The Northern Rhone – is now the time? (Only red wines under review)

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2021-08-18


By Miles Davis

From time to time in the past, wine merchants and market observers have pointed to the Northern Rhone and proclaimed that its time has come, it is arriving, it is time to load up – this is with the view to making a few quid, of course. Always lagging the more powerful Bordeaux and Burgundy regions, I think this extraordinary piece of France where Syrah flourishes on the steep riverside slopes, has always been considered to be of a slightly lower, more rustic class. Certainly us Brits tend to be educated in the ways of Bordeaux first and foremost, then Burgundy, and then the likes the Rhone, Champagne, Tuscany and Piedmont etc. follow along in no particular order. As Bordeaux, then Burgundy prices headed skywards, people noticed, from time to time, that the Rhone was being left behind. Surely the clever money should have some of that? It has never quite happened. Sure, some producers have developed close followings from astute collectors and the likes of Jean Louis Chave, Jamet, Auguste Clape and Thierry Allemand to name a few have all seen demand for their wines shoot up and secondary market prices have reacted accordingly. But a lot of the bigger names, the biggest being Chapoutier, Guigal and Jaboulet just have not done very much price wise.


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Randomly selected, I compared three vintages of La Landonne from the Côte Rôtie Guigal powerhouse, ’90, ‘05 and ’10, over the last five years and price increases have been +14%, +27% and +14% respectively. These numbers do not include any trading and logistic costs, and in the context of a decent wine market, are disappointing.


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So, the question is, is this all about to change? Liv-ex recently reported their Rhone 100 sub-index is the second-best performing sub index (which covers both Northern and Southern Rhone) in their stable, trailing only Champagne, over the last eighteen months. That is quite some achievement and not to be overlooked. I have been commenting for some time how the wine market is broadening, ‘lesser’ regions becoming more liquid in the secondary market, making them more tradeable and easier to value – all important factors when considering investment. There’s no question there are a lot of critic’s points available for relatively little money and ironically, this most historic of regions offers the cheapest entry point into the ‘fine wine’ market. So, I do believe this is changing and I would certainly recommend having some Northern Rhone in a portfolio or collection. For investment purposes I would not risk really big ticket items such as Guigal’s La Las or even Jean-Louis Chave’s Hermitage as they are already relatively expensive and until we are fully convinced these are really investable items and/or Asia takes to the area more than in the past. For immediate consumption purposes I have had multiple buying successes on the Wine Owners platform in recent times, snapping up Chapoutier’s Hermitage Sizeranne from ’96 and ’99 for £30-33 per bottle (before tax), Côte Rôties from Gilles Barge (very fair value) from ’00 and ‘05, René Rostaing (prices have been moving), Clusel Roch (good value) and La Petite Chapelle from Jaboulet, all of which have given great pleasure.

And finally, you may have read this here before (!!), I think Hermitage La Chapelle from Paul Jaboulet Ainé (to give the full name) is one of the best bets around right now, and there are plenty of vintages to choose from, from 2009 onwards! Ship it in! Here are some relative value scores for some very high scoring La Chapelles. Remember you never see a first growth Bordeaux or a grand cru Burgundy in double figures, let alone in the 20s.


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Some of the most notable names to remember:

Hermitage: Chapoutier, Chave, Delas, Jaboulet

Cote Rotie: Chapoutier, Guigal, Jamet, Jasmin, Rostaing

Cornas: Allemand, Clape

St. Joseph: Chave


Compare your notes to the critics

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2021-08-12


Did you know that when you use Wine Owners to track and manage your wine collection, you have the option to add your own tasting notes and scores when consuming a wine?

You have the option to anonymously share these notes with the wider community, or keep them private for your own future reference, adding drink dates or scores as you see fit (and according to your own personal preferences!)

When you come back at a later date to revisit said wine, your notes will appear alongside those of your linked critic accounts giving you the fullest picture possible!

If you have accounts with Vinous, Jancis Robinson or Robert Parker, you can link these to your Wine Owners account and view their reviews on WO for everything. A free Robert Parker subscription is included when you take out Wine Owners premium plan (along with lower selling fees and a host of other benefits) so even more reason to upgrade your account.

You can view your entire catalogue of tasting notes via the “My Tasting Notes” option under the “Manage” drop down menu, or view notes individually under the “reviews & scores” tab within a wine entry (see below)

Wine Owners



Wine Owners


Question: white Burgundy – is it investable? Answer: absolument!

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2021-08-06


The problems with white Burgundy in the past have been well documented; namely premature oxidisation, or premox for short. In a former job spec, managing FCA grade wine investment funds, the problems were enough for us to have one simple discipline when it came to white Burgundy – do not invest. Although I have seen thousands of pounds worth of Grand Crus literally poured down the sink from vintages past, these problems are behind us now and there is more belief in this area than possibly ever before. The grandest Crus stand head and shoulders above their peers in much the same way as their red counterparts do, and they always will. After all, they have been growing grapes in them there hills since 150 B.C. according to Neal Martin’s excellent recent piece for Vinous Media, so they know a thing or two about the land and how to achieve the best results.

Again, like the reds, the vineyard areas are small, so production levels are low. There are less than half the number of white Grand Crus compared to red however, and the famed village of Meursault is not even deemed worthy of having a single one! There are two that do both, namely Corton and Musigny. The very top producers have been sold by allocation only for some time now, but are still behind the reds in that regard, and on average price too. Buyers should not only look at Grand Crus as there are many superb Premier Crus too that can deliver – even some in lowly Meursault! Also, it is not necessary just to stick to names with ‘Montrachet’ in them, there are some viable options from other villages and Chablis of course. The Côtes of Maconnais and Chalonnaise are not made of quite enough stuffing to qualify for ‘investment grade’ but there’s no doubting the quality of these wines continues to rise.

White Burgundies tend to disappear off the market after a few years of age as global demand far outstrips supply. This makes valuations and therefore performance numbers hard to measure accurately so you’ll just have to believe me that they really can perform. Here’s one example of a young wine since release (c.50% annualised ROI!):


Wine Owners


I happen to think that this wine has not stopped motoring yet, and there are only but a couple of cases (six packs) currently on the market. Why do I say this? Because prices for white Burgundies are still a fraction of their equivalent red counterparts, there is less of it, and there is vast burgeoning demand, and it is global. There is also the threat that global warming may mean there’s even less of this stuff to go around in the future, and perhaps not as well balanced, classical and chiselled as we are used to.


Wine Owners


As a rough guide, village wines should probably be drunk between three and ten years of their life, Premier Crus five to fifteen and Grand Crus ten years plus, they can last for decades. My advice would be, if you are buying into this rationale, is to invest primarily in good producers, most Grand Crus (if they haven’t already tripled!), and then in highly rated premier crus (particularly from the ’14 and ’17 vintages). Obviously, the vineyards are important too and the ‘jewel in the crown’ sites of producers can often produce an extra bit of uplift.

Some of the names to look out for, amongst others:

  • Boillot, Henri
  • Bonneau du Martray
  • Coche Dury (‘silly money’!)
  • Comtes Lafon
  • Dauvissat DRC (‘silly money’!)
  • Leflaive
  • Moreau, Bernard
  • Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey
  • Ramonet
  • Raveneau
  • Roulot


A report on Vintage Champagne July 2021

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2021-07-27


(in which we discuss why this is such a good idea!)

Miles Davis, July 2021

WO Champagne 60 Index


Vintage Champagne has been a sound investment for the last ten years, with our index annualising a return of 8.6%. The index is comprised of all the top cuveés from the giants of this most celebrated of wine regions, Dom Perignon, Krug, Louis Roderer Cristal, Pol Roger, Salon, Taittinger et cetera, et cetera. Indices never contain costs but that is not something many people bother to point out!

Champagne is, quite rightly, associated with luxury, celebrations, and fun, and is a genuine mood lifter. It is sprayed across crowds, associated with brazen displays of wealth in society hot spots, served at all manner of celebratory events, whilst also being adored by genuine connoisseurs – it finds a home across multiple layers of society and across the globe. Most of us are introduced to it at quite an early age through Bond, James Bond. In ‘Goldfinger’ Bond drinks Dom Perignon ’53, and that is what did it for me, I was hooked, although it took a fair few years after that to get my hands on the stuff! Vintage Champagne can age for decades and as supply runs down, so the price goes up (see below). It is probably the steadiest performer of all the sub sections of the fine wine market and some Champagne should be in every single cellar, collection, or portfolio always and forever! Champagne has not really been treated as an investment staple within the wine world until relatively recently. The performance of famous brands and now the turnover in the secondary market makes it qualify for that description with consummate ease.

I have looked at these five vintage champagnes, based on their overall quality and their liquidity in the secondary market, from only the best vintages of modern times. Here are their prices (per bottle):

Vintage 1990 1996 2000 2002 2004 2006 2008 Average
Current prices
Comtes de Champagne 462 376 156 225 104 90 125 220
Cristal 374 371 209 221 165 137 208 241
Dom Perignon 269 317 200 167 124 119 130 189
Krug 508 350 225 281 189 171 - 287
Winston Churchill 393 319 192 175 132 132 165 215


Comtes is made by Taittinger, Cristal by Louis Roderer, Dom Perignon by Moet Hennessy and Winston Churchill is Pol Roger’s top cuvée.

What is quite amazing is how similarly these are all scored, (using WO aggregated methodology):


Vintage 1990 1996 2000 2002 2004 2006 2008 Average
WO Points
Comtes de Champagne 95 94 96 97 96 95 96 95.6
Cristal 96 95 93 94 96 95 98 95.3
Dom Perignon 94 95 93 97 95 95 98 95.3
Krug 96 97 94 96 97 97 - 96.2
Winston Churchill 96 94 95 96 93 96 96 95.1


Here are the PPP (price per point) scores, to establish what is good value:


Vintage 1990 1996 2000 2002 2004 2006 2008 Average
PPP (Price per point)
Comtes de Champagne 4.9 4 1.6 2.3 1.1 0.9 1.3 2.3
Cristal 3.9 3.9 2.2 2.4 1.7 1.4 2.1 2.5
Dom Perignon 2.9 3.3 2.2 1.7 1.3 1.3 1.3 2
Krug 5.3 3.6 2.4 2.9 1.9 1.8 - 3
Winston Churchill 4.1 3.4 2 1.8 1.4 1.4 1.7 2.3


Although Vinous Media only has a range of between 93 points (2000 vintage, easily the weakest of this selection) and 97+ (2008) for the different vintages, those in the know realise that ’08 is a mega vintage with ’02 breathing down its neck, which is on a par with ’96, and all of those slightly better than ’04 and ’06 and this is already reflected in the prices. The wines are all superb, but some more superb than others. If the PPP is way below the average (in red) for any of the wines, I have little hesitation in recommending them. When thinking about possible returns I have compared prices from the ’02, ’04, ’06 and ’08 vintages relative to the ’96 price and adjusted for time (10 years for the ’06, 12 for the ’08) for example and have come up with the following numbers (obviously this is just a simplistic exercise but interesting nonetheless):


Vintage 2002 2004 2006 2008
Annualised ROI benchmarked to '96 price*
Comtes de Champagne 8.90% 17.40% 15.30% 9.60%
Cristal 9.00% 10.60% 10.50% 7.00%
Dom Perignon 8.30% 10.20% 8.50% 6.30%
Krug 3.70% 13.90% 7.40% -
Winston Churchill 10.50% 11.70% 9.20% 5.70%

*No dealing, logistics or storage costs factored in

And lastly, a look at the production levels; the Champagne houses are notorious for keeping their levels of productions under wraps, but I have gleaned some information (not necessarily 100% accurate):


Production levels (across all top cuvées, white and rosé) Bottles
Comtes de Champagne 140,000 2002 = 60,000
Cristal 400,000 2009 = 800,000
Dom Perignon 1 mill
Krug 200,000
Winston Churchill 120,000


Of these names, Krug is on top of the pile in reputation, stature and price, Cristal and Dom Perignon are next, are truly international (and are made in huge quantities) and Comtes and Winston Churchill are more the sensible man’s choice for the price/quality ratio. I think they all make sense in their own different ways. Obviously, there are many more choices out there and grower Champagne is becoming ever more popular, but these names are dependable and highly liquid. And taste just so darn good… in case we forget!


Wine Owners - Winston Churchill




The Wine Market Investment Report 2nd Quarter 2021 (in which we discuss how boring the wine market is, and why boring is good!)

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2021-07-19


Miles Davis, July 2021

If you are a regular reader, I would not be offended if you stop here as I am only likely to be repeating myself. The overall market is dull, unexciting, but mainly just plain boring. Sure, there are excitements here and there, an attractively priced en primeur release for example, see a snapshot report of that here, but let us stick to boring. What I mean by boring is that the market continues to be slow and steady and gently rising, not booming and busting, peaking and troughing etc. etc. It is calm, well underpinned by global demand - and a good place to be. To date, my two best investments (not including fine wine obviously!) have been in businesses that, could possibly have been described as boring: pensions administration and company records management - what a snore! They never shot up, or plunged, they just gently attracted more clients and more revenue, month by month, year by year, and have both done very well indeed. So, as you can see, I like boring.


Obviously, I jest but the message is clear. Recently I have even found myself telling clients desperate to sell something to hold on – what sort of a salesman does that!? And of course, I could turn out to be wrong. But… I happen to think the market has had its shock absorbers tested to the max and has survived and prospered in this low interest rate environment. In the last couple of years, we have had political turmoil in Hong Kong, the madness of Trump and his trade tariffs (now all lifted), Brexit and the dreaded C word. Clearly people are still drinking fine wine, perhaps possibly finer wine than normal, as less hard-earned cash is being spent in restaurants. The undercurrent to the whole market is firm, blue chip Bordeaux is well bid and is enjoying its best time for quite a while, and all of this is being achieved in an unfriendly exchange rate environment. GBP strength normally stifles wine prices in the secondary market, and vice versa.  



Wine Owners


Champagne continues to attract a lot of interest and we have traded significant chunks of Krug ‘04, and Bollinger Grand Année Rosé ’12 recently. As I have written before, I very much like Pol Roger’s Winston Churchill cuvée as it not only delivers on the great price/quality ratio, but it is made in tiny quantities compared to its peers. The ’08 has done very well indeed for followers in recent months, up 20% in the last year (price is 12x75cl):


Wine Owners


The 2006 now looks good value in comparison at c.£800 per 6 with stocks dwindling, and I have no hesitation in recommending that. I drank the ’02 recently and it was sensationnel! (C. £1,050 per 6). The ’04 also looks to offer value.

It would appear Rosé Champagne is having a great time of it, with Sainsburys reporting sales growth of nearly 200% recently. I mused on the subject a few weeks back (read the article here), and fear I have been missing out over the years!

Highly priced trophy Burgundy has been selling well again after a bit of a lay off through ’19 and ’20 and sensibly priced DRC, Rousseau etc. do not remain on the platform for long. The gap between the very top level of superstars and the middle tier seems to be widening again, surely pointing to value in the more mid division?

White Burgundy deserves another mention, especially given some reasonably heavy frost damage in the region earlier this year. This will lead to lower supply levels and therefore higher pricing. Load up on 2017s from the best stables if you can find them! The best stables continue to outrun the pack, but can this continue for ever? I doubt it.


Wine Owners


Highly priced Piedmont has been slightly disappointing of late, whereas lesser money bets in the area have been rewarding. Surprisingly, superb releases from 2016 from some of the biggest names in the region are still available to buy at release price levels, notably Giacomo Conterno’s Cascina Francia and Bruno Giacosa’s Falletto. The former is extraordinary given Conterno declined to make a Monfortino in 2016 due to ‘stylistic’ matters, seems weird to me! Monfortino, acclaimed as Italy’s greatest and certainly most expensive wine, is made from vines within the Francia vineyard and the latest release from 2014 is offered at £750 a bottle, the Cascina Francia ’16 (an epic vintage in case anyone needs reminding!) at £200. I understand that it will never be a Monfortino, but still…There is still a lot of relative value in Italy, as described herewith mega points for little money readily available. For more money and mega points, the Super Tuscans keep  travelling well.


Wine Owners


 Faring much better in recent months is the performance of wine prices from the Rhone Valley, not surprising given that wines from this region have a lot in common with the Italian theme I mention. There are some mega stars, Guigal’s single vineyard Cote Roties, producers such as Rayas and Bonneau (both Chateauneuf du Pape) Jean Louis Chave (Hermitage), Allemand (Cornas), and Jamet (Cote Rotie) to name a few that trade for big money, but otherwise there are some very affordable high scoring monsters that come (very) relatively cheaply. Even the big money wines trade at a massive discount to their Bordeaux and Burgundy equivalents. The one wine that really sticks out for me is Hermitage La Chapelle from Jaboulet. This extraordinary terroir is capable of producing the very finest wines ever made, the ’61 and ’78 for example (discuss). The last eleven vintages have averaged 97 points and are offered at an average price of £125 per bottle, an absolute snip in fine wine terms!! They also offer a fine second wine, La Petite Chapelle, for those who want a gentle introduction. Seasoned investors have had the Rhone pushed at them before and it has not really worked for them, but I think we live in different times now.


Wine Owners


Having said that, the last part of the quarter was stifled by an uninspiring 2020 Bordeaux en primeur campaign and most merchants seemed relieved when it was over. The Covid induced price cuts of 2019 genuinely sparked interest in the old dog, but it was largely back to business as usual from the Bordelais and the bashing started all over again. The campaign started well with a great release from Cheval Blanc but by the end the crowd were throwing fruit and veg onto the stage. As diversity spreads there are more and more stages to consider, and good returns are derived from proper opportunity. I am very pleased to see the grand vins of Bordeaux performing well in the secondary market as it lifts the market as a whole but the slavish obsession that the wine industry pays en primeur saddens me – so, it’s back to other business!


As always, please feel free to call to discuss, or bowl me some fast balls. And have a very lovely summer!

Miles 07798 732 543


Shock news torpedoes St Emilion classification system?

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2021-07-11


Will Cheval Blanc and Ausone no longer be Grand Cru Classé ‘A’ as from the 2021 vintage?

If so, it won’t be because of the Commission de Classement. The closing of the Saint-Emilion classification applications took place on June 30 and neither Cheval Blanc nor Ausone returned their copies.

Unlike the left bank classification system of 1855 that is pretty much immutable (with the exception of Mouton’s promotion to Premier Cru in 1973), the St Emilion classification is reviewed approximately once every 10 years, permitting a periodic revaluation of quality and performance. It’s not all been plain sailing; the 2006 reclassification was plagued by accusations of impropriety and was eventually annulled. Consequently, tastings conducted for the 2012 reclassification were outsourced to independent groups from across France to rehabilitate the process.

Cheval Blanc and Ausone, the first St Emilion producers to be awarded Classé A classification in 1954 when it was created, are effectively leaving the classification system.

The Classé A incumbents evidently concluded that the system is no longer sufficiently discriminating to reflect the ranking of their respective properties compared to their peers.

This bombshell threatens to undermine the kudos and financial benefits of promotion to Classé A, and in turn the market pricing potential of those that are elevated. Not to mention it raises questions of the credibility of the St Emilion classification system more broadly.

So what does the two colossus’s departure say about the process of decennial review? How does this reflect on the composition and process of the Commission de Classement?

Is Grand Cru Classé A about to lose its lustre; devalued by ambitious properties busy erecting glitzy edifices? Concrete and stone, some say, matter more than they ought to compared to the brilliance of the wines and their track record.

Or, is Classé A promotion a reflection of the qualitative transformation we see taking place in St Emilion - given the strongly weighted preconditions of a sustained track record of exceptional results and market recognition - and therefore are not elevations thoroughly deserved?

Let’s see what happens over the coming weeks. Can Cheval Blanc and Ausone be courted back into the fold, or is their departure (by omission of submission) a fait accompli? Assuming the latter, perhaps we'll see more promotions next year than we might have otherwise. What effect this all has economically on those producers who attain Classé A classification is now more uncertain than ever.


The snappiest snapshot of the 2020 en primeur campaign

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2021-07-08


Top seller:

Cheval Blanc, came out early and flew out the door


Relative value analysis winners (based on JancisRobinson.com scores)

Batailley

Beau Séjour Becot

Clinet

Du Tertre

La Gaffeliere

Laroque

Latour Martillac Blanc

Please see our full analyses of the vintage's releases and identification of great buys (some from 2020 and many more from comparative back vintages) on the Jancis Robinson forum here.


Top buys for an immediate return:

Carruades

Carmes Haut Brion


Possible St Emilion reclassification bets (due 2022 in order of likelihood):

Figeac #1

Canon #2

Belair Monange #3


Top First Growth of the vintage:

Margaux


Wines to watch:

Durfort Vivens

Finally getting noticed with commensurate scores. 2016 was a watershed vintage of great harmony and precision, and the first major Bordeaux property to qualify for both biodynamic certifications. 2018 was an epic qualitative success, even though it was a disaster commercially due to rampant mildew that swept the vineyard in June - the biodynamic treatment regime unable to keep up with the excessively humid conditions. Only 583 equivalent full cases were made and the quality compares to 1945 and 1961. 2020 is another success with modestly reduced yields. The attack in particular is gorgeous, dripping with juicy black cherry fruit, but 2018 is the one to seek out.

La Gaffeliere

For those who missed the Figeac boat before it left the harbour, La Gaffeliere is still at anchor in terms of price, and with every prospect of setting sail with a bit of time. Great terroir next to Ausone, seriously elegant, with layer upon layer of complexity to seduce the connoisseur.


Best commune bets in 2020?

St Emilion

Margaux

Pomerol


Themes of 2020

Black bottles with gold engraving. What Chateau Margaux started off, in 2015 as a fitting tribute and wonderful enduring memorial to the late Paul Pontallier, became ubiquitous in 2020 in honour of all sorts of anniversaries. The black bottle salesperson was probably not referencing their list of ‘wins' in 2020 with their prospects, for fear of undermining the hoped-for premium packaging premium.

Modest increases at the beginning of the campaign over the very well priced 2019s (as is so often the case) ended with a frenzy of price increases for the late releases of between 25%-c40%. Sellers will have had to bank on Giffen’s Paradox to sell through at the top end of price hikes.


2020 vs 2019

There were still values to be had in 2019 at the start of this campaign. Better priced 2019s that were down on their 2018 release prices and which hadn’t budged since last year’s release price got snapped up as this year's campaign played out. There are still plenty to pick from. Overall 2019 is likely a more consistent vintage than 2020, and perhaps rather more balanced in the Medoc notwithstanding plenty of low alcohols in 2020 (partly due to rain which most affected the top half of the Medoc notably St Estephe, Pauillac, a bit less in St Julien, and quite a bit less in the heart of Margaux). Left bank wines’ stats offered up a paradoxical combination of moderate alcohols and very elevated pH values (denoting low acidity in spite of tasters' visceral sense of freshness). The Right Bank got spared the later downpours and so are richer; many with the higher trademark alcohols of a hot vintage (notably the 100% Merlots) but with pH values closer to norms.


Italian values

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2021-06-30


As mentioned in our recent and well received offer of the incredibly well priced Montepeloso Eneo 2010 (there are a few left), we promised a closer look into the relative value of Italian wines. I know I have been banging on about Italy for quite a while now but there is every reason for it – there is some terrific value to be had, and so on will I bang!

The facts are that there are only a handful of Italian wines that trade at, what we are going to call here, ‘silly money’ compared to vast swathes of wines from their rather posher neighbour - namely La Belle France. It is true that the same can be said for Spain, and for most of the New World. The U.S. is an exception, as like France, it has many an offering at ‘silly money’. But for my pound, I say sweepingly, these regions do not offer such a vast variety of quality wines that appeal in quite the same way (I should qualify at this point I am really talking about top quality red wines).

What Italy offers, unlike everywhere else, is a multitude of wines at relatively affordable prices with absolutely massive ratings. There are two variables here, the prices and the ratings; the simplest explanation for the comparatively lower pricing is that Italian wines have not yet been recognised, and accordingly priced, as truly international brands. Put another way, Asia has not got to grips with it yet. Other than a few ‘Super Tuscans’ and the top labels from the likes of Giacomo Conterno, Bruno Giacosa and Gaja from Piedmont, very little starts life close to £100 a bottle. There have been half a dozen EP releases every day last week from Bordeaux that qualify for that prize! In Burgundy a hefty percentage of premier crus start there and for some more sought-after growers, your £100 only buys you a taste of a lowly village wine.

The ratings are, rather obviously, dished out by the critics. It is worth remembering that each region is scored on its merits in a peer group fashion. The wines, as are the vintages, are reviewed in the context of that individual region or vintage. What has happened, however, is that tones have been set for different areas which do seem to vary from each other. Burgundy, for example, tends to harbour rather conservative scoring where anything over 95 is a massive achievement. Prices for these trophies are also massive. It is different in Italy. There are countless Brunelli with huge scores and even people in the trade ask, ‘how come there are so many 100 pointers we’ve never heard of’?

A possible explanation is that the bar has been set so high, and for so long, by the likes of DRC and Rousseau that a mere premier cru from someone like Dujac or Roumier is only worthy of 90/91 points. So, perhaps a cleaner canvas for the critics to assess has led to some more generous brushstrokes? Or perhaps it is a more generational thing; France has long been understood, consumed, and pontificated upon by the old guard, who might not quite understand the Italian way? An old friend of mine, an experienced wine merchant recently said to me “I don’t really get Italian wine” (Burgundy and Sauternes are more his bag!) and then confused me further by saying “except I couldn’t possibly eat Italian food without Italian wine”. I understand exactly what he means with the latter statement (but not the first), and this goes from pizza level all the way to Piazza Duomo, a three star Michelin in Alba – quite good by the way! Either way, some of the scores in recent times and particularly for the amazing ’16 vintage, in all of Italy, and the ’15 vintage in Tuscany, have drawn truly flamboyant landscapes from the young masters – and for not many Lira either!

The other thing to remember is that the critics live and die by their reputations, so if they are going to award high nineties or even the magical triple digits, you know the wines are going to be very good indeed – within the context of their peer group.

Obviously, we would love to hear from you to discuss the opportunities further and there will be offers to follow based on this theme. In the meantime, you may want to engage with the ‘Advanced Search’ button or take in some of these names which spring to mind:

Piedmont: Alessandria, Cavallotto, Grasso, Sandrone, Scavino, Vajra

Tuscany: Fontodi, Fuligni, Grattamacco, Il Poggione, Isole e Olena, Pertimali, Montepeloso

Ciao for now! Miles 07798 732 543



Producer Spotlight - Fratelli Alessandria

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2021-06-17


Luke MacWilliam, June 2021

It is well documented that Piedmont is attracting more attention than ever before and activity in the secondary market has become increasingly frequent. 

Comparisons can be drawn between Burgundy and Piedmont in terms of quality and scale (no politically motivated 1855 classification here). Your regional Nebbiolo or Barbera (Langhe, d’Alba etc) equate to a Bourgogne rouge, your straight Barolo to a village cru and then your single vineyards to Premier Cru Burgundy. The most lauded single vineyards from the best producers can mix it with the Grand Cru big boys!  Pay particular attention to Cannubi, Bussia, Brunate and Rocche dell’Annunziata and Monvigliero.

One producer I’d like to place under our spotlight is Fratelli Alessandria. A 150 year old estate, Fratellis Alessandria  has 30 acres to its name, and produce a portfolio of wines from “simple” Langhe Nebbiolo right up the Premier and Grand cru equivalents in San Lorenzo, Gramolere and Monvigliero.

Wine Owners


Last January - following a trip to Piedmont our very own Miles Davis noted the following:

Wine OwnersThe same week, I attended a Monvigliero focused Barolo tasting at 67 Pall Mall and was blown away by the ethereal elegance, approachability and precision of Fratelli Alessandra’s wines (Diego Morra, Roset and Sordi also shone, but I’ll leave those for another day). Don't mistake “youthful approachability” as “lack of ageability” - it’s still Nebbiolo we are talking about - the structure is there to go 20-30 years. The killer combination of approachability, ageability and affordability is exactly why any self-respecting wine lover should buy into them, you can enjoy the evolution for years to come without getting involved in bonkers Burgundy money (yet). 

Fratelli Alessandria are moving forwards, and as demand increases for quality Barolo so are prices of the top crus and top vintages (investment anyone?) but on relative value terms they are still an absolute steal. 

Take their regular Barolo 2016. £175 + comms IB per 6 and earning a whopping 96pts from Monica Larner. Could you imagine such a write up for a village burgundy?

'The 2016 Barolo opens to tight elegance and a nervous quality that pits red fruit energy over lean fruit weight. The results are graceful, lithe, fragile and lasting. The wine's aromas unfolded slowly and seductively, revealing wild berry, cassis, bitter cherry, toasted almond and blue flower. This is a dreamy wine that promises more beauty as it continues its bottle evolution. An ample 20,000 bottles were produced. This is one of the very best values found anywhere in Barolo.' 96pts, Monica Larner, Wine Advocate

It doesn’t stop there, moving up to Gramolere 2013 (premier cru equivalent) at £215 + comms IB per 6.

'This is a wine of beauty and intensity. The Gramolere cru in Monforte d'Alba is distinguished by the focused and sharp nature of its aromas. The 2013 Barolo Gramolere is a textbook expression of the cru, with deeply delineated aromas of wild berry, rose hip, rosemary sprig and licorice. The mouthfeel is silky and smooth with good structure and firmness to add to that sense of purity and sharpness. The wine's profound depth is what stands out most.' 94pts, Monica Larner, Wine Advocate

And finally to Monvigliero:

'The 2010 Barolo Monvigliero shows a pretty degree of color salutation with brilliant garnet and ruby highlights. The bouquet is broad and wide-sweeping with a healthy succession of red berry, sweet almond, stone fruit, medicinal herb and crushed mineral. Fruit thrives from 220 to 280 meters above sea level with full southern exposures facing La Morra. They own 1.5 hectares of the 20-hectare single vineyard. Fratelli Alessandria keeps its Barolo in oak casks for three years, instead of two. The wine shows light spice notes with distant touches of dark fruit. The tannins are silky and long. The wine is amazingly expressive now, but promises great aging potential. Drink: 2017-2033.' 95ptsMonica Larner, Wine Advocate

From a relative value perspective, scores are high across the board. 2010 and 13 are the vintages that have begun to move upwards in price, 2016 has rocketed too. Value can be found in 11, 12, 14 and 15 where quality remains consistent.


Wine OwnersP.S For the adventurous out there - seek out their Pelaverga Speziale for something utterly different. Pelaverga is a local variety made almost exclusively around Verduno. My notes start with “Wow. Weird.  So floral….not like anything I’ve tasted before” and my attention was grabbed immediately.

A historic producer who embraces tradition and local identity, but also strives to improve and improve in a changing world ticks all the boxes for me. 


Pink Champagne - misunderstood?

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2021-06-10


Miles Davis, 10th June 2021

Whilst writing the offer for Bollinger Grand Année Rosé 2012 (still some available here!) this week, I started thinking about pink fizz in a different context. Before now, I had never stopped to think about it seriously, it had always been something for immediate, and possibly immature, pleasure. I have never taken it seriously or given it the respect it deserves – more fool me!

 

Harking back, my first introduction as a rather inexperienced taster (at circa 15 years of age) was when an older sibling brought back a couple of bottles of Laurent Perrier NV Rosé from France for a Christmas treat. I remember, very clearly, being absolutely blown away, and that was just the concept of it – champagne that is pink, surely not!? Suffice to say it was heartily enjoyed but then a few Christmases later, rather easily surpassed, by another Champagne, a white this time but by the name of Dom Perignon. Obviously comparisons between the two are not fair but in many ways the damage was done. I was aware there was a Dom Perignon Rosé but that was another chunk up on an already expensive price tag, which was a step too far. Instead of considering rosés, I became used to buying special cuvées and vintage white champagne for the big occasion, and the odd Sunday lunch! Ironically I believe I was thinking that rosés were just not as serious or interesting as their white counterparts, yet when you start looking at the various critics and ratings between the different offerings from the same stables it is clear that this is not the case at all.



Vintage rosés are not produced as often as whites and are often more ‘vinous’ or ‘gastronomique’. They are made either by either skin contact through maceration from the Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grape varieties or by blending typically 5-20% of red wine with the still white wine and before the 2nd fermentation in bottle. Bollinger’s Grand Année Rosé, for example, is made using 5% of red wine derived from their La Cote Aux Enfants vineyard.

When I was managing wine investment funds, a few vintages of white Krug and Dom Perignon found their way into the portfolio but we did not even consider rosés at the time. Now the wider wine market is growing ever broader and more tradeable, it would be foolish to ignore them. Some of the smarter money is already in and demand is growing. The best wines can age gracefully for a long, long time and the prices for top Champagnes (of both colours) from top producers and vintages only travel in one direction.

Some of the producers who produce top quality rosé Champagnes:

Krug

Dom Perignon

Bollinger

Billecart-Salmon Philipponat (Clos des Goisses)

Taittinger (Comtes de Champagne)

Ruinart


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