Going the (quality) distance
As we prepare for the Bordeaux 2020 en primeur releases to really pick up pace, Wine Lister has published Part II of its annual Bordeaux Study.
With contribution from two of our partner critics, Antonio Galloni and Neal Martin (Vinous), Part II looks at how the latest vintage compares to recent years, considers which wines have seen the greatest step up in quality in 2020, and evaluates the leading Bordeaux bottles for long-term price performance and presence at auction.
Please see a handful of our key findings here:
If ever there is a time for claret, it’s Christmas. While Bordeaux generally provides excellent quality for its prices relative to other regions all year round, it is an especially good source for festive bottles with a bit of age. Below Wine Lister offers one MUST BUY under £100 per Bordeaux appellation – a selection that promises to please with your Christmas meal.
Aside from its lustrous gold label providing an appropriate centrepiece to any festive feast, d’Issan 2009 offers good value for its appellation, earning a WL score of 93 at £56 per bottle (in-bond). Château owner, Emmanuel Cruse, is also the “Grand Maître” of the Commanderie du Bontemps – a Bordeaux organisation uniting trade members in the preservation of Bordeaux’s excellent quality reputation. D’Issan embodies the values of its maker, exemplifying the traditional claret style with added Margaux elegance. It is available to purchase by the case of 12 from Nickolls and Perks.
Pauillac powerhouse Pichon-Baron 2008 is described by Wine Lister partner critic, Neal Martin (Vinous), as one of the property’s “overachievers in recent years”. Often noted for being one of the most concentrated wines of the vintage in its appellation and beyond, Martin writes that the 2008 is “full of tension and energy […] delivering real brightness and vivacity on the finish”. At £90 per bottle (in-bond), it is the most expensive wine featured in this article, however, its Second Growth status and an abundance of critics’ praise make it worthy of consideration. Pichon-Baron 2008 can be acquired by the case from Lay & Wheeler.
A top-quality substitute to some of Haut-Bailly’s more costly back vintages, the 2012 achieves the property’s second-best WL score ever, as well as second place for quality among Pessac-Léognan reds for the vintage. Wine Lister partner critic, Antonio Galloni (Vinous), states that “the decision to lower temperatures in fermentation and go for a soft, gentle extraction, along with strict selection has paid off big time” in 2012, revealing notes of “dark raspberries, mint, crushed flowers, spices and rose petals”. Haut-Bailly 2012 is just entering its drinking window, and can be bought from Cru Wine.
Finding value on Bordeaux’s right bank can be trickier, particularly in Pomerol. Le Gay 2012 nonetheless offers excellent quality (WL 94) for the relatively reasonable price of £61 per bottle (in-bond). Wine Lister partner critic, Jancis Robinson, notes that it reaps “real Pomerol reward in terms of concentration”, offering a “very well-integrated nose […] sweet and focused”. In neighbouring Saint-Emilion, Larcis-Ducasse 2010 is described as “simply stunning” by Antonio Galloni, who notes “violet, lavender, graphite and menthol” that “give the 2010 its energy and tension”. It gains a WL score of 94, at £87 per bottle (in-bond). Both of these right bank picks can be purchased from Cult Wines.
Achieving Value Pick status, Saint-Estèphe’s Meyney 2015 has a WL score of 93 at £25 per bottle (in-bond), providing a veritable steal for your Christmas meal. After sampling at the annual Southwold Bordeaux tasting, Neal Martin writes that it “was the shock of this blind tasting – in a positive sense […] I thought it might be Montrose but it turned out to be Meyney. Chapeau!” Though the 2015 could benefit from a few more years of ageing, it is a brilliant gift option for your more patient guests, and can be acquired from Goedhuis & Co.
Saint-Julien star, Branaire-Ducru’s 2010 vintage was described as “dancing” by Jancis Robinson. Neal Martin’s tasting note suggests a wine of complexity: “a lovely mélange of red and black fruit, hints of dried blood and autumn leaves suggesting that this is moving into its secondary phase”. With a WL score of 93, Branaire-Ducru 2010 can be purchased by the case of 12 from Farr Vintners for £52.50 per bottle (in-bond).
For a sweet end to your Christmas meal, Wine Lister suggests Doisy-Védrines 1989. With 30 years of ageing under its belt, it achieves a WL score of 94 – the château’s highest ever. It is described by Neal Martin as boasting “a captivating bouquet of gorgeous wild honey, Seville orange marmalade, fig jam and light lemongrass scents”. He adds, “it is simply everything you desire in a sweet Bordeaux”. Purchase Doisy-Védrines 1989 by the bottle from Hedonism Wines for £62.80 (in-bond).
Wine Lister Indicators are designed to help you find the perfect fine wine for any occasion. Wine Lister regularly tracks the movements of wines in and out of these segments (such as recent commentary featuring new Buzz Brands for Burgundy). This month we look at newcomers to the Value Pick segment – wines that achieve the best quality to price ratio.
France is the geographical victor of new Value Picks, with a total of seven wines hailing from Bordeaux and the Rhône (and one from the Loire). These traditional regions may appear “uncool” compared with the likes of Burgundy (whose popularity continues to rise). However, it is perhaps thanks in part to their “uncool” status that Bordeaux and the Rhône are also sources of exceptional value for money.
The only two whites of our new Value Picks, Château Guiraud Premier Cru 2001 and Château Suduiraut Premier Cru 2003, actually achieve the highest Quality scores of the group (936 and 929 respectively). Château Guiraud 2001 is priced at £32 per bottle in-bond, and Château Suduiraut 2003 at £27. Sadly, the incredible Quality scores of these Sauternes (as well as others across the board) may be hindered by a lack of demand for the volume produced. Sauternes typically earn poor Economics scores on Wine Lister (Château Guiraud 2001 achieves an Economics score of 212, and Château Suduiraut 2003 345), perhaps due to the pace at which older vintages of these exceptional sweet wines are consumed. With Christmas just around the corner, however, there is every reason to source either of these two for good value for your buck.
Elsewhere in Bordeaux, Pessac-Léognan rules the Value Pick reds with two listings from Château Bouscaut. The 2017 is one of Bouscaut’s new Value Pick vintages, however the real appeal, with 10 years of age, is the physical 2008 vintage, which achieves a Quality score of 768 (vs. 775 for 2017) for a price just £1 above the latest release (at £19 per bottle in-bond). These two vintages join existing Value Picks of Château Bouscaut, namely the 2016, 2015, 2013, and 2004. The latter is interestingly Bouscaut’s highest-scoring vintage ever (868), and therefore provides exceptional value at £21 per bottle in-bond.
In the Rhône, producer Tardieu-Laurent has two newcomers to the Value Pick segment: Châteauneuf-du-Pape Vieilles Vignes 2007 (£32) and Cornas Coteaux 2014 (£23), with Quality scores of 906 and 813 respectively. The Châteauneuf-du-Pape Vieilles Vignes now has an impressive six Value Pick vintages, and the Cornas Coteaux four. Indeed, Tardieu-Laurent (which was recently acquired by EPI, the owner of top Brunello producer Biondi-Santi and both Piper and Charles Heidsieck) appears a good producer to choose for value, with six of the domaine’s ten wines on Wine Lister having vintages in the Value Pick segment. It is perhaps therefore surprising that its Brand scores sit mostly in the average section of Wine Lister’s 1,000-point scale or below – uncool, but with very cool price to quality ratios.
A second Châteauneuf-du-Pape, the 2006 from Domaine Charvin is the third wine from the Rhône to make it to the list, with a Quality score of 869 and available at the modest price of £28 per bottle in-bond.
These French Value Picks convince us that “old-school” wines should not be dismissed as such. With an average price of £25 per bottle in-bond, and an average Quality score of 858, these represent excellent value for money – and that will always be cool.
Yquem 2016 released at €250 ex-négociant (same as 2015), with a UK RRP of £264 per bottle (no change on 2015 release price). Quality score 984 (vs 993 in 2015). Our factsheet below summarises all the key points.
You can download the slide here: Wine Lister Factsheet Yquem 2016
While the jury is still out on pricing for Bordeaux 2017 (since the majority of key wines are yet to be released) Wine Lister can confirm, through scores from our partner critics, that the sweet whites from Sauternes and Barsac are some of the quality triumphs for 2017. The top five highest Quality scores for sweet whites all appear in the top 20 overall highest scores for Bordeaux 2017.
The highest Quality scorer not only for 2017 sweet whites, but for all 2017 Bordeaux is Château d’Yquem (988). Quality here is impressively consistent, with scores of 964-993 for the last 12 vintages (with the exception of 2012, when no wine was made for fear of compromising on quality following poor weather conditions throughout the growing season). Yquem is also a Brand tour de force, earning Wine Lister’s highest Brand score (matching Dom Pérignon Vintage Brut and three of the five red first growths, Lafite, Latour, and Mouton).
In second place, again not just for sweet white, but for Bordeaux 2017 in general, is L’Extravagant de Doisy Daëne. With a Quality score of 986, it is Wine Lister partner critic Antonio Galloni’s only potential 100-point scorer, earning 97-100 points and a laudatory tasting note; “…could very well turn out to be the wine of the vintage in Sauternes and Barsac…L’Extravagant is a total head-turner.” Doisy Daëne produced only 1000 37.5cl bottles of L’Extravagant this year (half their usual production level) – a fact that perhaps offers an explanation for the 2017 release price tag of c.£280 per 75cl, above current back vintages available on the market.
Suduiraut is Sauternes and Barsac’s third highest Quality scorer in 2017 (954). At wine level, Suduiraut performs better for Brand and Economics than L’Extravagant, and for a much lower price (£36 versus £256 on average per bottle). It benefits from presence in the world’s best restaurants and monthly online searches, both eight times those of L’Extravagant, no doubt due in part to production levels, which are 50 times higher.
Numbers four and five on this week’s top five list are Rieussec and Lafaurie-Peyraguey. Lafaurie-Peyraguey achieves its highest Quality score since 2007 (944). Rieussec’s Quality score of 963 places the 2017 vintage within reach of some of the greats for the domaine in recent years (namely 2015, 2009, and 2001). Its Quality strength is matched by a strong brand, benefitting from its place under the Domaines Barons de Rothschild umbrella.
However, like most Sauternes, its Economics score is weak. Rieussec does not have the best track record of price performance post-release (as seen on p.14 of our Bordeaux study), and this year released at €42 ex-négociant for the fourth consecutive year, above market prices for all recent vintages.
You can see more Bordeaux 2017 Quality scores on our en primeur page. Follow Wine Lister on Twitter for real time release updates throughout the Bordeaux en primeur campaign.
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.
Bettane+Desseauve – Wine Lister’s French partner critics – have released their en primeur scores for the 2017 Bordeaux vintage. Here is a glimpse of their top-scoring wines:
Château d’Yquem is the only potentially perfect wine of the vintage for the French duo. “Another legend ending in 7, worthy of the 1967, but more pure, and the sublime 1937 and 1947 too,” muses the encyclopaedic Michel Bettane.
Yquem was the only white wine to make an appearance in Bettane+Desseauve’s top 2016 Bordeaux, but this year has been joined by a host of other Sauternes (Rieussec, Lafaurie-Peyraguey, La Tour Blanche, Suduiraut, and Clos Haut-Peyraguey), in a vintage which Bettane has marked out as “favourable for the entire Haut-Sauternes sector”.
Two dry whites also broke the 18-point mark: La Mission Haut-Brion Blanc and Pape-Clément Blanc, painting the top of the scoreboard unprecedentedly yellow.
As for reds, taking more of a backseat than usual, the right bank dominates, with three out of the four Saint-Emilion Grands Crus Classés A scoring 18 (Angélus and Cheval Blanc) or above (Ausone). By contrast only one Médoc first growth – Latour – reaches the 18-point mark.
Joining Ausone and Latour with 18-18.5 are Lafleur, Léoville Las Cases, and Petrus. Our CEO, Ella, tasted Petrus twice – first for a sneak preview with Thierry Desseauve and her father, and then with the Wine Lister team three days later. She is not surprised to see it come out among the top five reds of the vintage, and it must run in the family, because Petrus was also Pa Lister’s favourite.
Bettane+Desseauve’s top table sees standout scores of 18 apiece granted to La Conseillante and Gruaud-Larose. And that in a year where fewer high scores were given in general; 16 2016s scored a straight 19 or above last year, compared to just one in 2017.
If you hadn’t already heard about the frost in 2017, you soon will. It was the word on everyone’s lips during last week’s en primeur tastings in Bordeaux. Production volumes were down 40% across the wine region as a whole, with some properties losing their entire crop. Meanwhile others escaped entirely, making Bordeaux 2017 a vintage where both quantity and quality vary greatly from château to château.
The April frost was a “snob”, according to Will Hargrove, Head of Fine Wine at Corney & Barrow, because the very top vineyards were often spared (Petrus and Ausone for example). However, illustrious châteaux such as Cheval Blanc and Figeac might beg to differ. Nonetheless, such less lucky châteaux expended considerable resources to manage frost damage.
Véronique Sanders, Managing Director of Château Haut-Bailly, called it “the vintage of ice and fire”, referring to the dry summer months that followed. Indeed, the weather conditions resulted in many very good wines in 2017, especially suiting Cabernet Sauvignon, which as a result features in greater proportions than usual at many châteaux.
“I will not try to tell you that 2017 is at the level of ’15 or ’16, but if they are great vintages then ’17 is very good.” Those were the words of Olivier Bernard, owner of Domaine de Chevalier and President of the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux. “It will be a lovely wine to drink, I promise you,” he continued. The Wine Lister team is in full agreement.
Throughout our six days of tasting, in the Médoc, the Graves, and on the right bank, we were pleasantly surprised over and over again by the quality of the wines, and positively stunned by some, inter alia Les Carmes Haut-Brion, Cos d’Estournel, Figeac, La Fleur-Pétrus, Petrus, Pichon Comtesse de Lalande, Vieux Château Certan. (We can’t wait to find out what our partner critics think, and will add their scores to the website as soon as they’re released).
Part of the Wine Lister team kicking off their week of en primeur tastings at Petrus. Photo © Wine Lister Limited
While it is not an easy vintage to generalise about, the Bordeaux 2017s tend to boast vibrancy and freshness. This allows the unique character of each wine to shine through. “I think people understand that Bordeaux is not one style,” reflects Edouard Moueix, Managing Director of négociant Jean-Pierre Moueix, declaring that 2017 is “the archetype of the expression of that diversity,” with “each terroir overexpressed almost”.
The wines have less density and concentration than the 2015s and 2016s, but nonetheless possess the structure to carry them well into the future (while in most cases also being approachable quite early). Finding a comparable vintage is tricky. Analytically speaking, both the excellent 2005 and the difficult 2013 were cited by winemakers, but upon drinking the wines they resemble neither.
At Mouton-Rothschild, Philippe Dhalluin says the wines are somewhere between 2014 (“for the energy”) and 2015 “for the softness”. On the right bank, Moueix describes the 2017 as “like a 2006 with more controlled tannins, while Hubert de Boüard, co-owner of Angélus and consultant oenologist to dozens of other properties, is reminded of 2001 and has named the vintage “l’éclatant” (radiant, or sparkling).
“It’s certainly the best vintage ending in 7 since the famous 1947,” declared Emmanuel Cruse, co-owner of Issan and Grand Maître of the Commanderie du Bontemps, Médoc, Graves, Sauternes, and Barsac. To a hall full of Bordeaux château owners and trade at the annual Ban du Millésime dinner, Cruse confirmed that the general feeling about the 2017 vintage was “What a great surprise”. But will it be enough to catalyse a successful en primeur campaign?
Part II of this en primeur round-up will look at the upcoming campaign, considering likely timing, pricing, and volumes, and including views from Bordeaux and the international wine trade. Watch this space.
Our annual Bordeaux study will be released to subscribers in early May. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and the Wine Lister blog for real-time analysis of the 2017 Bordeaux en primeur releases.
Christmas is a time of tradition. Whether we like it or not, we tend to spend each year doing, eating, and drinking the same as we did the year before. Whilst everybody’s idea of Christmas will be personal, usually based on childhood memories, there are clearly a shared set of rituals that most of tend to follow: mince pies, turkey or goose, crackers, Christmas pudding. There are also certain styles of wine that we associate with Christmas (though these associations are probably not based on childhood memories!). We decided to look a bit further into the online popularity of specific regions and styles of wine to determine whether in fact we do all drink the same things over the festive season.
Comparing the search frequency of each region’s 25 most popular wines on Wine-Searcher during December 2016 compared to the average of the previous three months, the results are conclusive. Champagne and Port both enjoyed a dramatic surge in popularity – receiving over a quarter more searches during December. Whilst Port’s dramatic increase in online search frequency was presumably because it is the classic accompaniment to another festive favourite – Stilton – Champagne’s seasonal rise in popularity must be because it is not just the tipple of choice at Christmas parties, but also at New Year’s celebrations.
It seems that we also tend to favour the sweet whites of Sauternes and Barsac over Christmas, their 25 most popular wines enjoying a 16% increase in online search frequency. When it comes to dry reds, we appear to gravitate towards hearty styles at this time of year, with Tuscany and the Rhône also experiencing noticeable boosts in online popularity (up 15% and 14% respectively).
If you haven’t yet stocked up on those perennial favourites, Wine Lister’s Value Pick search tool can help you effortlessly find top Quality at a reasonable price. Each of our Christmas Value Picks achieves an outstanding Quality score of at least 965, putting them amongst the very best on Wine Lister. With the most expensive – Warre’s Vintage Port 2000 – available for as little as £47, they represent remarkable value.
If you are after a really special bottle for New Year’s, then we also show the most expensive wine from each region. Each of these wines qualify as Wine Lister Buzz Brands, and is sure to help start 2018 with a bang.
Download a PDF version here.
First published in French in En Magnum.
Wines featured: Drappier Carte d’Or 1993; Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2004; Rieussec 2015; Fontodi Flaccianello della Pieve 2012; Krug Clos d’Ambonnay; Quinta do Noval Porto Nacional Vintage Port; Château d’Yquem; Jean-Louis Chave Hermitage Cuvée Cathelin; Masseto