoteca Maxima from £22 per bottle (excl. shipping).
Key fine wine releases from Bordeaux and Beyond
As another week of releases draws to a close, we reflect on highlights from the past fortnight, including the latest vintages of signature New and Old World wines, offered through the Place de Bordeaux’s impressive network.
Cheval des Andes’ Technical Director, Gerald Gabillet (bottom right), with the winemaking team
Which wines offer the best investments from the Place de Bordeaux’s September campaign?
As well as a further flurry of releases from the Americas and Tuscany, the past two weeks have also witnessed exciting French entries from the likes of the Rhône Valley, and a re-release of Latour 2005.
One of the top 20 fine wine brands in the world (according to its Wine Lister Pro Brand score), Opus One released its 40th vintage, 2018 last Monday (6th September), at £230 per bottle (in-bond). Wine Lister partner critic, Antonio Galloni (Vinous) gives the latest release a score of 95, describing it as “incredibly elegant and polished, right out of the bottle”.
Napa Valley neighbour, Beaulieu Vineyard’s Georges de Latour Private Reserve 2018 was released on Tuesday (14th September) at £115 per bottle (in-bond). Describing the wine as “sensational”, with notes of “inky red fruit, chocolate, leather, and liquorice”, Galloni gives the latest vintage 98 points – its joint-highest score ever awarded by the critic body. Joseph Phelps’ Insignia 2018 entered the market in quick succession on Tuesday at £163 per bottle (in-bond). Sampled by Wine Lister COO, Chloe Ashton at a recent tasting at 67 Pall Mall (alongside the 2010 and 1998), she found the evolution in complexity, tension, and precision was clear to see.
Monday (13th September) witnessed a triptych of 2018s from Sonoma County’s Vérité, with La Muse, Le Désir, and La Joie released onto the market at £300 per bottle each (in-bond). With the wines representing distinct expressions of the estate through the bespoke blending of different varietals and plots, the Merlot-based La Muse receives a perfect 100-point score from Lisa Perrotti-Brown for Wine Advocate, who calls it “Electrifying!”. Comprising a majority blend of Cabernet Franc, Le Désir gains 97+ and 97 points from Perrotti-Brown and Suckling, respectively. Whilst being Wine Lister CEO, Ella Lister’s favourite amongst the three, the Cabernet Sauvignon-dominant La Joie 2018 secures its highest average critics scores since 2013, inclusive of 98 points from Perrotti-Brown and 99 points from Suckling.
South American sensations
Leading last week’s South American entries, Baron Philippe de Rothschild’s Chilean winery Almaviva released its 2019 vintage on Wednesday (8th September) at £108 per bottle (in-bond). The Wine Lister team found it to show good complexity for its young age, with dense black fruit, exotic spices, and a touch of hay smoke.
Across to Argentina, Cheval des Andes 2018 was released on Thursday (9th September) at £59 per bottle (in-bond). The latest vintage aligns with the estate’s upward quality trajectory in recent years, having been awarded a score of 98 from James Suckling, who describes it as “very long and structured, yet controlled and in balance”.
Wildflowers growing in-between Siepi’s Merlot and Sangiovese vines
A Tuscan triumph
There are now only limited remaining stocks of Masseto 2018, which was released on Tuesday (7th September), starting from £495 per bottle (in-bond). The estate saw one of the rainiest springs in its history, and consequentially faced high levels of disease pressure. Nonetheless, the team at Masseto handled challenges that arose deftly, reflected in Wine Lister’s praise of its dense, layered, and lithe texture.
Now with similarly limited availability at around £208 per bottle (in-bond), Solaia 2018 was released on Thursday (9th September). Galloni awards it a strong score of 98, noting that he “can’t remember ever tasting a young Solaia with this much sheer appeal and balance”. Demand for the 2018 may well be encouraged by the estate’s positive price performance track record, which has seen some of its top-scoring vintages appreciate significantly post-release.
The first of the Tuscan trio to be released last week was Petrolo’s Galatrona 2019, which entered the market on Monday (13th September) at £72 per bottle (in-bond). Gaining a near-perfect score of 99 points from Suckling, he describes it as “muscular, yet agile” – “a unique definition of merlot in Tuscany”. Following in close succession, Castello di Fonterutoli released Siepi 2019 at £68 per bottle (in-bond). The Mazzei family planted its first Merlot grapes in 1980, with Siepi’s varietal blend now comprising equal proportions of Merlot and Sangiovese. The 2019 gains 98 points from Suckling – the joint-highest score awarded by the critic, who praises its “super-structure”, and “finesse with power”. To end Monday’s Tuscan trilogy, Tenuta Sette Ponti’s Orma 2019 was released at £56 per bottle (in-bond). Though Orma is yet to be widely scored by critics, Suckling awards it 97 points, calling it “perhaps the best Orma ever”.
Closing this week’s Italian offerings, Caiarossa 2018 entered the market on Wednesday (15th September) at £35 per bottle (in-bond). Walter Speller for Wine Lister partner critic, JancisRobinson.com, awards it 17+ points, considering it “classy stuff”, “which should become even more compelling with further bottle ageing”.
Back on French soil
Speculated to be the final commercial release of the vintage, Latour released a parcel of its 2005 vintage last Tuesday (7th September), which has since been offered by merchants for around £750 per bottle (in-bond). The 2005 was awarded 100 points by Galloni, who calls it “deep and sensual to the core”, and notes that it is “utterly captivating”. The iconic reputation of both the vintage and the estate is reiterated in this perfect score, which should stimulate interest from serious fine wine collectors.
Racing over to the Rhône, Beaucastel Hommage à Jacques Perrin 2019 was released last Friday (10th September) at around £227 per bottle (in-bond). A cask sample score from Alistair Cooper for JancisRobinson.com signifies quality, awarding its highest score from the critic body since 2007 with 19 points, calling it “One to watch!”.
Click here to sign up to Wine Lister’s newsletter to stay up-to-date with the latest from the Place de Bordeaux’s September campaign.
Wine Lister speaks to 10 top sommeliers to find out more about their bottles of choice
From left to right: Lupo Theones, Victor Petiot, Gareth Ferreira, Beatrice Bessi, and Paul Lo
What top wines do sommeliers recommend?
Whether offering the perfect food pairing or serving an unforgettable glass, sommeliers are often responsible for creating moments of vinous magic shared by wine lovers far and wide. Our latest blog flips the script, with some of the world’s leading sommeliers sharing with us their most memorable pours, providing the ultimate guide on how to drink like a pro.
Read our blog on your favourite winemakers’ favourite wine for more insight into what the experts are drinking here.
Lupo Theones – Head Sommelier at Hélène Darroze at The Connaught, London
Lupo Theones shares the same sentiment as many of his peers: “it is challenging to choose a single wine when you taste so many great wines as a sommelier”. He nonetheless mentions Egon Müller’s Scharzhofberger Riesling Kabinett 2011 as a wine that “deeply impressed” him, having tasted it soon after moving to London to join The Connaught. Describing a “perfectly balanced” palate that “shows a great acidity and minerality”, Lupo notes that it is a wine you can drink on its own, or paired with the likes of sushi and shellfish, as well as Foie Gras.
Victor Petiot – Wine Director at Caprice at Four Seasons, Hong Kong
Having discovered the vintage just last year, Victor Petiot cites Toro Albalá Don PX 1931 as his favourite wine, due to its “uniqueness” after sleeping in barrel for over 90 years. He explains that it provides “the perfect balance between powerful and well-balanced” with a “sweet and creamy texture yet high acidity”. On the topic of pairing, Victor tells us that the wine prompted the creation of a new dish to be served with it, comprising “a pigeon cooked in a coffee dough with salsify, hazelnut, pan-fried foie gras and pigeon sauce with coffee and a bit of Toro Albalá 1931”.
Gareth Ferreira – Head Sommelier at Core by Clare Smyth, London
Gareth Ferreira recalls being “immediately hooked” on his first real trip to visit the great producers of Burgundy during his early career. He tells us of the first time he tried Jean-Marie Fourrier’s Gevrey-Chambertin Clos Saint-Jacques, which made him question, “how can wine taste this good?”. It has since remained a wine he “looks forward to opening, no matter what the vintage is”, though the first he tasted – 2009 and 2010 – “will always have a special place in [his] heart” and 2002 is one of his favourites in Burgundy.
Beatrice Bessi – Head Sommelier at Chiltern Firehouse, London
“The reason that I became a sommelier is the Nebbiolo grape” exclaims Beatrice Bessi, who fell in love with Barolo in particular over 10 years ago. It is her “never-ending love”, as the region takes a lifetime to know in its entirety (“similar to Burgundy in that respect”, she notes). While citing Bruno Giacosa and Bartolo Mascarello as “traditionalist” producers that she would turn to on special occasions, Beatrice recently “fell in love with the wines of a super modern producer”, Domenico Clerico. In regards to pairing, she tells us that there is “nothing more satisfying” than an amazing glass of Barolo with pizza – there “doesn’t need to be an occasion to have a great glass”.
Paul Lo – Wine Director at Grand Lisboa, Hong Kong
Unable to choose a favourite, Paul Lo instead recalls an exclusive dinner he hosted in May 2014, at which the late chef Joël Robuchon’s menu was paired with 10 wines from the Lisboa cellar hailing from the 1959 vintage. Listing Dom Pérignon Oenothèque, Margaux, Palmer, Latour, Haut-Brion, Lafite, Mouton, La Mission Haut-Brion, Cheval Blanc, and a Steinberger Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese, he tells us that “uncorking the wines in a single event was unforgettable”. He gives particular praise to the Steinberger, noting “so many elements inside – nectar coupled with dried nuts, dry fruits, cigar, caramel, noble spices”, presented with “delicate and perfect acidity”.
From left to right: Stefan Kobald, Victoria O’Bryan, Julien Sarrasin, Jonathan Charnay, and Pascaline Lepeltier
Stefan Kobald – Head Sommelier at Pollen Street Social, London
Stefan Kobald tells us that current favourite wine is Philippe Colin Montagny 2016. Having always known of the producer, Stefan discovered this specific cuvée before the first lockdown and has been “hooked ever since”. He describes its “fresh acidity, stunning aromas of ripe apple, citrus notes of lemon peel, and grapefruit”, with a “hint of butter coming from the light oak usage”. Sharing the same philosophy for when he buys wine for the restaurant and himself, he seeks freshness and drinkability, and a wine that invites you back to take another sip – which this wine “definitely does”.
Victoria O’Bryan – Wine Director at Addison Restaurant, California
Narrating her recent encounter with Krug Clos du Mesnil Blanc de Blancs 2002, Victoria O’Bryan tells us that it made her “weak at the knees”. She explains that the wine opened up with surprising ferocity, “like a jolt of electricity giving power and lift to bright citrus tones and a stunning limestone minerality”, with an expression that was “at once creamy and piercing with layers of intensity”. When pairing a wine with “this flair of tension and drama”, Victoria would recommend pouring it alongside caviar or oysters.
Julien Sarrasin – Head Sommelier at Hide, London
“Every wine aficionado would understand the emotion I felt when I first tried this unique wine”, notes Julien Sarrasin, referring the Rhône’s renowned Reynaud family, and specifically a 2004 Rayas Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Now under the influence of the “Rayas effect”, Julien also cites a rosé called Parisy from another Reynaud property, Château des Tours – a blend of Grenache and Cinsault that provided his “most exciting experience” of rosé wine. He describes its “intense bouquet of crushed wild ripe raspberries, jammy strawberries, liquorice stick, and Mediterranean herbs”, which pairs with “intense seafood and fish dishes, as well as meat”.
Jonathan Charnay – Beverage Director at Masa, New York
Echoing Lupo Theones’s choice, Jonathan Charnay tells us that his “absolute favourite wine” is Egon Müller’s Scharzhofberger Riesling, though cites the Auslese as his top wine. He muses on its “great complexity and depth” with “intense aromas of white flowers and honey” that he immediately fell in love with when tasting with Egon Müller during a visit to the winery in 2013. While it is sweet when young, Jonathan points out that it can “age for decades, turning into a delicate elixir” with notes of “apricots, ginger and bergamot”.
Pascaline Lepeltier – formerly Managing Partner at Racines, New York
Pascaline Lepeltier informs us that if she “had to go back to a wine over and over again” it would be Benoit Courault’s Gilbourg – a Chenin Blanc from Anjou in the Loire, where she grew up. “Benoit was one of the first vignerons I met over 15 years ago” she explains, noting that her path was paved by time spent with him in his vineyards in the Coteaux du Layon. Produced with grapes from different plots on schists, Gilbourg is made organically and with minimal intervention – “a real paragon” according to Pascaline. Admiring its “tremendous” ageing potential, she notes its evolution into “the most complete, complex, powerful but ethereal Chenin”.
Explore Wine Lister’s own MUST BUYs for 2021 in our recent blog here.
Having commenced the week with International Women’s Day (Monday 8th March), Wine Lister’s latest blog celebrates some of the leading female figures in winemaking. Interviewing a handful of top producers across six regions, whose practices embody a range of principals, we put a spotlight on the wines made by some of the industry’s most exceptional women.
From left: Ashley Hepworth, Caroline Frey, and Stéphanie de Boüard-Rivoal
Ashley Hepworth – Joseph Phelps Vineyards
Following a degree in Chemistry and Biology, Ashley Hepworth spent two years cooking at Charlie Trotter’s legendary Chicago restaurant, where she realised she “wanted to learn more about wine and utilize [her] science background”. After studying the restaurant’s wines, and quizzing its Master Sommeliers, she applied for a harvest internship at Joseph Phelps where she continued to work her way “up the ladder”, eventually becoming winemaker in 2008. She is “particularly fond” of the 2008, 2015, and 2017 vintages of Joseph Phelps’ flagship wine, Insignia, explaining that each are “distinctive of the given vintage and the interplay of the six estate vineyards” that the wine is blended from.
Caroline Frey – La Lagune and Paul Jaboulet Aîné
Having taken the helm of third-growth property La Lagune from her father in 2004, Caroline Frey has since assumed an additional winemaking role in the Rhône, at Paul Jaboulet Aîné, after its acquisition by her family in 2005. Like several of the producers we spoke to, Caroline informs us that working “in harmony with nature is a long-term project” for her, with both properties now certified biodynamic. She explains that “to produce great wine the grapes must be the fruit of nature and not of synthetic chemistry”, and the more she “improves in working in harmony with nature” the “more wonderful” her wine will be.
Stéphanie de Boüard-Rivoal – Angélus
Having spent her childhood at Angélus, Stéphanie de Boüard-Rivoal was seven years old when she told her grandfather, Jacques de Boüard de Laforest, that she wanted to join him and her father, Hubert, in running the estate. After an early career in London’s financial sector, Stéphanie returned to Angélus in 2012, and has since continued a “quest for excellence while endeavouring to keep the estate in [her] family”. Noting “purity, tension, and focus” as key words to describe the style of her wine, she tells us that she is currently fond of Angélus’ 2005 and 2010 vintages, and anticipates enjoyment of the 2016 and 2018 in the coming years.
From left: Charlène Pinson, Florence Heresztyn-Mazzini, Eva Fricke, and Donatella Cinelli Colombini
Charlène Pinson – Pinson
One of the longest-established families in Chablis, records show that the Pinsons have been producing in the region since 1640. Having joined her father, Laurent, at the estate in 2008, Charlène Pinson tells us of her respect for tradition and the work that her family has done before her, with the aim to “pass on the passion” to her two sons. Producing 13 different wines, she explains that each is a “reflection of their terroirs”, and are “more or less floral and fruity” depending on the slope and soil of the parcel. For those new to Pinson, she recommends the 2017 Chablis Mont de Milieu, describing it as a “pure expression of our Kimmeridgian limestones […] classic, mineral, balanced, and fresh”.
Florence Heresztyn-Mazzini – Heresztyn-Mazzini
Taking over her family’s estate (Domaine Heresztyn) in 2012, Florence Heresztyn-Mazzini and her husband, Simon Mazzini have overseen numerous developments under its new name. Introducing biodynamic practices in 2015, and achieving organic certification in 2019, Florence continues to “experiment with natural treatments” to fulfil her goal of “fighting the challenges of climate change”, including more “cover crops and sustainable pruning”. Explaining that many recent vintages have been difficult due to global warming, she tells us that she is particularly proud of her “fights” in 2013 and 2016, creating top quality wines in years that “remind us that we are small in the face of Mother Nature!”.
Eva Fricke – Eva Fricke
After making wine in Australia, Spain, and Germany, Eva Fricke returned to Germany in 2006 to start her own estate, which now holds 17ha across the Rheingau. Achieving organic certification in 2016 and membership in The Vegan Society in 2017, the property also employs several biodynamic practices including its adherence to the lunar calendar. She tells us that these principals guide her goals of developing a domain that “stands for organic, sustainable, and socially conscious standards”. Eva notes the “2019 Lorcher Schlossberg, 2019 Lorcher Krone Trocken, and 2019 Lorcher Krone Trockenbeerenauslese” as some of her top wines.
Donatella Cinelli Colombini – Casato Prime Donne and Fattoria del Colle
Born into a family of winemakers whose production in Montalcino can be traced back to 1592, Donatella Cinelli Colombini tells that it is “for this reason” that winemaking comes naturally to her. Founding Italy’s first winery run solely by women, she explains that her decision to have an all-female staff at Casato Prime Donne “leaves an imprint of acute accuracy in each step of the production process”. She notes of Casato Prime Donne wines that they are some of the first “chosen, and produced by women, for women”.
Top chefs are often interrogated on their favourite dishes to cook at home, actors on their favourite films, writers on their favourite books – Wine Lister has sought out the ultimate drinking inspiration for special occasions, interviewing a handful of top wine producers on their favourite wines.
From left to right: Axel Heinz, Chiara Boschis, Gaia Gaja, Jacques Devauges, and Marielle Cazaux
Axel Heinz – Ornellaia
“It’s certainly the most difficult question to answer for a winemaker”, Axel begins. Born in Germany, and spending his early career in Bordeaux before joining Ornellaia, his choice, once we twisted his arm, sits far from his professional vinous journey. “It would be a white, from my favourite Grand Cru in Burgundy: Corton Charlemagne”, he confesses, explaining that for him, these wines combine the structure and power of a red wine, with “the vibrancy, fragrance, and minerality that one can only find in great whites”. Admiring its capacity for a faithful expression of terroir, and display of true personal signature, he cites Coche-Dury as his go-to producer.
Chiara Boschis – E.Pira e Figli
With Barolo in her blood (her relatives founded the historic Giacomo Borgogno estate), it is not unusual that Chiara Boschis’ favourite wine should hail from this same noble Italian region. She tells us that she understood from a young age “the privilege to be born in such a generous land”, for which her parents, and the people around her had “great love and respect”. After years in the cellar at E.Pira, she too became “entirely captured by the magic of Barolo”. Chiara’s top choice is therefore a Barolo from the Mosconi vineyard for its “complexity and depth”, Cannubi for its “elegance”, and the vineyards of Via Nuova for their “diversity”.
Gaia Gaja – Gaja
While paying homage to her family’s past through her own wines, fifth generation winemaker, Gaia Gaja also has one eye on the future. Her favourite wine, from rising star appellation Mount Etna, Sicily, is Graci’s Etna Rosso Arcuria. The wine is made from one of the latest ripening European varieties, Nerello Mascalese, in one of the highest vineyards in Europe. She discovered it after “becoming close friends with Alberto Graci and his family”, often visiting them in Etna. Gaia explains that “the contrasts between its vibrancy, freshness, and warmth, as well as its perfume and smoky minerality”, remind her of “the snow and the fire of Etna”. Comparing it to Nebbiolo, she believes the grape has “intriguing personality, a strong identity of place, and a medium body that makes it versatile and easy to drink”.
Jacques Devauges – Clos des Lambrays
Moving from Clos de Tart to Clos des Lambrays last year, Jacques Devauges’ top wine of all-time was born close to home. He tells us that Comte Georges de Vogüé’s Musigny catalysed his passion for wine. Sampling the 1971 and 1978 as a teenager, he was “struck” by both, despite knowing very little about wine at that point. Jacques believes Vogüé’s Musigny shows “the signature of the Grand Vin”, to impress “not only the wine geek, or the collector, but everyone, even those who don’t know what makes a good wine”. Describing what “was almost a shock”, he notes that the “level of perfume on the nose was almost like a perfume you can put on your skin”, while the palate was “soft and delicate”.
Marielle Cazaux – La Conseillante
Joining La Conseillante from neighbouring Petit-Village in 2015, Marielle Cazaux tells us that if she had to pick a favourite wine, it would be Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello, because she “has so many special memories with this wine”. As an intern at Ridge in 2001, she had the chance to taste several vintages with the legendary Paul Draper, whom she calls “one of the most gifted winemakers of the US”. Marielle considers Monte Bello a “wine with extraordinary finesse”, and “a total sense of harmony”. Describing its notes of “black pepper, lavender, mocha, liquorice, and dried flowers”, she observes that it is “perhaps one of the most “Bordeaux” style wines in California”.
From left, Nicolas Audebert, Nicolas Glumineau, Pierre-Olivier Clouet, Veronique Boss Drouhin, and Will Harlan
Nicolas Audebert – Rauzan-Ségla, Canon, and Berliquet
With some of the world’s most prestigious wineries under his belt (Terrazas de Los Andes, Cheval des Andes, Moët & Chandon, Krug, Veuve Clicquot), Nicolas echoes Axel Heinz in attempting to pick his favourite wine: “it’s impossible to answer. It’s like music – endless, initiatory, and progressive”. He instead recommends a wine from his friend, winemaker Andrea Felluga, with whom he “shares wine at simple, festive tables with lots of laughter”. He tells Wine Lister that Felluga’s wine, Livio Felluga Terre Alte “is a great white from Friuli” – a “land of contrast between the sunny and singing soul of Italy and the Alpine foothills, austere and cool”. Made from a blend of Friulano, Sauvignon Blanc, and Pinot Blanc, the Terre Alte is, according to Nicolas, like Felluga – “happy and lively”.
Nicolas Glumineau – Pichon Comtesse
On the subject of his favourite wine, Nicolas Glumineau (previously of Haut-Brion, Margaux, and Montrose), tells us that there are so many wines he could note – “Rayas 1990, E. Guigal La Mouline 1976, Cristal 1996, Trotanoy 2009, Diamond Creek Red Rock Terrace 2015”. White Burgundy legend, Coche-Dury, nonetheless gets another vote from Nicolas (on top of praise from Axel Heinz) as he reminisces trying the Meursault Caillerets 2006 for the first time in London, and being “choked, speechless, and moved by such perfection”. He describes the “delicacy of its white flower aromas and the elegance of its mineral and endless finish”, and recalls the feeling “that the world has stopped turning and that time has been suspended”.
Pierre-Olivier Clouet – Cheval Blanc
Echoing the sentiment of several of his peers, Pierre-Olivier Clouet (who has been at Cheval Blanc for 16 years), tells us that “it is impossible to choose just one wine”, because “like wine, the palate of the taster is constantly evolving”. Pierre-Olivier nonetheless notes his current favourite is “Mas Jullien – a wine that fully expresses the identity of the place where it is made, and injects the touch of balance and freshness that characterises all the great wines of the world”. He recalls that the last time he tasted the Languedoc red – a blend of Syrah, Carignan, and Mourvèdre – was with his team, on the last day of Cheval Blanc’s 2020 harvest.
Veronique Boss Drouhin – Joseph Drouhin
Fourth-generation winemaker, Veronique Boss Drouhin tells us that a wine she particularly enjoys was introduced to her by her close friend, Christine Vernay, daughter of the late Georges Vernay (praised for his key role in the survival of the Condrieu appellation). Veronique recalls Vernay opening a bottle of Georges Vernay Condrieu Coteau de Vernon, and being enchanted by its “aromatics, jumping out of the glass – unique, fragrant, and complex”, and a palate that was “powerful, voluptuous, and round, but with acidity to balance it” – a rarity for Viognier. She also cites Georges & Christophe Roumier’s Chambolle-Musigny Les Amoureuses as one of her favourites, adding, “Christophe’s [wine] is one of the nicest, purest, more elegant expressions of Pinot”.
Will Harlan – Promontory
Leading Harlan Estates‘ second-generation venture, Will Harlan explains to us that while he cannot choose a favourite, Jacques-Frederic Mugnier’s Musigny 2001 is a wine that he believes to “belong among the finest”. Will recalls coming across the bottle while “travelling with colleagues through Copenhagen a few years ago”, and as there hadn’t been a correct time to open it, the bottle joined them “on a course through Germany to Switzerland”. Having finally found an appropriate evening in Zurich to open it, “by the lake — the first bit of rest since the trip began”, he was “drawn in, as each feature of the wine, with a humble nobility, felt very naturally and confidently in its place”. Will notes it was a “wine that was singular and true”, that “would mark a memorable evening of our travels and in our friendships”.
Like a virtual treasure map, Wine Lister’s Hidden gem indicator helps you discover fine wines that are under the radar, yet worth uncovering. These wines are seldom found in the top restaurants, infrequently searched for online, but have high ratings from wine critics, or are assigned “Hidden gem” status by the global fine wine trade.
Of the 1,639 wines that are currently recognised as MUST BUYs by Wine Lister’s proprietary recommendation algorithm, 87 are Hidden gems. To help you uncover these underrated wines, this week we examine the Hidden gem MUST BUYs with WL scores above 95.
A preliminary look at the elected wines reveals a common trend of lower-than-average prices. While achieving WL scores of 95 and over, the 15 red Hidden gems illustrated above have an average price of £67 (per bottle in-bond) – perhaps a consequence of their slight obscurity. By virtue of being “Hidden gems”, these wines are also harder to source, however, it is worth informing your merchant of your interest in purchasing them, in the event of their availability.
Burgundy achieves five entries in this week’s subgroup, with two from a small-production négociant house, Lucien Le Moine. Well-deserving of their Hidden gem status, both wines achieve a WL score of 96. The 2012 Lucien Le Moine Charmes-Chambertin is available from Lay & Wheeler at £173 (per bottle in-bond), and the 2012 Lucien Le Moine Gevrey Chambertin Les Cazetiers can be purchased from BI Fine Wine & Spirits for £83 (per bottle in-bond).
California is represented by two wines of the same vintage and grape. The Ojai Vineyard Bien Nacido Pinot Noir 2014 hails from vines in Santa Barbara’s Santa Maria Valley, whose east-to-west face encourages the flow of cooling Pacific Ocean breezes, apt for the Burgundian variety. The Ryan Vineyard Pinot Noir 2014 from cult California producer, Calera, is produced from vines in several sites across the Central Coast.
Two entries from Rhône’s Tardieu-Laurent show notably good quality-to-price ratios, achieving “Value pick” status. With a WL Score of 96, the 2005 Cornas Vieilles Vignes is priced at £43 (per bottle in-bond), while the 2006 Gigondas Vieilles Vignes has a WL Score of 95 at £24.
A joint venture between two négociants, Dominique Laurent (of Burgundy fame), and Michel Tardieu (Rhône), Tardieu-Laurent is a boutique négociant operation. Buying young wines from growers across the Rhône, the domain completes maturation and blending, before bottling with no fining nor filtration. The 2005 Tardieu-Laurent Cornas Vieilles Vignes is available to purchase from Fine + Rare (in magnum form), and the 2006 Tardieu-Laurent Gigondas Vieilles Vignes can be bought from Wine Bourse (by the case of 12).
Tardieu-Laurent also features twice on the list of white Hidden gem MUST BUYs, with both its 2008 and 2016 Hermitages Blancs achieving WL Scores of 95.
Like their red counterparts, Tardieu-Laurent’s white Hidden gems are Value picks. Jancis Robinson pays compliment to both vintages, describing the 2008 as “Clean, intense, multilayered”, and the 2016 as “Very serious stuff”. Both wines can be purchased from Corney & Barrow (by the case of 12 in-bond).
Five out of the 10 white Hidden gems shown above are Riesling-based. There is no doubt that the noble grape can produce impressive quality wines at reasonable prices, though this remains somewhat of a fine wine trade secret (when compared with the consumer popularity of other white grape varieties and styles).
The two whites from Alsace cover icon Riesling producers Hugel and Albert Mann. Germany’s entries comprise of the 2006 and 2007 vintages of Dr. Loosen Erdener Prälat Riesling Auslese Goldkapsel, which achieve WL Scores of 96 and 95 respectively.
Loosen’s four-acre Erdener Prälat vineyard has south-facing red slate soils, and a notably warm microclimate, which, combined with the warming effect of the river and the heat-retaining cliffs that surround it, ensures ripeness in every vintage. The 2006 Dr. Loosen Erdener Prälat Riesling Auslese Goldkapsel can be purchased from Lay & Wheeler for £47 (per bottle in-bond).
To discover more of Wine Lister’s Hidden gem MUST BUYs, click here.
An Easter weekend on lockdown presents as good a time as ever to evaluate your wine collection. While it can be tricky to keep track of what you’ve got and when you should drink it, Wine Lister’s various online tools allow detailed analysis of your collection and can guide future purchases, whether for drinking or investment.
This week’s blog post examines two of the most popular Wine Lister website features amongst collectors, starting with the MUST BUY recommendation tool.
Wine Lister’s proprietary recommendation algorithm produces a dynamic list of wines with high quality that show value within their respective vintages and appellations, helping wine lovers buying at almost every level to make the best choices for their desired region, style, or vintage.
There are currently 1,665 MUST BUYs out of the 30,000+ labels on Wine Lister. See the chart below for a breakdown of MUST BUYs by region – an indication of what a diverse portfolio could look like for the modern collector.
While the same chart from a decade ago may have been dominated by Bordeaux, the global demand and secondary market values for Burgundy’s top wines have continued to spiral upwards. Burgundy represents the greatest percentage of MUST BUY wines, with red and white recommendations accounting for 33% of all MUST BUYs collectively. The red Burgundian MUST BUYs feature a range of prices starting from the most expensive, DRC’s Romanée-Conti 2015 (available at £14,500 per bottle in-bond), down to 64 wines priced at £100 or under, including Stéphane Magnien’s Clos Saint-Denis 2010 (available at £76 per bottle).
Bordeaux represents 13% of MUST BUYS, and also encompasses a wide range of prices, from six vintages of Petrus (with an average price of £1,990 per bottle) down to two vintages of Marsau (priced at £12 and £13 respectively). Tuscany, Piedmont, and the Rhône follow closely behind, while California makes up the largest proportion of New world MUST BUYs.
With so much MUST BUY choice available, you may wish to filter these by top regions, and then further by Wine Lister Indicator. For example, filter results by ‘Investment staples’ to see wines that are long-lived (but not too old), and have proven wine price performance, while staying relatively stable and liquid.
Wine Lister’s Compare tool can then further refine your investigation, by displaying your selected MUST BUYs side by side. This is illustrated below using three 2016 Saint-Estèphe MUST BUYs – Cos d’Estournel, Calon Ségur, and Montrose. While Calon Ségur appears to be the best value, Montrose has the highest scores from Wine Lister’s partner critics, and therefore the better WL score overall.
See the above comparison for yourself, or start your own wine comparison here.
Wine Lister is currently offering a range of portfolio analysis services to private clients, from detailed geographical split and further purchase advice, to investment forecasting and a fully-fledged “drink vs. sell” plan. If you are interested in having your wine collection analysed by our team of fine wine data experts, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
While the outbreak of Coronavirus continues to threaten the global stock market and international commerce, it is understandable that the fine wine trade and collectors alike are feeling the pressure, not to mention wine producers – especially in hard-hit Italy. The cancellation and/or postponement of wine fairs across the globe may hinder new releases from catching their usual momentum, but those with significant back stocks of older vintages may have a way to navigate today’s choppy seas.
Wine Lister has been working on a new tool to complement WL MUST BUYs, and while now may not be the perfect time for such a release, we launch it in the hope of providing inspiration for the sale and purchase of wines that could be hiding In Stock, and in a continued effort to support producers and the wine trade during difficult times.
The new tool, Wine Leagues, provides hit lists of the very best wines to source for a given set of criteria, be it appellation, price, or WL score. We hope the top 10s on this new page will speak to all fine wine lovers, be it for “unicorn” wines, or just ultra-high quality wines that any collector should consider for their collection.
The current set of Leagues examines Italy, with the first list focusing on its top Value Picks. The top 10 Italian Value Picks hail from a handful of key producers – Fontodi, Isole e Olena, and San Giusto a Rentennano feature multiple times.
Barbaresco recommendations take the majority of top spots in Piedmont’s MUST BUYs under £50 (per bottle, in-bond when purchased by the case). Barolos from Elio Grasso, Azelia, and Fratelli Revello also make the cut, alongside Langhe offerings from Vajra and Pelissero.
Moving into France, we examine Hidden Gems from the Rhône, and Value Picks from Bordeaux. Tardieu-Laurent features three times in the Rhône Hidden Gems’ top 10 by WL score, for an Hermitage Blanc, a Gigondas, and a Cornas. Three Côte Rôties make it into the top 10, from producers du Monteillet, Pierre Gaillard, and Patrick and Christophe Bonnefond.
Top Bordeaux Value Picks render a number of deliverable vintages going back as far as 1995, as well as two wines from the latest en primeur release – Barde-Haut and Latour-Martillac 2018s. Super-second growth Pichon Comtesse’s second wine also features. The 2016 Réserve de la Comtesse was recently highlighted in a focus on Bordeaux MUST BUYs.
All users can see the standard Wine League page here. Pro users have access to a more extensive set of Leagues, and can log in to access here.