As 2020 draws to a close, Wine Lister has compiled a report celebrating the top-performing wines and producers within a series of categories over the past year. Using our axes of Quality, Brand, and Economics, and the several factors that constitute these values, we have created seven leagues that paint a panoramic view of some of the world’s best wines, ranked within their areas of excellence.
Wine Lister’s 2020 Leagues include rankings of Quality Consistency (wines that show the smallest standard deviation between Quality scores over the last 20 vintages), and Biggest Movers (wines whose popularity has increased most in terms of online searches over the past year). Our team has also put together its top-10 wines per Wine Lister Indicator, revealing our recommendations for Hidden Gems, Value Picks, Buzz Brands, and Investment Staples.
We end the Leagues with a list of 21 Ultimate MUST BUYs for 2021, compiling a selection of MUST BUY highlights hand-picked by our fine wine experts, that offer an impressive addition to any fine wine portfolio in 2021. These are some of the picks that would feature in Wine Lister’s “fantasy cellar”.
Download your free copy of Wine Lister’s 2020 Leagues here.
Before the bulk of Burgundy en primeur 2019s are released onto the market, Wine Lister has published its second in-depth Burgundy study.
Below we explore the complex relationship between the region’s price performance and its popularity growth over the past two years, informing your investment decisions over the coming months.
The two-year price performance of a basket of 175 Burgundy wines (the same wines featured in our previous study on the region in 2018), based on the last 30 vintages. Price data partner: Wine Owners.
As shown in the chart above, Chambolle and its surrounding sites lead in the price performance of Burgundy Grand Crus, followed by wines hailing from its northerly neighbour, Morey-Saint-Denis. The notorious sub-set of Grand Crus from around Vosne – home of legendary Richebourg, La Tâche, Echezeaux, and Romanée-Conti – has seen slower price performance, which is matched with lower popularity growth (see below).
The two-year popularity growth of each Burgundy subset. Popularity data partner: Wine-Searcher.
Though Chambolle and its surrounding Grand Crus have excelled in two-year price growth, consumer interest in the wines of this subset increased the least. Following similarly this opposing relationship between the two data sets, Nuits-Saint-Georges / Vosne Premiers Crus and Village wines gained the most popularity over the last two years by a large margin, while the subset’s price performance trails behind in last place.
A growing interest in lower-priced wines from Burgundy is further explored through trends identified by key members of the international fine wine trade in Wine Lister’s report. Producers such as Arnoux-Lachaux and Georges Mugneret-Gibourg are well worth looking out for when buying Burgundy en primeur for drinking in several years’ time.
Visit the Analysis page to purchase Wine Lister’s in-depth 2020 Burgundy study, or download it using your Pro subscription here (available in both English and French).
Many wine lovers like us have been making the most of lockdown to explore outside of the more traditional wine-growing regions and grape varieties. Wine Lister’s new cellar analysis service can include tailored guidance on future purchases for drinking or investment, providing recommendations for top-quality wines from alternative producers and regions.
To help you discover some of these brilliant New World picks, the Wine Lister team has put together a short selection of MUST BUYs that have exhibited a recent rise in popularity, as established through search frequency data from Wine-Searcher.
Australia to ask for – 2014 Cullen Diana Madeline
Founded in 1971, the Cullen Estate has maintained concern for its environment since its inception, keeping both chemical intervention and irrigation to a minimum. In 1998, the estate adopted an organic viticulture, which was further developed into a biodynamic practice in 2008. Winemaker, Vanya Cullen, states the biodynamic approach to harnessing Earth’s energy “achieves greater individuality of site through working with nature rather than against it”, suggesting its ability to better display terroir and climate. The estate’s flagship wine, Diana Madeline, comprises a blend of 89% Cabernet Sauvignon with small amounts of Petit Verdot, Merlot, Malbec, and Cabernet Franc in 2014. With a WL score of 95 at £50 per bottle (in-bond), it is described by Wine Lister partner critic, Jancis Robinson, as “refined and elegant”, and displaying “great harmony”. It can be bought by the case of 12 from BI Fine Wine & Spirits.
Argentina to acquire – 2015 Bodega Catena Zapata Nicolás Catena Zapata
Nicolás Catena Zapata helped pioneer the use of European winemaking techniques in Argentina’s high altitudes, following in the footsteps of his grandfather, Nicola Catena – an Italian immigrant who founded the winery in 1902. The inaugural vintage of the namesake wine (1997) was debuted in the USA and Europe at a series of blind tastings, where it received comparison to First Growths Latour and Haut-Brion, and achieved either first or second place in every event. Composed of 83% Cabernet Sauvignon and 17% Malbec in 2015, Nicolás Catena Zapata grapes are fermented in 100% French Oak barrels for 15 days. Fermentation temperatures are kept low, to extract pronounced aromas, while cap management is done by hand to encourage the extraction of nuanced flavours and gentle tannins. The 2015 Nicolás Catena Zapata receives a WL score of 94, at £49 per bottle (in-bond), and can be acquired by the case of 12 from Fine+Rare Wines.
California to call upon – 2010 Dominus Estate Dominus
Owned by Christian Moueix (of Petrus fame), Dominus Estate demonstrates its prestigious proprietorship with one of the highest quality Bordeaux blends in California. Comprised of 95% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 5% Petit Verdot, the 2010 Dominus Estate Dominus was produced in the smallest quantities known to the property since its 1984 vintage – consequential of a rigorous selection of lots for the final blend. Wine Lister partner critic, Antonio Galloni, calls the 2010 “a towering, utterly magnificent wine”, describing “asphalt, licorice, menthol, plums and cassis” that “wrap around the palate and never let up”. With a WL score of 98, at £233 per bottle (in-bond), it can be aged for another 20 years, and is available to purchase by the case of six from Corney & Barrow.
Chile to chase – 2014 Seña
A blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Carménère, 11% Malbec, 8% Merlot, and 5% Petit Verdot, the 2014 Seña was described by WL partner critic, Jeannie Cho Lee as a “fabulous wine that offers layers of flavors that range from exotic spices, rose petals and violets to blackberries and fresh herbs”. Owner Eduardo Chadwick tells us of his addition of the late-ripening Petit Verdot, which adds spice and complexity to the wine. With extremely fine-grained tannins and acidity, thanks to its cool climate, the wine has received several comparisons with top Bordeaux blends. Achieving a WL score of 96, at £78 per bottle (in-bond), the 2014 Seña can be bought by the case of six from Lay & Wheeler.
New Zealand worth knowing – 2014 Kumeu River Maté’s Vineyard Chardonnay
Achieving a WL score of 94 at £38 per bottle (in-bond), the 2014 Kumeu River Maté’s Vineyard Chardonnay constitutes a good value New World Chardonnay with excellent ageing potential (it can be aged for a further 10 years). Wine Lister partner critic, Neal Martin, describes the 2014 vintage as having “a riveting, brilliantly defined bouquet of oyster shell, citrus peel and apple blossom”, concluding that it is “world-class stuff”. Having taken over the estate from his Dalmatian father, Maté, in 1982, Kumeu River director, Michael Brajkovich, was the first New Zealander to become a Master of Wine, and used his knowledge to develop its viticulture through improving drainage, growing grass between the vines, and introducing a Lyre trellis system. Named after Michael’s late father, the 2014 Kumeu River Maté’s Vineyard Chardonnay is available to purchase by the bottle from Lay & Wheeler.
Also featured in the above MUST BUY recommendations are: 2016 Ridge Vineyards Geyserville, 2015 Ben Glaetzer Amon-Ra, 2014 Colgin Cellars IX Estate Red, 2013 Kay Brothers Amery Vineyards Block 6 Shiraz, 2013 Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay, 2011 Viña Almaviva, and 2009 Viñedo Chadwick.
For bespoke fine wine purchase recommendations, as well as advice on creating the financial room with re-sale suggestions, get in touch with our team at email@example.com, or download the full Cellar Analysis information pack.
Part I of Wine Lister’s annual in-depth Bordeaux report: For better, for worse, examines the state of the market for Bordeaux wines, in the context of 2019 en primeur.
As well as providing insight into the wine trade’s latest position on key wines of the region, the study examines Bordeaux’s disconnect between consumer popularity and its market performance at the start of 2020 (exacerbated by recent macro-economic hits to the UK, Hong Kong, and the US).
As illustrated below, Bordeaux has achieved the slowest price growth on the secondary market since May 2014, while Piedmont has seen the most impressive growth – likely due to increasing attention given to the region, and the rarity factor of many of its top wines, from which Burgundy also benefits.
The price performance of Bordeaux compared to four other key fine wine regions: Burgundy, California, Piedmont, and Tuscany. The price indices comprise the top five wine brands in each respective region.
A glance at its price performance since May 2019 tells a similar, if more unnerving story – Bordeaux has floundered over the past year, down nearly 5%.
Despite its price performance difficulties, Bordeaux nonetheless continues its legacy as the most popular wine region by a large margin, based on monthly searches made on Wine-Searcher.
The average search rank of Bordeaux compared to four other key fine wine regions: Burgundy, California, Piedmont, and Tuscany. Results are based on the average searches on Wine-Searcher for the 50 top-scoring wines per region over the last year.
Irrespective of its price performance struggles, Bordeaux remains a focus of fine wine buyers – within the trade and beyond – all over the world. The en primeur campaign is a wheel that just keeps on turning, even in spite of a global pandemic. Trade and consumers alike can’t help but back Bordeaux, for richer and poorer.
More insight into the success of the 2019 en primeur campaign will be included in Part II of this study. In the meantime, visit the Analysis page to purchase Part I, or download using your Pro subscription (available in both English and French).
As en primeur 2018 picks up pace, we consider the 10 Bordeaux wines that any fine wine collector should acquire for their collection. These are based on the results of Wine Lister’s latest Founding Member survey, gathering the views of over 50 key players in the global fine wine trade.
You can download this slide here: 10 must have Bordeaux wines for your collection
With the first major set of releases for 2019 in full swing (Burgundy 2017), the Wine Lister team are already looking ahead for what else is in store for wine collectors and trade members alike. In February we expect to see the release of Barolo 2015s – set to be a more concentrated and riper vintage than the previous due to high temperatures throughout the summer. In anticipation of these, Wine Lister is examining the top five Piedmont Buzz Brands by Brand score.
Ironically, the highest-scoring brand of this week’s top five is in fact not a Barolo at all. Gaja’s Barbaresco takes the top spot with a Brand score of 975. Wine Lister partner critic Antonio Galloni gives the 2014 vintage 96 points, and comments, “this is one of the most tightly wound, intense versions of Gaja’s Barbaresco I can remember tasting. Don’t miss it”.
While it is no longer breaking news to see such high quality Barbaresco emerging from under Barolo’s shadow, the making of such a well-recognised brand is impressive. This is achieved by presence in 31% of the world’s best restaurants, and a search rank of 76 out of the c.4,000+ wines on Wine Lister. Gaja’s single vineyard Barbarescos, Sorì San Lorenzo, Sorì Tildin, and Costa Russi are also popular with an average Brand score of 915.
In second place for top Piedmont Buzz Brands is Giacomo Conterno’s Barolo Monfortino Riserva. Sitting just outside the top 50 most-searched-for wines (in 51stplace), it is both the highest quality and the most expensive wine of this week’s top five, with a Quality score of 977, and an in-bond per bottle price of £766. The price tag, which is just under four times higher than the average price of the other four wines of this week’s group, is perhaps due to the tiny production quantities of just c.7,000 bottles per year.
Giacomo Conterno also takes a second spot in this week’s top five – fourth place, with his Barolo Cascina Francia, which earns a Brand score of 956 and a Quality score of 960. Despite score gaps between these two wines of a mere 14 and 17 points respectively, an average of three times as many bottles are produced of Cascina Francia than its grander (and much rarer) sibling. It is available at just 23% of the price of the Barolo Monfortino Riserva – £176 per bottle in-bond.
In third place of this week’s top five is Bartolo Mascarello’s Barolo with a Brand score of 965. While its scores across the board sit in the mid-range of this week’s top five, it achieves the best long-term price performance, with a three-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 34.7%.
Lastly, at number five of this week’s group is Bruno Giacosa’s Barolo Rocche Falletto Riserva with a Brand score of 928. Although the Barolo Rocche Falletto Riserva has the lowest search rank of this week’s top five (158th), online searches for this wine saw impressive increases last year (read more here). It achieves a Quality score of 974 – just two points under the best Quality performer of the group (Conterno’s Barolo Monfortino Riserva). Indeed at vintage level these two wines share a near-perfect Quality score of 998 for their respective 2004 vintages, both earning 100/100 from Antonio Galloni.
It is interesting to note the high quality that accompanies these top Piedmont Buzz Brands (an average Brand score of 959 vs. 945 for Quality). The disparity between scores is more accentuated for the equivalent group in Tuscany, which achieves a Brand score of 991 for a Quality score of 932, or in other words, a 59-point gap.
Wine Lister periodically studies the movements of wines in and out of the four Wine Lister Indicator categories. One of these, Buzz Brands, denotes wines that achieve outstanding online popularity (measured through search rankings based on monthly searches on Wine-Searcher), and presence in the world’s best restaurants.
After analysing newcomers to the Buzz Brand segment in June, Burgundy dominates once again in our findings for October. Red Burgundy, and in particular, Gevrey-Chambertin, takes three out of the four places of this month’s new Buzz Brands.
However, it is in fact the only white, Domaine Leflaive’s Bourgogne Blanc, that achieves the highest Brand score of the group at 815. All of the Domaine Leflaive wines on Wine Lister are now Buzz Brands but one – their most expensive Grand Cru, Montrachet (at £6,059 per bottle compared with £218, the average price of the rest). Indicative, maybe, of drinkers being priced out of the top wines and refocussing their interest lower down the ladder.
Perhaps it is also the sign of a good brand strategy in action, with the rising profile of the Domaine’s top wines filtering all the way down to the regional wines, via the premiers crus. The new addition of the regional offering here follows two previous new Leflaive mentions in Wine Lister’s last Buzz Brand audit (of Puligny-Montrachet Les Combettes and Meursault Sous le Dos d’Ane).
Of the three reds, two hold the same Brand score of 722, and near identical Brand profiles (see restaurant presence and search rank in the image below). The Gevrey-Chambertin Clos Saint-Jacques is the first of Bruno Clair’s wines to become a Buzz Brand. Domaine Fourrier’s Combe aux Moines Vieilles Vignes has the highest Quality score of all three new red Burgundy Buzz Brands with a score of 889. This, coupled with a slightly better Economics score helps bring it very slightly ahead for overall Wine Lister score.
Though Domaine Armand Rousseau’s Les Cazetiers is third of the Gevrey group qualitatively, it is geographically sandwiched between the first two. These wines together form a neat representation of three of the best premier cru vineyards of Gevrey-Chambertin. Incidentally, this is the last of Rousseau’s wines on Wine Lister to achieve Buzz Brand status. The domaine’s highest Brand score is won by the better-known Clos Saint-Jacques (unsurprising given that it owns roughly one third of the entire vineyard parcel) with a Brand score of 964.
As part of our Brand score, Wine Lister measures popularity using the three-month rolling average searches on the world’s most visited wine site, Wine-Searcher.
We have recently updated our treatment of this data to provide relative results for all 4,000+ wines on Wine Lister. Expressing each wine’s search frequency as a ranking will make it easier for our users to interpret the data. For example, Mouton is the #1 most searched-for wine of all wines on Wine Lister, according to monthly searches on Wine-Searcher.
To mark this transition, here we examine the top 50 most popular fine wines in the world.
The first seven most searched-for wines for the period of May, June, and July include the five Bordeaux left bank first growths (Mouton, Lafite, Margaux, Latour, and Haut-Brion), right-bank powerhouse, Petrus, and Champagne super-brand, Dom Pérignon. It is perhaps of no surprise that these rankings remain unchanged since the previous period (February to April) .
Burgundian searches in the top 50 are dominated by Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, with Romanée-Conti, La Tâche, Echezeaux, and Romanée-Saint-Vivant all achieving better rankings versus the previous period. These four together achieve an average ranking of 30th place, and an average movement up the search ranking of 11 places.
Other than Dom Pérignon, the two remaining Champagnes featured in the top 50 most searched-for wines have moved up the rankings for May-July 2018 compared to the previous three-month period. Louis Roederer’s Cristal was up 12 places, presumably due to the release of its 2008 vintage in June. Krug’s most recent Grande Cuvée (166th edition) was released in late May, explaining its jump four spots up the rankings into 24th place.
More than half of the top 50 most popular wines are Bordeaux, with 30 wines hailing from the region. However, Bordeaux did not see the boost to their search ranking one might have expected during Bordeaux’s en primeur 2017, with one fewer of the region’s wines featuring in the top 50 than before the campaign kicked off. In fact, supporting Wine Lister’s analysis of this year’s lacklustre campaign, searches for many top Bordeaux châteaux actually fell during this period. For instance, Figeac, despite achieving Bordeaux’s 10th best Quality score of the 2017 vintage, slipped nine spots down the rankings.
This week’s top five require absolutely no introduction. As Buzz Brands – Wine Lister’s group of wines that achieve outstanding online popularity and restaurant presence, and are also identified by the global fine wine trade as trending or especially prestigious – that is perhaps a given. Couple that with the fact that they hail from Bordeaux, and are the region’s most expensive Buzz Brands, it would be nigh on impossible for you not to be familiar with them to some degree.
Pomerol is home to three of the five. With the limited production volumes of the plateau’s top wines, it is perhaps no surprise that they reach eye-watering prices. Petrus leads the way with an average price across all vintages of £2,111. It is Bordeaux’s best wine, and the fifth best in the world, its phenomenal score of 983 only bettered by Salon and three (!) DRC cuvées. Petrus is consistently brilliant across Wine Lister’s three rating categories with Quality, Brand, and Economics scores of 978, 998, and 972 respectively. It is worth focusing on its Brand score. Despite its relatively low production volumes, its rate of restaurant presence is outstanding. Visible in 45% of the world’s top establishments, and with more than five vintages / formats featuring on each wine list on average, it is clearly a wine that commands the utmost respect from sommeliers. Moreover, receiving over 60,000 online searches each month, it is well over five times as popular as its Pomerol neighbours Le Pin and Lafleur.
Le Pin comes next (£2,009). It enjoys Bordeaux’s second-best Economics score (979), pipped at the post by Carruades de Lafite (980). Its outstanding score comes courtesy not just of its high price, but also strong price performance, with a three-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 17% and having added 8% to its price over the past six months alone. With those sorts of figures, it will soon overtake Petrus as Bordeaux’s most expensive wine – its neighbour having recorded a three-year CAGR of 13% but only managing to add 4% to its value since March.
At roughly a quarter of the price of Petrus and Le Pin, Lafleur is Bordeaux’s fifth most expensive Buzz Brand (£523). It was Bordeaux 2017’s top red for Quality, its score of 978 putting it just ahead of Petrus (971). Across all vintages it is also the longest-lived of this week’s top five, with Wine Lister’s partner critics predicting an average ageing potential of 21 years.
We cross over to the left bank for the group’s remaining two wines, the first of which might come as a slight surprise. Haut-Brion Blanc is Bordeaux’s third-most expensive Buzz Brand (£584). It is of course its rarity that propels it up the price tables. Producing just 6,720 bottles on average each year – 15 times fewer than Haut-Brion Rouge – it is over 60% more expensive than its red counterpart, despite trailing across each category.
Rounding out the group – if it can ever be described as such – is Lafite (£546). With the best part of 200,000 bottles of it produced each year, it will come as no shock that it manages the best restaurant presence of the five, both in terms of the number of establishments in which it appears (54%) and the number of references per list (6.3 on average). It is also the most popular wine in the world, receiving over 80,000 online searches each month.
Despite the annual bustle of the en primeur campaign, it is healthy to breathe some non-Bordeaux air once in a while. With Bordeaux 2017 behind us, we examine new Buzz Brands for June from contrasting locations – Burgundy and the New World. One of four Wine Lister Indicators, ‘Buzz Brands’ use Wine Lister’s bespoke algorithms to indicate trending wines found in the highest number of the world’s best restaurants, and with high online search frequency.
This month, 10 new wines have made the Buzz Brand cut, as shown in the image below.
Six Burgundian wines (four whites and two reds) become Buzz Brands in June. This aligns with results of our latest Founding Members’ survey, where Burgundy producers earned the most number of votes (50) from key members of the global fine wine trade as most likely to see the largest brand gains in the next two years.
Louis Jadot and Domaine Leflaive both have two new white Buzz Brand references. Jadot’s Chevalier-Montrachet Les Demoiselles and Corton-Charlemagne have the highest Quality scores of this month’s Buzz Brand additions – 951 and 925 respectively. Domaine Leflaive proves its popularity with presence of its Puligny-Montrachet les Combettes and/or Meursault Sous le Dos d’Ane in 28 out of c.150 of the world’s best restaurants, and votes from the trade as a consistent seller (see p.23 of Wine Lister’s Bordeaux market study 2018 for more).
Of the red Burgundian Buzz Brands, the popularity of Domaine Leroy’s Pommard Les Vignots is perhaps unsurprising, given the producer’s renown, and the wine’s relative affordability (£505 per bottle) compared with Leroy’s more expensive offerings, such as its Musigny Grand Cru (£8,365 per bottle). Denis Mortet’s Clos de Vougeot is the only Côte de Nuits to feature in this month’s Buzz Brand additions.
The remaining four wines all hail from the New World – three from South Australia, and one from California. The latter, Vérité’s Le Désir, wins on all fronts with the highest Quality (949), Brand (740), and Economics (603) scores. The Quality comparison is hardly fair, given Le Désir’s price of £233, over four times higher the average of the three Australian representatives. Torbreck’s The Steading and the Descendant combined are present in 15 of the world’s best restaurants. Henschke’s Cyril Cabernet Sauvignon joins its pricier and better-known siblings, Hill of Grace Shiraz and Mount Edelstone Shiraz, as the producer’s third Buzz Brand.
You can see a full list of Wine Lister Buzz Brands here