Bordeaux en primeur 2018 release prices

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2019-04-29


FRIDAY 10th MAY

Duhart Milon has released at £54.66 per bottle, a very modest 11% premium to our proto-price of £48.46. The Wine Owners team were very impressed by it and many of the critics have asked the question of it being the best Duhart ever. Certainly the Rothschild family have been investing here and it’s bearing good fruit! A ‘modest’ 14% alcohol too! 17.5 (95) from Julia Harding and a lovely note. This is a Chateau on the up.

Lafite’s Technical Director, Eric Kohler commented, 'The Merlot performed very well—Duhart-Milon might just have better terroir for Merlot than Lafite'.

And the Relative Value Analysis screams BUY:

Chateau Duhart Milon Bordeaux 2018 en primeur - Wine Owners - Market price versus score


Clerc Milon was released at £61.65 per bottle, awarded 93-95 points by Lisa Perrotti-Brown (WA). 

The bio-dynamic, certified organic estate that is Chateau Palmer released their 2018 wine today at £241. Our proto-price was £221.67. Following a heavy dose of mildew and the long hot summer the yield was a miserly 11 hectolitres per hectare, translating into 6,000 cases and no Alter Ego was made at all. This could turn out to be a unicorn wine it’s so rare and deserves to be treated as a special case. It receives amazing and interesting reviews, 18.5 (97) from Julia Harding, 98-100 from Jane Anson, 97-100 from James Molesworth (notoriously tight!) but, by his standards, a paltry 94-5 from James Suckling – I was expecting something in four figures! Like most 2018s, it comes with the usual 2018 caveat that it is strong in alcohol – 14.3%.

Market Price versus Score here:

Chateau Palmer Bordeaux 2018 en primeur - Wine Owners - Market price versus score


Relative Value Analysis here:

Chateau Palmer Bordeaux 2018 en primeur - Wine Owners - Market price versus score

Other releases include:

Chateau Gloria at £29

Chateau Lafon-Rochet at £32

Chateau Saint Pierre at £42


THURSDAY 9th MAY

Today sees an attractive release price from Bernard Magrez’s Pape Clement (red) at £66.16 ex London merchant. Our ‘proto-price’ is £75.13, so very nearly a 12% discount to that.

There are a wide range of scores for Pape Clement with Julia Harding of Jancis.Robinson.com scoring it 16.5 (converting to 91 on the 100 point scale), whilst Lisa Perotti-Brown of the Wine Advocate awards a much more optimistic 96-98, James Suckiling 98-99 but a more modest 93-96 from Antonio Galloni.

Using a generous 97 points, it’s looks like very good value:

Calon Segur Bordeaux 2018 en primeur - Wine Owners

But at 91 points, it’s a different story:

Calon Segur Bordeaux 2018 en primeur - Wine Owners

Our very own Fabian Cobb really liked the wine and gave it 95 but he’s notoriously mean with his scores. Elegance was his take, so clearly a different experience to that of Julia Harding who wrote a bit “a bit monolithic”.

Pape Clément Blanc was released at £98.66 (London price) - 16.5 from Julia Harding.


TUESDAY 7th MAY

Today's releases included:

Calon Ségur released at £72 per bottle.

A record release price for Calon Ségur at £864 per 12 in the London market. Significantly above our proto-price of £63.57 but the wine was very well received by most critics. The WO house view was a bit too full and sweet to be a masterpiece but undeniably impressive. Its high scores relative to previous vintages leads to an attractive Relative Value Score.

Calon Segur Bordeaux 2018 en primeur - Wine Owners


Pavie Macquin released at £52.7 (£632 per 12), the same as last year. Our proto price is £47.36, so 11% below the release. The RVS below uses a Julia Harding's score of 16.5 (equivalent to 91), significantly lower than some of the other critics, one of which went as high as 97-99. The jury is out.

Pavie Macquin Bordeaux 2018 en primeur - Wine Owners


Beychevelle released at £60 per bottle and Cantemerle out at £20.50.

Carmes Haut Brion was released at £69 per bottle.


THURSDAY 2nd MAY

Lafleur 2018 released at £483 per bottle, 10% above our proto price but it will sell out with Julia Harding’s big score and is still only half the price of the secondary market average of 09, 10, 15 16. The closest thing to a dead cert a wealthy collector can buy this year.

Fair price from Clinet - £64 per bottle. They are pricing 12.5% below current market for 2016 (£73). Just £2 per bottle above our suggested proto price. Are they listening?!

Gazin out - £62 per bottle EST (with negociants as we speak). No price advantage over the chasing pack of back vintages.

They are very pleased with it this year they say, but it doesn’t make sense as an EP buy on this basis, and it didn’t wow us.

Chateau Gazin 2018 en primeur release - Wine Owners


TUESDAY 30th APRIL

Batailley 2018 released at £408 per 12 (London Merchant Price).

Relative Value Score, using a WO aggregated score of 93:

Chateau Batailley Bordeaux 2018 en primeur release - Wine Owners


MONDAY 29th APRIL

Branaire Ducru Bordeaux 2018 en primeur release - Wine Owners

Today saw the release of Branaire Ducru 2018 at £462 per 12 (London merchant price).

A higher release price than the last three vintages and 12.4% higher than last year. Our proto-price was £44.48 per bottle, so at £38.50 it looks interesting. Relative Value Analysis, however, indicates the 2016 being better value, a trend that we think is likely to continue.

Branaire Ducru 2018 en primeur release - Wine Owners


Bordeaux 2018 vintage – ‘les cinqs’ (5 essential conditions for a good vintage)

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2019-04-08


To compare with the 2016 vintage in Bordeaux visit our post 2016 vintage conditions


Chateau Pichon Longueville Baron – 2eme cru classe
Chateau Pichon Longueville Baron – 2eme cru classe ©Fabian Cobb / Wine Owners


Looking over the weather stats for the Bordeaux 2018 vintage one is struck by several positive features and, unfortunately, a couple which are likely to cause some difficulties for winemakers. There are certain key weather conditions which the vine needs to perform well. Bearing in mind, always, that generic weather data does not focus on an individual terroir and the way it might cope with the weather nor does it reveal winemakers’ attitudes and decisions.

Bordeaux 2018 weather

Bearing in mind the chart above, there are 5 essential conditions for a good vintage:

  1. A calm, warm and relatively dry period in the Spring to permit healthy flowering and

  2. similar conditions for fruit set a little later;

  3. Gradual introduction of dry summer conditions to induce hydric stress no later than veraison (when the grapes change colour)

  4. Warm weather for even maturation with adequately dry (but not too dry) conditions in August and September, and

  5. Optimum harvest conditions in September and October without rain.

Looking at the chart above one can see that many of these conditions appear to have been met except that although cumulative precipitation was beneficial in the first few months, the wet conditions in June and July plus the warm weather encouraged the onset of aggressive mildiou which provided very difficult conditions for many and particularly estates managed on biodynamic principles. It was an unusually sunny and dry summer fulfilling the criteria for a good vintage although a hail storm in late May affected a few properties in the Medoc. The resulting long period of hot and dry conditions might be referred to as a ‘drought’ – it hardly rained at all for 4 months. The year which had started late for vine development reversed itself and it became an ‘early’ vintage – a rare enough occurrence in Bordeaux.


Fabian Cobb


Focus on: Haut Brion 1990-2006

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2019-01-24


Haut Brion has always been referred to the connoisseur’s choice amongst the upper echelon and indeed it averages the highest scores across multiple vintages within its peer group. Yet strangely, and more often than not, it trades at a discount to its peers.

Looking at this Relative Value Score the 2006 (£3,500 per 12) stands out but good investment rationale can be argued for the ’90, ’95, ’96, and ’01 also.

The case for the ’90 (£8,900) is that it is currently trading at its widest ever discount to its chart-topping sibling of ’89 (£25,000) and the scarcity force is strong!

1995 (£4,300) because it’s getting on a bit now, is not that challenging in price terms and is drinking very nicely, as personally witnessed at Thanksgiving.

Last week the ’96 (£4,200), in my view a better wine than the ‘95, gave an effortless history lesson in classicism and has a long and charming life ahead. It was allowed five hours in the decanter which was richly rewarded and is a stupendous wine albeit not so overtly fruit driven as Mouton ’96, but that wine is £1,000 more per case at a similar rating level.

The ’01 is £3,700, so very low for a first growth and has been drinking well for some time. Its relative value score above 8 makes it look interesting.

The giants of ’05, ’09 and ’10 are exactly that and deserve to trade in another price bracket altogether. This commentator’s view, however, is that’s where they will stay for the time being and price performance in the short to medium term will evade them, as it has done in recent times:

Buy: Haut Brion ’90, ’95, ’96, ’01 and ‘06

Sell: Haut Brion ’05, ’09 and ‘10

Haut Brion 2000 will be included in a separate post.


Focus on: Bordeaux legends from the 80s and 1990

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2019-01-21


Latour ’82, Mouton Rothschild ’82, Mouton Rothschild ’82, ’86, Haut Brion ’89, La Mission Haut Brion ’89, Margaux ’90, Cheval Blanc ’90 and Pichon Baron ‘90

When managing two wine investment funds (2006-2016) we referred to this subsection of the portfolio as ‘the legends‘. They all received cast iron reviews from all the major critics and rock solid and multiple 100s from Big Bob. Cheval Blanc ’90 “unequivocally a brilliant wine” (Neal Martin) has slipped a little to a 98+, but otherwise these wines are confirmed as truly great – legendary in fact! As such, they don’t come cheap (prices in GBP per bottle in graphic below).

Latour and Mouton ’82, +46% and 38% in 2018 respectively, Haut Brion and La Mission ’89 +35% and +52% respectively and Margaux ’90 +35% have all broken out and have massively outperformed the index in the last few months. I believe they can continue to yield positive returns.




Scarcity has been the big driver of price rises in the last couple of years as demonstrated most ably by Burgundy (WO Burgundy Index +33% for 2018, +16% in 2017). This is a prime example of how the principle of good demand versus limited supply in the wine market can work. As a region Burgundy has thrashed others as production is so much smaller, especially with Bordeaux in comparison. Where Bordeaux has been able to compete is in these older vintages of legendary wines, where consumption has driven a scarcity of supply. Each case that is now opened will have a direct impact on that side of the equation.




Cheval ’90 has been volatile but is generally on the up and is well worth considering. I have included Pichon Baron ’90, only a 98+ according to Neal Martin but a Steven Spurrier legend, as it is so relatively cheap and has not broken out at all, so watch this space. The really obvious choice, however, is Mouton ’86. This wine at 32+ years is still a baby in terms of maturity but has an exciting life ahead. Its backwardness has had an impact on the wine’s supply but that will change. As ever good provenance is extremely important and as this is a wine that has been traded more than most so beware - we have seen many examples of poor condition. If this can be found in good nick, do not hesitate in acquiring it - it’s a legend!

Recommendation

Buy: Mouton ’86, Cheval Blanc ’90, Pichon Baron ‘90

Hold: if it’s a legend, continue to hold, for now at least…

N.B. Petrus ’89 and ’90 fall into the ‘legend’ definition but they are so expensive (c.£45,000 per 12) and rare, they have been excluded here.

Miles Davis - professional wine consultant working in the fine wine market. He has been a wine collector for thirty years and managed wine investment funds between 2006-17 for Wine Asset Managers LLP.


2005 La Mission Haut Brion – pure perfection and a relative value win

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2018-05-17


An overlooked example of value for money here from the 100 point La Mission 2005. Compared to Domaine Clarence Dillon stablemate Haut-Brion, and the rest of the 2005 First Growths, 2005 La Mission is a clear winner in terms of value as is eminently clear from relative value analysis. The only other 100 point wine on the whole left bank is Haut-Brion, which trades at around £6,500. The other Mouton will cost £5,250, Latour £6,600, and Margaux £6,100, all on 98 points, while Lafite lags behind them all in relative terms, commanding £7,700 for 96 points.



Compared to other 100 point La Missions over the year, the 2005 wins out on relative value as well. Whether any of the 2009, 2005 and 2000 will hit the price highs of the legendary 1989 is a subject on which the verdict is very much out, and will depend on how reputation of the vintages develops. Nevertheless, all three look like relatively sound buys, and the 2005 at the offer price just beats the rest (assuming they can be bought at market level).


“The 2005 La Mission Haut-Brion is pure perfection. It has an absolutely extraordinary nose of sweet blackberries, cassis and spring flowers with some underlying minerality, a full-bodied mouthfeel, gorgeously velvety tannins (which is unusual in this vintage) and a long, textured, multi-layered finish that must last 50+ seconds. This is a fabulous wine and a great effort from this hallowed terroir. Drink this modern-day legend over the next 30+ years. Only 5,500 cases were produced of this blend of 69% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon and 1% Cabernet Franc.”

100 points, Robert Parker


La Mission Haut-Brion 2005 is offered £4,300 on the Wine Owners Exchange (£4,435 including fees)



Bordeaux 2017: Thibault Pontallier - Chateau Margaux

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2018-05-04



En Primeur - DAY 2: "The First Rule of 2017: There is No Rule..."

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2018-04-11


Reflecting on day two, with the heady aromas of Pavie and co still flickering around our mouths, and a hard day's tasting behind us, we searched for patterns and rules. But, on reflection, there really is no rule that we can suggest.


Chateau Pavie - Bordeaux en primeur, ©Jonathan Reeve / Wine Owners

©Jonathan Reeve / Wine Owners

An Unexpected Guest

Cabernet Sauvignon made an larger-than-usual appearance in several top wines we tried today, most noticeably Vieux Chateau Certan and Cheval Blanc. Typically, VCC contains just 1% Cabernet Sauvignon, but in 2017 that was increased to 5%. Although there was no overt Cabernet Sauvignon aroma profile in the wine, its freshness and focus almost certainly added to the completeness of the mouthfeel. Cheval Blanc is a quite different story; 2017 is the first vintage in many years that the wine will contain Cabernet Sauvignon.


©Jonathan Reeve / Wine Owners

Shining Examples of Franc

Cabernet Franc is absolutely not in the dog house in 2017, despite the general impression that it had a tough vintage. Three stand-out wines from today's line-up contained substantial levels of Cabernet Franc; Chateau Troplong- Mondot, Chateau Canon and Cheval Blanc's Petit Cheval. The former pair included around 25% Cab Franc, and Le Petit Cheval put on a blinding performance with a relatively massive 48%. So, while the variety may have had a very tough vintage in some parts of the right bank, it is showing admirably in others.


Frost Patterns

There is a lot of emphasis this week on The Frost (27th and 28th April 2017), and rightly so; it was absolutely devastating from some producers, and has had clear repercussions in their 2017 wines. But not all vineyards were affected, and some seem to have escaped entirely unscathed. Chateau Canon, for example, was almost completely untouched by frost. The wines are suitably excellent - refined, bright, tight and focused. Vieux Chateau Certan - our second tasting of the day - is another example of a winery seemingly undaunted by the frost. It tasted magnificent, silky and balanced this morning, all those tannins ago. But many of those right bank producers who did experience frost have found ways to produce good, and even excellent wines. Some adjusted the blend of grapes they use. Soutard is a fantastic and successful example of this; their 2017 is very good, and will be a great value buy when released. Their 2017 blend was 90% Merlot (significantly higher than the 65% normally used), with Cabernet Franc, Cab Sauvignon and Malbec making up the remaining 10%.

Chateau Gazin was untouched by frost, but the team there nonetheless felt that their Cab Franc wasn't quite up to scratch. They took the decision to boost their blend up to a fat 95% Merlot, resulting in a 2017 grand vin with a silky mouthfeel, great balance, and an enticing touch of kirsch dancing around on the nose.

On the left bank yesterday, the story was quite different. The frost was relatively indiscriminate there, affecting most vineyards to some extent. But here in the right bank, the hillier landscape allowed the freezing air to drain away from some places...and to gather catastrophically in others. Thus the distribution of frost damage was much more patchy here. Clay-based areas and lower-lying sites were obviously hit very hard by the frost. We do feel for those producers hit hardest - it was clearly not an easy vintage for them, and they face challenges ahead when the wines are released to market.


©Jonathan Reeve / Wine Owners

So the rule really is that there is no rule here. Which makes exhaustive primeurs tasting all the more valuable. Tomorrow (Wednesday) we head to Graves and Pessac-Leognon in the morning, to taste the Haut-Brion wines, and then on to Pape Clement and Malartic Lagraviere. We shall see if, and to what extent, the gravel soils helped mitigate the frost impact here...


Wine Owners 2017 Bordeaux En Primeur Week - DAY ONE

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2018-04-10


Starting early, we hit the Monday-morning Bordeaux commuter congestion armed with laptops, phones and an excellent pain au chocolat. Day one launched us headlong into the Medoc grand crus, starting at Lafite, then moving through Mouton, Cos d'Estournel, Pontet-Canet, Calon-Segur, Montrose, finishing at Chateau Margaux.


©Jonathan Reeve / Wine Owners


Tongues still tingling from untamed tannins, we are now reviewing the day from the wine-free environs of our rented loft- conversion apartment. There is blue sky peeping through the skylights.

Three main themes emerged from today's en primeur 2017 tastings:


Cabernet Cornucopia

The most obvious pattern is that 2017 was clearly a Cabernet vintage in Pauillac and Saint-Estephe. Almost all of the wines we tried have a higher proportion of Cabernet Sauvignon in their blends than in 2016. The particular weather patterns of the 2017 growing season meant that Merlot was tricker in 2017, and Cabernet performed well. Lafite, Montrose and Calon-Segur particularly exemplified this - their wines glowing from the healthy Cabernet. The Calon tasting demonstrated this most clearly; comparing side-by-side the Marquis de Calon and the Calon-Segur (Cabernet was particularly higher in the latter) it became clear how a higher percentage of Cabernet has worked wonders in 2017. The Calon is fresher, brighter and more defined than the Marquis, has more-focused acidity, and will be by far the longer-lived wine.

A noteworthy exception to this pattern is the grand vin at Chateau Margaux, where the team are obviously very happy with their Merlot this year. In fact, their Merlot was apparently so good that it was used worthy of a greater dose in the grand vin this year - a move which brought production levels of the grand vin up to almost 2015 levels (impressive from the smaller 2017 vintage). This is an unusual moment of glory for Merlot, which is typically the ‘insurance policy' grape.


House Styles

One obvious pattern showing in day one's tastings was house styles. These are very much in evidence in 2017, and most obvious at the Mouton stable, where d'Armailhac, Petit Mouton, Mouton and Aile d'Argent all shared the house's exuberent, borderline-exotic richesse. This continues right down to the house's entry-level Baronarques brand from Limoux, which we were also warmly invited to taste. The four Cos d'Estournel wines also had a family feel about them, being clean, bright and focused, without being overly ‘new world'. The pattern was most pleasing, perhaps, at Montrose, where both the Dame de Montrose and the grand vin showed brilliantly, and shared a distinctive style; cool, fresh wines (yes, high Cabernet content) with lots of tightly wound potential, and a whiff of something herbal (along the lies of nettles and lavender) marking them out from the crowd.


©Jonathan Reeve / Wine Owners
Past and present

References to the past, as a means of promoting the present, were frequent in the presentations today.

Lafite's new director, Jean-Guillaume Prats (previously of Cos d'Estournel), pointed to technology as being significant in the quality of this 2017 vintage. Thirty years ago, he said, given the same vintage conditions, it would have been 'very tricky' to make a wine of such high quality as they have managed this vintage with both the Carruades and grand vin. Of course, his job is to say such things, but his demeanour was very real, honest and open. And the wines spoke for themselves; the Lafite was its usual elegant, impressive self even at this early stage in its life. 

Also illustrating progress by pointing to the past was Thibault Pontalier of Chateau Margaux, who highlighted that the blend of Pavillon Rouge today is exactly the blend of the grand vin thirty years ago. A strong part of his reasoning for this was the ever- increasing quality of Cabernet Sauvignon that Margaux is able to produce, thanks to investment in technique and technology. This was in evidence for more than just the reds, however; Margaux's stunning Pavillon Blanc 2017 ended today with a refreshing flourish of beautifully concentrated, linear Sauvignon.

©Jonathan Reeve / Wine Owners


Comparing 2017 with 2016, the majority of wines from day one appear to be a notch less intense and refined than 2016. We're interested to see if this continues on the right bank.

Tomorrow we visit Nenin, Vieux Chateau Certan, Cheval Blanc, Gazin, La Couspade, Canon and Pavie. Watch this space tomorrow, for reflections on the right bank.



Vintages in the Shadows

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2018-03-05


We would like to echo the sentiments of Lisa Perotti-Brown – the new face of Bordeaux at The Wine Advocate – who revels in reviewing great wines from vintages less hyped than the universally celebrated ones.

A review of past vintages is so much more pleasurable than one of a current vintage. It can be pursued at leisure, far from the madding crowd of en primeur set-piece campaigns. The wines have been in bottle for some years, and have grown into their skins, allowing them to express themselves and harmonise. There is none of the guesswork required when evaluating young wines. And it is not done as part of a tasting Megathon favouring the most obvious, richest wines…

Here follows a spotlight of vintages which hide truly great wines, many of which still represent good value.

Burgundy 2013

Let's start with 2013, the worst climatic year Burgundy has experienced in a long time, characterized by a dreadful summer of cold, sodden weather. But that’s the thing with Burgundy; its growers refused to give up. They never do. They spent the summer in their Aigle wellies desperately battling the filthy elements and sticky, sucking mud. Coaxing what they could out of their precious vines - their livelihood - trying to make the best of a seemingly bad lot. The coaxing process involved leaf thinning, and sacrificing bunches to give the rest a chance at maturing properly. And that is the thing with Pinot Noir; it responds exceptionally favourably to low yields.

Now, if you like dense, sweet fruit with generous alcohols, 2013 may not be the vintage for you. But if you enjoy intensity of flavour without the weight of a hot year, red Burgundies from 2013 will positively surprise you. All the more so if you first tasted barrel samples back in January 2015; the wines are now positively transformed from that first recalcitrant showing.

It’s well known that a warm, accommodating, crisis-free growing season will result in wines that are generous and velvety-textured in their youth. But these aren’t always the wines that develop into fine, complex maturity. Take 1999 for example, lauded as one of the greatest Burgundy vintages of all time. Indeed, some of the wines are astoundingly good. But just as many others are really quite average. Why is that? Over-generous yields. It’s a fine line with Pinot, between harvesting as much ripe fruit as nature provides and allowing the fecund vine to produce as much as it’s wont.

Back to low-yielding 2013, and the best wines are beautifully crystalline, intense and transparent. Think a cornucopia of red fruits, blackberries and gooseberries: the essential ingredients of a refreshing summer pudding – a balancing mélange of sweet and sharp. Add characteristic Burgundy high notes of salinity (and a mineral-tinged, geological nod-in-the-glass to the inland sea of which the Cote d’Or was once a part) and hopefully you’ve formed a fair mental image of 2013 red Burgundy.

It’s no coincidence that blue chip stalwarts such as Eric Rousseau and Christophe Roumier love their 2013s. Aubert de Villaine sees his Domaine de la Romanée 2013s as long distance runners (in contrast to his more ‘forward’ 2014s). And they are delightful.

2013 is also one of the last sensibly priced vintages before Burgundy prices became vertiginous.

Burgundy 2006

Wines from cooler Burgundy vintages often start out rather awkward, and out of kilter. Their acidity may add definition and length, but can also close the wine down, or conspire with tannins to suppress the essential grape characteristics in a wine.

2006 was one such vintage. Its wines were initially hard to taste, and broadly speaking, unlovely. Many of us viewed 2006 Burgundies as unwelcome magpies in our collector’s nest of more comely vintages.

But now, after a decade in bottle, the wines are starting to show very well. They exhibit well-defined fruit, great length and energy. Next to the 2005s, they may lack heft and powerful tannin structure, but they are nonetheless serious, intense wines. And they are beginning to drink well now. You’ll have to wait at least another decade for your 2005s to come around, but 2006 is a fine emerging vintage that will give pleasure now and for the foreseeable future.

Bordeaux 2011

For Bordeaux, 2011 was always going to be a tough sell. On release, the wines seemed scrawny and mean in comparison with the monumental 2009s and 2010s.

Yet a recent dinner event hosted by Wine Owners showed how dangerous it is to tar a whole vintage with the same presumptive brush, or to judge a more classic vintage too early. The highlights of that tasting were Vieux Chateau Certan 2011 and La Mission Haut-Brion 2011. They were both easily the equal of their counterparts from better-regarded vintages, and represent great value compared with any more recent vintage.

Bordeaux 2006

In Bordeaux, 2006 was a vintage that attracted more than its fair share of negative press, the effects of which are still in evidence today, judging by the affordability of 2006 Bordeaux on the Wine Owners Exchange. The success of a Bordeaux vintage depends on sentiment, and in 2006 combination of negative factors came into play.

First, it came on the heels of stellar 2005. Second, Bob Parker’s favourable rating of the vintage attracted criticism from many pundits, attracting further negative attention. Third, the release prices were too expensive– due at least partly to the high Parker scores. Why else would La Mission Haut-Brion be ready to trade at £1,550 per 12x75cl, yet be overlooked?

[ Top tip: buy La Mission Haut-Brion at this level – half of its opening (mis)price. It is considered a ‘wine of the vintage’, rivalled for this accolade only by the (much more expensive) Mouton. ]

We are fans of the Bordeaux 2006 wines we’ve tasted. They don’t have the powdery tannins and powerful black fruit of the 2005s, but they do have superb energy, and a sappy character that compels you to take the next sip. We see many wines from 2006 as more interesting than their counterparts from 2004 or 2008. Notable examples include Mouton, Pontet-Canet, Leoville Barton, Leoville Las Cases, La Conseillante (just a sampled tip of the iceberg). Whenever tasted comparatively, these showed extremely well alongside relative other vintages.

In our experience, where 2006 performs particularly well is its consistency. Simply put, we’ve never had a poor one. Other low-rated back-vintages produced a number of successes (such as 2007, 2011), but none are as consistent as 2006.

Bordeaux 2002

2002 is another Bordeaux vintage which suffered from poor reputation. The year’s poor weather consigned the vintage to the status of ‘restaurant wine’ before any of the wines were even bottled. But it’s easy to forget that the wines were very well priced; first growths were released at around £800 per case (just one-sixth of their 2015 release prices). If you had invested in 2002 Bordeaux 15 years ago, you would be feeling rather smug right now. 2002 is the vintage for the contrarian that lurks inside every wine enthusiast!

While they were never going to be the most profound expressions of Bordeaux (in the light of the meteorological conditions), the 2002s have consistently tasted savoury, fruity, and sweetly spiced with cloves, cinnamon sticks and liquorice root. At all levels of classification, we’ve yet to stumble across a disappointing example.

Piedmont 2002

In 2002 Piedmont, like Bordeaux, suffered from rotten summer weather. Wine commentators have described 2002 in Piedmont in such terms as ‘wiped out’, ‘disastrous’, ‘severely compromised’, ‘a washout’.

But despite all of this, one wine survived the vintage’s humid gloom (and the hailstorms which repeatedly strafed Barolo) with enough salvaged bunches to benefit from perfect autumnal conditions. This is a wine made with such severe selection that yields were just 12 hl/ ha, and which epitomises viticultural triumph against the odds. The wine in question is, of course, the now-mythical Barolo Riserva Monfortino 2002.

Take a moment to consider the sacrifice involved in making wine with yields as low as 12 hl/ ha. Burgundy considers 25 hl/ ha to be painfully low, and in Bordeaux anything under 40 hl/ha is a very short harvest.

Giovanni Conterno – Roberto Conterno’s late father – called 2002 the greatest Monfortino of his lifetime.

The last word must surely go to Antonio Galloni, whose tasting note and review of this wine encapsulates why it’s so rewarding to seek out the greatest wines within those vintages in the shadows:

“…the 2002 Barolo Riserva Monfortino, a wine that may very well turn into a modern-day legend… 2002 was a cold, rainy year that in many parts of Barolo culminated with violent hailstorms in early September. The weather then turned picture-perfect for the rest of the growing season, but by that time most vineyards were severely damaged. The late-ripening Cascina Francia was an exception. Conterno green-harvested aggressively, which gave the fruit a chance to ripen. …The Conternos were so upset by the poor early press reaction to the vintage they announced they would let no one taste their 2002 Barolo. Conterno has fashioned an old-style, massive Monfortino that pays homage to the great wines of decades past. …It is a deeply-colored, imposing Monfortino loaded with dense dark fruit that today is held in check by a massive wall of tannins…classic, old-style Barolo the likes of which we aren’t likely to see again any time soon. Antonio Galloni, October 2008.

Wine Owners - Vintages in the shadows Barolo Riserva Monfortino Conterno


2017 - the year in wine that was

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2017-12-21


Broadening interest

2017 was a fascinating year for the wine market: a year of solid growth, consolidation and even a flash of speculation!

It was also a year of broader consumer interest reignited.

Knight Frank’s global Wealth Report includes analysis of the fine wine market provided by Wine Owners. Wine was by far the best-performing collectible asset of 2016, up 24%. As a result, lots of positive press in 2017 brought plenty of new interest into the market.

Health

After the sharp price increases of 2016, when the Bordeaux market leapt as it rebounded off its 2014 lows following a couple of years of ticking up, 2017 was always going to be a less dramatic year for the classified and blue chip Bordeaux market.

It was encouraging to see a successful 2016 en primeur campaign that saw generally modest increases over 2015 in Euros, even if increases were more substantial for UK buyers due to the weakened currency. Overall gains in 2017 were low single-digit for First Growths (after the 30% readjustment seen in the previous year). Other Classified growths and Right Banks rose an average of 7%.

Such moderation was less evident in the primary or secondary Burgundy market, the latter up 14.5%. What happens next is anyone’s guess, but the top of the market is holding onto 5-year gains of 100%, thanks in part to enduring Asian interest.

Hard luck stories

Burgundy was really hard hit by frosts in 2016. It’s a super vintage, but with many producer cellars that are 2/3rds empty. Only Vosne-Romanée and parts of Morey-St.-Denis and Gevrey-Chambertin escaped the April ‘gel’. Pretty much everywhere else was heavily hit. The night-time freeze hit the Grand Crus and vineyards high up, the morning sun burned the buds of other premier crus and villages plots.

That big reduction in volume does add something to the intensity of the reds most noticeably. They are balanced, intensely redcurrant or blackcurrant in character, saline and fresh, with a vein of blood orange pulsing through them. The whites are fine but don’t quite have the extraordinary rich, bright core of the 2014s, although in their favour the whites show more site specific character at this very early stage.

In 2017 Burgundy narrowly missed a second successive year of April misery, with an abundant vintage of good quality. Instead, Bordeaux was badly affected by freezing night-time temperatures in the last week of April, after a warm spring had encouraged early growth. Some areas on the Right Bank, Graves and parts of the Medoc away from the warming waters of the Gironde were devastated. Chateaux de Fieuzel in Pessac isn’t making any wine in 2017.

What that will do to en primeur pricing next year remains to be seen, but widespread rises are on the cards, probably even those properties who emerged unscathed.

Notable winning regions

Champagne extended its run with top back vintages (where relative scarcity starts to play) racing ahead, up 13% in 2017. The world’s appetite for Champagne remains insatiable.

It was gratifying to see Northern Italy in rude health, with interest for Barolo Crus broadening significantly and prices of the best producers very sharply up this year on the back of a string of good vintages culminating in the highly sought after 2013s.

Speculation

Talking of that flash of speculation, Margaux 2015 announced in November that Margaux would release their 2015 as a special edition in honour of Paul Pontallier, the managing director of the estate who died in March 2016.

We saw the first release from the chateau, offered in individual single wooden cases, at a significant premium to the release price.

Based on the Chateau’s announcement, we saw speculative trading in the wine between EP club members rise and rise, with bids climbing from under £6,000 to £12,000, representing more than a 130% increase compared to the release price to UK consumers of £4,650.

The limited edition black bottles with a variation on the classic Margaux label in gold invited comparison with the 2000 Mouton Rothschild, which attracts a significant market following based on collectability, despite not being in the top flight of Mouton vintages or even one of the best wines of the vintage.

Looking ahead to 2018

If you're interested to learn more about the health of the fine wine market and are interested in our predictions for 2018, you can now download our Fine Wine Predictions 2018 report, a must-read for collectors, wine lovers looking for value, and investors searching for opportunities.


DOWNLOAD PREDICTIONS 2018 REPORT


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We wish you all a very enjoyable festive season, and much vinous pleasure as you open great wine bottles to celebrate and see in 2018.

Best wishes for health and happiness from the Wine Owners team!




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