This week, Wine Lister determinedly battles through the cold to bring on spring with the vinous ray of sunshine that is Sauvignon Blanc. The Loire valley is, for many, the holy grail of Sauvignon Blanc production, creating pure, age-worthy examples of the grape. Interestingly, Wine Lister’s top five Loire Valley dry whites for Quality all hail from the Easternmost tip of the Valley – Pouilly-Fumé and Sancerre – thus edging out stiff competition from the more Westerly Chenin Blancs.
Whilst none of the top five breach the 900-point mark – thus not quite making it into the most elite band of Wine Lister’s 1,000-point scale – they don’t miss out by far, and are separated by just 28 points. Notably, two producers dominate – Dagueneau and François Cotat – filling four spots, with Alphonse Mellot’s Edmond taking the remaining place.
In top spot is Dagueneau’s Silex with a score of 895. This iconic Pouilly-Fumé – or Blanc Fumé de Pouilly as the domaine refers to it – might not be the Loire’s longest-lived dry white, but leads thanks to excellent critics’ ratings, with French duo Bettane+Desseauve awarding it 18.5/20 on average. Not only is it the Loire’s top dry white for quality, it also achieves the best Brand score of any Loire Valley wine – it is 68% more popular than any other wine from the region and its famous flint-emblazoned bottle is visible in 39% of the world’s top restaurants.
Second and third spots are taken by two Sancerres from François Cotat – Les Culs de Beaujeu (883) and Les Monts Damnés (879). François Cotat, along with his cousin Pascal inherited their respective domaines when their fathers – Paul and Francis – retired in the early 90s. The cousins decided to split production, with François continuing to make his wines in Chavignol, whilst Pascal built a new winery in Sancerre. François’ Les Culs de Beaujeu and Les Monts Damnés comfortably achieve the longest drinking windows of this week’s top five – 12 and 13 years respectively – at least three years longer than the remainder of the group.
Fourth and fifth spots are filled by Dagueneau’s Les Monts Damnés (869) and Alphonse Mellot’s Edmond (867). Whilst they are separated by just two points in terms of Quality, the former is over 2.5 times more expensive, perhaps thanks to Domaine Dagueneau’s cult status.
Mention New Zealand, and the first thing that springs to mind will most likely be rugby. The All Blacks are not just the world’s best team, but the foremost brand in rugby. In wine terms, they are the left bank first growths; the team that even people who don’t follow rugby will recognise. Whilst peerless with the oval ball, when it comes to vinous competition New Zealand can’t compete with its Old World counterparts in terms of brand strength. However, as this week’s top five shows, New Zealand’s top brands definitely shouldn’t be discounted.
Cloudy Bay fills two of the five spots with its straight Sauvignon Blanc and Te Koko Sauvignon Blanc. With a very strong score of 889 – putting it ahead of the likes of Haut-Brion Blanc – the straight Sauvignon Blanc dominates the rest of the five across both of Wine Lister’s brand criteria. It receives 56% more searches each month on Wine-Searcher than Ata Rangi Pinot Noir (the group’s second-most popular wine). Te Koko – New Zealand’s third-strongest brand (807) – displays a similar profile to the straight Sauvignon Blanc. Its brand is its strongest facet, comfortably outperforming its Quality and Economics scores (614 and 308 respectively).
Whilst Sauvignon Blanc is New Zealand’s foremost white grape, its most prestigious reds are Pinot Noirs, with Ata Rangi’s offering and Felton Road’s Block 5 both appearing in the top five. Ata Rangi is by far New Zealand’s strongest red brand (823). It is the country’s most visible red in the world’s top dining establishments (11%), and also the most popular with consumers, receiving three times as many searches each month as the Felton Road. Whilst it appears in just 7% of top restaurants, Felton Road Block 5 enjoys the group’s best vertical presence, with two vintages / formats offered on average per list. It is also the most expensive of the five. Incidentally, the two Pinot Noirs comfortably achieve the group’s best Quality scores and are the only two with scores above 800 in the category.
Proving that New Zealand isn’t all Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir, Le Sol – Craggy Range’s Syrah – completes the five, with a Brand score of 673.
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.
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.
Stretching from the Atlantic coast in the West to Pouilly-sur-Loire in the East, the Loire Valley extends half way across France, and is home to some of the country’s great white wines. Reflecting the diversity of the region, the Loire’s top five whites comprise two dry Sauvignon Blancs, two sweet Chenin Blancs, and a dry Chenin Blanc. However, whilst these wines are diverse in style, they share several key characteristics – they are all produced biodynamically, in small quantities, and by cult winemakers.
Leading the way are two Pouilly-Fumés from Domaine Didier Dagueneau – Silex and Pur Sang. One of Wine Lister’s Buzz Brands, Silex achieves excellent scores in each of Wine Lister’s three categories. However, it enjoys particularly strong brand recognition, present in 39% of the world’s best restaurants and receiving on average over 4,000 searches each month on Wine-Searcher. Pur Sang achieves its best score in the Economics category, thanks to strong price performance – with a three year CAGR of 14% and a six month growth rate of 13%.
Moving West to Vouvray, Domaine Huet Cuvée Constance comes next. Produced only in great vintages, this botrytised Chenin Blanc has the best Quality score of the group (981), and the 14th highest of all white wines on Wine Lister.
Continuing further down the valley, Clos Rougeard Brézé is in fourth place. The most expensive wine of the group, it has a remarkable three year CAGR of 33%, confirming that it is a wine on a strong upward trajectory. The fifth wine is Nicolas Joly’s Coulée de Serrant. Produced in the most westerly appellation of the group – Savennières Coulée de Serrant – Brand is its strongest category, present in 31% of top establishments.
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