James Suckling releases Bordeaux En Primeur 2016 scores

James Suckling releases Bordeaux En Primeur 2016 scores

Today, James Suckling released the first of his 2016 Bordeaux En Primeur scores.

Overall, Suckling confirms that the ‘2016 is an exceptional vintage equal to the exquisite 2015’. He adds that he’s ‘not sure which vintage is better at this stage’.

Analysis of 45 of the wines that have been scored so far – those that featured in Liv-ex’s En Primeur price guide last year – suggests that 2016 is slightly ahead of 2015. The group of wines scored an average of 96.3 points this year compared to 95.5 for 2015.

Mouton Rothschild and Lafite Rothschild occupy the top spots for 2016, having been awarded straight 100 points.

Suckling described Mouton as ‘a phenomenal, muscular red that shows incredible power and depth’, adding that the wine is ‘the new 1986 but better’. Lafite Rothschild received equal praise: a wine ‘even stronger and more toned than the excellent 2015. […] Perhaps the greatest Lafite since the legendary 1959?’

top scores

Next week, Liv-ex will release its 2016 En Primeur pages. Analysis on all of the key releases and critic scores will follow.

James Suckling’s full report and tasting notes on Bordeaux 2016 En Primeur can be found at www.Jamessuckling.com.

Neal Martin on Bordeaux 2015: “A narrow pyramid”

Neal Martin’s Bordeaux 2015 report was released on The Wine Advocate this afternoon. Like many other reviewers, Martin suggests that 2015 is an “excellent” vintage in general – but currently lacks the across the board consistency of great vintages such as 2009 and 2010. In terms of hot spots for quality, he states: “The best wines tend to be in the southern Médoc, specifically Margaux and Pessac-Léognan, across the Right Bank in Saint Emilion and Pomerol, then into several satellite appellations”.

He highlights the exceptional quality of a handful of wines from 2015 – giving six potential 100-point scores – and likens the distribution of quality to a “narrow pyramid, whereas 2009 and 2010 would be flatter so that its average height higher”.

Martin also offers his views on the Bordeaux market, writing (in bold): “primeur works when the price is right”. He expresses concerns about Chateaux pricing strategy, suggesting that some are more concerned about the competitor pricing than pricing at the right level for consumers – and calls this “a dangerous game to play”.

His top barrel scores are shown in the table below.

Neal Martin 2015

You can compare his scores against scores from other key critics here on the Liv-ex blog.

To read Neal Martin’s report in full, visit The Wine Advocate.

More Parker points: perfect score for Pape Clement 2009

After announcing his Bordeaux retirement last week, Robert Parker released a new batch of scores in the Hedonist’s Gazette on Friday. In total, he offers ratings of 21 wines – including ten Bordeaux reds from the 2009 vintage – which were all tasted at a dinner in January of this year.

Parker describes the 2009 flight as a “colossal showing”. He adds: “As I have written and said publically many times, 2009 is the modern-day version of 1982, except much more consistent…”

The critic awarded five ‘perfect’ 100-point scores, including an upgrade for Pape Clement 2009 which he most recently scored 95 in The Wine Advocate. Wines including Haut Brion 2009 and Montrose 2009 held their perfect scores, while Clinet and Smith Haut Lafitte dipped.

Parker Scores Pape Clement 2009

As Liv-ex highlighted last week, an upgrade to 100-points from Robert Parker has historically caused wine prices to rise rapidly. This has been the case for scores published in the Hedonist’s Gazette, as in the case of Haut Bailly 2009, as well as those ‘officially’ listed in The Wine Advocate.

The chart below shows a small flurry of activity for Pape Clement 2009 today. It last traded at £1,130 per 12×75. This is a 35% increase on its last trade price of £835 before the 100-point score was released. Time will tell if the wine holds at this level, but these early indications certainly suggest that the power of Parker is still very much alive.

Pape Clement 2009 performance

Bordeaux 2005: 12 perfect wines

Robert Parker’s much anticipated retrospective review of the Bordeaux 2005 vintage has now been published. Last week, Liv-ex observed that a number of wines had been climbing in price since December 2014 following some early upgrades which indicated that the vintage had been underrated when his original in-bottle scores were released in 2008.

For several wines, upgrades have now materialised. Originally, only two Bordeaux 2005s were awarded 100 points in bottle – a surprise to many. Now, 12 wines (below) have received a perfect three-digit score, making 2005 the vintage with the second highest number of 100 point wines (there were 19 for the 2009). Notably, none of these perfect 2005s are from the Medoc: all are Right Bank wines, with the exception of Haut Brion and Mission Haut Brion (Pessac-Leognan). 

Parker himself comments in the report that he originally considered the 2005 "a vintage surrounded by excessive and unprecedented hype." He goes on to note that "At the same time, I considered it a vintage that would require considerable patience for the wines to evolve." While more wines score 100-points than in the 2010 vintage, Parker states that overall 2005 is "eclipsed in quality and consistency by both the 2009s and 2010s, but only by a relatively minor margin."

The 12 100 point wines from the Bordeaux 2005 vintage are as follows: 


Price increases for a number of the wines above were observed on the Exchange earlier today. These included Mission Haut Brion 2005, which traded for £3,700 last week and £4,490 today, and Cheval Blanc 2005, which traded for £4,100 last week and £4,950 today. Lisa Perrotti-Brown confirmed that some international subscribers of The Wine Advocate had mistakenly received the report a day early on the erobertparker.com bulletin board: 

“We've just traced the cause of this situation to our International Mailing House – they mailed early in spite of our specific request to mail today. Therefore it is now clear that some overseas subscribers to the Print Edition have already received their copies.”

Robert Parker’s full report on the Bordeaux 2005s can be accessed at www.erobertparker.com.

Bordeaux 2012: a Pessac year

Robert Parker’s scores for Bordeaux 2012 in bottle were released on the Wine Advocate this afternoon. Back in 2013, Parker observed that “while 2012 is not a great vintage, it is an excellent one in Pomerol, Pessac-Léognan and for some St.-Emilions”. This continues to be reflected in his in-bottle scores, with the highest scoring wines coming from Pessac-Léognan and Pomerol.


The wine of the vintage, Haut Brion, was awarded 98 points after being initially awarded 93-95 points in barrel. Parker noted that, “the wine shows subtle barbecue smoke notes in the background, but is full-bodied, stunningly concentrated and builds incrementally, yet finishes with luxurious, almost extravagant amounts of fruit and intensity.”

Mission Haut Brion also showed well: it was upgraded from a barrel range of 91-94 to 97 points in bottle.

Encouragingly, a number of more affordable brands also saw upgrades of several points. This included Haut Batailley (92 points, up from a barrel range of 85-87), which was described as “dramatically better from bottle than barrel … bigger boned, richer and more flamboyant than this wine normally tends to be”.

Grand Puy Ducasse moved from 84-86 to 90, while Issan was upgraded from 87-89 to 95 and Alter Ego moved from 88-90 to 93.

To view Parker’s full in-bottle scores and read the interesting accompanying report, visit www.erobertparker.com

Parker’s predictions: ten years on

First Growth prices

"Americans may scream bloody murder when looking at the future prices for the 2003 first growth Bordeaux (an average of $4,000 (£2,300) a case), but if my instincts are correct, 10 years from now a great vintage of these first growths will cost over $10,000 a case…at the minimum. It is simple: The quantity of these great wines is finite, and the demand for them will become at least 10 times greater".

-          Robert Parker in Food & Wine Magazine, September 2004.

Parker’s instincts were largely correct. Lafite and Latour 2003 smashed through the $10,000 barrier (back then, around £6,500) in late-2009, Margaux 2003 crept above it in early 2011. Haut Brion and Mouton reached $7,000. Perhaps surprising to some, despite the violent correction in First Growth prices since mid-2011, both Lafite and Latour are still clinging on to the $10,000 level; helped in no small part by Parker’s perfect scores.

But what of the broader prediction – that all great vintages of Firsts would be trading over $10,000? Above are the numbers. We have used the “greats” that were around when Parker was writing his prediction in 2004: the 1982, 1990, 1996, 2000 and 2003. At the peak of the market, in early 2011, the average price per case was indeed $10,000 for all of these vintages – above $30,000 for the 1982 and close to $20,000 for the 2000.

Since then, prices have fallen by between 25% and 37% for these vintages (notably less than the Liv-ex 50, which has fallen 40%). But of the 25 wines involved in the calculations, 13 still have a market price of $10,000 (£6,900) per case or more – including all 1982s, all 2000s except for Haut Brion and all Lafites except for the 1990, which has a market price of $9,400.

Ten years on, Parker’s predictions appear largely to have come to fruition. The 1982 and 2000 are both well over $10,000 per case, while the 1990, 2000 and 2003 have a market price below this level after falling for the last three years. Of the “great” vintages that Parker was unaware of in 2004, it is the 2009 and 2010 that stand out. Without any time value, they have an average market price of $10,340 per case. 

Winners and losers of Parker’s 2011 scores

Yesterday, Parker released his in-bottle scores for the 2011s. His introductory paragraph to the vintage was surprisingly brief, but what immediately stood out was the range of scores (from 65-96) and the sheer number of wines scoring 80 or less.  

Canon and Domaine de Chevalier had two of the largest in-bottle upgrades, both moving from 87-89 to 94. Palmer and Pape Clement, two of the four top scorers, rose from 92-94 in barrel to 96 in bottle. Parker was particularly effusive about Pape Clement, describing it as “full-bodied, rich and multidimensional” and noting that “this wine clearly transcends the entire vintage.” Palmer, too, was praised for its level of quality in what had been a “challenging vintage.”

There were also losers. Chasse Spleen dropped from 85-87 to 78, Camensac from 84-86 to 77. A few typically strong brands fell: Vieux Chateau Certan went from 94-96 to 91, Montrose from 91-93 to 89, and Pichon Lalande from 92-94 to 89. Ausone, the only wine to which Parker had originally awarded a potential perfect score, dropped from 96-100 to 95+. But in general the right bank performed well: high scores went to Cheval Blanc, Le Pin, Pavie and Eglise Clinet.

Since scores were released the 2011s have traded steadily on Liv-ex. As we noted on Wednesday’s blog, the wines have come down in price significantly since release, and for those seeking an early drinking vintage they perhaps offer better value than the newly released 2013s. A table of Parker’s top scorers are below.

2011 in bottle scores

Top Parker scores for Napa Valley 2010

Look at Robert Parker’s recent scores
for Napa Valley (mainly the 2010, 2011 and 2012 vintages) in the latest edition
of The Wine Advocate and it is immediately striking how many wines receive 100
points. Ten of these are 2010s, a “long-lived” vintage where “many of the wines
have turned out to be brilliant”, despite a cold year and late harvest.

Screaming Eagle, arguably one of the most illustrious
wines produced in the Napa Valley, is among the top scorers. Parker
labels the 2010 “utter perfection”, with “a staggering bouquet of spring
flowers, graphite, creme de cassis, kirsch, licorice and subtle toast in the
background”.  Of Screaming Eagle’s last
ten vintages, the 2007 is the only other wine to have a perfect score – and with
a market price of £26,000, it is £10,000 more expensive than the 2010.

Parker’s full scores can be seen on erobertparker.com.

What Parker’s verdict means for Bordeaux 2011

Robert Parker published his take on the Bordeaux 2011 vintage on Friday. In general, there were very few surprises. But although the wait for Parker is over, the campaign has paused for the long weekend in France. (See the Liv-ex En Primeur Pages for the latest news, prices and scores.) Nonetheless, there is plenty to ponder. 

We analysed the reviews of 35 leading Bordeaux chateaux in order to calculate the vintage's mean score. Using the mid-point of each barrel-score spread for our calculation, 2011 achieved an average of 92.5 points – placing it between 2008 (93.7) and 2001 (91.9) in terms of quality. 

Vintage comparison

But what does this imply for 2011 pricing?

The new releases must be more affordable than comparable vintages in order to appeal to buyers. With this in mind, the table below shows the current 2001 and 2008 prices of the labels in our study. (All prices are for 12x75cl cases stored in bond.) Given that the '01s have now spent almost a decade in bottle, the 2011s will need to be subtantially cheaper in order to represent real value.

2001 vs 2008

Two of the wines shown above have already come to market. If we compare their actual London release prices to the values of their 2001s and 2008s, it is clear why only one of them has attracted demand. 

Actual release prices

Parker relinquishes coverage of California

After rating and promoting Californian wines for more than two decades, Parker announced on Saturday that he is relegating coverage of the region to Antonio Galloni, who will also assume responsibility for the Cote d'Or and Chablis. In an email to Erobertparker subscribers, Parker announced that he would use his new-found time to begin "a series of hoizontal and vertical tastings of perfectly stored California wines that will give readers insight into how they are developing". These vintage retrospectives will also cover Bordeaux and the Rhone Valley.

For many readers, the announcement comes as a clear reminder that, at 63, Parker's retirement is looming ever closer. And given the powerful effect that his opinions have had on international demand and prices over the years, full retirement would indeed mark the end – and beginning – of an era. Whether or not the Wine Advocate's stamp of approval will have the same influence on pricing after its founder's departure is up for debate, though only time will tell. Of more immediate interest, perhaps, is how Galloni's coverage of California and Burgundy will compare or differ from that of his predecessor – particularly given Parker's taste for rich, ripe styles.  

Since the announcement was made two days ago, a number of wine bloggers have published responses to the news. You can view their blog posts by following the links below. 

The Wine Cellar Insider: Robert Parker Stops Reviewing California Wine

Wine Cast: What Happens After Robert Parker?

Vinography: The End of an Era: Robert Parker Stops Reviewing California Wine