As we enter into this new year, 2020, it hardly seems possible that wines from the 2010 vintage are now a decade old. Having updated the Wine Lister MUST BUYs for the first time in 2020, we have examined all current recommendations from 2010. Wine Lister’s ground-breaking buy recommendations are data-driven, with an intelligence-based overlay. The algorithm takes into account a wine’s quality and value within its vintage and appellation, as well as the latest industry intelligence from key players in the global fine wine trade. The Wine Lister team then scours the results to identify must-buy wines based on our own tasting experience and market knowledge.
2010 is the number one vintage for MUST BUYs, with 169 – or 10% – of the current count (1,710). An impressive 49 of these achieve WL scores of 96 or above, and are listed below.
As is becoming a regular pattern for MUST BUYs – thanks to the region’s value proposition – Tuscany dominates the list of reds, with nine wines featured from the 2010 vintage earning 96+ WL across the Chianti and Brunello DOCG, and Tuscany IGT appellations. Super-value producer Le Macchiole achieves MUST BUY status for two of its three cuvées in the 2010 vintage (Scrio and Paleo Rosso), while at the other end of the price spectrum is Masseto 2010.
California also achieves nine MUST BUY entries for 2010, including wines from the likes of Dominus, Colgin, Harlan Estate and Opus One. Burgundy follows with one red fewer, and includes François Lamarche’s monopole La Grande Rue.
Piedmont features four Barolos, amongst which is the legendary Giuseppe Rinaldi’s Barolo Brunate (labelled Brunate-Le Coste prior to the 2010 vintage). Bordeaux falls short of its usual ratio of MUST BUYs in 2010, featuring just three wines. Being such an iconic vintage, 2010 Bordeaux in general does not offer the “good value” necessary to make the Wine Lister MUST BUY cut when up against better-value vintages such as 2008 or 2014. However, for Lafite, Palmer, and Pichon Comtesse, the 2010 vintage is of significantly higher quality than other vintages to make it worth paying the price premium – less marked than for many other 2010s. For example, the average premium of 2010 over 2011 for Lafite, Palmer, and Pichon Comtesse is 42%, whereas for Mouton, Léoville Las Cases, and Pichon Baron you have to pay 60% more to get your hands on the better vintage.
Several whites make the cut in 2010, of which the majority hail from the reigning region of Chardonnay. Burgundy’s Maison Louis Jadot sweeps three of the seven white Burgundy 2010 spots, proving once again the excellent value presented by some of Burgundy’s top quality négociants.
Riesling-based whites also prove a popular option, with entries across Alsace and Germany, however lucky owners of some of these (namely Marcel Deiss’ Altenberg de Bergheim and Zilliken’s Saarburger Raucsch Riesling Auslese), should have patience, and could perhaps even wait until the start of the next decade before opening either of these spectacular wines.
See the full list of 2010 MUST BUYs here.
For the last three consecutive updates, Burgundy has worn the crown for highest number of new MUST BUY entries. This week it shares its prime position with Tuscany, as the two regions hold six wines each of the 27 new MUST BUYs. Whilst previous updates have been geographically diverse, this week’s countries of focus are France and Italy only.
All but one of this week’s new Tuscan MUST BUYs can be considered “Super Tuscans”. Buzz Brands Querciabella and Sassicaia make the cut for their 2015 and 2007 respectively. Producer Fattoria La Massa earns another place this week for Giorgio Primo, making its 2016 the sixth MUST BUY vintage of this same wine. 2015 Percarlo from San Giusto a Rentennano and 2016 l’Apparita from Castello di Ama complete the new “Super Tuscans”. A second offering from Castello di Ama is this week’s only new Chianti Classico entry, and brings the producer’s MUST BUY total to eight, equalling Italy’s other top MUST BUY producers, Castello dei Rampolla, and Isole e Olena, in number.
Further North in Italy, Piedmont is by no means overlooked, with Roagna and Paolo Scavino featuring on the new MUST BUY list for Barolo this week (in 2012 and 2011 vintages respectively), alongside Giuseppe Mascarello’s 1996 Barolo Monprivato. Gaja is represented twice, and completes the Piedmont five with the straight Barbaresco and the Sorì San Lorenzo.
France’s chief MUST BUY region, Burgundy, offers three reds and an equal number of whites, with Leroy representing two of the three Pinot Noirs (2015 Vosne-Romanée Les Genaivrières and 2007 Clos de Vougeot). Vosne-Romanée earns another mention through Dujac for its 2012 Aux Malconsorts. Domaine Leflaive, Jacques Prieur, and an older vintage of Raveneau take this week’s new white Burgundy MUST BUY places.
Outside Burgundy, France is also well-represented by the Rhône, with a 2017 from Coursodon, together with 2016s from François Villard, Gangloff, and Michel et Stéphane Ogier. Chapoutier’s 2014 Ermitage Le Méal Blanc completes the latest additions of MUST BUY whites. Older vintages of Bordeaux also make the cut, including a 1966 from l’Evangile, and one 1989 from each bank – l’Eglise Clinet and Pichon Baron.
To help keep track of the weekly updates, check out our latest tool on the search page to help you browse only the newest additions to the full MUST BUY list.
In Piedmont, the 2019 harvest is late (compared to recent standards). Most Dolcetto was already picked when I visited last week, but healthy Nebbiolo bunches were still hanging on the vines (apart from those of early-picking maverick Roberto Voerzio, whose harvest finished on 23rd September, before anyone else had started). Most growers started harvesting Piedmont’s noble grape this week (the second week of October). At Gaja this was around a fortnight later than the already late vintage of 2016, which Gaia Gaja cited as similar for its great quality and quantity.
Left: the only grape-free Nebbiolo vines spotted in Piedmont last week, at Roberto Voerzio (with hail-protecting nets that stay on all-year round and last for 15 years). Right: recently picked vines at Tenuta Tignanello in Tuscany.
It has been a late year since the start: the first drought was in February and March, so there was “no energy for vegetation to develop,” explained Gaja. “In April we got rain but it was cold, so no sicknesses developed,” she continued, expressing relief that there was no replay of 2018’s almost tropical spring. There was a “shocking jump in temperature” on 25th June. With the grapes still all green, at 40°C for almost a week, some grapes burned, “even though we hadn’t touched the canopy by then, but very old vines don’t have so many leaves to protect the grapes,” explained Gaja. Then on 7th and 8th July, 200ml of much-needed rain fell. An accumulated delay was increased further by the higher quantity of grapes for each vine to ripen.
At Bartolo Mascarello, the Nebbiolo harvest is starting around now, which is especially late given that Barolo itself – where Mascarello’s vines are – ripens earliest of all the Barolo villages. However, such a late harvest has become an exception with the world heating up. “The rules have become the exceptions,” mused Maria-Teresa Mascarello, when I asked her about the usual timing for malolactic fermentation at Bartolo Mascarello. “There is no normal time for malo’ any more with so many early vintages,” she answered.
Maria-Teresa Mascarello in the Bartolo Mascarello winery in Barolo, explaining that the rules have become the exceptions due to climate change.
The 2019 harvest might seem late compared to recent, hot vintages, but at Pio Cesare, Augusto Boffa tells me that picking in the last week of October or the first week of November used to be the norm. This is why the winery advocates the Barolo “classico” (they understandably prefer this terminology to “basic” or “standard”) – a blend of many different villages. It is “the only way we can guarantee consistency,” although he adds that, “there used to be more worries on this front climatically.”
A five-hour drive further south, in Chianti, harvest is also on the late side. At Castello di Ama, winemaker Marco Pallanti had to postpone the last day of picking due to some light rain on the morning of Thursday 3rd October. The same spring rain and dry August delayed the vines in Tuscany as in Piedmont. Pallanti was very happy with what had been picked and vinified so far. The wines have “good colour and structure,” he told me, likening the quality level to 2015 and 2016, though quantity is around 20% down on last year.
The wet, cold May and torrid summer have also delayed the vines at Tenuta Tignanello, where they were running the risk of rain to achieve the right balance of sugars and polyphenolics. While the season “started very late and is very long,” said CEO Renzo Cotarella, “the vines didn’t suffer,” he continued, leading to “very balanced grapes” and vines “that still look unstressed even now.” He compares 2019 to 2016 and 2010, saying it is “more fresh than powerful”. If 2019 is anything like the 2016s (“the best we’ve ever made”, declares Cotarella) then we’re in for a treat.*
*I was lucky enough to taste the 2016 and the 2009 Solaia side-by-side at the estate, and very excited to hear about an upcoming retrospective at The Ledbury in London being organised by Wine Lister’s partner critic Vinous. It will include those two vintages and go all the way back to 1978. Renzo Cotarella will be there, as will Piero Antinori, with Antonio Galloni as host. Tickets are available here to Vinous subscribers or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
With our founder, Ella Lister, just back from tasting the latest releases at Benvenuto Brunello in Montalcino, we thought we’d dig deeper into the data behind the appellation’s top wines. The pyramid system in the region means that most producers make at least three wines: in the middle, a Brunello di Montalcino DOCG Annata (or “vintage”); in good years, a Riserva (with longer ageing but also nearly always the best selection of grapes from the estate); and at the bottom of the pyramid, a Rosso di Montalcino DOC, producing fresher, approachable wines requiring less ageing.
This allows, and indeed encourages, a healthy level of selection in the region. At last weekend’s event, the vintages on show were 2013 Brunello Riserva (excellent), 2014 Brunello Annata (a tricky vintage, with some producers declassifying to Rosso di Montalcino), and Rosso di Montalcino 2017. There is also a trend in the Brunello DOCG towards vineyard-specific crus, such as Casanova di Neri’s Tenuta Nuova or Il Marroneto’s Madonna delle Grazie, both of which feature in this week’s top five: top Brunellos by Economics score.
When examining the economic profile of Brunello wines, we see that Riservas tend to have higher Economics scores than Annatas, in line with their higher Quality scores. The best-performing Brunello by Economics score is Biondi Santi’s Brunello di Montalcino Riserva, with a score of 902. It earns the number one spot of this week’s top five with the highest price at £315 per bottle in-bond, and annual auction trading volumes of 458 bottles. The wine also outperforms the rest of the group for both Brand and Quality scores (904 and 938 respectively).
While Riservas are strong economically speaking, Annatas often have stronger Brand scores than their longer-aged counterparts, being produced in larger quantities and thus achieving greater visibility. In second place is Valdicava’s Brunello di Montalcino Madonna Piano Riserva, with an Economics score of 892, whereas its straight Brunello has a Brand score 57 points above its “big” brother, an example of the potential branding conundrum surrounding Brunello and other parts of Tuscany with a Riserva denomination. Nonetheless, the Riserva shows better price performance, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 15.2%, and an average of 257 bottles sold at auction annually.
Specific “crus” can also perform better than their straight Brunello Annatas in economic terms. In third place is Casanova di Neri’s Brunello di Montalcino Tenuta Nuova with an Economics score of 865. Despite having the lowest Quality score (841) and lowest price (£70) of the group, it earns this week’s second-highest Brand score (887).
In fourth place is Il Marroneto’s Brunello di Montalcino Madonna delle Grazie, the winery’s top cru, produced from grapes grown around the historic chestnut flour store house, and below the church by the same name. It has an Economics score of 847, benefitting from by far the best long-term price performance of this week’s top five, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 22.9%. Moreover, it sits just one point shy of this week’s number one in Quality terms (937) at 40% of the price – £130.
Rounding out the group is Poggio di Sotto’s Brunello, with an Economics score of 815.
While Super-Tuscans have been recognised for their investment potential for some time, Brunello still sits rather in the shadow of its Bordeaux-blend brothers. In Wine Lister’s first Tuscany market study, conducted in 2017, Brunello held nine places out of the top 25 Tuscan Economics scores. Today that number has increased to 14, as Brunello – Montalcino’s very own, highly ageworthy selection of the Sangiovese grape – goes from strength to strength.
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.
It’s the most wonderful (if most expensive) time of the year. Wine Lister Value Picks help you to avoid compromise on your seasonal drinking choices, identifying wines and vintages with the best quality-to-price ratios. This week’s top five looks at some affordable options for you – still with impressive Quality scores – complete with two Ports in the mix to keep us feeling festive. With Italy and Portugal sharing the top five (and even the top 10) red Value Picks by Quality score, Wine Lister’s Christmas drinking picks stick firmly to Mediterranean climes.
In first place is Castello dei Rampolla Sammarco 2010. Although it is this week’s most expensive option (at £75 per bottle in-bond* vs. an average £49 of the four other wines of this top five) the spectacular Quality score of 998 is impossible to ignore. Indeed, it earns the highest Quality score of any 2010 red on Wine Lister, alongside three others – Castello dei Rampolla’s Alceo, Cerbaiona Brunello di Montalcino, and Vietti Barolo Ravera – all of which are at least £71 more expensive. Sammarco 2010’s remarkable Quality score is due a perfect score of 100/100 from Vinous’ Antonio Galloni, who describes it as “stunning” and “magnificent”.
Next is this week’s first port – Cockburn’s Vintage Port 2007. With a Quality score of 995 and price of £44 there can be no doubt about its status as a Value Pick. It has just entered its drinking window, and with a predicted wine life of 53 years, it could make for the perfect Christmas gift (if you can refrain from drinking it yourself).
The group’s second port, Niepoort Bioma Vinha Velha Vintage Port 2015, shares a Quality score of 993 with the last three spots of this week’s top five. It is the only one of this week’s Value Picks also to achieve Hidden Gem status – Wine Lister’s Indicator for excellent wines that are yet to receive proper recognition. Although it will not be ready to drink until 2028, at £56 per bottle this is an exceptional value wine to store away for Christmases to come.
Rounding out this week’s top five in Tuscan triumph are Fontodi’s Chianti Classico Vigna del Sorbo 2010 and Isole e Olena’s Collezione de Marchi Cabernet Sauvignon 2008. They have both just entered their drinking windows, but will last for many years to come. Each earning a Quality score of 993, their modest prices of £49 and £44 per bottle respectively provide fantastic value.
All that remains is to wish you a very Merry Christmas.
*Prices shown assume the purchase of a whole case. See more on pricing on our website.
Last week we revealed the top 20 gainers in presence in the world’s best restaurants over the past 12 months. That was in terms of breadth, i.e. the number of restaurants in which a wine features. Wine Lister also analyses the depth of presence – the range of vintages and/or bottle formats of each wine therein. Here we look at the top 21 wines achieving the largest increases in restaurant presence depth since last year.
In first place, with an impressive 35 additional vintages and/or bottle formats listed across the world’s 150 best restaurants since this time last year, is Vega-Sicilia’s Unico. This brings its total references to 250 (almost three and a half in each of the 71 lists in which it features). Given Unico’s average drinking life span of 13 years, and its reputation for longevity (an Unico vertical tasting is an opportunity not to be missed), this result is hardly surprising. Its strong restaurant presence is matched by online popularity (Unico is the 33rd most-searched-for wine in our database), resulting in a Brand score of 992 – the best of any Spanish wine on Wine Lister.
Though Spain takes the number one spot, Italy is the overall biggest mover in increased depth of representation, claiming 12 out of the 21 places shown on the chart below.
Ornellaia is among these, and is also the most thoroughly represented wine of the group, with 280 vintages and/or bottle formats featured across 43% of the world’s best restaurants.
Several others – Cerbaiona Brunello, Dal Forno Romano Valpolicella Superiore, Ca’ del Bosco Cuvée Annamaria Clementi, and Domenico Clerico Barolo Ciabot Mentin – feature in the top gainers for horizontal as well as vertical presence in the world’s best restaurants. The latter is one of five Barolos to feature in the chart above, joined by Parusso Barolo Bussia, Bartolo Mascarello’s Barolo, Giuseppe Mascarello e Figlio Barolo Monprivato, and finally, Rocche Dei Manzoni Barolo Big’d Big, which sees the biggest increase in vertical presence of the whole group. Despite a horizontal representation increase of just 1%, the number of vintages and/or bottle formats listed across the 3% of the world’s best restaurants in which it features has grown from two to 19 in the last 12 months (or in other words, by 850%).
Outside Italy, the overall picture of restaurant presence depth somewhat contradicts that of breadth painted last week. Though Champagnes, and in particular grower offerings, have increased significantly in terms of horizontal presence, their vintage and/or format gains have not been sufficient to make this week’s top 20. This suggests that whilst sommeliers are keen to add more variety of Champagne, they aren’t so worried about listing reams of vintages / formats thereof. Only one Champagne features in the group: Philipponnat’s Clos des Goisses.
Bordeaux is conspicuous by its absence in this list, other than Château Clarke, with 26 overall references up from just four. In fact, Bordeaux’s big names are more likely to find themselves at the very bottom of the list, many having seen their vertical entries on restaurant wine lists shrink significantly. This seems to suggest that as restaurants diversify, they are choosing to hold less Bordeaux stock, still listing the top wines, but not necessarily in multiple vintages or formats.
Part of Wine Lister’s Brand score includes a measure of prestige, achieved by analysing a wine’s presence in the world’s best restaurants. Whether a restaurant makes the cut depend on a combination of measures including the Michelin Guide, San Pellegrino 50 Best Restaurants, and World of Fine Wine Best Wine List Awards.
The chosen wine lists are then analysed to give us the breadth (how many restaurants) and depth (how many formats and/or vintages in each restaurant) of presence achieved by each wine on Wine Lister. Looking at the former criterion, the chart below shows the top 20 biggest gainers since our last blog on the subject. (Next week we will be looking at wines with the greatest increase in depth of representation.)
Six out of the 20 wines with the biggest increase in restaurant presence are Champagnes. Ruinart appears twice, with its NV rosé having made the greatest improvement, now appearing in 33% of the world’s best restaurants. However, the overall winner – present in more than double the number of restaurants, is Dom Pérignon’s Vintage Brut. Despite not featuring in the top 20 biggest risers above, the Champagne Brand king is now present in 69% of top restaurants worldwide, overtaking last year’s winner, Yquem.
Contrary to our last analysis on the subject, not all the biggest Champagne gainers in restaurant presence are big brands. Ruinart Rosé, Dom Pérignon P2, and Ruinart Blanc de Blancs may well fit this bill, with an average Brand score of 878, but the lesser-known three, grower Champagnes Roses de Jeanne Blanc de Noirs Les Ursules, Jacquesson Dégorgement Tardif Avize Grand Cru, and Egly-Ouriet Blanc de Noirs Les Crayères Vieilles Vignes, do not, as shown by a lower collective Brand score average of 664.
If this alone is not an indication of restaurant wine lists branching out, then perhaps the absence of Bordeaux is (indeed, a handful of Bordeaux wines with strong restaurant presence have lost a little ground since last year’s analysis). This diversification does however appear exclusive to the Old World, with no New World wines in the top 20 gainers.
Burgundy is well-represented amongst the top gainers, with one white, Raveneau’s Chablis Blanchot, and four reds: Sylvain Cathiard’s Vosne-Romanée Aux Malconsorts, Denis Mortet’s Clos de Vougeot, Armand Rousseau’s Gevrey-Chambertin, and Fourrier’s Gevrey Chambertin Vieilles Vignes.
Italy brings a show of diversity with six wines hailing from four different appellations across the 20 biggest movers. Vietti’s Barolo Ravera – one of three Barolos to feature in this list – has the lowest restaurant presence of the group (5%) and Solaia’s younger sibling, Tignanello the highest (47%).
The 2018 will be a five-star vintage for Chianti Classico wines according to Giovanni Manetti, newly-elected president of the appellation’s Consorzio. The growing season was “very regular”, with no extreme weather events, and normal picking times. Thanks to healthy grapes, ripe yet fresh, Manetti believes the vintage will be characterised by “harmony”. The DOCG appellation is set to produce c.270,000 hectolitres, back to normal production levels after a less abundant 2017.
On Monday 24th September at Fontodi, Manetti’s winery in Panzano, harvest was well underway. It had not rained for 22 days, and the ground was dusty. However, Manetti explained that in Panzano, while hot, temperatures had not risen above 36˚C, and that nights had been cool. At Castello di Fonterutoli, 15km further south, Giovanni Mazzei confirmed the heat had been nothing on 2015, when temperatures rose above 45˚C.
Quality control at Fontodi’s sorting tables in Chianti Classico
However, Mazzei was somewhat less sanguine about the 2018, citing humid mornings as a challenge. Having picked one third of the estate’s production by Monday, the next fortnight will be a race against rot. Mazzei predicts the vintage might fall between the opulent 2015s and the structured 2016s in terms of quality and style.
Towards the coast, in Bolgheri, the Merlot harvest is almost finished, and “the fermenting wines are silky and fragrant,” according to Axel Heinz, Estate Director at both Ornellaia and Masseto. Heinz is grateful for “excellent conditions during September with sunny and mostly dry weather, occasionally hot day temperatures but cool nights”. In Bolgheri, “mildew and humidity have been challenging,” he states, ”but we were able to bring healthy fruit to full ripeness,” recounts Heinz, who says yields in 2018 are normal. He predicts “a more delicate vintage, like 2013.”
Moving down the coast, in the Maremma, Elisabetta Geppetti, owner of Fattoria Le Pupille, spoke of regular climatic conditions leading to “a good year”. The first lot of Merlot for Geppetti’s flagship wine Saffredi is already vinified, and, she says, “marvellous”. She is delighted with her Cabernet Sauvignon too, and relayed the view of Le Pupille’s consultant oenologist Luca d’Attoma, that the grape has thrived throughout the whole southern part of Tuscany. Meanwhile Sangiovese has ripened less evenly.
Back inland, in Sangiovese’s heartland, Montalcino, the picture is less clear cut, due to excessive rain in spring and early summer. “Winemakers had not seen this kind of weather since the nineties,” explained Giacomo Pondini, Director of the Brunello di Montalcino Consorzio.
There has been “too much humidity in the air”, according to Gianfranco Soldera, with an “almost tropical” summer (a similar story to the picture recounted in our Bordeaux harvest report). At Case Basse, Soldera’s cult winery, 2018 has been “a year of suffering”, with mildew, oidium, and “mould in general”. To combat this, a team of 20 people has been combing the vineyard removing bunches non-stop since June.
Remaining bunches after extreme selection at Soldera’s Case Basse in Montalcino
Unlike in 1989, the only year when Soldera didn’t make a wine because of too much rain, he was “ready for the challenge” this time round, and believes he will still make a great wine in 2018, albeit in very small quantities. For Soldera, rain is the enemy of vine-growing, and he rejoiced in the exceptionally dry growing season of 2017, “a year of fun”, where the vines drank mineral-rich water from the ground. Incidentally, the 2017, tasted (or rather drunk – as spitting is banned at Case Basse) from its Garbellotto cask, is incredible: alluring, alive, pure, and long.
The owner of neighbouring wineries Caparzo and Altesino, Elisabetta Gnudi puts 2018 somewhere between a four- and five-star vintage. To absorb the humidity, her team used clay dust on the vines, “like using baby powder,” she explained. Again echoing the story in Bordeaux, she reckons that “true organic vineyards haven’t harvested a single grape this year.”
At Argiano, Sales Manager Riccardo Bogi also described a less plain-sailing vintage than in Chianti. On top of the heavy rain, a hailstorm in July wiped out 25% of the crop in some vineyards. However, positioned high up on the hill of Argiano, wind in August meant the winery was able to counter rot with copper and sulphur, although the “agronomist didn’t get a vacation”, quipped Bogi. Like Heinz in Bolgheri, he expects 2018 to share characteristics with the elegant 2013s, saying they won’t have intense colour or structure.
There was a dramatic change in the weather on Monday, with temperatures dropping and strong winds picking up, which lasted throughout our three-day visit. While half of the appellation’s Sangiovese has already been harvested, and wineries are “happy with the quality,” Pondini hopes that, “the other half may benefit from this sunny, cool, windy week”.
Buzz Brands are wines that are sure to turn heads, destined to cause a stir whenever they are opened. They combine excellence across Wine Lister’s two Brand criteria – restaurant presence and online popularity – whilst also being held in the highest regard by the fine wine trade – as confirmed by Wine Lister’s Founding Members’ survey which gathers the opinions of around 50 key players in the international wine trade. This week, the Listed section focuses on Italy’s top five Buzz Brands by overall Wine Lister score.
Barolo is home to four of Italy’s top five Buzz Brands, two of which are produced by Giacomo Conterno – the flagship Monfortino in first place (973) and Francia not far behind in second place (954). The Monfortino achieves Italy’s best Quality score (977), the result of remarkable consistency from vintage to vintage, having achieved a score of 993 or above in seven of the past 10 vintages. Its best ever vintage was 2004 (998), thanks to a perfect 100-point score from Antonio Galloni, who writes: “I imagine the 2004 Monfortino will give readers an utterly spellbinding drinking experience for the next few decades”.
Whilst the Francia is pipped at the post in each category by its illustrious stablemate (trailing by 17 points in the Quality category, 11 in the Brand category, and 34 in terms of Economics), it does manage superior restaurant presence, visible in 30% of the world’s top establishments, compared to the Monfortino’s 23%. This is presumably due to over three times as many bottles of it being produced each year on average.
In third place is Azienda Agricola Falletto’s Rocche Falletto Riserva (953). It records the best Economics score of the five (969) and Italy’s second-best, beaten only by Falletto’s Barbaresco Asili Riserva (978). It does so thanks to the combination of very strong growth rates – it has recorded a three-year compound annual growth rate of 21% and has added 8% to its value over the past six months alone – and strong liquidity – its top five vintages having traded 398 bottles at auction over the past year. Perhaps collectors have been eager to get their hands on a bottle after the passing of Bruno Giacosa in January.
Proving that Super Tuscans can mix it with Piedmont’s top nebbiolos, Sassicaia takes fourth place. Whilst it cannot keep pace with Barolo’s finest in the Quality and Economics categories, Sassicaia stretches out a comfortable lead in the Brand category thanks to an extraordinary score of 998. This near-perfect score puts it alongside Haut-Brion, Margaux, and Petrus, beaten only by the Pauillac First Growths, Dom Pérignon Vintage Brut, and Yquem. Its brand dominance is the result of outstanding restaurant presence (49%) and online popularity – receiving well over three times as many searches each month as Conterno’s Monfortino, which is the group’s second-most popular wine.
Rounding out the five is Bartolo Mascarello’s Barolo. Its brand is its strongest asset, its score of 964 making it Barolo’s second-strongest brand behind Conterno’s Monfortino. Despite receiving over 20% fewer online searches each month than the Monfortino, it matches its level of restaurant presence – perhaps the azienda’s famous “no barrique no Berlusconi” message strikes a chord with sommeliers.