Vega Sicilia, Unico 2005 released

Vega Sicilia, Unico 2005

Vega Sicilia, Unico 2005 is being offered pre-release at £549 for a case of three bottles, equivalent to £2,196 per 12×75.

The vintage has been held at the estate for two years longer than usual to allow for additional maturation. Winemaker Gonzalo Iturriaga explained to the drinks business that this has allowed the very powerful wine to mellow. He added, “It was a good idea. The wine has changed completely.”

The 2007 and 2008 have already been released. The 2006 has also been held back and is expected to be released next year.

The wine does not have a recent score from any leading critics, but back in 2012 Neal Martin awarded it 95 points. He noted: “The 2005 looks set to be a wonderful Unico when it is eventually released.”

The 2005 is priced at around the same level as the highly scored 2004, and a touch below other older vintages. Buyers will no doubt await further critic reviews with enthusiasm.


Liv-ex releases the 2015 Power 100

In conjunction with The Drinks Business, Liv-ex has released the tenth edition of the Liv-ex Power 100 – the annual list of the most powerful brands in the fine wine market.

The Drinks Business’s full report on this year’s Power 100 has been published in the magazine’s December edition.

Key findings this year:

  • Mouton Rothschild took the top spot in the 2015 table, following two years when the Bordeaux First Growths conceded first place to other wines. With good scores across all four categories, it was boosted by the value and volume of trade it saw on Liv-ex.
  • All Bordeaux First Growths, apart from Latour, rose up the table this year, with Mouton Rothschild, Haut Brion and Margaux seeing positive year-on-year price movements.
  • The highest new entrants this year were from Burgundy: the wines of Coche Dury entered the table at number 18, and Lambrays at number 59.
  • Sassicaia was the most traded wine by volume, and the only wine from outside Bordeaux to fall among the top ten wines traded by value.
  • California continues to be a rising star, with two wines from Napa Valley seeing the best year-on-year price performance: Scarecrow and Screaming Eagle. They rose 19.9% and 15.1% respectively, with Scarecrow making its debut in the list at number 83.
  • Angelus and Pavie continue to see the benefits of the 2012 St Emilion Re-Classification, coming in 4th and 5th
  • Buyer diversification continues, with the variety of wines and vintages traded wider than ever before. 166 wines qualified for the ranking this year: an increase of 10% on 2014.

To calculate the scores, we took a list of all wines that traded on Liv-ex in the last year (1stSeptember 2014 – 31st August 2015) and grouped these by brand. We then identified brands that had traded a minimum of three wines or vintages and a total trade value of at least £10,000. Brands were ranked using four criteria: year on year price performance, trading performance on Liv-ex (value and volume traded), the number of different wines and vintages traded, and average price.

The main change we made to this year’s methodology is that we removed scores. With so many wines trading – and from so many different regions – it was becoming impossible to include scores on a like-for-like basis, and the number of critics we had to include was increasing. To keep the consistency of the ranking we removed them.

The individual rankings were then combined with a weighting of 1 for each criteria, except trading performance which had a weighting of 1.5 (as it combined two criteria: value and volume traded). The final 100 brands accounted for over 1,750 unique wines/vintages traded in the past year.

Below are the results in full for the 2015 Liv-ex Power 100. For the purpose of comparing against 2014 on a like-for-like basis, we have recalculated 2014’s ranking incorporating the new methodology.

Liv-ex 2015 Power 100

Mouton overtakes Lafite as most popular wine on Liv-ex

A year ago we examined the 50 most viewed wines on Liv-ex, based on page clicks for January-June 2014. Below we have taken a look at the page views for January-July this year to see if there have been any changes in traders’ interests.

Notably, Mouton Rothschild has overtaken Lafite as the most viewed wine on Liv-ex – as yesterday’s blog showed, it has also been the best performing First Growth year-on-year. While the five Premier Crus continue to dominate searches despite dwindling trade shares, Haut Brion and Latour have also switched places. Their second wines, meanwhile, have lost popularity: all four in the table have fallen (Bahans/Clarence Haut Brion came in 69th place), with Carruades dropping eight places.

Non-Bordeaux brands continue to rise in popularity. Of the six wines that were pushed out of the top 50 this year, five were from Bordeaux – Fleur Petrus moved furthest down the table, from 39th most viewed wine last year to 56th this year. This has made way for six new entrants, including Haut Bailly – which saw its 2009 upgraded to 100 points this year – and four wines from beyond France.  As Ornellaia becomes this year’s 49th most viewed wine, its fellow Super Tuscan Sassicaia has risen four places to enter the top half of the table.

Several Bordeaux have also seen interest increase, including Pape Clement. In recent years, high Parker scores – including 100 for its 2010, 96 for its 2011 and 97 for its 2012 – have bolstered the wine’s popularity: having not made the top 50 in 2011, it is now the 23rd most viewed wine.

Popular wines 2015


Spotlight on… Vega Sicilia Unico

Vega Sicilia Unico

Owner: Álvarez family
Vineyard area: 250 hectares
Standard blend: 80% Tempranillo, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon
Other wines: Valbuena 5º, Reserva Especial  


In 1848 a Basque landowner named Toribio Lecanda bought a 2,000 hectare estate in northern Spain used for agriculture and cattle farming. Sixteen years later his son Eloy planted various grapes from Bordeaux, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Merlot, in order to make brandy. In 1876 he became the supplier to the Royal family.

The estate had several owners over the next few decades until it was acquired by the Herrero family, who took on Domingo Garramiola Txomin as winemaker.  Domingo used what were then considered revolutionary Bordeaux techniques for making wine, and he renewed the ageing casks and cleaned the wine presses. In 1915, Vega Sicilia and another wine, Valbuena, were born. Originally the wines were only distributed among the upper classes and the aristocracy, but at the 1929 World Fair in Barcelona they received public recognition, with awards to the 1917 and 1918 vintages.

After Domingo died in 1933 the responsibility of winemaking first fell on Martiniano Renedo and then Jesús Anadón. The current stage of Vega Sicilia Unico’s history began in 1982, when the Álvarez Mezquíriz family acquired the estate. They extended the vineyard area and modernised the winery. After Jesús Anadón retired, eminent winemaker Mariano García took over the oenology, but left in 1998 to expand his own portfolio of wines.

In the current team, Pablo Álvarez manages the winery and Xavier Ausás is the winemaker.

Vega Sicilia Unico 2004

Vega Sicilia Unico is the only wine from Spain in the Liv-ex Fine Wine 1000 index. It falls into the ROW 50 sub-index, which has had the best sub-index performance over the last two years, rising 16.5%. Vega Sicilia Unico 1995 has been one of the biggest risers in the Liv-ex 1000 during this period, climbing 37%.

Vega Sicilia Unico_price vs score

The latest Vega Sicilia Unico to be released is the 2004, described by Pablo Álvarez as a ‘textbook vintage’. With 97 points from the Wine Advocate it is one of the highest scoring recent vintages, praised by Neal Martin for its ‘haunting bouquet of dark brambly black fruit, cassis, honey, a tang of marmalade and bacon fat’. With a market price of £2,000, the 2004 is relatively affordable: a third cheaper than the 98-point 1998 and only 3% more expensive than the 93-point 2000. At £1,800 per 12×75, the 95-point 2002 would also seem to offer relative value.

USA points the way

Liv-ex 1000 non-Bdx sub-indices

Over a two year period the Bordeaux 500 and Bordeaux Legends 50 – both sub-indices of the Liv-ex Fine Wine 1000 index – have fallen 4.9% and 6.5% respectively. All other sub-indices have risen; the Rest of the World 50 index has had the steadiest climb, rising 16.5%.

The USA has led the charge for the ROW 50. Dominus 2005 and 2006 have risen over 40% since January 2011 to push close to £1,000 per 12×75: with 95 and 96 points from Parker, they are still relatively affordable by Bordeaux First Growth standards. Recent vintages of Opus One have also risen in price, perhaps boosted by the attention from the release last year of the 2010 – winemaker Michael Silacci’s self-proclaimed ‘best vintage yet.’

The top performers of the last two years also include a host of wines from Burgundy, Italy, and Champagne. The Champagne 50 index closed 2012 flat for the year but prices rocketed in 2013 for several newly released vintages: Taittinger Comtes 2002 climbed 47% to £1,335 and Cristal 2004 rose 30% to £1,470. The Burgundy 150 index also took off in 2013, with Armand Rousseau’s Chambertin Clos de Beze 2002 the biggest mover. Italy’s strongest performers remained the Super Tuscans, but prices are lifting for other wines from the region: Redigaffi 2005 and 2006 have risen over 30% in two years.

Only the Rhone 100 index has struggled to keep its balance in the last six months – but with a 1.9% rise over two years, it is nonetheless outperforming Bordeaux. 

2 year movers_Liv-ex 1000

Please note that all prices above are the Liv-ex Mid Price and are for 12×75 cases, except for the DRC price, which is per bottle.


Liv-ex launches the Fine Wine 1000

  Liv-ex_Fine_Wine_1000 (614x401)

On Friday, Liv-ex launched the Liv-ex Fine Wine 1000 index in response to the changing shape of the $4 billion fine wine market. The range of wines trading on Liv-ex has risen by 85% since 2010. Bordeaux’s dominance of the market has fallen as trade shares for other regions have increased. Liv-ex has created the Fine Wine 1000 for merchants, investors and consumers to measure this growing market as accurately as possible. 

In 2001, Liv-ex created the industry benchmark Liv-ex Fine Wine 100 index to track the movement of the most sought-after fine wines. The index comprised 92% Bordeaux, reflecting its then market share. Today this stands at below 80% as demand for fine wines from Burgundy, Champagne, the Rhone, Italy and the New World has increased. The Liv-ex Fine Wine 1000 tracks 1,000 wines from across the world using the Liv-ex Mid Price methodology. It is calculated monthly and was rebased at 100 in December 2003.

Last month, the Liv-ex Fine Wine 1000 closed at 255, reflecting a year-on-year rise of 3%. As shown in the table below, the index has outperformed the Liv-ex Fine Wine 100, Gold and the Nationwide House Price Index over a five year period.

Liv-ex 1000 performance

The Liv-ex Fine Wine 1000 is comprised of seven sub-indices:

  •  Bordeaux 500: the ten most recently physical vintages for 50 top Bordeaux chateaux (2001-2010)
  • Bordeaux Legends 50: a selection of 50 Bordeaux wines from exceptional older vintages (from 1982)
  • Burgundy 150: the ten most recently physical vintages for 15 white and red Burgundy, including six Domaine Romanée Conti labels
  • Champagne 50: the most recently physical vintages for 12 Champagnes
  • Rhone 100: the ten most recently physical vintages for five Southern and five Northern Rhone wines
  • Italy 100: the ten most recently physical vintages for the five ‘Super Tuscans’ and five other leading Italian producers
  • Rest of the World 50: the ten most recently physical vintages for five wines from Spain, Portugal, the USA, and Australia.

It would currently cost £2.3million to buy one unit of each wine in the index. The wines represent 79% of the current market activity on Liv-ex by value and 55% by volume.

Liv-ex 1000 sub indicies performance

More detailed analysis of the performance of the index and its sub-indices will follow on the Liv-ex blog in the coming weeks. The index can be viewed on the Liv-ex indices page.

Liv-ex 1000 sub indices chart (614x404)

Liv-ex interview with Robert Parker, part two: Looking back and moving forward


Robert Parker interview

On Friday we published the first part of our recent interview with Robert Parker. The second part of the interview is shown below. Parker talks about the regions and producers that he is excited about, who may take over the Bordeaux beat when he eventually leaves The Wine Advocate, and his views on the Pancho Campo MW affair. 

Is there one vintage you feel that you, or others, underrated? If you were buying a back vintage, where should collectors put their money? Where is the value?

I think there is tremendous sentiment about 2005, which many writers rated slightly better than I did. I was originally worried about the tannin levels in 2005, but the wines are so concentrated I think they will be just fine – they just need a lot of time.

But there are two vintages I would pick:

Firstly, 2003. It was a bizarre year; there were a lot of failures in Pomerol, St Emilion and the Graves, but when you get into the Medoc you really run into a lot of profound wines, particularly further north in Pauillac, St Estephe and St Julien. I bought a lot of Montrose; I bought Cos; I bought the Leovilles, the Pichons, Latour and Lafite. These are great wines, despite the question marks over the vintage. If you had late-ripening Cabernet Sauvignon and moisture-retentive clay soils you could survive the extreme heat of July and August and benefit from the late August rains. If you look at the dates of the harvest for Latour and Lafite, it was pretty much a normal harvest. The statement that the wines are all overblown does not apply at all to the top wines of the vintage. You do have to be very careful though; the percentage of world-class red wines made in France in 2003 was very small. If you don’t have the right information, you can get burnt badly.

The other vintage I would mention, which I think I underrated, was 2001. It’s a vintage that is just drinking beautifully and if I were a wine consultant I would advise my clients to buy them. 2000 is obviously a greater vintage overall, but the wines are still tannic, vibrant and very young. The 2001s, though, are very close in quality to the 2000s, particularly on the Graves and the Right Bank. And the wines have evolved at a much faster pace – they are very fragrant, very perfumed. They are not blockbusters but they are rich. They are also very reasonably priced and somewhat forgotten.

Which vertical are you working on now?

I am currently tasting the 1995 and 1996 Bordeaux back vintages. The 1996s are living up to my hopes and the 1995s are still a little stern and austere. We will all be pushing up daisies before they are ready.

If you could pick one producer that has impressed you in recent years, who would it be?

There are so many. I think, as an appellation, what has happened in Margaux has been remarkable. Palmer and Chateau Margaux have always made great wines, but producers such as d’Issan, Brane Cantenac, Giscours and du Tertre have all improved so dramatically.  When I started it was always one of the most disappointing of the appellations in Bordeaux, but now it’s one of the most exciting. Perhaps Brane Cantenac or Malescot St Exupery would jump out at me as just doing the most fantastic work.

But if I could only pick one wine, then what Alfred Tesseron has done at Pontet Canet really stands out. He took a fabulous terroir, right on the plateau next to Mouton, and has just done everything possible to make First Growth quality wine, which he has been doing. He’s also done a number of contrarian things, like moving to organic and then biodynamic farming, which was unheard of in Bordeaux.

He’s got a lot of company, though. The visionary Bernard Magret’s wines have jumped in quality significantly. Pape Clement in the mid-70s was undrinkable and now it is one of the great estates.

Which of the Firsts do you think is doing the best job?

I have a weakness for Latour and Lafite. Latour always has an ethereal complexity and Lafite always has this power and majesty, but they are all on top of their game now. It seems to me that Mouton traditionally trailed them but is now right up there. Margaux is great, more floral and elegant. And then you go south to Haut Brion – one of the most singular wines in Bordeaux. Jean-Philippe Delmas is just doing a fabulous job and he had some big boots to fill [his father’s Jean Delmas]. Whoever did the 1855 classification knew a lot more than they are given credit for.

And what’s exciting you outside of Bordeaux?

One of the most exciting areas for wine in the world is Argentina. The Malbecs coming out of Argentina are thrilling – and at all price levels. Certainly in the US, we can find $15-18 Malbecs that are delicious, ready to drink and consumers love them. And if you want to go up the ladder you can buy a top Catena wine at $75 that competes with any other similarly priced wine in the world. I am also starting to get excited about what Chile is doing with Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

I still think that Spain is very much the sleeping giant of the Mediterranean. It has just unlimited potential. Although they are obviously going through a bad patch with their economy and some of the other problems they have had, such as the scandal involving my former colleague, Jay Miller, and Pancho Campo.

Talking about The Wine Advocate then, you have obviously expanded the number of tasters, which has had both good and bad outcomes. How is your role going to change in the next few years, and what’s your plan for the team?

I haven’t really slowed down. I still love to travel and enjoy the chase – I’m like a truffle dog trying to find truffles. I love doing Bordeaux – I always have – and the Rhone is a sentimental favourite. But I’m doing more verticals and older horizontals and more miscellaneous tasting with some of the best importers to try and find where their best values are. That gives me a chance to taste from the Loire, Alsace, wherever.

My role has evolved though. I have to hire and manage people and I’m learning good things and bad things. I’m very proud of the people that we have, but I am still learning the supervisory and communication aspects. You always need to communicate exactly what you want. This is a challenge for me – I take part of the blame for what happened with Pancho Campo and Jay Miller in Spain. We haven’t seen the final investigative report from our lawyers, but at the end of the day, I feel that I did not supervise Jay Miller as effectively as I should have. I should have been more hands-on and more diligent in asking questions as to what he was doing. Nothing was done that was illegal, but there were some things done that were just… I suppose perception is reality.  I should have scrutinised the way he did things a lot more than I did.

Who do you think will replace you as the top Bordeaux critic at The Advocate?

I don’t think you have to worry for at least five years! I obviously have the young Englishman Neal Martin on my team. He is very talented and he gets better every year. But I want him to keep on doing what he is doing – I don’t want to just promise him the job. When that day comes, if it is five years from now or longer, I will probably just open the competition. Neal will probably have an advantage as part of the inside circle, and he is only going to get better – and he just loves wine! This is very important to me.

I remember that Marvin Shanken, the publisher of the Wine Spectator, was asked what he looks for in a wine writer. He said: “I don’t want wine writers. I just want good writers and we can teach them all they need to know about wine.”  My philosophy is the opposite. I want wine lovers, first and foremost, and we can teach them about writing. If you look at people like Neal, Antonio Galloni or Lisa Perrotti-Brown, their interest, passion and curiosity about wine is just 24/7. Those are the kind of people that I want. When my wife accuses me of dreaming about wine, I don’t take it as an insult.

Regarding the release of the Bordeaux Report, there is always some disgruntlement about timings, with some print customers getting it earlier than online. How do you make it fair?

That is the awkward question. We try and make it as fair as possible, so the greatest number of people get The Wine Advocate at the same time. What happened with the last issue was that it was mailed from the local post office and people who got it that morning, five or six hours before the electronic subscribers, faxed and emailed the entire contents around. So we are going to move the electronic release up to 12 noon [from 6pm currently] which should kill that problem. Within the next six months we will also have a pdf capacity. We are going to put out some serious incentives to the print subscribers to go over to electronic and ultimately perhaps kill the whole print edition. Three-quarters of our subscribers are on the internet version now, and the print subscriptions keep going down. But we still have the older generation of subscribers who prefer print, and I think we can probably satisfy their needs with a pdf.