Widely considered the most romantic (if most expensive) day of the year, Valentine’s day often brings with it pressure to spend more to prove one’s admiration. To help you avoid compromise on your Valentine’s day drinking, Wine Lister has put together a list of red Value pick MUST BUYs with WL scores above 95.
Click here to view all red Value pick MUST BUYs, or read more below.
Of the 37 red Value Pick MUST BUYs earning WL 95 and over, a substantial 27 wines hail from Italy, suggesting the impressive quality-to-price ratios offered by many of the country’s producers.
A passion for Piedmont
Famed Piedmont cooperative, Produttori del Barbaresco appears three times on the list, with the 2014 vintages of its Montefico Riserva, Montestafano Riserva, and Ovello Riserva. Despite hailstorms damaging several Barbaresco vineyards in 2014, Produttori’s premium sites are subject to rigorous grape selection, meaning its single-vineyard wines retained quality in the vintage. Achieving the highest score of the three labels from Wine Lister partner critic, Antonio Galloni (96) who calls it a “potent, structured Barbaresco”, the Montefico Riserva can be purchased from Hatton & Edwards for £42 per bottle (in-bond).
Tenderness for Tuscany
Moving further south, Podere Poggio Scalette’s Il Carbonaione is represented by its 2009, 2013, and 2014 vintages, which all achieve WL scores of 95. With over 10 years of age, the 2009 is described by Wine Lister partner critic, Jancis Robinson, as offering a “very voluptuous, exotic nose”, with notes of “both herbs and spices – and some meatiness […] very exciting and bursting with health”. It can be bought from Atlas Fine Wines for £33 per bottle (in-bond).
A romance with the Rhône
Family-owned, micro-négociant, Tardieu-Laurent represents five of the eight Rhône Value picks, with its 2016 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Speciale, 2010 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Vieilles Vignes, 2016 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Vieilles Vignes, 2005 Cornas Vieilles Vignes, and 2007 Hermitage. Despite its small-scale production (a consequence of its meticulous selection process), Tardieu-Laurent offers excellent value across its labels. Jancis Robinson awards 18 points to the 2016 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Vieilles Vignes, noting it is “very aromatic and then so sweet and round on the palate! You want to gobble it up immediately”. It can be purchased by the case of 12 from Tardieu-Laurent’s exclusive UK agent, Corney & Barrow for £390 (in-bond).
Caring for California
Representing the New World, Ridge Vineyards’ Geyserville appears in the line-up with its 2016 vintage. A single-site blend of 73% Zinfandel, 17% Carignan, 7% Petite Syrah, and 3% Alicante Bouschet, it achieves a WL score of 95, and is described by Antonio Galloni as offering “black cherry, graphite, lavender, and spice”, with “a purity […] that is absolutely striking”. Also noted by Jancis Robinson as having “snug, focused aromatics with hints of floral lift” and “a palate bursting with flavour”, the 2016 Geyserville can be acquired by the bottle from Lay & Wheeler for £33 (in-bond).
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.
As much of Europe re-enters lockdown, the fine wine industry is once again adapting through the digital world. With many reliable retailers now running e-commerce platforms, there is simply no excuse not to purchase top-quality wine from the comfort of your own home. To help you get the best from your online buys, Wine Lister offers its top tips on avoiding compromise on your acquisitions, whether for drinking or for laying down in the cellar.
- Narrow down your drinking delights
With a plethora of brilliant bottles now available to purchase online, Wine Lister’s free tools provide a good place to start your decision journey, helping you to refine your browsing before you even begin. On top of our MUST BUY recommendation algorithm, our Wine Leagues provide top-10 lists of the best wines to source for given categories, be it appellation, price, or WL score (a quality measure comprising ratings from Wine Lister’s partner critics). Featured on the individual wine pages, Wine Lister’s drinking windows inform you of the best time to open your bottle, another key factor to consider when buying wine. The above sets of Wine Leagues reveal the top Bordeaux reds for under £50 (per bottle in-bond) and the top Burgundy reds for under £75.
- Elect an esteemed merchant
Whether you have determined what you want or not, it is crucial to buy only from trusted merchants. While pricing may vary, Wine Lister recommends sticking with reputable retailers to ensure top-notch provenance and delivery. The list of legitimate options is long, but we suggest the following (to name but a few): Berry Bros & Rudd, BI Fine Wines, Corney & Barrow, Goedhuis & Co, Justerini & Brooks, Lay & Wheeler, and Vinum Fine Wines.
- Refine through regional specialists
If your focus is on one region in particular, it can be beneficial to buy from specialist merchants. For example, Stannary Wines represent several top Burgundy producers, and Armit Wines are the agent for a number of leading Italian estates, providing dependable platforms for you to direct your search. It is useful to know which merchants are the primary UK importers of specific domains, for example, Justerini & Brooks represent Philipponnat Clos des Goisses, and Four Corners work with many top Californian fine wines.
For more industry insights and advice on which wines and regions to buy, sign up for Wine Lister’s free newsletter here.
For those in need of a chilled white wine to help beat the heat, Wine Lister’s latest blog transports you to Italy, examining a selection of dry Italian whites with WL scores of 90 and above. Enjoy any of the below from the comforts of your home:
Abruzzo – Azienda Agricola Valentini Trebbiano d’Abruzzo
Valentini’s Trebbiano d’Abruzzo is one of Italy’s most prominent dry whites, benefitting from remarkable ageing potential that contributes to its frequent comparison with fine white Burgundy. Described by Walter Speller for Wine Lister partner critic, JancisRobsinon.com as “much too young right now, but huge promise”, the 2013 vintage can be aged for another 20 years, despite already having a “gorgeous nose of spice, flint stone and mandarin fruit”. The quality of its production can be attributed to the estate’s judicious approach to grape selection, using a mere five percent of the harvest from its 170 acres of vineyards to make its own wine, and selling the rest to local co-ops. A Wine Lister MUST BUY, the 2013 Valentini Trebbiano d’Abruzzo achieves a WL score of 95 at c.£105 per bottle (in-bond). You can place a bid for this wine on the Berry Bros & Rudd online bidding platform, BBX.
Friuli-Venezia Giulia – Josko Gravner Anfora Ribolla Gialla
Situated on the Slovenian border, Josko Gravner has pioneered biodynamic winemaking in Italy. Given the plethora of high-tech winemaking equipment that exists today, his methods can be considered somewhat antiquated – his winery is stripped bare, apart from the necessary electricity for lights. Wines are fermented in underground Amphorae, filled by gravity, and aged in traditional wooden casks. An Italian indigenous grape, the Ribolla is aged for a considerable number of years before release, with the 2009 vintage displaying “fabulous aromas of dried grasses, chamomile, lapsang and smoked orange peel” and a “dry spicy grip”, according to Julia Harding for JancisRobinson.com. With a WL score of 92 at c.£70 per bottle (in-bond), this MUST BUY is available to purchase by the bottle from The Good Wine Shop.
Piedmont – Gaja Langhe Gaia & Rey
Named after Angelo Gaja’s daughter (and now fifth-generation director), Gaia Gaja, and his grandmother, Clotilde Rey, Gaia & Rey was first produced in 1983. Made from the first Chardonnay vines to be planted in Piedmont, this wine pioneered the production of exceptional white wines in the Langhe Hills, where production had previously been almost exclusively red. With a WL score of 93, the 2016 vintage can be enjoyed now, or laid down for further ageing. Wine Lister partner critic Antonio Galloni for Vinous describes it as “a gorgeous Chardonnay built on persistence, energy and class. Orchard fruit, citrus, almond and floral notes give the 2016 striking vibrancy”. It is available to purchase by the case of 12 for £939 (in-bond) from Cru World Wine.
Veneto – Pieropan Soave Classico La Rocca
The Pieropan family have been producing wines in Soave since the late 1880s, and were the first to bottle wine under the Soave label in the early 1930s. The late Leonildo “Nino” Pieropan, grandson of the estate’s founder, was also the first producer in Soave to make a single-vineyard wine, ‘Calvarino’, in 1971. Pieropan’s Soave Classico La Rocca is made from Garganega grapes grown on La Rocca’s unique terroir, which exists as a limestone outcrop in a sea of Soave’s basalt. Gaining a WL score of 92, and available at less c.£20 per bottle (in-bond), the 2013 vintage is a Wine Lister Value pick. Jancis Robinson describes it as “lively and citrus” with notes of “lemon cream”. It can be bought by the bottle from The Wine Centre.
Also featured in the list of Italian whites with WL scores above 90 are: Castello della Sala Cervaro della Sala, Fattoria Zerbina Arrocco Passito, Fattoria Zerbina Scaccomatto Passito, Gaja Langhe Alteni di Brassica, Jermann Capo Martino, Jermann Vintage Tunina, La Castellada Bianco della Castellada, La Castellada Ribolla Gialla, Ornellaia Bianco, and Ornellaia Poggio alle Gazze.
For bespoke fine wine purchase recommendations, as well as advice on collection re-sale, get in touch with our team at firstname.lastname@example.org, or download the full Cellar Analysis information pack.
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.
With the Bordeaux 2019 en primeur campaign now concluded, we bring you 38 new Wine Lister MUST BUYs. The tasting of Bordeaux 2019 has thus far confirmed the notable quality of the vintage, from which we have filtered some obvious campaign buys that can be expected to see increased prices, and decreased availability in the future.
Wine Lister’s MUST BUY recommendation 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. These results are then filtered through an intelligence-based, human overlay, which identifies MUST BUY wines based on our tasting of Bordeaux 2019, and observation of the reception of each release in the market.
As illustrated below, there are 38 Bordeaux 2019s that are now recognised as MUST BUYs – suggesting that the benefit of buying en primeur is more obvious than last year (there were 24 Bordeaux 2018 en primeurs recognised as MUST BUYs following its campaign). They are all red:
In keeping with last year’s MUST BUY picks, Saint-Emilion once again ranks as the most recommended appellation – this year offering 10 MUST BUYs, including the top-scoring wine of the vintage: Figeac 2019. With a WL score of 98, Figeac’s latest vintage has sustained the château’s upward quality trajectory.
With a WL score of 93 at £18 per bottle (in-bond), Laroque 2019 exhibits excellent value relative to 2019 Saint-Emilions of comparable quality. Alongside its MUST BUY status, Laroque’s latest vintage is also a Value Pick, making it an essential acquisition for the savvy Bordeaux buyer. Wine Lister partner critic, Antonio Galloni, notes, “raspberry jam, spice and red plum meld into the juicy finish”, stating that “the 2019 is very nicely done”.
Pauillac houses eight Bordeaux 2019 MUST BUYs, including first growths Lafite and Mouton, which both achieve WL scores of 97. Grand-Puy-Ducasse 2019 is both a MUST BUY and a Value Pick, having achieved a WL score of 93 at £23 per bottle (in-bond). Writing for Jancisrobinson.com, James Lawther muses whether the 2019 is the, “best of recent vintages?”, suggesting that it “certainly has more structure and power with additional mid-palate flesh”. As proposed in a previous Bordeaux 2019 en primeur blog, Pichon Comtesse is another notable Pauillac purchase for wine collectors, given the estate’s impressive popularity, and its vast reduction in volume released this year.
Within its five MUST BUY picks (four at under £50 per bottle in-bond), Margaux contains two Value Picks, with Malescot Saint-Exupery and Siran priced at £31 and £20 per bottle (in-bond), respectively. At £167 per bottle (in-bond) Palmer 2019 shows good value within the context of its previous vintages (31% below the 2018 and 2016 release prices), which, alongside its limited quantity released en primeur, makes this a must for Margaux enthusiasts.
In Pomerol, La Conseillante, Lafleur, and Vieux Château Certan achieve WL scores of 96, while Clinet follows shortly behind with 95. At £54 per bottle (in-bond) the latter is notably cheaper than its Pomerol peers, and has made a major leap up in quality from previous vintages. Awarding it 97-99 points, Neal Martin writes that Clinet 2019 “is just so fragrant on the nose”, stating that, “the purity that Ronan Laborde and his team have achieved should be applauded”.
Calon Ségur and Montrose lead Saint-Estèphe’s four MUST BUYs with a shared WL score of 95, while Meyney and Capbern provide testament to the value proposition available in the appellation, having been priced at £19 and £15 per bottle (in-bond), respectively.
Sharing three picks apiece are further left bank appellations Saint-Julien and Pessac-Léognan, which are both home to high-scoring 2019s. In Saint-Julien, Léoville Las Cases achieves a WL score of 97 – matched by Pessac-Léognan first growth Haut-Brion, and neighbour, La Mission.
Other wines featured in Wine Lister’s Bordeaux 2019 MUST BUYs are: Brane-Cantenac, Canon, Canon-la-Gaffelière, Cheval Blanc, Giscours, Gloria, Grand-Puy-Lacoste, Haut-Bailly, Le Petit Mouton, La Gaffelière, La Mondotte, Larcis-Ducasse, Léoville Poyferré, Lynch-Bages, Pavie-Macquin, Pontet-Canet, Potensac, and Troplong-Mondot.
Wine Lister has now released Part II of its annual in-depth Bordeaux Study, examining the price and quality of Bordeaux 2019, relative to previous vintages. Purchase the full report here, or download using your Pro subscription (available in both English and French).
Despite wide speculation over whether an en primeur campaign could proceed at all in 2020, this year’s campaign is now more or less complete, and Wine Lister’s scores are in. Bordeaux 2019s exhibit high quality across the board, receiving frequent comparison with recent great vintages – 2016, 2015, 2010, and 2009.
Wine Lister has now published its latest Wine Leagues on the new vintage – examining which Bordeaux 2019s rank best for WL score in each major appellation.
Pauillac First Growths, Lafite and Mouton, lead the appellation’s league of top 2019s by WL score, with a joint score of 97. Pichon Comtesse and Pichon Baron follow suit with 96 – the latter achieving its highest WL score since its 2016 vintage. Wine Lister partner critic Neal Martin describes Pichon-Baron 2019 as having “a very refined bouquet” and a “silky smooth, creamy texture”, stating it “retains all the classicism you could ask for”.
The league of Margaux 2019s by WL score is topped by the appellation’s namesake property, whose latest release joins fellow Pauillac Firsts with a score of 97. Following Palmer’s entry with 96, Malescot Saint-Exupéry 2019 achieves the château’s highest ever WL score (95). Wine Lister partner critic, Antonio Galloni notes that the 2019 is “a striking wine that is sure to find many admirers”, recounting an “interplay of earthy and savoury notes with rich, dense fruit… utterly captivating”.
There are four Value picks featured in the league of Margaux 2019s by WL score, with Labégorce, Malescot Saint-Exupéry, Marquis d’Alesme, and Prieuré-Lichine all achieving scores of 93 and above, at under £35 per bottle (in-bond).
In Saint-Julien, Léoville Las Cases 2019 achieves a WL score of 97, matching that of its 2018 and 2016 vintages. Ducru-Beaucaillou and Léoville Poyferré appear in joint-second place with 96 – achieving their highest WL scores since 2016 and 2015, respectively. Ducru-Beaucaillou 2019 performed notably well at tastings, with Neal Martin, awarding it 96-98 points. He notes its “filigree tannins, pitch perfect acidity and a sensual, satin-like texture”, concluding that the wine is “outstanding in terms of persistence”.
With a score of 96, Cos d’Estournel 2019 tops the league for Saint-Estèphe 2019s by WL score, matching its successful 2018 and 2016 vintages. Writing for JancisRobinson.com, James Lawther describes the vintage as “powerful but carefully constructed and precise”, noting “a lovely mellow quality to such a muscular wine”. While both falling one WL score below their previous vintage, Calon Ségur and Montrose appear second in the appellation’s league, with a shared score of 95.
Branaire-Ducru 2019 and Meyney 2019 exhibit notable value within their appellations – both achieving WL scores of 93 at £29 and £19 per bottle (in-bond), respectively.
Haut-Brion and La Mission Haut-Brion perform notably well in 2019, achieving joint-first place in the league of top Pessac-Léognan 2019 reds by WL score. As examined in a previous Bordeaux 2019 en primeur blog, the en primeur darling, Les Carmes Haut-Brion, shows clear qualitative success in 2019, and its small production levels and smart en primeur pricing has once again made it a clear campaign buy. Another promising pick from Pessac-Léognan, Olivier 2019 achieves Value pick status at c.£20 per bottle (in-bond), and achieves the château’s highest WL score (92). Antonio Galloni recounts “smoke, licorice, cured meat, graphite and savory herbs infuse the 2019 with striking aromatic intensity to play off its sumptuous fruit”, concluding that the wine is “Very good”.
Haut-Brion and La Mission Haut-Brion attain joint-first place for their whites as well as reds in 2019, achieving scores of 95 in the league of top Bordeaux 2019 whites by WL score. Latour-Martillac Blanc 2019 achieves the highest WL score seen across its vintages (93) – one WL score above Pape Clément Blanc’s 92. At c.£21 per bottle (in bond) Latour-Martillac Blanc 2019 enters the market 10-30% below the current market prices of vintages 2016-2018, showing good value for its quality. Neal Martin notes on the latest vintage: “subtle tropical notes of pineapple and orange rind with hints of strawberry come through on the finish”.
On the right bank, the league of top 10 Saint-Emilion 2019s is crowned by Figeac’s high-scoring 2019. Up one point on its 2018, Figeac’s latest release achieves the highest WL score of all Bordeaux 2019s (98). Figeac 2019 illustrates the château’s impressive upward quality trajectory, which has seen its WL score slowly but surely increase from 91 in 2008. Neal Martin gives the latest vintage 97-99 points, describing it as “exquisitely defined… a deeply impressive, intellectual Figeac”.
La Conseillante, Lafleur, l’Eglise Clinet, Petrus, Trotanoy, and Vieux Château Certan share the top WL score of Pomerol 2019s (96), separated by mere decimals. A release of note, l’Eglise Clinet 2019 is the last vintage of the late Denis Durantou, who sadly passed away in May. Neal Martin’s impressive score of 97-99 suggests the last vintage was his best, adding, “the perfect way to remember and raise a toast to one of Pomerol’s finest vignerons”.
Click here to view all Wine Leagues. Pro users have access to a more extensive set of Leagues and can log in to access here.
Throughout the late 20th century, Riesling gained a somewhat tarnished reputation, particularly within the UK, as a consequence of the abundance of overly sweet, low-quality Rieslings being released onto the market. Over the past two decades, however, it has made a comeback – especially the dry styles of top-quality wines with ageing potential and great value. The high acidity and complexity of tertiary flavours in Riesling have led to it being a favourite among wine industry professionals, including Jancis Robinson, who hails it “the greatest white wine grape”.
To help you uncover Germany’s noble grape, this week we examine some iconic dry and off-dry Riesling MUST BUYs with WL scores above 95.
Top quality Riesling is now produced around the world, from the traditional regions of the Mosel and Alsace, through to Australia and South America. 70% of dry Riesling MUST BUYs scoring above WL 95 hail from Germany (25 wines), of which just over half (19 wines) are produced in the Mosel. The other German regions in the list comprise two entries from the Rheinhessen, and one each from the Rheingau, Nahe, and Pfalz respectively.
Austria achieves six entries on the list of Riesling MUST BUYs scoring WL 95 and over (18%), which all hail from Niederösterreich, while the Alsace and Australia’s Clare Valley both earn two entries respectively.
A Mosel Must – 2010 Joh. Jos. Prüm Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese Goldkapsel
With a WL Score of 97 at just £59 (per bottle in-bond), the 2010 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Auslese Goldkapsel exemplifies the excellent quality-to-price ratio of JJ Prüm’s wines. Long considered one of the Mosel’s, if not the whole of Germany’s most revered estates, its Wehlener Sonnenuhr vineyard is situated on steep south-facing, blue slate slopes, resulting in its complex minerality. Scoring it 19/20 points, Wine Lister partner critic, Jancis Robinson recounts that the 2010 vintage of this off-dry Riesling “Dances out of the glass on the nose. Such delicacy and life! Racy”. This vintage is available to purchase from Lay & Wheeler, where a case of six starts at £330 (in bond).
An essential Alsace – 2008 Trimbach Riesling Frédéric Emile
Dating back to 1626, 13 generations of the Trimbach family have contributed to the estate’s winemaking, now considered one of Alsace’s top properties. Cuvée Frédéric Emile is a blend of two Grand Cru vineyards, Geisberg and Osterberg, that share complex soils of alkaline clay and limestone, producing a wine of intense minerality. Both sites benefit from evening winds (the Tahlwendala), which allow extended ripening periods. The 2008 Trimbach Riesling Frédéric Emile achieves a WL Score of 95, and is available to purchase by the case from Cru World Wines for £390 (in bond).
A need for Niederösterreich – 2013 F.X. Pichler Riesling Kellerberg Smaragd
Described by Jancis Robinson as “Big and opulent with some lychee flavours”, the 2013 was a notably good vintage for F.X. Pichler’s Kellerberg Smaragd. Achieving the best WL Score since 1995 (96), it showcases Pichler’s attempt to refine his style and prioritise purity of fruit and balance over power. Although the narrow stone terraces of the Kellerberg vineyard necessitate farming and harvesting by hand, this wine has an impressive quality-to-price ratio. At £34 (per bottle in bond), the 2013 vintage is also a Wine Lister Value pick, and is available to purchase from BI Wines & Spirits (by the case of 12).
A New World necessity – 2013 Grosset Polish Hill Riesling
Often coined one of Australia’s most renowned Riesling winemakers, Jeffrey Grosset’s Polish Hill plot was planted in 1996, following years of research into the effect of soil, rock, and altitude on Riesling. This eight-hectare plot is thus at 460 metres altitude, ensuring cool nights and longer ripening of its Riesling grapes. Planted in an area termed “hard rock”, the Polish Hill vineyard is situated on a crust of clay over slate, which, alongside the cool growing season, causes stress on the vines, resulting in smaller but more complex-flavoured grapes. The 2013 vintage achieves a WL score of 95, and is available to purchase from Lay & Wheeler for £50 (per bottle in bond).
See the full list of Riesling MUST BUYs here.
While we would normally be packing our bags in preparation for one of Wine Lister’s favourite weeks of the year, the postponement of this year’s Bordeaux en primeur tasting week comes as a blow for all. Until we can sample the eagerly-awaited 2019 vintage, we can comfort ourselves in self-isolation with the abundance of physical Bordeaux vintages still available for delivery.
In celebration of the brilliant wines that are helping keep Wine Lister’s glasses half-full during the pandemic, this week we focus on some of the best red Bordeaux Value Picks, so that you too can avoid compromising on your quarantine drinking preferences without breaking the bank.
Wine Lister’s Value Pick score is calculated based on the quality-to-price ratio of a wine and vintage, as informed by price data and reviews from our partner critics. See the image below for five of our top Bordeaux Value Picks over the past four vintages.
- Château Capbern
Capbern obtains an average Value Pick score of 35 across the last four deliverable Bordeaux vintages, and offers excellent value for money. This Saint-Estèphe château is the sister property of Calon-Ségur. Described by one of our partner critics, Jancis Robinson, as a ‘veritable steal’, the 2014 vintage ‘continues to look exceptionally good and still fully deserving of its score of 17 en primeur’. The 2016 vintage achieves Capbern’s highest WL Value Pick score (36.2) of the four vintages, and we highly recommend getting your hands on some, available by the dozen in-bond starting from £200, from UK merchants including Farr Vintners and FINE+RARE. Millésima USA and Millésima HK also deliver this brilliant wine.
- Château Grand Village
Achieving Value Pick status for three of the four vintages examined (2017, 2016, 2015), Grand Village exhibits a dependably high quality-to-price ratio. As the original Bordeaux home of the Guinaudeau family – the producers of Lafleur – Grand Village is the accessible answer to the same exceptionally high winemaking standards applied to its parent wine. Its classification as a Bordeaux Supérieur plays a part in its inherently reasonable price (c.£13 per bottle in-bond, when buying by the case). Grand Village’s 2017 vintage achieves the highest Value Pick score (38) of all five wines and four vintages here mentioned, and is available for delivery from the Guinaudeau family wines’ UK agent, Justerini & Brooks.
- Château Fontenil
A second Value Pick from an ‘outlying’ Bordeaux appellation, Fontenil’s 8.5-ha vineyard is located at the highest elevation on the plateau of Fronsac. As renowned flying winemaker, Michel Rolland’s ‘passion project’, he purchased the site with his wife, Dany, in 1986 with the intention of inhabiting the house that was situated on its land. Taking on the responsibility of attending to the vines that came with it, and creating an entirely new estate, Fontenil is now a boutique wine of excellent quality at an average cost of c.£20 per bottle in-bond. Given its small production volume, Fontenil is not as easy to find as our other four Value Picks, however, in the UK, Laithwaites is the place to buy (as soon as they reopen their website for orders – they are currently experiencing an overload of demand due to lockdown buying).
- Château Meyney
Located in the east of Saint-Estèphe, the plots of this Cru Bourgeois are situated next to Montrose. Long considered a wine trade darling for its impressive value, Meyney continues to achieve high WL scores. Its 2015 vintage received particular praise from our partner critics, with Neal Martin describing it as ‘blowing everyone’s expectations, including his own‘. With prices starting at £25 per bottle in-bond, you can order this wine through Goedhuis in the UK, where a case of 6 bottles stands at £200, including VAT. If you are in the USA, you can place your order with Millésima.
- Château Marsau
Like Meyney, Marsau’s 2014 and 2015 vintages are Wine Lister Value Picks. The 2016 is too, and though the wine seems to get better every year, the latter may need a touch more time in bottle before drinking. Marsau is run by Anne-Laurence and Mathieu Chadronnier (Managing Director of the Bordeaux négociant, CVBG). The Marsau vineyards feature 85% Merlot planted on predominantly clay soils, resulting in a classically right-bank wine with soft, round fruit and great balance. The 2014 vintage represents particularly good value – priced at £20 for the bottle in-bond, with a high Value Pick score of 35. The UK-based merchant BI Wines is delivering this vintage, whilst those on the other side of the pond can place their order with JJ Buckley Fine Wines.
You can identify good value in further back vintages of any of the above-mentioned wines by using the Vintage Value Identifier on each wine page. See the example for Meyney below or by clicking through to its wine page here.
Faced with a new generation of fine wine buyers seeking more of the “weird and wonderful”, let alone recent economic obstacles – Coronavirus keeping drinkers off the streets, US tariffs on European wines – Bordeaux can struggle to find space to thrive.
Bordeaux’s traditional image compared to more fashionable regions such as Burgundy, Piedmont, or Champagne means its prices are lagging behind. The silver lining is that Bordeaux appears excellent value for the high quality available in comparison.
Wine Lister’s dynamic buy recommendation tool currently identifies 219 Bordeaux wines as MUST BUYs – just 19 fewer than the original MUST BUY list from September 2019.
The above table shows each Bordeaux appellation by number of MUST BUYs, as well as average price and WL score of each MUST BUY appellation group. Marking the delayed opportunity presented by slow price evolution post-en primeur, 2016 is the most-featured vintage, achieving 40 entries out of the 219 Bordeaux MUST BUYs (or 18%).
Leading MUST BUY appellation Pessac-Léognan is made up of 28 reds and eight dry whites. Producer Domaine de Chevalier features particularly heavily, earning MUST BUY status for 1981, 2009, 2014, 2015, and 2018 for its red wine, and 2004, 2009, 2010, and 2013 for white. Its second red wine, L’Esprit de Chevalier, appears for the 2016 vintage.
Smith Haut Lafitte and La Mission Haut-Brion share the remaining white places between them, while Haut-Bailly, Haut-Brion, Latour-Martillac, and Malartic-Lagravière achieve multiple entries for reds only. Price-rising superstar Les Carmes Haut Brion features for just one vintage – the 2017.
Right bank appellations Saint-Emilion and Pomerol share second place, with 33 MUST BUYs each. They both earn slightly better average WL scores than Pessac-Léognan, but at prices 26% and 366% higher respectively on average than Pessac counterparts.
The large price difference is hardly surprising in Pomerol, given that its MUST BUY hoard includes five vintages of Petrus, and one of Le Pin. Without these, the average price of Pomerol MUST BUYs is £171, and there are still options at the more affordable end (such as 2016 Vray Croix de Gay).
Powerhouse Pauillac comes next, and includes 14 first growth entries. Mouton takes the lion’s share of these, featuring seven vintages from 1996-2018. Latour earns five places (including one much older vintage – 1964), and Lafite two. Pichon Comtesse also features heavily, earning five MUST BUYs for its grand vin, and one for the Réserve de la Comtesse.
In terms of pure value for money, the one MUST BUY from the Médoc appellation – Potensac 2018 – wins out, followed more generally by Saint-Estèphe’s 22 MUST BUY entries. Perhaps unsurprisingly, its crowned king is Calon Ségur, earning MUST BUY status for five vintages – 2005, 2009, 2014, 2015, and 2016.
Explore all 219 Bordeaux MUST BUYs here.