Burgundy in 2020: buy the best of the bunch

Before the bulk of Burgundy en primeur 2019s are released onto the market, Wine Lister has published its second in-depth Burgundy study.

Below we explore the complex relationship between the region’s price performance and its popularity growth over the past two years, informing your investment decisions over the coming months.

The two-year price performance of a basket of 175 Burgundy wines (the same wines featured in our previous study on the region in 2018), based on the last 30 vintages. Price data partner: Wine Owners.

As shown in the chart above, Chambolle and its surrounding sites lead in the price performance of Burgundy Grand Crus, followed by wines hailing from its northerly neighbour, Morey-Saint-Denis. The notorious sub-set of Grand Crus from around Vosne – home of legendary Richebourg, La Tâche, Echezeaux, and Romanée-Conti – has seen slower price performance, which is matched with lower popularity growth (see below).

The two-year popularity growth of each Burgundy subset. Popularity data partner: Wine-Searcher.

Though Chambolle and its surrounding Grand Crus have excelled in two-year price growth, consumer interest in the wines of this subset increased the least. Following similarly this opposing relationship between the two data sets, Nuits-Saint-Georges / Vosne Premiers Crus and Village wines gained the most popularity over the last two years by a large margin, while the subset’s price performance trails behind in last place.

A growing interest in lower-priced wines from Burgundy is further explored through trends identified by key members of the international fine wine trade in Wine Lister’s report. Producers such as Arnoux-Lachaux and Georges Mugneret-Gibourg are well worth looking out for when buying Burgundy en primeur for drinking in several years’ time.

Visit the Analysis page to purchase Wine Lister’s in-depth 2020 Burgundy study, or download it using your Pro subscription here (available in both English and French).


New World MUST BUYs with rising popularity

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 Geyserville2015 Ben Glaetzer Amon-Ra2014 Colgin Cellars IX Estate Red2013 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 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).


10 must-have Bordeaux wines for your collection

As en primeur 2018 picks up pace, we consider the 10 Bordeaux wines that any fine wine collector should acquire for their collection. These are based on the results of Wine Lister’s latest Founding Member survey, gathering the views of over 50 key players in the global fine wine trade.

You can download this slide here: 10 must have Bordeaux wines for your collection


Burgundy 2017

At the end of November Wine Lister spent three days in Burgundy meeting with producers across the length of the Côte d’Or. With more wine in their barrel cellars than for a very long time (in some cases more than ever), the mood was light and easy. The 2017 vintage saw the first normal-sized crop since 2009 (and 2018 was even more generous). “It’s the first year we’ve had barrels three rows high,” marvelled Thibaut Gagey as he showed me round Maison Louis Jadot’s vast cellars in Beaune, currently housing a record 6,000 fûts.

Thibaut Gagey in the Maison Louis Jadot cellars

The 2017 vintage is a “belle surprise” for Gagey, who admits, “we weren’t very confident at first.” This pleasant surprise was something expressed time and again by growers during our tastings of 2017 from barrel. With Burgundy Week about to unfold, here we look back over some of those conversations.

In Volnay, Guillaume d’Angerville calls the 2017 “a huge positive surprise.” He explained that “a lot of people had discounted the vintage early on,” because “they thought it would be diluted.” Our tastings, at Domaine d’Angerville and elsewhere, proved this supposition to be mistaken, the wines having taken on weight and complexity during their élevage. Jasper Morris MW refers to 2017 wines as “relatively homogenous, some with more concentration and others with less.” Either way, the wines are juicy, luminous, and downright delightful.

Tasting from barrel with Guillaume d’Angerville

Boris Champy, Manager at Domaine des Lambrays, calls the vintage both “classic” and “modern” at once, because he believes there’ll be many like it in the future. He compared 2017 to 2009. Angerville is reminded of the “tenderness” of 2007 (“but more substantial”) and the “harmony and elegance” of 2002 or 2010. “It’s going to give a lot of pleasure,” he pronounced. Gagey also cited 2007 for its positive surprise factor, and 2014 for its “accessibility”. The immediate pleasure these wines offer up is almost disconcerting, but this early approachability does not mean they won’t age. The 2017 might not be the longest-lived vintage, but it has everything in place for a good innings.

However, it “won’t be the vintage of the century,” Gagey states. “What it doesn’t have is that extra grip, depth, and drive of a great vintage,” confirms Morris. Meanwhile, the whites are superlative. “Apart from 2014,” Morris calls it the “most consistently good white vintage for a long time.”

The growing season was early, but otherwise unexceptional, apart, of course, from the threat of frost once more rearing its ugly head. This time, though, the Burgundians fought their nemesis with a thick veil of smoke. The fires they lit around their vineyards may have served to raise the temperature a fraction, but just as importantly, their smoke prevented the morning sun being magnified through the ice and burning the buds. And so, apart from in Chablis, yields were back to normal levels.

One might assume therefore that prices will come down – after all, the consistent increases over the last eight years have been put down to limited supply. This would be naïve, though, with global demand and secondary market values for Burgundy’s top wines continuing to spiral upwards, even to the bewilderment of some Burgundians (after the record-breaking results of the latest Hospices de Beaune auction of 2018 wines in November, Louis-Fabrice Latour, president of the BIVB (Bureau interprofessionnel des vins de Bourgogne), said he was “surprised prices went up, and by so much”).

The fact is, momentum is with Burgundy. The region’s top 50 wines grew in popularity by 26% over the last year, while Bordeaux’s search rank on Wine-Searcher remained stable, and other regions saw search levels drop. This means that top producers can almost certainly raise prices again this year and still sell through. We spoke to a few domaines who planned to do so, and some by significant margins. Mostly, though, prices should be flat on 2016 or see only modest increases (less than 10% up on 2016 prices). A minority have even come down in price. Either way, this is surely a vintage worth getting your hands on for unadulterated drinking pleasure.

Wine Lister’s Burgundy Market Study published this time last year for subscribers is now free for all to read. Download it in English or in French.


The rise of the grower vs. maison Champagnes

At the beginning of this new year, Wine Lister is prolonging the festive sparkle through a look at the major trends to emerge from our first Champagne report. Wine Lister’s Champagne study analyses a basket of 109 top wines from the world’s premier sparkling region, and includes insight into the major trends of the Champagne market as identified by Wine Lister Founding Members (c.50 key players in the international fine wine trade).

While quality across the board is something to keep us celebrating well in to 2019 (see more on this here), the notable trends could indicate an increase in year-round enjoyment of Champagne. The chart below shows responses to our question, “What are the most important trends in Champagne?” by number of votes.

The trend most-frequently ranked as number one or two by Wine Lister Founding Members was the rise of grower Champagnes, closely followed by the increased emphasis on terroir / site Champagnes. One U.K. merchant remarked that “Consumers are now identifying with specific terroir in Champagne and understanding the value of the grower…” – a comment that further leads us to suspect an increased appreciation of Champagnes as wines, and not just celebratory bubbles.

The “rise of the grower” trend is, however, juxtaposed by continued demand for big brands. Of the basket of wines treated in the study, the grower Champagne segment has seen an increase in popularity (measured by search rank) of 9% since the beginning of 2017. Though this performance is superior to the maison segment’s slight decline in popularity (-4%), grower Champagnes still sit twice as far down the popularity rankings, with an average search rank of 1,620 compared to 775.

Perhaps predictably, big brands still win the race when it comes down to the bottom line. A U.K. merchant commented, “Small growers are getting much better press, but I suspect the big name cuvées still rule the roost for sales/investment”. Indeed, when asked to award confidence ratings to specific Champagne producers, the trade cited only one grower champagne within the top two confidence scores (9/10 and 8/10), Jacques Selosse. The houses to earn top confidence ratings were Dom Pérignon, Krug, Louis Roederer, SalonBollingerPol Roger, and Taittinger, as shown on the chart below.

A top tier merchant offers some explanation into the difference in picture painted between the top Champagne trend and Champagne confidence ratings: “Production needs to be small but not so small as to result in a proliferation of Champagnes which the vast majority have never heard of. The big brands which produce great quality are still finding serious demand in the market!”

For a more in-depth look at Champagne, subscribe or log-into read the full report here. Alternatively, all readers can access a five-page executive summary. (Both versions are also available to download in French).


Buzz Brands building for Burgundy

Wine Lister periodically studies the movements of wines in and out of the four Wine Lister Indicator categories. One of these, Buzz Brands, denotes wines that achieve outstanding online popularity (measured through search rankings based on monthly searches on Wine-Searcher), and presence in the world’s best restaurants.

After analysing newcomers to the Buzz Brand segment in June, Burgundy dominates once again in our findings for October. Red Burgundy, and in particular, Gevrey-Chambertin, takes three out of the four places of this month’s new Buzz Brands.

However, it is in fact the only white, Domaine Leflaive’s Bourgogne Blanc, that achieves the highest Brand score of the group at 815. All of the Domaine Leflaive wines on Wine Lister are now Buzz Brands but one – their most expensive Grand Cru, Montrachet (at £6,059 per bottle compared with £218, the average price of the rest). Indicative, maybe, of drinkers being priced out of the top wines and refocussing their interest lower down the ladder.

Perhaps it is also the sign of a good brand strategy in action, with the rising profile of the Domaine’s top wines filtering all the way down to the regional wines, via the premiers crus. The new addition of the regional offering here follows two previous new Leflaive mentions in Wine Lister’s last Buzz Brand audit (of Puligny-Montrachet Les Combettes and Meursault Sous le Dos d’Ane).

Of the three reds, two hold the same Brand score of 722, and near identical Brand profiles (see restaurant presence and search rank in the image below). The Gevrey-Chambertin Clos Saint-Jacques is the first of Bruno Clair’s wines to become a Buzz Brand. Domaine Fourrier’s Combe aux Moines Vieilles Vignes has the highest Quality score of all three new red Burgundy Buzz Brands with a score of 889. This, coupled with a slightly better Economics score helps bring it very slightly ahead for overall Wine Lister score.

Though Domaine Armand Rousseau’s Les Cazetiers is third of the Gevrey group qualitatively, it is geographically sandwiched between the first two. These wines together form a neat representation of three of the best premier cru vineyards of Gevrey-Chambertin. Incidentally, this is the last of Rousseau’s wines on Wine Lister to achieve Buzz Brand status. The domaine’s highest Brand score is won by the better-known Clos Saint-Jacques (unsurprising given that it owns roughly one third of the entire vineyard parcel) with a Brand score of 964.


Listed: the Rhône’s strongest brands

This week, the Listed section travels to the Rhône to consider the region’s top brands. As might be expected, all are red – Chave’s Hermitage Blanc, the region’s top white brand (924), is only the Rhône’s overall 12th strongest. However in a battle between North and South, it is the latter that comes out on top in the form of Beaucastel’s Châteauneuf-du-Pape with a Brand score of 993 – putting it amongst the top 25 brands on Wine Lister.

By far the cheapest of the five, Beaucastel leads across both Wine Lister Brand score criteria – presence in the world’s top restaurants and online popularity. However, whilst it is visible in 49% of the world’s finest establishments (just pipping Chave Hermitage’s 47% to the post), with 2.6 references per wine list on average it achieves the weakest vertical restaurant presence of the group, where Chave’s Hermitage manages the greatest depth (3.9 listings). If Beaucastel’s dominance within the world’s top restaurants is less clear-cut, when it comes to popularity amongst consumers it opens up a wider lead over the competition, receiving 16,565 searches on Wine-Searcher each month on average – 40% more than Jaboulet’s Hermitage La Chapelle – the group’s second-most popular wine.

Tied for second place with a Brand score of 987 are the two Hermitages from Chave and Jaboulet (La Chapelle). Whilst Chave leads in terms of restaurant presence (47% vs 43%), Jaboulet’s La Chapelle receives 6% more searches each month on average. Despite their identical Brand scores, Chave’s Hermitage is the clear winner elsewhere, with comfortable leads in the Quality category (959 vs 910) and Economics category (935 vs 863). Chave’s reward is a 36-point lead at overall Wine Lister score level (964 vs 928), and a price tag over twice that of Hermitage La Chapelle’s.

The Rhône’s overall top wine – Rayas (968) – is the region’s fourth-strongest brand (982). The group’s second Châteauneuf-du-Pape, it comprehensively outperforms the Beaucastel in terms of Quality (961 vs 876) and Economics (959 vs 823). It is thus perhaps the Beaucastel’s significantly larger annual production – roughly seven times Rayas’ – that has helped raise its brand to such lofty heights.

Rounding out the five is Guigal’s Côte Rôtie La Mouline with a score of 959. Whilst it can’t quite keep pace with the remainder of this week’s top five, it leads the two remaining “La Las” – La Landonne and La Turque – by six and 12 points respectively in the Brand category. Similarly to the Rayas, it is perhaps the extremely limited production of the “La Las” that keeps them from achieving even higher Brand scores – the combined annual output across the three cuvées is c.18,000 bottles.


Online searches for Spring

Wine Lister uses data from our partner, Wine-Searcher, to examine wines with increasing online popularity on a monthly basis.

This month, Château Canon sees a 7% increase in search frequency for January-March 2018 from the previous period. As predicted by our Founding Members (c.50 key members of the fine wine trade), who voted Château Canon number one wine likely to gain the most brand recognition in the next two years in the 2017 Bordeaux Market study, Canon was one of the big successes of last year’s en primeur campaign. Its brand continues to go from strength to strength, with search frequency in 2017 rising 35% between January and October. It will be interesting to see whether this year’s en primeur release has the same impact on its online search frequency as the 2016 vintage.

Two cult Californian wines are among the top five for latest search frequency increases.

Scarecrow saw an increased search frequency of 52% for January-March 2018 compared to the previous period thanks to its latest release in February. The 2015 vintage is as yet unscored by Wine Lister partner critics, however the estate has seen consistent Quality scores between 996-987 since 2010.

Screaming Eagle also makes the top five wines with biggest search frequency increase this month. With 17,831 average monthly searches between January and March 2018, the increase is small relative to its already vast online popularity. Indeed, Screaming Eagle remains the number one most searched for Californian wine on Wine-Searcher.

Burgundy is represented in the top search increases by Marquis d’Angerville, whose Volnay Premier Cru Taillepieds saw double its average number of monthly searches in January-March 2018 compared with the previous period. Guillaume Angerville eschews the scrum of the January Burgundy en primeur tastings in London, preferring to showcase his new vintage each March with a small tasting and lunch – the Taillepieds obviously made an impression, and achieves its highest ever Quality score (969).

Finally, searches for Azienda Agricola Falletto’s Barolo Rocche Falletto Riserva continue to rise into March following the sad passing of Piedmont legend, Bruno Giacosa. The wine saw a bittersweet rise in popularity of 14% in December 2017-February 2018, which continues at a slightly slower pace (10%).


The shape of 2018 for wine searches

Wine Lister uses search frequency data from our partner, Wine-Searcher, to examine wines with increasing online popularity on a monthly basis. Wines with the highest search frequency numbers tend to be consistent, with the Bordeaux left bank premiers crus classés generally taking the top spots.

This month’s biggest search frequency gainers also rank as some of the most searched-for wines on Wine-Searcher. Dom Pérignon Vintage Brut is the third most popular wine with over 84,000 searches after Lafite and Mouton, closely followed by Petrus in fourth place. Armand Rousseau’s Chambertin and Moët & Chandon Grand Vintage appear in the top 50, while Azienda Agricola Falletto’s Barolo Rocche Falletto Riserva comes lower down at number 148 out of the circa 5,000 wines on Wine Lister, but its search frequency has recently increased by 15%.

Our last post on online search frequency revealed Wine Lister’s first ever perfect Brand score. Moving on from the Christmas period, Champagne brands still show marked increases in search frequency, but this time they do not stand alone at the top.

Dom Pérignon Vintage Brut is the largest gainer in popularity for the second time running. Increasing at a slower rate than in December, its popularity nonetheless grew by 7,097 searches into January, maintaining its 1000-point Brand score. Dom Pérignon remains the only wine to achieve a perfect score from any of the Wine Lister score categories. The other Champagne still riding high on searches is Moët & Chandon Grand Vintage, which increased by 6%.

Bordeaux creeps back onto the map for online searches at the beginning of 2018, with the first growths having featured heavily in searches up to December 2017. Petrus is in second place after Dom Pérignon, with an 8% increase in search frequency. It will be interesting to see if search increases for Bordeaux follow the same pattern as last year as we approach the 2017 en primeur campaign.

Armand Rousseau’s Chambertin appears in third place. Armand Rousseau was only one of two producers to achieve a perfect confidence rating from our Founding Members in our recent Burgundy study.

In fifth place for increased popularity is a bittersweet entry. Searches for Barolo Rocche Falletto Riserva from Azienda Agricola Falletto increased as the wine world learned of the sad passing in January of Piedmont legend, Bruno Giacosa. You can read more on Bruno Giacosa’s legacy in a recent blog on Barbaresco, here.