Bordeaux and the Rhône: old-school, but still cool

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.



Listed: The best sweet wines of Bordeaux 2017

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, LafiteLatour, 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.


Neal Martin’s top Bordeaux 2017 scores

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: AngélusCos d’EstournelHosannaMontrose, 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. 


Jancis Robinson’s top Bordeaux 2017 scores

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’s top Bordeaux 2017 scores

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.


Bordeaux 2017 en primeur part I: the vintage

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.


Festive wines

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


Bordeaux 2013 vintage overview

We recently prepared a brief vintage overview for the Institute of Masters of Wine’s 2013 Claret tasting. Analysing the performance of the basket of wines included in the tasting, Wine Lister’s holistic and dynamic approach allows us to not only see which appellations produced the vintage’s best wines, but also demonstrates if and how the market has since reacted to each appellation’s relative quality.

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You can download these slides here: Wine Lister Bordeaux 2013 vintage overview

Watch this space for further regional vintage reports over the coming months.


Bordeaux’s best dry whites

Bordeaux is renowned for its reds and sweet whites, but its best dry whites should not be forgotten. While the majority of Bordeaux’s top dry whites are not the flagship wine of their respective châteaux, they still achieve overall Wine Lister scores that are amongst the strongest or very strong on Wine Lister’s scale. Furthermore, as part of some of the most prestigious châteaux in Bordeaux, they all achieve Buzz Brand status.

Top 5 Bordeaux whites image_26_10_17

Leading the way is Château Haut-Brion Blanc, with a score of 902. It is by far the most expensive at £569 per bottle. This puts it 62% above the current market price of Haut-Brion’s red, presumably because just one sixteenth the number of bottles are produced each year.

In second place is Château La Mission Haut-Brion Blanc (891). Relabelled in 2009, this was formerly Laville Haut-Brion. It has the best Quality score of the group (908), the result of very strong ratings from each of Wine Lister’s four critics and the longest ageing potential of the group – the last six vintages bottled under the Laville Haut-Brion label will still be drinking well until at least 2020.

Next comes Y d’Yquem with a score of 887. Whilst it can’t match the quality of the botrytised Sauternes for which the château is best known – not many can – it is available at a 34% discount, making it an excellent way of enjoying an iconic producer on a different occasion.

Margaux’s Pavillon Blanc achieves the fourth-best score (878). The only straight Bordeaux AOP in the group, Pavillon Blanc comprehensively outperforms its red counterpart in the Quality category (895 vs 771). That said, Pavillon Rouge has a stronger Brand score (944 vs 831) and Economics score (953 vs 920), in spite of a slightly lower price (£122 vs £138).

Confirming the dominance of the Graves when it comes to Bordeaux’s best dry whites, the last spot is filled by Domaine de Chevalier Blanc (868), the third Pessac-Léognan wine of the group. By far the cheapest of the five (£59), it is an absolute steal given its consistent high quality and ageing capacity. It also achieves the best Brand score (909), thanks to outstanding restaurant presence – it is visible on 23% of the world’s best wine lists.