Unscrambling biodynamics: what’s all the buzz about?

Over the past decade, biodynamic wine has exploded in popularity, particularly amongst a younger generation of wine drinkers. Having spoken to a selection of top producers that follow biodynamic farming, Wine Lister’s latest investigation attempts to explore the practice further, and better understand the shared values of this often-misunderstood philosophy.

The biodynamic calendar: racking at Comtes Lafon (pictured) is timed according to the lunar phases (Photo: Jean Chevaldonné)

Often associated with organic winemaking, biodynamics also dictates the avoidance of pesticides and chemical fertiliser, and many of its wines are therefore organic in practice. Certified by independent associations (e.g. Demeter and Biodyvin) rather than the government, biodynamics goes one step further, providing a more holistic approach to farming that attempts to embrace all natural biological processes. Coined in 1924 by Rudolf Steiner – an Austrian philosopher and scientist – biodynamics draws on the specific belief that all living species experience constant transformation, due to physical, metaphysical, and cosmic realities acting upon them. While it is not essential for certification, most biodynamic producers therefore follow the biodynamic lunar calendar, which dictates the optimum days for viticulture and winemaking activities, based on the moon’s cycle.

In Burgundy, Comtes Lafon plans its planting, pruning, harvest, racking, and bottling according to the lunar calendar (see photo above), despite not being certified officially. Having shifted to biodynamic farming in 1998, owner and winemaker, Dominique Lafon, tells us that he was initially inspired by the practice in several of his friends’ vineyards at the time, and was “impressed by the way the vines behaved”. He states that while it is more time consuming, biodynamic farming provides him “pleasure to work closer to the vineyards, following their natural rhythms”.

Among a list of other principles, biodynamic producers must complete a cow horn preparation, otherwise known as process 500, in which manure is packed into the horn of a female cow and buried under the vines for six months. The horns are then dug up, and the content of the horns is combined with water and sprayed across the vineyards, in the belief that the solution enhances plant growth and improves the quality of the crops. Dominique tells us that while some results of biodynamic farming can be seen “rapidly, within the first year”, process 500 begins to change the soil “after three years or so, and is fully effective after 10 years”.

In Bordeaux, Château Palmer also completes the cow horn preparation (pictured below) – the Margaux estate began experimenting with biodynamics in 2008, adopting it completely in October 2013, and releasing its first certified vintage in 2018. Winemaker Thomas Duroux, tells us that the adoption of such biodynamic principles has yielded “results in the vineyard” and encouraged “better quality soil”, while helping him to achieve his goal of “growing a vineyard without any use of chemicals”. Explaining the difference between organic and biodynamics, Duroux notes that the latter is “a different way to see agriculture”, and that when you apply biodynamic principles, “you see the farm as an ensemble”. This resonated across several other biodynamic producers, who similarly considered biodiversity to be at the core of this mode of farming.

Process 500: biodynamic compost preparations at Château Palmer

Indeed, Elisabetta Foradori tells us that since its conversion, Foradori has founded a new focus on biodiversity and sustainability, with livestock now used to produce dairy products and compost for the vineyard. She began to introduce biodynamic principals into the family estate in 1999, converting the whole property in 2002, and eventually achieving certification in 2009. Foradori tells us that she had begun to feel “disconnected to the plants after many years of working in wine”, and biodynamic viticulture allows her to “go into the deepness of the life of the plant and its soil”. She states that the practice has catalysed an “evolution in the fertility of the soil”, watching vine roots “grow deeper and deeper”.

Further south in Chianti, Querciabella conversely practices a “cruelty-free” biodynamics, according to its team, without the use of manure or animal remnants in the soil.  Winemaker Manfred Ing states that while “eliminating all of the animal-based preparations”, the estate has implemented a strict cover crop preparation, planting up to 35 different plants across its vineyards, depending on the soils and the grapes that grow in each plot. He states that this improves the quality of the land, whilst adhering to the biodynamic principle of “getting as much quantifiable life in the soil and the vineyard as possible.”

Following the general sentiment of other biodynamic producers, Elisabetta Foradori states biodynamic farming enables the wine to “reflect the message of the terroir” while encouraging “purity and character”. This was particularly pertinent to one of Burgundy’s biodynamic pioneers, Leroy – speaking to Wine Lister, the team notes that biodynamic farming indeed helps the property to better “express the character” of its respective sites. Having implemented biodynamic farming since the day it was purchased by Lalou Bize-Leroy in 1988, the team tells us that “no one else was even organic” in the region at that time, and people “thought it was crazy” to neglect the use of fertiliser and risk decreased yields. They explain that Burgundy is an “ideal place” for biodynamic farming, through its ability to express the disparities between the different vineyard holdings of the same Burgundy varietal – a “true test of where the wine comes from”.

While biodynamic producers approach the practice with variable interpretations, its practitioners are nonetheless enthusiastic about its results. With an increasing number of producers adopting this mode of farming, we look forward to witnessing its wider recognition across the fine wine industry in years to come.


Italy 2020: a hopeful harvest

“Finché c’è vino c’è speranza” – As long as there is wine, there is hope.

Never before have Italian winegrowers been able to dedicate as much time to the care of their vineyards as in 2020. The Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico and several further Tuscan producers cite this silver lining to Covid restrictions, and they suspect it will reveal itself in the wine to come. In a year that has caused tribulation across the world, news of Italy’s promising 2020 harvest is certainly welcomed. Wine Lister has spoken to several Italian estates, which reportedly yielded high-quality grapes across the board. While regions – Piedmont and Tuscany – had their respective weather nuances, the general consensus suggests that growing season conditions were balanced, with no mention of hail or storms.

In Montalcino, the Mastrojanni team explained that lockdown prompted improved vineyard inspection in 2020: “[people] couldn’t work indoors in their offices, so the vines received the utmost attention”. They report a “very good harvest” this year, comparing it to the high-scoring 2013. Despite two short heatwaves in July and August, the estate had a mild summer overall, thanks to cooling winds that flow through the Amiata Valley in which its vineyards are situated.

On the other side of Montalcino, Cinelli Colombini reported frost during budburst, which limited the number of grape clusters in 2020. Several other Tuscan producers spoke of reduced volumes due to the cold start to spring (Fattoria Le Pupille’s 2020 yield is 20% lower than last year). Cinelli Colombini’s Brunello grape harvest was nonetheless of “excellent quality”, and despite it being hard to “shine after a masterpiece of a vintage like 2019”, the team believes it will be “difficult to exclude it from being among the best five vintages of the last 20 years”.

All hands on deck: the 2020 Brunello harvest at Montalcino’s Cinelli Colombini

In Chianti, Castello di Monsanto began picking its Chardonnay grapes on 8th September, and collected its final Sangiovese on 10th October. Third-generation owner, Laura Bianchi, informed us that their spring was mild, with enough rain to create a “perfect” reserve of water for the vines. After the hot and dry August, a wet start to September helped to regulate maturation – a common theme throughout Tuscany in 2020. The grapes thus developed a “great balance of sugar, pH, and phenolic maturation”, and the first fermentation already suggests a vintage of “great personality, rich tannins, and beautiful acidity”. Further east, Vecchie Terre di Montefili started picking on 29th September – late in comparison to other producers, but normal, the team explains, for their vineyards, which lie 500 metres above sea level (and therefore require a longer maturation period).

Less than an hour away, Brancaia finished its harvest on 30th September (having started on the 3rd week of August). The team tells us that they were forced to harvest their Sangiovese quickly before heavy rain arrived, but that they were lucky that the grapes were “the perfect grade of ripeness”. In contrast, IPSUS owner, Giovanni Mazzei, explains that he and winemaker Gionata Pulignani decided to wait until after the extra rain in September before starting the harvest, “to guarantee more balance, extra aromatics, and temper the alcohol content”. In doing so, the hot and dry summer was counterbalanced; Mazzei states that he could indeed “classify the [2020] as a good compromise between cooler and hotter vintages”.

In coastal Maremma, owner and Production Manager at Fattoria Le Pupille, Ettore Rizzi, tells us that 2020 saw a significant threat of powdery mildew across its vines, especially in the thin-skinned varieties of Sangiovese, Ciliegiolo, and Syrah. He states that they nonetheless managed to trim the affected bunches and stem the problem, while their Merlot and Cabernet vines also “gave us some incredible fruit”. According to Rizzi, “the word that can best describe the 2020 vintage is concentration” – a consequence of the high temperatures in July and August.

“The final quality of the grapes was really good” – Fattoria Le Pupille’s 2020 Syrah grapes

In Bolgheri, Ornellaia’s Estate Director, Axel Heinz, declared that their 2020 vintage is “shaping up to be one to remember as a great year”. The property saw “textbook perfect conditions until the end of May”, while June saw a lot of rainfall that “accelerated vine growth”, and required lots of work in the vineyard to keep the canopies under control. Summer saw hot and dry conditions, while rain arrived in the last days of August to alleviate drought stress and lower temperatures, encouraging a more even ripening at the last moment. While an unexpected mid-September heatwave made it necessary to pick all three red varieties – Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petit Verdot – simultaneously at speed, Heinz notes that they nonetheless look “very promising in a rich and structured style”.

Moving up to Piedmont, fifth-generation of the esteemed Gaja family, Giovanni Gaja, tells us that they are so far “optimistic” about the 2020 vintage, despite it being early days to evaluate the exact character of the grapes. Their Barbaresco plots witnessed a moderate July, followed by a warm August that was similarly alleviated by rain towards the end of the month. While they required extra efforts to prevent mildew attacks, the final picked grapes appear “very healthy”.

While 2020 has caused much uncertainty, the recent harvest suggests that there is  definitely hope for some excellent wine to come from this year, and we look forward to finding out for ourselves in the future.


Buying beyond the label – brands to buzz about

If 2020 has given any gift at all, it would be time at home, which many have used to read more, and learn new things on topics familiar and foreign. Today’s blog helps you discover the unique stories behind some of the world’s most recognisable wines. Read on below to discover beyond the label of these notable names.

Krug – Cracking the code

Beyond its reputation as one of the most admired Champagne brands, Krug has also pioneered an industry innovation: Krug iD. Since 2011, a six-digit “identification code” has been printed on the back label of every Krug bottle. Scanning the code with a smartphone gives drinkers access to the unique story of the individual bottle, including a vintage report, as well as offering food pairing suggestions, and recommendations for its storage and serving.

Photo credit: lvmh.com

Aside from its technical innovation, the quality of Krug is simply undeniable. The latest NV Krug Brut Grand Cuvée (168ème Édition) achieves MUST BUY status, and receives a score of 19/20 from Wine Lister partner critic, Jancis Robinson, who notes a “remarkable acidity underpinned by great depth of flavour and beautiful balance on the finish”. It is available to purchase by the bottle from Crump, Richmond & Shaw Fine Wines for £133 (in-bond).

 

Cheval Blanc – Cultivation experimentation

Saint-Emilion superstar, Cheval Blanc, has illustrated significant long-term investment in its viticulture in recent years. Initiated by Managing Director, Pierre Lurton, the estate has conducted countless soil analyses, viticultural experiments, and regular phenological surveys to establish the best grape variety for each of its three different terroirs (gravel over clay, deep gravel, and sand over clay). Experiments have tested each possible variation of soil type for the Bordeaux varietals used in Cheval Blanc – 52% Cabernet Franc, 43% Merlot, and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon – to establish which combination delivers the best quality of fruit. Indeed, the château found its plot of sandy terroir to be particularly well suited to Cabernet Franc, providing a reference point for the best that can be achieved with the grape in Bordeaux.

Released en primeur in July this year, the  2019 Cheval Blanc was awarded 18 points from Jancis Robinson, who describes it as “beautifully poised on the palate with a density of fruit and silky texture of finely matted tannins. Pure, seductive and persistent”. It can be bought by the case of six for £2,400 (in-bond) from Farr Vintners.

 

Bond – Truth in terroir

With grapes sourced from select hillside plots across Napa Valley, Bond’s portfolio of Cabernet Sauvignon-based wines aims to reflect each wine’s specific sense of place. The estate owns five sites featuring some of the region’s best terroirs, and has dedicated its viticultural practice to preserving the best expression of its individual plots; Melbury, PluribusQuella, St. Eden, and Vecina.

The fruit from each site is vinified separately, while winemaking procedures are kept the same across all of the Bond wines in order to honour terroir differences. The Vecina vineyard, for instance, sits on volcanic soil at between 221 and 330 feet above sea level, causing a thermal amplitude of cool nights and hot afternoons, which renders its wines complex and layered, with concentrated tannins. The 2015 Bond Vecina was awarded 97 points from Wine Lister partner critic, Antonio Galloni (Vinous), who indeed describes it as “super-expressive. A big, dense wine, the 2015 possesses stunning richness and dimension”. It is available by the bottle for £443 (in-bond) from Fine+Rare Wines.

A line-up of Bond wines, that communicate the differences in the estate’s Napa Valley sites.

 

Ornellaia – An artist’s interpretation

Outside its global renown as a reference for quality in Tuscany, Ornellaia also stands out for its own special label tradition. Established in 2006, the estate’s annual artist program, Vendemmia d’Artista, commissions a new artist each year for the creation of the limited-edition label, inspired by a single word chosen by winemaker, Axel Heinz, to capture the essence of the new vintage. The latest release (2017) was named “Solare” due to the especially hot growing season, in which both the Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc grapes were harvested as early as August for the first time in history. This inspired contemporary artist, Tomás Saraceno’s label design (below).

Photo credit: ornellaia.com

Awarding the Ornellaia 2017 97 points, Wine Lister partner critic, Antonio Galloni describes it as “sumptuous and racy, as Ornellaias from warmer years tend to be, but it is not at all heavy or overdone. In a word: superb!”. The vintage can be bought by the case of six from Justerini & Brooks for £765 (in-bond).

The four above-mentioned wineries provide just a small handful of innovative and engaging examples of how to make a wine stand out from the crowd. Wine Lister has launched a dedicated PR and communications service in order to help more producers do the same on the UK market. To find out more, please contact us at  team@wine-lister.com.


Rounding up the second week of Place de Bordeaux releases

Sampled by the Wine Lister team at last week’s CVBG Beyond Bordeaux tasting, the latest Place de Bordeaux releases cover a range of regions and price points. Below we examine some of the highlights:

Wednesday 9th September 

Released at c.£225 per bottle (in-bond), Beaucastel Hommage à Jacques Perrin 2018 enters the market below the current prices of the two previous vintages (see graph below). Hommage was a Wine Lister favourite this year. We detected bright, candied strawberries, orange skin, and clove, while its mouthfeel offered a momentary grip of tannins, followed by a silky-smooth finish.

 

With a 15% reduction in volume released this year, alongside the château’s unwavering reputation for producing benchmark quality in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, the new vintage is worth considering for future drinking. In the meantime, back vintages 20152012, and 2009 also look good in terms of price and quality. Writing for JancisRobinson.com, Tom Parker MW awards the 2018 17+ points, noting “meaty, earthy fruit on the nose, very complex already”, and “damson and morello cherry” on the palette.

Inglenook Rubicon 2017 also entered the market on Wednesday at £120 per bottle (in-bond). Produced by the estate since 1978, the flagship wine has maintained a score of 95 or above from Wine Lister partner critic, Antonio Galloni, over the past five vintages, and the latest release is no exception. Awarding it 95 points, he describes notes of “red fruit, cedar, sweet pipe tobacco, menthol and licorice” that “all develop in the glass”. Our team detected complex spice and oak, softened by a gentle hint of vanilla.

Thursday 10th September 

Released yesterday at £54 per bottle (in-bond), Cheval des Andes 2017 receives 17.5+ points from Tom Parker MW for JancisRobinson.com. He describes “intense and expansive black fruit and spices on the nose, with a hint of black olive and violet”, and “blueberry, violet and dried herbs” on the palette. He concludes, “I expect this to become even more impressive after 5 years in bottle, though you could drink it sooner”. Having tasted a flight of recent back vintages at the time of last year’s release with Technical Director, Gérald Gabillet, the Wine Lister team can attest to Cheval des Andes‘ continued upward quality trajectory. We noted a definite complexity within the latest vintage, which offers a nose of Parma violets, white pepper, and bright berries. Cheval des Andes 2017 enters the market under current prices of the last three vintages, and is worth snapping up if there remains any availability.

Solaia 2017 completes the quartet of releases from the past couple of days. Matching last year’s release price of £175 per bottle (in-bond), the latest vintage comes onto the market comfortably under current prices of the previous two (which have increased their respective values by c.20% since release – see chart below). Wine Lister partner critic, Antonio Galloni, awards Solaia 2017 95+ points, and describes “terrific aromatic expansiveness and tons of persistence”. There is anticipation for this score to improve: “I can’t wait to taste it with a bit more time in bottle”, he adds. We tasted the 2017 last week, and were indeed impressed with its development, finding an elegant nose of violet drops and cocoa powder. Given its impressive quality in such a challenging year, and the wine’s history of good price performance post-release, this is well worth securing now.

Among other benefits available exclusively to the trade, Wine Lister’s Pro+ Subscription offers real-time release alerts and live analysis on major wine releases throughout the vinous calendar. Please email us at team@wine-lister.com to enquire.


September releases from La Place de Bordeaux: week two

The last two days of Place de Bordeaux releases have included vintages from three powerhouse producers of different regions, whose commonality lies in their use of Bordeaux varietals. Below we examine these key releases.

Monday 7th September

The second week of September Place de Bordeaux releases began with the latest offerings from cult Californian producer, Opus One. Described by Wine Lister partner critic, Antonio Galloni, as “one of the most complete wines of the vintage”, 2017 Opus One was released onto the UK market at £228 per bottle – the same price as the 2016. Awarding it 95+ points, he states that the 2017 is “a dense, full-throttle beauty”, with “a distinctly red-toned fruit profile that distinguishes it from the surrounding vintages”. Although receiving one point less than the 2016 (which has a score of 96+ from Galloni), the latest vintage holds particular significance. 91% of fruit had been picked just before the devastating Californian wildfires commenced, eradicating two lots of Opus One vines. Awarding 17.5 points to the 2017, Wine Lister partner critic, Jancis Robinson, notes that there is “not a trace of smoke taint”, and describes “a combination of savoury and something as sweet and chalky as Edinburgh rock”.

Both the historic nature of the vintage, and the reduction in volume released this year are facts sure to encourage high levels of interest. Opus One is, perhaps unsurprisingly, the number one US wine (and joint-fifth overall) voted by the trade to have seen the sharpest rise in demand, as shown below:

Results from Wine Lister’s 2019 Founding Members survey, showing the consensus on the top 10 wines that have seen the sharpest rise in demand

Tuesday 8th September

Kicking off yesterday’s releases, Masseto 2017 was released, and merchants were offering at around £480 per bottle. Though slightly higher than last year’s first tranche release price (readers should note that this year, there is only one single tranche), the 2017 enters the market 11% below the current price of the 2016. Antonio Galloni gives the 2017 96-99 points (up from 94-97 for the 2016), calling it a “spectacular wine in the making”, with notes of “red cherry jam, mocha, leather, licorice and a dash of new oak”. While 2017 will be remembered as one of the hottest and driest growing seasons in recent history, Winemaker, Axel Heinz, states that the vintage “managed to encapsulate all the ripeness and concentration” of the climatic conditions. Indeed, Galloni notes that the latest release is “quite simply a remarkable wine for such a challenging year”. Masseto already earns strong acclaim as the wine to have seen the third-sharpest rise in demand according to the trade (see above) – the 15% reduction in volume released onto the market from last year will no doubt only encourage requests for the 2017 further.

The second wine from the cult producer, Massetino 2018 was also released yesterday, at a likely UK market price of c.£205 per bottle. Although its second vintage, this is the first international release of Massetino, as last year’s distribution was limited to the Italian and the US markets only. We sampled the latest release at CVBG’s Beyond Bordeaux tasting, and found it to have expressive, concentrated fruit on the nose, and more refined notes of Marcello cherry and minerality on the palette.

Yesterday’s releases ended with a bang, as Latour released its 2009 vintage. Merchants offering at c.£860 per bottle place the 2009 just under the current market price of the iconic 2010. This is the first ex-château stock to be released since its original en primeur release, and is available at a c.10% premium to existing stock on the market. Wine Lister partner critic, Neal Martin, awards the latest release 99 points, stating that it “is endowed with a simply magnificent nose with intense blackberry and cassis fruit laced with minerals and graphite, extremely focused to the point of overwhelming the sense”. “Wow”, he concludes.

Among other benefits available exclusively to the trade, Wine Lister’s Pro+ Subscription offers real-time release alerts and live analysis on major wine releases throughout the vinous calendar. Please email us at team@wine-lister.com to enquire.


Plan ahead with MUST BUYs to put away

With so many interesting offers coming in from different merchants, it can be tricky to keep track of what wine you have, let alone where it is, and when it should be drunk. To help you get the most out of your wine collection, Wine Lister has opened up its data analysis and fine wine expertise to private clients, who can now commission all kinds of portfolio analysis, from detailed geographical split and purchase advice, to investment forecasting and a fully-fledged “drink vs. sell” plan.

Wine Lister’s “fantasy cellar”

The current list of Wine Lister MUST BUYs – wines showing notable quality and value within their respective vintages and appellations, and wide praise from the international trade – is 1,728 picks strong. While the Wine Lister team would love to own (and enjoy) all of them, below is a short selection to be put away and enjoyed at their best in five, ten, and twenty years, respectively.

Riesling to reserve

With remarkable ageing potential, and good value across the board, Riesling constitutes a brilliant white addition to any wine collection. To be opened within ten years, the 2018 A. Christmann Idig Riesling Grosses Gewächs hails from Germany’s famed Mosel, and is described by Wine Lister partner critic, Jancis Robinson as “the thinking-person’s Riesling”. She notes the “understatement of individual components” in the wine,  “which allows the taster to focus on balance and elegance”. Creeping over the border into the Alsace, where Riesling tends to be drier in style, Albert Mann’s 2008 Schlossberg l’Epicentre is ready but will improve – offering optimum enjoyment within the next five years. Another Alsatian, the 2010 Marcel Deiss Altenberg de Bergheim can endure another 20 years of ageing, also providing a reliable white to add to any cellar. Wine Lister partner critic, Antonio Galloni, describes its “perfumed aromas of nectarine, apple blossom, minerals and honey”, calling it “vibrant and penetrating”. With notable value for their quality, the three Rieslings achieve a shared WL score of 96, at £54, £98, and £59 per bottle (in bond), respectively. For something to stash away, the latter is available by the case of six from Millésima UK.

Burgundy on standby

Louis Jadot Corton Charlemagne 2012 is a similarly reliable white to be stored in the cellar, achieving a WL score of 95 at £126 per bottle (in-bond). Barrel-fermented and aged for a further eight to ten months in 100% new oak barrels, the wine has developed complexity and enhanced ageing potential. Production in 2012 was kept notably small – indeed winemaker Frédéric Barnier states, “it is critical to control the yields in Corton-Charlemagne to make a wine of real Grand Cru quality.” It can be purchased by the case of 12 from Fine+Rare Wines, and can be opened within five years. Burgundy also offers an abundance of reds with promising ageing potential, including the 2010 Sylvie Esmonin Gevrey-Chambertin Clos Saint-Jacques, and the 2012 Vougeraie Corton Clos Du Roi. Both wines achieve a WL score of 95, at £192 and £90 per bottle (in-bond), respectively.

Champagne to store

A sure pick to pop open within five years, the 2002 Louis Roederer Cristal was aged on lees for six years, before being matured for a further eight years in bottle after its disgorgement in 2009. Wine Lister partner critic, Jeannie Cho Lee notes that it is a “gorgeous Cristal with a fine line of acidity running through it – it vibrates on the palate”. With a WL score of 96, at £192 per bottle (in-bond), it is available in cases of three from Vinum Fine Wines. With an identical WL score of 96, the 2008 Philipponnat Clos des Goisses can be acquired by the case of six for £850 (in bond) from Justerini & Brooks, to be enjoyed within the next decade.

New World to wait for

For some New World picks that are worth putting away for the future, Napa Valley offerings include the 2005 Bond Vecina (owned by the famed Harlan family) and the 2010 Joseph Phelps Vineyards Insignia. In regards to the former, Antonio Galloni stated that he would “prefer to cellar it, as the future for this wine is unquestionably very, very bright”. With a WL score of 97, at £347 per bottle (in-bond) it is an opulent option to be enjoyed within the next twenty years. Of the 2010 Joseph Phelps Vineyards Insignia, Galloni states similarly that “the 2010 will enjoy a long drinking window once it softens”. Achieving a WL score of 96, at £158 per bottle (in-bond), it is available in cases of six from Goedhuis & Co.

Also featured in the above MUST BUY recommendations are: 2016 Cheval des Andes, 2016 La Conseillante, 2015 Fontodi Flaccianello della Pieve, 2015 Jean-Louis Chave Hermitage, 2012 Marc Sorrel Hermitage Le Gréal, 2009 Margaux, 2007 Roberto Voerzio Barolo Cerequio, 2006 Bodegas Vega-Sicilia Unico, 2006 Castello dei Rampolla Sammarco,  2006 Gaja Barolo Sperss, and 1996 Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande.

For personalised, impartial fine wine purchase recommendations, as well as further wine collection analysis, get in touch with our team at team@wine-lister.com, or download the full Cellar Analysis information pack.


Popularity at a price: Bordeaux in 2020

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).


The wine collector’s toolbox – using Wine Lister to build your portfolio

An Easter weekend on lockdown presents as good a time as ever to evaluate your wine collection. While it can be tricky to keep track of what you’ve got and when you should drink it, Wine Lister’s various online tools allow detailed analysis of your collection and can guide future purchases, whether for drinking or investment.

This week’s blog post examines two of the most popular Wine Lister website features amongst collectors, starting with the MUST BUY recommendation tool.

Wine Lister’s proprietary recommendation algorithm produces a dynamic list of wines with high quality that show value within their respective vintages and appellations, helping wine lovers buying at almost every level to make the best choices for their desired region, style, or vintage.

There are currently 1,665 MUST BUYs out of the 30,000+ labels on Wine Lister. See the chart below for a breakdown of MUST BUYs by region – an indication of what a diverse portfolio could look like for the modern collector.

While the same chart from a decade ago may have been dominated by Bordeaux, the global demand and secondary market values for Burgundy’s top wines have continued to spiral upwards. Burgundy represents the greatest percentage of MUST BUY wines, with red and white recommendations accounting for 33% of all MUST BUYs collectively. The red Burgundian MUST BUYs feature a range of prices starting from the most expensive, DRC’s Romanée-Conti 2015 (available at £14,500 per bottle in-bond), down to 64 wines priced at £100 or under, including Stéphane Magnien’s Clos Saint-Denis 2010 (available at £76 per bottle).

Bordeaux represents 13% of MUST BUYS, and also encompasses a wide range of prices, from six vintages of Petrus (with an average price of £1,990 per bottle) down to two vintages of Marsau (priced at £12 and £13 respectively). Tuscany, Piedmont, and the Rhône follow closely behind, while California makes up the largest proportion of New world MUST BUYs.

With so much MUST BUY choice available, you may wish to filter these by top regions, and then further by Wine Lister Indicator. For example, filter results by ‘Investment staples’ to see wines that are long-lived (but not too old), and have proven wine price performance, while staying relatively stable and liquid.

Wine Lister’s Compare tool can then further refine your investigation, by displaying your selected MUST BUYs side by side. This is illustrated below using three 2016 Saint-Estèphe MUST BUYsCos d’Estournel, Calon Ségur, and Montrose. While Calon Ségur appears to be the best value, Montrose has the highest scores from Wine Lister’s partner critics, and therefore the better WL score overall.

See the above comparison for yourself, or start your own wine comparison here.

Wine Lister is currently offering a range of portfolio analysis services to private clients, from detailed geographical split and further purchase advice, to investment forecasting and a fully-fledged “drink vs. sell” plan. If you are interested in having your wine collection analysed by our team of fine wine data experts, please don’t hesitate to contact us.


Finding good value in fine wine – part I (reds)

With Burgundy 2018 en primeur in full swing, soaring prices for some of Burgundy’s best can add to the January blues. While Burgundy prices tend to rise more quickly after release than any other region (making the en primeur buying system therefore extremely worthwhile), other regions provide better sources of good value wines for drinking, rather than cellaring for future consumption. To wave goodbye to any remaining blues as January come to a close, Wine Lister therefore looks this week at Value Picks from across fine wine regions.

Wine Lister’s Value Pick algorithm simply flags wines with the best quality-to-price ratios of all the wines in our database. A coefficient is applied to allow exceptional quality to be recognised, even for higher-priced wines.

The chart below shows the top nine regions for red Value Picks, and their average price per region.

Italy takes the lead for number of best-value wines overall, with 227 Value Picks from across three regions – Tuscany, Piedmont, and Campania. Indeed, the top 10 Value Picks by WL score all hail from Tuscany, with wines such as Fontodi’s Chianti Classico Vigna del Sorbo Riserva, Isole e Olena’s Collezione Privata Syrah, and Castello dei Rampolla’s Sammarco making the cut.

Piedmont does not go wanting for Value Picks, with a wide range of suggestions, from Domenico Clerico’s Barolo Ciabot Mentin to Vietti’s Langhe Nebbiolo Perbacco.

France also does well for Value Picks, with 210 reds entries between Bordeaux and the Rhône. The former region has the lowest average price of all Value Pick regions shown above (£17.47 per bottle in-bond – when buying a full case), and includes Crus Classés from across appellations such as Malartic-Lagravière Rouge and Grand Mayne, as well as some second wines of Grands Crus châteaux (e.g. Pichon Comtesse’s Réserve de la Comtesse, and La Dame de Montrose).

The Rhône is home to 93 Value Picks from both north and south, and provides a list particularly strong in back vintages. Entries include Ferraton’s Hermitage Les Dionnières 2004, and Clusel Roch’s Côte Rôtie 2009.

The new world is well-represented by Value Picks from Australia across the McLaren Vale and Barossa Valley. California also makes an appearance, although perhaps expectedly, its 10 Value Picks earn the highest average price of any region shown in the chart above.

Search through all red Value Picks here.

Burgundy is, quite noticeably, missing from the top red Value Picks chart. It achieves just four in total: 2002 Joseph Drouhin Gevrey-Chambertin, 2003 Confuron-Cotetidot Echezeaux, 2017 Bertrand Ambroise Nuits-Saint-Georges, and 2007 Bouchard Volnay Clos des Chênes. However, Burgundy is much more present for whites – watch this space for white Value Picks later in the week.


MUST BUYs for a new decade

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.