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.


Latour 2005 and Forts Latour 2011 released ex-Chateau

Latour 2005

Today, Latour 2005 and Forts Latour 2011 have been released ex-Chateau. 3,000 cases of Latour 2005 are being offered at €670 per bottle ex-negociant, and at around £7,800 per 12×75 by merchants. As the chart above shows, this represents a premium of 14.7% on cases of the wine available in the secondary market.

This price also positions the release above the ‘fair value’ trend line, shown below, and places it above the 100-point Latour 2003.

Unlike many other First Growths, prices for Latour 2005 have stagnated over the past 12 months. It has increased by 4.2% compared to gains of 25% for the Fine Wine 50 index.

Still, anecdotal evidence suggests that merchants are confident the wines will sell through, despite the premium.

Latour 2005 release

Forts Latour 2011 has been released at €140 per bottle ex-negociant, and is being offered by merchants at around £1,650 per 12×75. This represents a premium of 17.9% on the wine’s Market Price of £1,400.

Like many of the second wines, prices for Forts Latour 2011 have risen rapidly over the last year. It is up 29.6% since March 2016.

Forts Latour 2011

Last March, Latour 2000 and Forts Latour 2009 were released at premiums of 12.5% and 20.9% to their Market Prices respectively. In September, 3,000 cases of Latour 2007 were released at Market Price. Merchants reported strong demand for the release of the 2000, and some interest in – though lower sales for – the 2007.


 

Latour 2005: ‘Fair Value’ among the back vintages

Latour

With ex-chateau releases of Latour 2005 expected later this month, yesterday’s blog looked at the ‘chequered’ past of Latour 2005. To continue the Latour 2005 theme, today’s Liv-ex blog examines ‘fair value’ among the chateau’s recent back vintages.

The chart above plots prices for the last ten physical releases of Latour (2002 – 2011). The trend line shows that not all Parker points are equal – lower scoring vintages tend to trade at similar prices, while Parker points become increasingly valuable for higher scoring vintages.

The trend line might be helpful in determining a wine’s ‘fair value’ with vintages below the line potentially offering greater value for money than those above the line, based on the score from Robert Parker.*

The chart highlights that Latour 2005 is only 0.2% above the price suggested by the trend line and may not be considered significantly overvalued at its current Market Price of £6,660 per 12×75. In contrast, the 100-point 2009 and 2010 are both above the suggested price, by 7.3% and 16.8% respectively.

The other high-scoring 100-point 2003 appears to be the most mispriced vintage, falling 24.1% below the trend line. It is also currently offered just above the 98-point 2005 at a Market Price of £7,140. In his 2014 tasting note, Robert Parker said the 2003 is “undeniably the most sumptuous, opulent wine made [at the chateau] since the 1982 or 1961.”

The release price of Latour 2005 will undoubtedly be a major factor in determining its success or failure. The last ex-chateau release was Latour 2007, released at the same level as the Market Price. With the 2005 currently available in the secondary market close to ‘fair value’, a release at this level would likely generate interest from buyers.

 

* Liv-ex recognises there are other factors that influence the price of fine wine such as brand, vintage and age. However, the chart and trend line offer a useful starting point in the identification of wines that might be mispriced.


 

Latour 2005: a chequered past

Latour

This week Latour announced that its first ex-chateau release of 2017 will be its 2005 grand vin, 2011 second wine (Forts Latour), and 2012 third wine (Pauillac de Chateau Latour).

As can be seen in the chart above, 98-point Latour 2005 has not seen significant price growth since the Bordeaux market started to recover at the end of 2015. It is up only 2.4% since December 2015. Over the same period, 95-point Lafite Rothschild 2005 is up 36%, while 100-point Haut Brion 2005 has increased 22.8%.

Latour 2005 has something of a chequered past. It was originally seen as a potential ‘perfect’ wine. Robert Parker first awarded it 98-100 points in barrel and its price increased rapidly in the two years before physical release, rising 126.7% between April 2006 and April 2008.

When finally released in bottle, Parker awarded it a reduced 96 points and its price subsequently fell. Even during the dizzy heights of the China-led boom the wine failed to match the price level achieved during its pre-bottle phase. Although Parker did finally upgrade the wine to 98 points in his ten-year retrospective of Bordeaux 2005, this did not appear to do much to revive interest in the wine.

Liv-ex will follow this blog tomorrow with a more detailed analysis of the Latour release using its ‘fair value’ methodology.


 

 

Bordeaux 2016 – the largest harvest since 2006

With En Primeur 2016 now less than two months away, Bordeaux grower, winemaker and writer Gavin Quinney (@GavinQuinney) looks at production figures for the vintage across Appellations.

2016 was the biggest Bordeaux harvest in over a decade, according to official figures. The production of 577.2 million litres – the equivalent of a staggering 770 million bottles – was the largest since 2006, when there was 10% more vineyard area. Strong harvest figures for Bordeaux are, of course, in stark contrast to many less fortunate regions across France in 2016.

Bordeaux_wine_yields

At an average of 52 hectolitres per hectare (hl/ha), 2016 saw the highest yield per hectare since the largest crop of the century to date in 2004, which came in at 54 hl/ha. “The yield on the Merlot,” I wrote in Bordeaux 2016 – quality and quantity last October, “is the biggest I’ve seen since 2004 and the quality is far superior to that attractive but uneven vintage. As Bordeaux is 89% red and Merlot accounts for two thirds of that 89%, it’ll be a big crop out in the sticks.”

It’s the third good Bordeaux vintage in a row, following on from the minor disaster that was 2013 (34hl/ha), and with the en primeur or ’futures’ tastings due to take place in late March and early April, the trade and the press will soon be able to judge if 2016 lives up to its billing of quality as well as quantity. Red wine accounted for 85% of production in 2016, plus 4% rosé, 10% dry white and 1% sweet white.

As ever, and not unreasonably, the focus for the primeurs will be on the top 300-400 wines from the leading Appellations. I’ve put together the yields for seven of these Appellations since 2006, and 2016 saw the highest yields in several years for five of them (see below). I’ve highlighted years showing the significant yields. It should be noted that the majority of the top estates ‘green harvested’ their crop from early summer onwards, reducing the potential yield in order to improve quality. Or, in some cases, to stay within the permitted maximum quota which, for reds in 2016, was 50hl/ha (eg St-Émilion Grand Cru) up to 58hl/ha (eg Graves), depending on the Appellation.

Top_Bordeaux_appellations_yields_2006_2016

The Cabernet Sauvignon was less plentiful than Merlot – often the result of less even flowering in June and smaller bunches – and this is reflected in more modest yields at some leading chateaux. Younger vines on more porous soils suffered during the Summer drought, when a tenth of the normal rainfall from 23 June to 13 September fell in some areas, and this also reduced the crop size.

As you can see, these Appellations above, in their entirety, make up just 10% of the total area of the Bordeaux vineyard. The bigger picture looks more like this, below, in terms of production for 2016. As there are 60 Appellations for Bordeaux, I’ve collated the figures into logical, digestible chunks:

Bordeaux_2016_production_by_appellation

Generic red Bordeaux makes up 35% of production, with over 200 million litres and yields of 56.6hl/ha across 35,700 hectares. It may not sound much, but this was a significant increase on the 51.1hl/ha and 51.7 hl/ha in 2015 and 2014 respectively. Bordeaux Supérieur notched up almost 60 million litres, with yields of 50.4 hl/ha across 11,850 hectares.

Most, but not all, Bordeaux rouge and Bordeaux Supérieur comes from the Entre Deux Mers and the loosely defined ‘right bank’. If you know a little of the geography of the region, you’ll see that the red and red-toned segments are those of the right bank and the Entre Deux Mers, and they’re responsible for two thirds of the whole output. Merlot, which is widely planted here, saw some spectacular yields in 2016. The Cabernets rather less so.

Meanwhile, the bluer sections of the left bank account for markedly less wine. The entire Médoc and Haut-Médoc – including Margaux, St-Julien, Pauillac and St-Estèphe – and the Graves and Pessac Léognan combined produced 100 million litres of red. That’s a lot of wine but it represented little more than a fifth of the output of Bordeaux red in 2016. Again, by volume, most of the generic dry white comes from the Entre Deux Mers.

Here are the yields for the major groups of Appellations:

Bordeaux_appellations_yields_2006_2016

In every case for red wines and dry whites, the combined averages for each Appellation group show higher yields in 2016 than for any other vintage. It was also a good year for sweet white wines in terms of yield.

Vins de France, Vins de Pays

Non Appellation Contrôlée wines are very much in the minority in the Gironde but it’s interesting to note that production of Vins de France and Vins de Pays (de l’Atlantique) combined, doubled from 16 and 15.5 million litres in 2014 and 2015 respectively to 31.5 million litres in 2016. 90% of this was Vins de France.


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.


 

Rhone releases: Beaucastel and Vieux Telegraphe 2015

Beaucastel 2015

Rhone 2015 wines are beginning to be offered pre-release by the international trade.

Beaucastel 2015 is available at £450 per 12×75. For UK buyers, this is an increase of 19% on the merchant release price of the 2014 vintage last year (£378) – a difference that can be partly accounted for by the current weakness of Sterling.

At this price, the 2015 is more expensive than the majority of other recent vintages currently available in the market.

Vieux Telegraphe 2015 is being offered at £390 per 12×75. It has not yet received a critic score, but its price pitches it alongside the 95-point 2005 that already has several years in bottle.

Early feedback from Rhone 2015 tastings suggest a strong vintage that might be on par with 2007 or 2012. A report by The Wine Advocate’s Jeb Dunnuck on the region is due to be released at the end of the week.

Vieux Telegraphe 2015


 

Latour 2007 released at Market Price

latour-2007

The anticipated ex-Chateaux release of Latour 2007 was announced this morning. Latour 2007 was released ex-negociant at €355 per bottle. It is being offered by merchants for £4,100 per 12×75. This is the same level as the Market Price – the level at which it is currently available on the secondary market.

Latour released 3,000 cases of the 2007 vintage.

As the chart above shows, it is the lowest scoring Latour this century. It is available at a similar level as the 2001, 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2008 vintages. All carry a higher score from the Wine Advocate.

In August, Neal Martin awarded the 2007 vintage 92 points and said it is finally entering its “drinking plateau” as it approaches ten years of age. He described it as a “fine Latour from an underrated vintage.” Robert Parker scored the wine 92+ and said it was “undoubtedly one of the longest lived wines of the vintage.” James Suckling said the 2007 “lacks a little in the finish” and gave it 91 points.


 

Yquem 2014 released at £2,850

yquem-2014

Yquem 2014 was released at €250 per bottle ex-negociant this morning, the same price as the 2013 vintage. It is being offered in the UK market at £2,850 per 12×75, an 18.8% increase on the 2013 as a result of the fall in Sterling.

It is the highest scoring vintage since the perfect 100-point 2009. Neal Martin awarded it 96-98 points and said, “it’s not quite up there in the rarefied heights of say, the 2001 or 2009, but it is what we call in the trade, ‘the business’.” James Suckling said the wine had “brightness” and “fabulous depth of fruit”. He gave it 97-98 points.

Buyers looking for value may be tempted by some of the back vintages. The 97-point 2005 is available at a Market Price of £1,990 and the 98-point 2007 is available at £2,100.


 

“Stylish” Solaia 2013 released

solaia

Solaia 2013 has been released at €130 per bottle ex-negociant, the same release price as the 2012 vintage. It is being offered in the UK market at £1,450 per 12×75, higher than last year’s release as a result of Sterling weakness.

At this price it is at the same level as the 2008 and is above the 2010 which Antonio Galloni described as “one of the greatest – if not the single greatest – Solaia ever made.”

James Suckling is the only notable critic to have scored the 2013 vintage. He commented that it is a “classic as always”. He gave it 97 points and said it is “a stylish young red with currant, light herb, spice and bark aromas and flavours.” He added that the wine was balanced and attractive now but would be better in 2020.