Gianfranco Soldera 1937-2019

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2019-02-18



On 16th February we learned that the magician of Montalcino had died in the vineyards aged 82.

His style was inimitable, and like all great wines, was capable of achieving an airborne character of great finesse, marrying profound intensity with the utmost delicacy. Many of his greatest wines are marriages of opposites – sweetness and acidity, purity and gaminess, darkly aromatic yet illuminated with the brilliance of crystalline fruit. I’m left wondering at these juxtapositions that make the wines of Soldera so extraordinary.

According to Antonio Galloni in his introduction to an epic Soldera dinner in 2015 held in London at Maze, it was the great Piedmont wines of the 1940s and 1950s that were Gianfranco’s early inspirations.

Soldera bought Case Basse in the early 1970s, where he planted a self sustaining eco-system encompassing vines at the heart of the property surrounded by exotic plants and flowerbeds, of which the vineyard comprises 2 hectares.

There seems to have been a slightly chaotic labelling regime during the 1990s, with Case Basse labels used interchangeably with Intistieti, a vineyard based on poorer soils resulting in wines with greater structure. From 2000 onwards Soldera released his Brunello as only Riserva. In 2006 Gianfranco left the Brunello di Montalcino appellation and moved to labelling Case Basse as Toscana IGT.

Latterly Soldera became associated with a terrible act perpetrated upon Case Basse.

“During the night between 2nd and 3rd December 2012, unknown people broke into Soldera’s cellar at Case Basse; they did not steal a single bottle, but with an extremely serious act of deliberate criminal vandalism for the whole area, they opened the valves of 10 barrels of 6 vintages of future Brunello di Montalcino: 2007-2008-2009-2010-2011-2012. The loss amounted to 62,600 litres of Brunello resulting in considerable economic damage.”

This led him to auction off the remnants of the extraordinary 2010 vintage for children’s charities around the world. In an open letter from the family, he wrote:

“I and my family would like the vintage 2010 to be associated with a very strong and important message that also makes an impact: we would like words and gestures of hope plus, most importantly, tangible help for those less fortunate than us to stem from such a sad and painful episode for my family.

For this reason, we have bottled these remaining 450 litres of the 2010 vintage only in large bottle formats of 3, 5, 6, 9, 12 and 15 litres in size. All these large bottles also have a special and unique hand-drawn label.

We have a certain number of 3 and 5 litre bottles but have also put together (with the very much smaller number of even larger size bottles as detailed above) four super-exclusive complete sets which add up to 50 litres in each set and these will be auctioned/offered as four complete sets in different parts of the world.”

What turned out to be his final act - a defiant demonstration of selflessness in the creation of a charitable legacy – leaves a striking remembrance: a great man as well as a great wine maker.



Looking back to that wonderful dinner held by Vinous Media in London, May 2015, and in homage to one of the greatest ever wine producers, here are the tasting notes from the wines tasted that evening.

The early years

Case Basse 1981

Heady perfumed nose with sweet peppers, then on the palate the freshness of Seville orange with dusted cocoa powder giving the wine a dry, firm edge. Long and insistent.

Case Basse 1982

A nicely developed nose, warm, then sweet lemon peel on the palate with spiced undertones heading into a vibrant, warm finish.

Case Basse 1987

A sensational nose, cloves, oranges and aromatic sandalwood, with a liquor-infused character that in combination with the spiced orange brought to mind crepes suzettes! Very pure with some residual grip.

Case Basse 1988

Very developed nose , with a strong aromatic character (think Myrrh), macerated oranges, a liqueur like texture, and a great breadth of flavours combining fruit and savouriness.


Sleeper vintages

Case Basse 2000 Riserva

A young wine with a soaring complex nose of herb and fruit liqueur, peony and mushroom. Firm palate, structured and focused.

Case Basse 2003 Riserva

Expressive nose, floral, savoury with herbal notes. On the palate the attack is full of black cherries, with hints of cream, and a firm finish with lots of energy and freshness.

Case Basse 2005

Gamey, wild character on the nose with a striking saltiness. The wine is texturally satisfying, with a tight palate of bitter dark fruit and a draft of refreshing redcurrants. Very long.


The mid 1990s

Case Basse 1993 Riserva

Fresh nose with sweet peppers. A huge zingy attack, which is almost too intense. That intensity of cool fruit leads to a dry finish.

Case Basse 1994 Riserva

A pretty aromatic nose is allied to a sense of roundness of the palate. Great intensity, lemony drive, mouth watering and long; so much energy.

Intistieti 1995 Riserva

Huge perfumed nose, peppered and intense. This is a vertical wine of monumental proportions and with an incredibly long finish. A future great.

Case Basse 1995

Darker fruited nose compared with the Intistieti. Fresher too, in a lighter, crystalline style. It’s mouth watering with an insistent finish.

Case Basse 1996 Riserva

Creamy fruit, somewhat muted, palate is fresh and the fruit is once again crystalline, before savoury notes appear on the mouth watering finish.


Reference points

Case Basse 1997 Riserva

A warm inviting nose sign posts a hot year followed by a palate overwhelmingly of black cherry. It’s a direct wine that shows you what it’s got, whilst for now missing out on the complexity of the greatest years, unless of course it's simply masked by youth.

Case Basse 1999 Riserva

A developed, creamy nose serves as a curtain call on a wine that’s structured, powerful, stacked with confit fruit, and an expansive mid palate, ending satisfyingly sweetly.

Case Basse 2001 Riserva

Saline pepper nose, red cherry dominated palate and takes one’s breath away with its energy and verve. WOW!

Case Basse 2004 Riserva

A sweet entry, and gamey resolved attack leads into an intoxicating, heady wine with huge resonance.


The Icons

Case Basse 1983 (en Magnum)

Fresh mature nose and bitter gorgeous fruit.

Case Basse 1983 Riserva (en Magnum) 

Reserved cool nose. This is very young, structured and elemental. It’s so unevolved and in this regard similar to the Intistieti 2005 Riserva. It makes me wonder if this was in fact Intistieti in disguise.

Case Basse 1990 Riserva

Peppery nose, an energetic attack, deep, with bright fruit and a warm finish. The remarkable complexity of this wine is in its combination of opposites evoking warmth and cold, sweetness and spice.

Case Basse 2006 Riserva

Savoury, slightly meaty nose, a gamey palate, sweet mid palate and a finish that builds in intensity and shows its youthful edge.


Antonio Galloni described Soldera’s wines as having a remarkable ability to age with grace, “a testament to Soldera’s vision, will and obsessive pursuit of quality”. The perfect parting words.


Focus on: Cos d’Estournel 2009

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2019-02-12


Cos d’Estournel 2009

Robert Parker: 100

Lisa Perrotti-Brown: 100

Neal Martin: 91

Jancis Robinson: 16.5,17,17.5


Price: £2,400 per 12


The crux of the matter here appears to be the U.S. of A. versus the U. of K. Big Bob wades in with the magic three digits (100 points) whilst Mr. Martin offers a much more modest 91 points. Our very own Mr. Martin’s words on this wine are not fit to publish. L. P-B. doffs her cap to her superior with another magic number whilst Jancis sways in a middle sort of division, yet she correctly describes it as famously controversial. So, it’s fair to say: the jury is out!

The early intelligence (thanks go to Bordeaux Index) and the biggest story from their last week’s ten years on tasting is that Cos was the big disappointment (Chateau Margaux was the star performer). Looking at the chart below there appears to be a huge amount more potential downside than upside, the ’09 being more expensive than anything in its peer group and what is the score?? Everyone seems to like the ’16, especially Mr. Martin, not best known and normally associated with magic numbers but attributing it to this vintage with gusto! Likewise, the ’10, not perfection but very highly rated. Both trading at close to £1,700 per 12- without the controversy.



The 2009 price has substantially underperformed the Wine Owners Bordeaux Index, perhaps because it has always split the camps:



Tasting notes:

RP: One of the greatest young wines I have ever tasted, the monumental 2009 Cos d’Estournel has lived up to its pre-bottling potential. The wine hits the palate with extraordinary purity, balance and intensity as well as perfect equilibrium, and a seamless integration of tannin, acidity, wood and alcohol. An iconic wine as well as a remarkable achievement, it is the greatest Cos d’Estournel ever produced.

LP-B: Wow—the full-bodied palate bursts with powerful, hedonic black fruit preserves and spices, completely coating the mouth with decadent fruits that are perfectly framed by very firm yet very ripe, grainy tannins and bold freshness, finishing with a veritable firework display of floral, spice and red fruit notes. Just stunning.

NM: It is glossy, dare I say almost “slutty”. The palate is medium-bodied with grippy tannins on the entry. There is good weight and volume to this wine, the Merlot more expressive than elsewhere with a lovely rich, decadent, weighty finish that is a hedonistic treat, but chooses not to translate the terroir of this great property. I prefer the 2010!

JR (a selection gleaned from 3 different notes): A youthful wine still dominated by tannins. First-growth structure. Bone dry. Classic-issimo. Went downhill in the glass however. Exotic but overdone. Alcohol intrudes. Awkward tasting experience. The tannins stick out. This continues to be a difficult wine. Famously controversial wine, one of the latest picked. Hugely ripe on the nose with a streak of very astringent dryness on the end. Scrubbing brush effect. A very extreme wine that strikes me as pretty brutal at the moment. Doesn't follow through; just stops on the palate rather than delivering any lingering finish. But it may all come together eventually...?

Recommendation: Sell ’09 and switch into the far less controversial vintages ’00, ’05, ’10 or ’16.


Relative value chart with other highly rated vintages of Cos d’Estournel:


Research Note: 2010 Lafite

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2019-02-11


If you’re looking to buy some Lafite, the 2010 vintage looks like reasonable value, given we are talking the brand that is Lafite. It achieves the highest WO score of 98 (extraordinarily high given our rather ‘mean’ methodology) and it comes from the vintage that is establishing itself as the pinnacle of the modern era, perhaps to be challenged by ’16 but that hasn’t been confirmed as yet.



If we brought the price down to the level we can actually offer at (£7,225 net per 12 as opposed to the chart price of £7,475), the Relative Value Score rises to above 6 – cheap for Lafite!



Focus on: Sassicaia

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2019-02-11


Sassicaia 2006, 94 points £2,050 per 12

Sassicaia 2009, 96 points £1,590 per 12

Sassicaia 2010, 94 WO points £1,430 per 12

Sassicaia 2015, 97 points £1,750 per 12

Sassicaia 2016, 100 points (WA) £2,700 now, released yesterday at £1,270!

I am now editing this blog originally written on the 25th January as yesterday saw the release of Sassicaia ’16. Monica Larner of the Wine Advocate heaped the magical three digit score and a boat load of praise meaning it sold out in seconds (she does hold sway!). I would have enjoyed being a fly on the wall of Armit’s office yesterday as the phones must have been red (pun intended) hot! If, like she says it will, the ’16 turns out to be just as good and valuable as the ’85 vintage, 31 years from now, that would yield a most respectable 8% CAGR (compound average growth rate). One should take note, however, that the price of the ’85 more than doubled in the last three years so buyer’s beware! I repeat my recommendations from before.

Original post:

When we began researching Sassicaia for this post we began by thinking it would turn out be a good and solid egg. We were right. Other than the stratospheric and legendary 100 point ’85, now c.£30,000 per 12, up from £12,000 three long years ago, Sassicaia is a really steady holding. It’s a wine that gets drunk readily, is approachable at a younger age than most investment grade wines and doesn’t tend to get dumped in a downturn.

The 2015 is another exception to this generalisation, not least because last November it claimed the coveted Wine Spectator’s ‘Wine of the Year’ 2018, causing the price to do this:




It is interesting to note that the Wine Advocate’s upgrade from 91-93 to 97 points in February 2018 had no lasting impact on price – do they not influence this corner of the market, we wonder?





In an efficient market, there’s a great short to mid-term switch play here, selling '15 and buying the cheaper and older ’09 or ’10 vintage where supply is shrinking faster. This is the wine market though, and trades like these not always play out. Judging from the price of the ’06, there is sufficient upside to these two vintages to suggest a purchase, especially if conservative is your thing!

The younger 2013 also looks cheap (but much more plentiful):




Buy: 2009, 2010, 2013

Trading sell: 2015


Collector’s Corner

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2019-02-07


On the gastronomy front an incredible meal was enjoyed at Le Cinq in Paris, bearing absolutely no resemblance to Jay Rayner’s very amusing description from a couple of years ago, to be found here

Visually, texturely and tasting-wise it was amazing, even if not everything agreed with everyone. Turbot, venison and onions remain firmly in the memory. Jay needs to revisit!

Chateau Grillet’s second wine, (rather understatedly) labelled as Cotes du Rhone was discovered here and what a beauty it was, although seemingly impossible to find in the U.K.

Another first time experience enjoyed was L’Assiette in the Montparnasse part of town, a neighbourhood restaurant sending out glorious French classics with a modern twist, but not in the case of the cassoulet – that was just classic! There a new discovery on the wine front was made, Romain Pertuzot, whose Chorey Les Beaune 2015 was bright, tense and juicy.

Sadly, the legendary Tan Dinh, the Vietnamese restaurant in St. Germain, whose regular customers once included the likes of Steven Spurrier and Paul Bowker back in the day seems a little tired. Under seasoned and under spiced food, the list is not what it once was but still heralded some beauties none the less. There is an impressive list of Barthod, Coche, Mortet and Niellon, amongst others, although the latter will not be served, whatever the vintage, due to premox issues - very worrying indeed! A Clos l’Eglise ’78 was full of old world charm.

There was a superbly curated Ledbury lunch will other top drawer collectors with Haut Brion ’96 leading the way, pursued by Palmer ’89 and admirable examples of ’02 white Burgundies, Le Clos from Raveneau and Henri Boillot’s Puligny Montrachet Les Pucelles, all preceded by a gorgeous 2010 Keller Abts E Spätlese.

Dry January will have to wait yet another year!


The January 2019 Market Report

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2019-02-07


The broad-based WO 150 Index was flat for the month, as were nearly all the indices. The only real note of interest was the Burgundy Index, dropping by 0.7%. As you can see from the graph below it has been the stellar performer amongst the great wine producing regions of the world. It’s far too early to start calling a general cooling off period but as I have been arguing here it feels right to top slice some of the better performing names and start looking for some laggards.

The numbers in the box below are performance numbers over a five-year period, so all very respectable but nothing comes close to Burgundy. The consistency and lack of volatility must surely be a thing of beauty to the investor and connoisseur alike?



January is a busy month in the wine world when the latest Burgundy vintage is sold ‘en primeur’. 2017 was a decent vintage (See WO Blog) and has sold through pretty well given another year of testing prices.

The ‘Southwold group’ met in January to review the now in bottle Bordeaux 2015 vintage and there are two excellent reports on the three day session to be found on Vinolent.net and FarrVintners.com. In brief summary, ’15 is maybe not quite the excellent vintage that was first pronounced, certainly when judged by ‘English’ palates but still pretty damn good with some show stoppers therein. At the end of the Farr report there is an interesting table of recent vintages in order of perceived quality.

Here at Wine Owners we are betting more heavily on the ’16 vintage (not yet included in the Farr report) which we believe will move very close to the top of the leader board. Messrs Martin and Galloni of Vinous Media have recently reviewed the 16s in bottle and are waxing lyrical. Our very own meteorology and Bordeaux expert called the ’16 vintage some time back - pre the en primeur tastings even! All subsequent tastings and encounters of the vintage have confirmed our views and we are confident enough to shout BUY. What and when is a much more interesting question - so please get in touch to hear our thoughts.


Focus on: Pichon Lalande 2010

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2019-02-05


Pichon Lalande 2010

WO Score: 94

Price: £1,300 per 12

Probably our most popular and current investment theme, derived from the outperformance generated by Burgundy in the last few years, is scarcity. This recommendation has not been generated as a result of scarcity, it comes from the old-fashioned premise that good old-fashioned merchants used to be famed for – this is bloody good stuff, it’s under-priced and it’s going up - trust us!



Looking at the chart below the relative value doesn’t appear out of kilter relative to its peer group but that is using a WO generated averaged score (of current ratings) of 94 points. Based on various tastings since the Wine Advocate et al rated this wine, members of the team here have consistently and with conviction rated this wine above its peer group and above its current critic scores. To be fair Mr. Parker, back in February ’13, allowed himself some room for improvement with a 95+. The WO team would apply the plus sign very happily.



For the sake of argument if we were to award the Pichon Lalande a score of 97 and run that number through the relative value equation, the score would be a far more enticing 30, almost as cheap as Leoville Barton – and Pichon Lalande is never as cheap as Leoville Barton!

On top of this, 2010 is becoming widely accepted as the greatest vintage of the modern era. The five first growths from 2010 currently average £7,500 per 12 and Pichon Lalande ‘82, possibly the greatest vintage the estate has produced until this one, is £7,800 per 12, so there seems plenty of room for upside!



The Great Burgundian Conundrium

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2019-02-04


As a couple of recent posts have alluded to, we think some of the really top end Burgundy has reached heights that might not be sustainable in the short to medium term. Over the last decade or so the Burgundy market has been the star performer:




But in the last year it has gone into interstellar overdrive:




Obviously Burgundy, and particularly the greatest names, are in short supply and the desire to have a slice of the action has had a dramatic impact on prices. But can this continue - THAT is the question!? This commentator has already sold some of the spectacularly performing big names and is reallocating the assets lower down the ladder, especially where prices are yet to move.

Last week we compared values of Clos de Beze 2010 from the Domaines of Rousseau, (Bruno) Clair and Drouhin-Laroze, all very closely rated, to find their respective price ratios to be 1 Rousseau for 13 Clair for 28 Drouhin-Laroze. This highlights the incredible disparity between certain growers and of course there will always be premia for certain names. However, the gaps have widened and some of the differentials are unjustified - opportunities abound, inter Burgundy and elsewhere. This quick comparison of a few random names suggests the currently less fashionable 1st Growth Bordeaux and even serious Rhone could be worth a look:



Please get in touch if you would like to discuss the Burgundian Conundrium and see if we can make sense of it!?


Focus on: Chambertin, Clos de Beze 2010

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2019-01-31


Domaine Bruno Clair, Chambertin, Clos de Beze 2010

WO Score: 94

Price: £3,120 per 12

Note from Burghound (93-96 points):

A spicy, pure and admirably refined nose offers up notes of cool, layered and an impressively broad mix of wild red berries, stone and underbrush hints. The textured and almost painfully intense broad-shouldered flavors possess deep reserves of tannin-buffering dry extract as well as the same extraordinary finishing depth that the nose hints at. A knock-out but this is expressly built to age and the flavors and tannic spine are so tightly wound that it's pointless to buy this if you do not intend to age it for at least 10 to 12 years first.


Domaine Drouhin-Laroze, Chambertin, Clos de Beze 2010

WO Score 96

Price: £1,410 per 12

Note from Burghound (93-95):

A spicy, ripe, elegant and admirably pure nose offers up notes of anise, sandalwood and clove that add breadth to the floral, earth and stone-suffused aromas. There is the same superb breadth to the rich, intense and tension-filled full-bodied flavors that possess excellent power and drive on the seductively textured, muscular and classy finish.




Both the Drouhin-Laroze and the Bruno Clair expressions of Clos de Beze from the blockbuster 2010 look attractive at current levels with the less fashionable Drouhin-Laroze really standing out - there are a few cases in the market too. Both get great scores across the board from the critics and have not kept pace with the sizzling Burgundy index (Drouhin-Laroze in light blue) over the last three years:




Whilst seeking high quality wines that have lagged the Burgundy market, these two have popped up as good candidates. More and more market watchers will be searching for this type of opportunity, so some catch up is expected. Neither have hit their drinking stride yet but when the scarcity kicks in, will it be possible to source them when they do? I doubt it.

Although it is not comparing like with like, Rousseau’s take on this famous piece of dirt, (rated at 94-97) at £40,000 per 12, is probably fully valued and I for one would be making a switch! Putting it another way you can buy 28.5 bottles of the Drouhin-Laroze product for one of dear Monsieur Rousseau’s! The Clair to Rousseau ratio a more modest 1:13, but still!?


Focus on: Sassicaia

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2019-01-25


Sassicaia 2006, 94 points £2,050 per 12

Sassicaia 2009, 96 points £1,590 per 12

Sassicaia 2010, 94 WO points £1,430 per 12

Sassicaia 2015, 97 points £1,750 per 12

When we began researching Sassicaia for this post we began by thinking it would turn out be a good and solid egg. We were right. Other than the stratospheric and legendary 100 point ’85, now c.£30,000 per 12, up from £12,000 three long years ago, Sassicaia is a really steady holding. It’s a wine that gets drunk readily, is approachable at a younger age than most investment grade wines and doesn’t tend to get dumped in a downturn.

The 2015 is another exception to this generalisation, not least because last November it claimed the coveted Wine Spectator’s ‘Wine of the Year’ 2018, causing the price to do this:




It is interesting to note that the Wine Advocate’s upgrade from 91-93 to 97 points in February 2018 had no lasting impact on price – do they not influence this corner of the market, we wonder?





In an efficient market, there’s a great short to mid-term switch play here, selling '15 and buying the cheaper and older ’09 or ’10 vintage where supply is shrinking faster. This is the wine market though, and trades like these not always play out. Judging from the price of the ’06, there is sufficient upside to these two vintages to suggest a purchase, especially if conservative is your thing!

The younger 2013 also looks cheap (but much more plentiful):




Buy: 2009, 2010, 2013

Trading sell: 2015


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