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.


The best wines for decadence

We may have been glad to see the back of January, but it certainly wasn’t all blue. The first month of the year brought excitement to the wine world with Domaine de la Romanée-Conti’s (DRC) 2015 release, and to Wine Lister with our first ever 1000-point Brand score. For much of London’s bustling City, the end of February means one thing: bonus time. The Financial Times’ February edition of How To Spend It already features the iconic DRC – below are some further ideas for wines to blow the budget.

Prices from our data partner, Wine Owners, are shown ex duty and sales tax (VAT) per bottle as averages across Wine Lister featured vintages.

  1. Krug Clos d’Ambonnay

While Dom Pérignon or Louis Roederer’s Cristal are more commonly associated with City celebrations, those in the know will be toasting with Krug’s famous Pinot Noir expression. With an average Quality score of 969 and a price of £1,367 per bottle for the latest available vintage (2000), a glass of Krug Clos d’Ambonnay is, in itself, cause for celebration.

  1. Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon

If you’re one of the lucky few on Screaming Eagle’s direct mailing list, congratulations. It is one of the most talked-about wines by the trade based on the results of Wine Lister’s proprietary Founding Member survey, and counts over 17,000 monthly online searches on Wine-Searcher. The average £2,593 price tag per bottle is therefore a small price to pay, if indeed you are able to get your hands on one of the 7,800 bottles produced each year.

  1. Egon Müller Scharzhofberger Riesling TBA

Even harder to find is Egon Müller’s Scharzhofberger Riesling TBA. It breaks a number of records, including Wine Lister’s rarest wine (with an average of only 150 bottles produced per annum) and the highest ever average Wine Lister Quality score (995). Prices range from £5,848 per bottle to over £21,000 per bottle for older vintages.

  1. Domaine Leroy Musigny Grand Cru

The second most expensive of all French wines, let alone in Burgundy, is Domaine Leroy’s Musigny. At just over half the price of DRC Romanée-Conti, averaging £6,805 per bottle, its consistent quality is matched by impressive price growth, with a compound average growth rate of 26%. It featured in last year’s Listed blog, “the best wines money can buy”, which certainly still rings true.


Bubbles are brand royalty

After a distinctly Burgundian start to 2018, we are ringing the changes this week to look at some of our most improved Brand scores, with Champagne dominating.

Alongside presence in the world’s best restaurants, Wine Lister’s Brand score measures a wine’s online popularity – as indicated by the number of searches received on Wine Searcher – as a marker of real consumer demand.

The search frequency data for December is in, and it is no surprise that searches in Champagne increased significantly leading up to the Christmas period.

During arguably the busiest period of the year for searching and purchasing wines, these five wines gained between 20% and 77% increase in search frequency. The appearance of Dom Pérignon Vintage Brut at the top of search frequency lists is a shock to no one considering its position as one of the most searched-for wines of all time. Indeed, it consistently held the number one search spot from July to September last year. The Christmas influence still managed to add 16,659 online searches, allowing this almighty brand to achieve Wine Lister’s first ever perfect Brand score (1000)!

Next on the list is Bollinger Grande Année. Its impressive 77% increase in search frequency at the end of last year can also be attributed to the festive season, but may also have been boosted by the release of the 2007 vintage earlier in the year. Bollinger’s new Brand score is up 16 points on the previous quarter at 975.

Our next two appearances hail from the same owner as the first, Champagne divinity LVMH. Moët & Chandon, often considered the definitive Champagne brand holds not one, but two spots in the top five most searched for wines of the last three months. Moët & Chandon Grand Vintage is perhaps a classic Christmas choice, but the appearance of a non-vintage cuvee, the Moët & Chandon Brut Impérial is testament to the power of the Moët & Chandon brand. Each earned an increase in search frequency of 33%, bringing Brand scores to 987 and 938 respectively.

Last but not least, Louis Roederer Cristal takes fifth place with a search frequency increase of 20%. While achieving a fractional increase in searches (4,271) compared with Dom Pérignon, its presence in 54% of restaurants and consistent high quality (Quality score 970) makes Cristal an all-round achiever, and therefore a choice that’s not just for Christmas.

Champagne’s Brand prowess is clear, but these five are the shining stars of their region. It is interesting to note that the sixth most searched-for wine on our most recent list is in fact not a Champagne at all, but Château Margaux (Brand score 998).

 


Five icons that saw searches rise in September

The annual spate of releases in September has influenced this month’s gainers in online search frequency. For the third consecutive month, Dom Pérignon Vintage Brut has seen the largest increase in average monthly searches, which we calculate using three-month data from Wine-Searcher measured against the previous period. Dom Pérignon 2009 was released in early September, and the wine’s increase of 5,154 searches is the largest incremental monthly increase seen this year, taking it to 60,241 average searches per month: the highest of any Champagne and fifth highest of all wines.

Following last month’s narrowing of regions within the top five (only two were featured), the breadth in September significantly increased, with icons from California, Bordeaux, Piedmont, and Chile joining Champagne. The number of searches has also increased dramatically after the summer slowdown, with 19 wines seeing an increase of over 1,000 average monthly searches. The release of Opus One 2014 at the beginning of September – judged “a gorgeous wine” by our partner critic Antonio Galloni – has boosted interest in this Napa Valley stalwart, with an increase of 4,651 searches taking it to over 40,000 searches per month.

Search data_October

Château d’Yquem is another wine to see online search frequency rise on the back of a September release. The 2015 was released alongside Opus One 2014 at €250 ex-négociant.

The next in the table, Bartolo Mascarello Barolo, has the lowest search frequency of any of the wines above, with an average 10,075 per month. Nevertheless, with an overall Wine Lister score of 941/1,000 the wine is one of the great names of Barolo: the fourth best overall on Wine Lister.

Almaviva celebrated its twentieth anniversary in June, while its producer Viña Concha y Toro has recently entered the global ranking inside the Top 10 Beverages category within the Dow Jones Sustainability Index for the first time. With the release of Almaviva 2015 in early September adding to the interest, the wine has seen an increase of 2,858 online monthly searches, taking it to 11,291.