Category: News

Jeannie Cho Lee MW becomes Wine Lister’s fourth partner critic

We are thrilled to announce the addition of Jeannie Cho Lee MW as Wine Lister’s fourth partner critic, representing the Asian market.

Wine Lister gathers data from multiple sources to assess thousands of wines on a truly holistic basis. Scores are made up of three main categories: Quality, Brand, and Economics. Critic ratings form a vital part of the Quality category, providing reliable scores and drinking window information.

Jeannie Cho Lee is an independent wine critic, a university professor, and an award-winning author who in 2008 was the first Asian to become a Master of Wine. Based in Hong Kong, she writes about wine on her website, www.jeanniecholee.com, and has also published several books, including Asian Palate.

Adding to our unique collaborations with three of the most reputable wine critics in the world’s major fine wine markets – Jancis Robinson (UK), Antonio Galloni (Vinous) (USA), and Bettane+Desseauve (France) – we are delighted to welcome Jeannie Cho Lee to represent the key Asian fine wine market. This careful addition will help us in our goal of providing ever more reliable and accurate ratings and analysis, while crucially maintaining the high standards of this elite pool of critics. Jeannie Cho Lee’s scores have been added to those of our existing partner critics, and fed into Wine Lister’s bespoke algorithm to produce a Quality score out of 1,000 points. Wine Lister takes each critic’s minimum and maximum wine ratings and spreads these back out over the entire scale. As each wine critic scores differently (not just on a different scale), we also account for the frequency of ratings and normalise scores for fair comparison. Each critic is weighted equally.

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You may notice that some scores have changed for wines that have not been rated by Jeannie. In order to meet our goal of having the most comprehensive and up-to-date information, and the most rigorous rating algorithm, we have increased the sample set of scores upon which we carry out the normalisation between critics. This now includes the 18 months’ worth of new critic scores since our launch.

Opus One 2014 release

Opus One 2014 was released today at £210 per bottle. Described as a “gorgeous wine” by Wine Lister partner critic Antonio Galloni, we summarise all the key information below:

Opus One 2014

You can download the slide here: Wine Lister Factsheet Opus One 2014

Salon Le Mesnil 2006 release

Earlier this month Salon Le Mesnil 2006 was released, the Champagne house’s 40th vintage. Described as “a fascinating, utterly compelling Champagne” by our partner critic Antonio Galloni, we summarise all the key data below:

Wine Lister Factsheet Salon 2006

You can download the slide here: Wine Lister Factsheet Salon 2006

Château Margaux 2016 en primeur release

Château Margaux was the final first growth to release its 2016 wines en primeur yesterday (although we still await a second tranche from Château Lafite – see our blog post on the first tranche). The price of €420 per bottle ex-négociant matched that of Mouton and Haut-Brion, and represents an increase of 9% on 2015.

The reception was very positive all round, with pricing and volumes were both considered to be expertly judged, with one member of the Place de Bordeaux referring to the release as “very professional”, and another saying it was difficult to imagine any problems selling the stock, and “we’d be more than happy to hold a bit more back if necessary!”

Margaux

A particularly astute move by the commercial team at Margaux was the decision to set a UK RRP this year, which effectively served to negate the weak pound, by curbing any possibility for UK merchants to allow themselves a larger margin, as they had done last year (when they quite rightly judged the immense demand for the very well rated 2015 – Wine Lister Quality score of 988). This means the 2016 represents a relatively modest year-on-year increase of 9% in pounds as well as in euros, rendering the RRP of £432 per bottle more palatable to UK customers.

Margaux also kept the trade happy releasing at least the same amount of the grand vin as last year, if not a little more in some cases, with UK merchants still clamouring for more. The second wine, Pavillon Rouge, was up 20% in volume terms. Bien joué.

The view from Bordeaux – Lafite’s first tranche

Yesterday saw the release of the first tranche of Château Lafite-Rothschild en primeur. It was a surprising move, hinted at late last week, but early for a first growth to release in what is set to be a long campaign. People were momentarily excited – the campaign seemed to be taking off, with a seemingly reasonable price for a first growth that has historically gained in price after release. However, it very quickly became clear that with just half last year’s volume released, and the promise of a second tranche at a higher price, Bordeaux négociants preferred to hold fire and wait it out.

One courtier said, “to my mind it is not a real release of Château Lafite 2016 because [the price of] a part of the volume en primeur is not known.”

The tranche system for Bordeaux en primeur releases was born of two rationales. First, a way of testing the market with an initial, reasonable price on a portion of the volume produced. Second, tranches are a politically adept method for the five Bordeaux first growths to maintain the appearance of releasing at the same price – as has historically been the form – with the possibility thereafter to diverge significantly in price on subsequent tranches.

There are several négociants whose policy is to adhere to the châteaux’s multi-tranche approach, selling on the first at a corresponding price, and the second at a higher price, and so on. However, those négociants had second thoughts yesterday. If they sell the first tranche at the lower price while other négociants await the second tranche and sell at an average price across the two tranches, they will be stuck with a second batch of wine to sell at a higher price than the rest of the market.

That is why the vast majority of négociants yesterday decided not to sell on their Lafite 2016. One négociant explained that the “volume makes it difficult to offer out,” adding “we’re just waiting for the second tranche to offer in one bunch, at an average price.”

So as the entire Place de Bordeaux waits for the second tranche, after which it will sell on the stock at a pro rata price taking into account the price of both tranches, this begs the question: what was the point of separate tranches at all? Had today’s release been on a larger volume, it could have been the touch paper for a sizzling 2016 en primeur campaign. At 50%, unfortunately, it has proved the opposite.

Reports from the Place are that after the Lafite release early yesterday afternoon, not only were there no further releases, but sales on all other wines slowed right down as the local market let Lafite’s move sink in. Not surprising when you consider the importance for a négociant of a first growth’s release in the scheme of an en primeur campaign: it represents a huge sum compared to selling the lesser crus. If yesterday’s events put other châteaux off releasing today, then with the Thursday bank holiday in France, and many bridging to a long weekend, “a whole week of the campaign could be lost,” lamented another négociant (although this is unlikely with another major wine set to release this morning).

Meanwhile, many importers are frustrated by their inability to actually acquire any of the wine and offer it to their customers. One UK merchant concurred, “it’s not a real release,” clarifying, “until the Bordeaux négociants know what their total volumes are – and what their average cost will be – they can’t really offer the wine to the trade so customers are unable to buy it.”

And so we all await the second tranche. One courtier has been led to believe this will be next week, while Château Lafite itself declines to advise on timing.

Bettane+Desseauve’s top Bordeaux 2016 scores

Wine Lister’s French partner critics, Bettane+Desseauve, released their Bordeaux 2016 en primeur scores today. Here is a first look at thier top-scoring wines:

B+D top Bordeaux 2016 scores

Bettane+Desseauve awarded no potentially-perfect scores, but seven wines score 19-19.5 points. One is Château Ausone, which receives this rave review:

“Refinement of texture and fullness of body. An Ausone of immense depth, broader shouldered than usual but with the same majestic, finessed tannins. A giant.”

As for fellow Saint-Emilion premier grand cru classé A Cheval Blanc, Michel Bettane calls it “the greatest wine from the property, at least as a baby, for at least 20 years!”

All the left bank first growths score 19 or above, as do Petrus and Yquem. Otherwise the top scorers shown above are all first growth equivalents or second growths, apart from Calon-Ségur, a third growth which made a standout wine in 2016.

These scores complete Wine Lister’s partner critic triptych, allowing us to compute Quality scores for the Bordeaux 2016 wines. More detailed analysis will be published next week in this year’s Bordeaux study, which will be available to subscribers here.

Antonio Galloni’s top Bordeaux 2016 scores

Wine Lister’s US partner critic Antonio Galloni, of Vinous, released his scores for Bordeaux 2016 en primeur in a comprehensive article at the end of last week, and these now contribute to Wine Lister’s Quality scores for Bordeaux 2016 wines.

Galloni describes the vintage as one of balance and harmony, yielding “absolutely remarkable wines.” He awarded seven potential 100-pointers, including two first growths – Châteaux Margaux and Latour, as well as three top Pomerol wines – Lafleur, Le Pin, and Vieux Château Certan.

He was particularly impressed by Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, which he found “a deeply emotional, moving wine.” He also had his head turned by Saint-Emilion premier grand cru classé A, Château Pavie, which has shifted towards a more elegant style since 2014, and particularly this year, when Galloni calls it “seamless, sumptuous and super-expressive.”

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After waxing lyrical about many of the wines from the 2016 vintage, Galloni turns his attention to the campaign, and to pricing, echoing the positive signs discussed in our recent blog post on this topic. Galloni concludes that given the quality of the vintage, “if the 2016s do not sell well, it will be a damning indictment that one or more things is seriously wrong with how the wines are sold.”

Galloni also appeared on Bloomberg TV to discuss whether 2016 is the Bordeaux vintage of the century. Watch his interview here.