“Superstar” Masseto 2013 released

Masseto 2013

Masseto 2013 has been released and is being offered from around £4,000 per 12×75 to those lucky enough to have secured an allocation.

As the chart above shows, it is available at a similar or slightly lower level to other recent vintages currently in the market. Vintages from 2008 and earlier command more of a price premium.

The Wine Advocate’s Monica Larner commented that “the 2013 Masseto is shaping up to be a super star” and scored it 95-97 points. James Suckling was also impressed with the wine, calling it “so gorgeous and persistent. It goes on for minutes.” He awarded it 98 points.


Opus One 2013 released

Opus One 2013

Opus One 2013 was released today at £1,100 per 6×75 – equivalent to £2,200 per 12×75.

At this price, it is offered around the levels of the estate’s 2011 and 2012. It looks favourable in comparison to the older vintages. For example, it is available at a 15.6% discount to the similarly scored 2008.

The wine has already seen secondary market activity: it traded twice today at £2,150 per 12×75.

There has been considerable excitement surrounding the quality of the vintage in California overall. As Robert Parker commented: “2013 for many wineries in Napa and Sonoma has produced the finest wines I have tasted in 37 years”.

Antonio Galloni has praised the quality of Opus One 2013 specifically. In December 2014 he wrote: “Firm yet also voluptuous, the 2013 has it all. The combination of fruit and structure is superb… The flavor remains quite primary, one of the signatures of this great Napa Valley vintage.” He awarded the wine a range of 94-96+ points.


Bordeaux’s glorious Summer

With the Bordeaux 2015 campaign now behind us, thoughts are turning to the 2016 vintage. Liv-ex has once again opened up the blog to Bordeaux grower, winemaker and writer Gavin Quinney (@GavinQuinney) of Chateau Bauduc. His insider’s report on the growing conditions and progress of this year’s crop so far is below.

It’s been exceptionally dry during the holidays, with plenty of sunshine around Bordeaux. Most tourists have been on the beach, relaxing by the pool, strolling around markets or spending time in the city of Bordeaux itself. Those with an interest in wine might have visited the new Cité du Vin, which opened in June, or taken a trip out to Saint-Emilion.

Those who have ventured out into the vineyards – beyond the refreshingly cool barrel cellars – might have seen how dry the ground looks. The parched grass verges contrast starkly with the lush green rows of vines, which are, for the most part, in remarkably rude health. As you’d imagine, young vines with shallow roots on dry soils suffer when there’s no rain but, overall, the vines are coping well, especially given the heat over the French holiday this last weekend with temperatures consistently reaching 33°C or more.

Bordeaux 2016

A glance down at the bunches and you’ll see the grapes are changing colour right now. Veraison is in full flow, as you’d expect in August, with the process in some vineyards almost complete and others not too far behind. Look closer still – if you’re at a more ambitious estate – and you can see the shrivelled bunches of grapes that were snipped off at the end of July or earlier this month. The so-called green harvest, when excess bunches are dumped on the ground to encourage those that remain on the vine to ripen more fully, can be quite shocking even to this experienced vine-spotter. More green harvesting may yet follow, as veraison can reveal the bunches that are lagging behind.

Brown leaves on the ground also show the efforts that have been made to expose the grapes to the ripening sun. It might be just on one side of the rows so far, with the second ‘effeuillage’ to take place at the start of September for the final push – and to avoid potentially punishing sunburn to date on grapes that are exposed to the afternoon sun.

Bordeaux 2016 vineyard

That’s one of the remarkable things about this year. While some less fortunate regions in France will have significantly reduced crops as a result of damaging frost in late April and, in some cases, hail damage, many vineyards in Bordeaux are heading for a what appears to be a very decent crop. There’s a long, long way to go – a month for the white harvest and up to two months for the red – but the Merlot looks plentiful in many vineyards. Given that Merlot makes up two thirds of the red in Bordeaux, and that this vast region has close to 90% red, that’s an awful lot of wine.

The consistency of the flowering on the Merlot, during the first part of June, came as a pleasant surprise to many viticulteurs. This one included. Merlot is susceptible to poor fruitset if the conditions aren’t right – notably coulure and millerandage when the berries don’t form properly – and the weather was decidedly mixed this June. We had good days and we had rainy days. The weather during the last two years at the same stage during flowering, however, was dry and sunny, and this had favourably influenced the number of potential bunches this Spring. The vines seemed to have more in reserve, as if the force was with them. Unusually, the fruit set on the Cabernet Sauvignon is more mixed, and the Cabernet grapes – say, in the northern Médoc – seem to be smaller than normal. That’s just my impression, mind, and that may not be bad news, qualitatively.

The number of potential bunches and the surprisingly successful flowering of Merlot is one feature of the season so far. Another is just how little rain we’ve had in the last eight weeks compared to the months before that. Ample rain in the Spring helpfully built up the reserves in the subsoils but added to the threat of mildew above ground. Some vineyards that fell behind on their treatments fell foul of this – black rot was also a risk – and this could certainly have a bearing on the eventual crop size.

I’ve updated my table of monthly rainfall from six sub-regions over recent years to include 2016 to date. (Admittedly, we can be a bit obsessed by the amount of rain because it has so much impact in the vineyard. For one thing – and most visitors don’t realise this – irrigation is not allowed for appellation contrôlée vineyards.)

January and February 2016 were very wet (228mm and 138mm versus a 30-year Bordeaux average of 87mm and 72mm respectively) after a dry December. You can see from the table that, while April was in line with the average, March, May and June were relatively wet. And then we’ve had precious little rain – funnily enough since 23 June, a date which is memorable, for many of us, for other reasons.

In fact, we had 40mm of rain per week on average in January and February 2016. We then had 20mm per week on average in March, April, May and June up until 23 June. Since 23 June, we’ve had less than 2mm a week. It’s been a particularly dry summer so far – and by some margin the driest July and August to date I can recall this century. (Even July and August 2003 – the roasty-toasty, early harvest – saw more rain.)

Temperature wise, we had a chillier Spring than the 30-year average: 1.3˚C colder in March, 1˚C in April, May was 0.5˚C colder than the norm and June 1˚C chiller (and 2˚C cooler than 2014 or 2015). July was normal at around 21˚C average.

It is way too early to predict quality – we could do with a little refreshment, I feel, but any prolonged September rains could put a big dampener on things. It is worth noting though that the great years of 2005 and 2010 were dry in July and August. So too, however, was 2012, and that year we also had a wet Spring, as per 2016. 2012 was a good rather than great vintage, but it was a later harvest that was compromised by the threat of rot at the end. Because of the rain during the flowering in 2016, I do think there is a greater risk of botrytis at the end of the harvest if conditions go against us.

If you’re planning on visiting Bordeaux during the harvest, 2016 won’t be an early one, despite the lovely, dry summer. Some early ripening vineyards, such as in Pessac-Léognan, will start their whites early in September but expect the dry whites to mostly come in during mid-September and the reds, for the most part, in the first half of October.

If you want to see how things are progressing in the vineyards around Bordeaux, I’ll be posting plenty of images on Twitter and Instagram @GavinQuinney using #bdx16.


Cristal 2009 released: worth the wait?

Cristal 2009

Cristal 2009 has recently been offered by merchants at £549 per 6×75 (£1,098 per 12×75). The wine is currently available pre-release. As such, there are no recent tasting notes available from leading critics. However back in 2010 Antonio Galloni awarded it 94-96, praising its “superb length and exceptional overall balance” and noting that it “literally shimmers on the palate”.

In November, Liv-ex posted analysis on releases from Champagne houses Taittinger and Dom Perignon. It showed that the most recently released three or four vintages from each house were available at similar levels. Older vintages – those from 2002 or earlier – commanded higher prices. They had appreciated in value as supplies began to diminish.

A similar trend is shown by Cristal vintages in the chart above. At £1,098 per 12×75, Cristal 2009 is pitched at a very similar level to the next most recent releases of the label, 2006 and 2007. Its older siblings have all gained value since release. The 1999 – a decade older than the house’s newest vintage – traded at £920 per 12×75 in May 2005. It last traded at £1,960 per 12×75, a 113% increase. As with Dom Perignon and Taittinger, therefore, those seeking Champagne for the years ahead may see value in buying early.


Bordeaux 2015: upward and onward

Click to enlarge
Upward

The release of Cheval Blanc 2015 on Tuesday marked the end of this year’s En Primeur campaign. Only a handful of wines from the vintage – those offered later in bottle, or via agencies only – are yet to be released.

Yesterday, Liv-ex published the results of a survey where its merchant members were challenged to predict the release prices of a basket of wines. The average increase predicted was 17.8%; the reality was a 45.8% increase for the basket. Hardly any merchants overestimated.

When Liv-ex first published the chart above two weeks ago, Canon – up a high 56% on 2014 – looked almost anomalous. It now has company, with wines such as Ducru Beaucaillou (+52%) and Figeac (+70%) similarly upping their release prices. Mission Haut Brion is now the stand-out. It flew off the original chart when its 2015 came out a whopping 107% higher than the 2014.

Collectively this illustrates one central theme of this year’s campaign: price hikes on 2014 have significantly exceeded expectation – and the increases increased as the campaign went on.

Onward

Liv-ex will publish a concluding report on Bordeaux 2015 in two weeks’ time. It will be distributed to all merchant members. If you are a private collector, you will be able to access an abridged version via your Cellar Watch subscription.

Fine wine market analysis will continue as usual on the blog. Over the coming weeks and months, Liv-ex will explore regions outside of Bordeaux to look at market trends from Italy, Burgundy, Champagne and beyond. From Bordeaux, analysis will be published on 2005 to show what has happened since Robert Parker’s ten year retrospective review of the vintage one year ago.

A number of interviews with leading critics and Chateaux are also planned. You can find all recent interviews here.

We hope that you have found – and will continue to find – the analysis on the Liv-ex blog helpful.


Merchants underestimated Bordeaux 2015 release prices

Liv-ex merchant EP survey

In April we challenged Liv-ex members – 440 of the world’s largest buyers and sellers of fine wine – to predict Bordeaux 2015 release prices for ten wines. We published their overall thoughts on the vintage here.

Now that all ten of these wines have been released, we can look at how the predictions compared to reality. In last year’s survey, 80.8% of merchants underestimated the overall cost of the basket. This year, 98.4% of respondents underestimated them.

On average, merchants predicted that the basket of wines would cost €1,607.8, representing a 17.8% increase on 2014 prices. In reality the basket costs €2,045.4: a 45.8% increase.

The most accurate price prediction was for Pontet Canet, which saw its first tranche released at €75 per bottle ex-negociant on May 18th (the second tranche was released at €88 on June 14th). At 2% below merchants’ predictions, it was also the only wine whose price they overestimated. Mission Haut Brion 2015 was the biggest surprise – our merchants anticipated it to release at around €184.8 per bottle, rather than the €300 it eventually came out at.

Congratulations to the winner of a magnum each of Troplong Mondot 1998 and Château de Montrachet 2007, whose prediction was out by less than 5%.

Liv-ex merchant predictions


Cheval Blanc 2015: flirts with perfection

Cheval Blanc 2015

Cheval Blanc 2015 has been released at €540 per bottle ex-negociant, up 50% on 2014 (€360). It is being offered by the international trade at £5,200 per 12×75. This is 52.9% higher than the opening price of the 2014 (£3,400).

Ausone 2015 was also released at €540 per bottle ex-negociant this morning but is offered by the trade at a higher price of £5,600 per 12×75.

Cheval Blanc 2015 was scored in the late 90s by several key critics. In his report, Neal Martin (97-99) noted that it “flirts with perfection” but lamented Cheval’s tendency to price highly, “a pity because it puts a black mark against a stunning succession of wines in recent years”.

The wine’s price pitches it next to the 2005, which was upgraded to 100 points by Robert Parker in June last year. It is offered at discounts of 16% and 27% to the 2009 and 2010 respectively.

Buyers looking back might also find relative value in 2006 and 2014 which have strong critic scores and are priced around 35% below the 2015.

There was no Petit Cheval produced in 2015: the vast majority of parcels were deemed to be of high enough quality to go into the Grand Vin.


Ausone 2015 released

Ausone 2015

Ausone 2015 has been released at €540 per bottle ex-negociant, up 50% on the 2014’s release of €360. Offered by the trade at £5,600 per 12×75, it is 63.3% above the 2014’s release of £3,430.

James Suckling scored the wine a straight 100, exclaiming, “What an energy”. He was not the only critic to see Ausone 2015’s potential as a perfect wine: Jeff Leve scored it 98-100 and Gavin Quinney 97-100. Neal Martin was more reserved, scoring it 95-97.

Ausone vintages fall into two distinct price categories: £3,200-£4,100 and £8,300-£9,800 (for 05, 09 and 10). The release of Ausone 2015 at £5,600 pitches it somewhere in the middle. Buyers may be interested to note that the 2008 scores 98 from Robert Parker – a fraction below the 98+ given to the 09 and 10 – and is available for £4,100, 25% below the new release.


Figeac 2015 released: a watershed moment?

Figeac 2015

Figeac 2015 has been released at €102 per bottle ex-negociant, up 70% on 2014 (€60). It is being offered by the international trade at £1,115 per 12×75. This is 83.6% higher than the opening price for the 2014 (£575).

Neal Martin’s scores for Figeac have been rising since 2011, as the chart above shows. In his report, Martin discusses recent developments at the estate. He predicts that as with Canon, the 2015 “will surely be seen as a watershed moment” for Figeac, adding: “What this vintage does is bang a signpost in the ground, or perhaps more accurately the gravel croupe, indicating its future direction.” He says that he would “not begrudge” Premier Grand Cru Classé A becoming a group of six.

At £1,115 the 2015 is priced above the majority of recent back vintages, but offers discounts of 19% and 26% on the 2009 and 2010 respectively.


Conseillante 2015 released

Conseillante 2015

Conseillante 2015 has been released at €113 per bottle ex-negociant, up 71.2% on 2014’s release price of €66. It is being offered by the international trade at £1,236 per 12×75. This is 93.1% up on the 2014’s opening price of £640.

At this price, it is pitched just 3% and 11% below the 2009 and 2010 vintages respectively. It has received strong scores from critics (95-97 from Neal Martin; 96-97 from James Suckling; 17.5/20 from Jancis Robinson), putting it on par with wines from these ‘great’ years. However, Conseillante has produced wines of a comparable calibre in other years such as 2012 which is available for 40% less than the 2015.