Bordeaux 2009 vintage tasting highlights

Wine Lister is experiencing a touch of Bordeaux fever. Having re-tasted Bordeaux 2016s in January, Wine Lister’s founder, Ella, attended BI Wines’ “10 years on” tasting last week, revisiting the iconic 2009 vintage.

As expected, the vintage yielded some truly exceptional wines, thanks to excellent weather conditions, especially around harvest time. However, some producers fell into the trap of waiting too long to pick, and high quality in 2009 is not a given. Ella has picked out 26 of the most successful examples of a unique and pleasure-giving vintage, hailing from across all of the best-known red wine Bordeaux appellations (N.B. no white wines were tasted).

The most heterogenous appellation was Saint-Emilion, with some wines rendered hot and hard by high alcohol, while those at the very top level were some of the best 2009s out there. Cheval Blanc, for example, achieved a “mystical, beguiling bouquet…like a magic potion”.

Pomerol did not seem to suffer from the heat in the same way, and made beautiful wines in 2009. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Le Pin garnered some exceptional comments, including “the richest, most decadent, abundant nose of the whole tasting”. Other Pomerol picks displayed an unusually dark-fruited character. Petrus (“not worn on the sleeve like the Le Pin”), had a “refined dark fruit character”, Hosanna “piercing damson fruit”, and La Conseillante boasted a “carnal, purple-fruit sweetness”.

On the left bank, Pessac-Léognan and Saint-Julien achieve joint-first place, earning five highlights each. Arguably the most impressive of these were La Mission Haut-Brion and Haut-Brion with the former described as “sensual, ethereal, and breath-taking”. Pape Clément showed almost “Rhône-esque animality”, while Malartic-Lagravière was “opulent” and “left you wanting more”.

Saint-Julien presented expected names – second growths Gruaud-Larose and Léoville Barton (described as “ultra-classical” and “thoroughbred” respectively), as well as a surprise in the form of Château Gloria, the only Cru Bourgeois to make it into this list of Bordeaux 2009 tasting highlights.

The remaining left bank appellations did not go wanting of favourites. Latour earned the comment, “impeccably turned-out, this wine demands attention”. Elsewhere in Pauillac Pichon Comtesse was “beguiling” and “gradually confident”.

In Margaux the appellation’s first growth namesake was hailed “quite the showstopper”, while Brane-Cantenac was “lifted, lovely, and luminous”. While Saint-Estèphe earned only one mention, its representative, Montrose surpassed expectation, appearing “supremely poised”.

All those wines marked “*” above currently qualify as Wine Lister “buy recommendations”. The Wine Lister team has been working hard to create a data-driven list of the ultimate best wines to buy – watch this space while we fine-tune the algorithm!

Other wines featuring in the Bordeaux 2009 highlights are: Grand-Puy-Lacoste, Pichon Baron, Haut-Bailly, Angélus, Figeac, Pavie, Troplong Mondot, Branaire-Ducru, and Ducru Beaucaillou.


Bordeaux 2016 top dogs and underdogs – part I (left bank)

Last week Wine Lister shared top picks from Burgundy 2017 tastings. This week the focus is Bordeaux, after Wine Lister’s founder, Ella Lister, re-tasted through the 2016 vintage with Wine Lister partner critics Michel Bettane and Thierry Desseauve, thanks to négociants Joanne and CVBG.

We are in the process of updating Wine Lister Quality scores based on new, in-bottle scores from Wine Lister partner critics Bettane+Desseauve, Antonio Galloni, and Neal Martin, and in the meantime we share Ella’s left bank picks below.

N.B. The tasting did not include first growths, or wines such as Cos d’Estournel, Palmer, Léoville Las Cases, Ducru Beaucaillou, and Pontet-Canet.

The spread of favourites from across left bank appellations reflects the homogeneity of the 2016 vintage overall.

Saint-Estèphe was a standout appellation in 2016. Two top dogs, Calon-Ségur and Montrose earned significant praise – Calon is described as having “ballet slipper poise” and a “core of energetic fruit”, where Montrose appeared “elegant, silky and delectable”, with a much-improved integration of oak than the en primeur  sample. Beside these sit two underdogs, Capbern and Phélan Ségur, which punch above their expected qualitative weight.

Saint-Julien earns three picks, with Beychevelle being a particular highlight, hailed “ravishing, with vitality and a satin finish”. In Pauillac, Pichon Baron and Pichon Comtesse were both notable, with the former appearing “refined, aristocratic and accomplished”, the latter “exciting, racy, and moreish”. Both Brane-Cantenac and Malescot Saint-Exupéry brought signature Margaux elegance to the tasting mix.

Pessac-Léognan reds were showing particularly well, earning an equal number of highlights as powerhouse Pauillac overall. Haut Bailly made the cut alongside Domaine de Chevalier, Pape Clément and Smith Haut-Lafitte. Bouscaut stood out as the underdog of the Graves.

A few further surprises arose across red appellations, including Gloria, Lacoste-Borie (the second wine of Grand-Puy-Lacoste), and Branas Grand Poujeaux.

Less surprising was the high quality of sweet staples, Climens, Doisy Daëne, and Coutet. Of dry whites, the stand-outs were Smith Haut-Lafitte Blanc (labelled “tonally a step above”), and de Fieuzal Blanc.

Other wines featured in the Bordeaux 2016 left bank highlights are: Branaire-Ducru, Le Baron de Brane, and Les Griffons de Pichon Baron.


The second Founding Members’ tasting

Wine Lister’s Founding Members’ tasting (the second if its kind) was held last week in the most beautiful surroundings at Ten Trinity Square Private Club. Aside from showcasing how Wine Lister data relates to the actual liquid in the bottle, these tastings are an opportunity to thank friends and supporters of Wine Lister, from subscribers to Founding Members.

We were excited to share news of upcoming developments with our guests, including the imminent expansion of Wine Lister’s coverage (almost doubling from the current 20,000 wines scored), as well as the addition of a new rating criterion. Watch this space!

Wine Lister’s Founding Members, more than 50 major players in the international wine trade, make an invaluable contribution to Wine Lister’s research by sharing their market insights with us on a biannual basis. It is Wine Lister’s role as a fine wine intelligence agency to combine this qualitative information with quantitative data to shed analytical light on fine wines from across the world, for example in our regional reports and factsheets.

In one recent trade survey we asked Founding Members the question, “Which wines do you consider hidden gems (wines you rate highly but which are under-appreciated)?”. The responses inspired the wonderfully varied (but consistently delicious) selection of 24 hidden gems tasted last Thursday (see the full list of wines below).

From left to right: Antoine Forterre, Ella Lister, Giles Cooper, Henry Donne, Pascal Kuzniewski, Pierre-Marie Boury, Anthony Vertadier Mabille, Gareth Kristensen, Sara Guiducci.

In an illustration of how Wine Lister brings together market research with hard data, the “raw” hidden gems selected by our Founding Members are then overlaid with critics’ ratings, restaurant presence, and search frequency data. This gives us the final Hidden Gems presented on the Wine Lister website. In other words, Hidden Gems are wines that are rarely found in top restaurants, and not often searched for online, but which receive high ratings from our partner critics, and have been singled out by our Founding Members as not garnering due attention.

The Founding Members’ “raw” hidden gems featured several Bordeaux wines, including 10 out of the 24 wines shown in the tasting. However, none of these achieve final Hidden Gem status due to their already established brands.

To liven up the evening, we encouraged guests to play “guess the score” – to see how closely they could estimate the Wine Lister score of the wines that they tasted. All the wines were showing beautifully, but Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande 2005 was the wine that our guests successfully identified as having the highest Wine Lister score of the tasting, despite their guesses sitting an average 44 points below Pichon Comtesse 2005’s actual Wine Lister score of 931.

Conversely, Henschke Mount Edelstone Shiraz 2014, Pédesclaux 2014, and Louis Roederer Brut Premier were all awarded higher scores on average by our guests than their official Wine Lister ratings, but the biggest difference was for G.D. Vajra Barolo Albe 2013. It was awarded an average score of 746 by our guests, 73 points above its actual Wine Lister score, which is brought down by a very low Economics score of 124, due to very little price movement or liquidity. This illustrates how the data-driven elements of Wine Lister scores complement the tasting component.

The wine where our guests came closest with their guesses, just 10 points out, was Brane-Cantenac 2005, estimated at 840 compared to its real Wine Lister score of 850.

Congratulations to the game’s winner, Anneka Swann of BI Wines & Spirits, who was just 37 points out on average. We would also like to thank all our other guests for their valiant efforts at guessing the scores: Adam Brett-Smith, Andrea Frost, Chad Delaney, Charles Metcalfe, James Jackson-Nichols, Nicolas Clerc, Richard Stow, Rupert Millar, Tahir Sultan, and Will Hargrove.

Wines featured in the tasting: Louis Roederer Brut Premier, Philipponnat Clos de Goisses 2007, E. Guigal Condrieu La Doriane 2016, Casa Lapostolle Clos Apalta 2014, Seña 2010, Henschke Mount Edelstone Shiraz 2014Isole e Olena Syrah Collezione Privata 2011Tenuta San Guido Guidalberto 2016, Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco 2014, G.D. Vajra Barolo Albe 2013G.D. Vajra Barolo Bricco delle Viole 2009Domaine Duroché Gevrey-Chambertin Les Jeunes Rois 2015Domaine Duroché Chambertin Clos de Bèze Grand Cru 2015Domaine Tempier Cuvée Cabassou 2007Château La Gaffelière 2014, Le Marquis de Calon Ségur 2014, Château Haut-Bailly La Parde 2012, Château Les Carmes Haut-Brion 2014Château d’Issan 2011Château Branaire-Ducru 2012Château Pédesclaux 2014Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande 2005Château Brane-Cantenac 2005Château Lafon Rochet 2010.


Founding Members’ tasting

Hidden Gems are one of four Wine Lister “Indicators”, segmenting wines that meet specific sets of criteria into groups. Hidden Gems are those wines rarely found in the top restaurants, and not often searched for online, but which either have high ratings from wine critics, or have been singled out as a hidden gem by Founding Members in Wine Lister surveys.

Last week, Wine Lister celebrated its second birthday with a special tasting of a selection of 27 “raw” hidden gems, identified by our Founding Members (c.50 key players from the international fine wine trade) when asked which wines they rated highly, but which they felt were underappreciated.

Founding Members’ Hidden Gems hail from a variety of regions, producers and vintages. Their average Wine Lister scores vary too, as shown on the histogram below, where the grey columns represent the total number of fine wines currently listed on Wine Lister which fall into each score bucket.

The full list of wines tasted is available here: Wine Lister Founding Members’ Hidden Gems

The Wine Lister team was joined by some of our trade Founding Members, data partners, and other supporters of Wine Lister. We encouraged tasters to share their comments by writing on the tasting table. All the wines were showing beautifully, and G.D. Vajra’s Barolo Bricco delle Viole 2009, tasted from magnum, won widespread praise from all the guests. It also holds the highest Quality score (927) of all wines in the room. One taster even went so far as to name it “the Lafite of Barolo”!

From left to right: David Harvey, Arthur de Lencquesaing, Dan Jago, Charles Lea, Ella Lister, Jancis Robinson, Jan Konetzki, Adam Bruntlett, Katy Andersen, Grant Ashton, Sophie Mclean, Richard Harvey, Greg Sherwood, Aita Ighodaro, Joe Fattorini.

Find out what else was said about the wines by following this link to more photos of the event.

Wines featured in the tasting: Louis Roederer Brut Premier, E. Guigal Condrieu La Doriane 2016, Casa Lapostolle Clos Apalta 2014, Seña 2010, Henschke Mount Edelstone Shiraz 2014Isole e Olena Syrah Collezione Privata 2011Tenuta San Guido Guidalberto 2016, Tenuta dell’Ornellaia Le Serre Nuove 2015, 2011, 2007, Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco 2014, G.D. Vajra Barolo Albe 2013G.D. Vajra Barolo Bricco delle Viole 2009Domaine Duroché Gevrey-Chambertin Les Jeunes Rois 2015Domaine Duroché Chambertin Clos de Bèze Grand Cru 2015Domaine Tempier Cuvée Cabassou 2007Château La Gaffelière 2014, Le Marquis de Calon Ségur 2014, Château Haut-Bailly La Parde 2012, Château Les Carmes Haut-Brion 2014Château Boyd-Cantenac 2013Château d’Issan 2011Château Branaire-Ducru 2012Château Pédesclaux 2014Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande 2005Château Brane-Cantenac 2005Château Lafon Rochet 2010.