For this week’s top five, the spotlight is on our highest ranked Spanish red wines. All achieve a total Wine Lister score of over 913, yet there is a significant price difference between the lowest and highest priced bottle (over £500).
Vega-Sicilia Unico wins the Spanish sprint to the top spot with an applaudable Wine Lister score of 971. With impressive restaurant presence (47%) and over 17,000 average monthly searches, the wine’s Brand score is a big contributor to its number one spot.
Next, scoring 47 points less (923) though more than double the price (£573), is Pingus. With consistently high ratings from Jancis Robinson, Jeannie Cho Lee and Antonio Galloni, it has a very strong Quality score of 936 – identical to its Brand score.
A second wine from Spain’s most prestigious wine estate, the Vega-Sicilia Unico Reserva Especial, comes in third place with the highest Quality score of the group (983). However, similar to all the other top five’s, its price has been decreasing since August.
The most affordable wine of the group is the René Barbier Clos Mogador, at £57 per bottle on average. It’s the only wine of the five not to hold Buzz Brand status, though it scores five out of five for liquidity, with 300 bottles of its top five vintages traded in the past year.
Joint fourth is Alvaro Palacios L’Ermita, matching Clos Mogador’s Wine Lister score of 913. Its three-month average price scores four out of five — an improvement on its six-month price performance of two out of five. It’s the rarest in its peer group, producing just 1,350 bottles per year on average, though it still manages to achieve 19% restaurant presence.
This week’s Listed section ventures out from the Old World to look at Argentina’s top five brands. Wine Lister’s Brand score measures a wine’s performance across two criteria – restaurant presence and online popularity. The five Argentine wines, from three producers, all achieve scores that are either strong or very strong on Wine Lister’s scale, indicating that South America’s strongest brands are now established on the global fine wine market.
With a Brand score of 849, Argentina’s leading icon is Cheval des Andes. A joint venture between Saint-Emilion heavyweight Cheval Blanc and Terrazas de los Andes, it leads the way when it comes to restaurant presence, featuring on 14% of the world’s top wine lists – its closest rival in that criterion, Bodega Catena Zapata Nicolás Catena Zapata appears on 9% of the same lists.
Nicolás Catena Zapata (834) turns the tables in terms of online popularity. The only Buzz Brand of the group, it receives on average 2,349 searches each month on Wine-Searcher, 27% more than Cheval des Andes (1,853). It also achieves the greatest vertical restaurant presence of the group, with 2.7 listings on average per list.
Nearly 100 points behind is third-placed Achaval Ferrer Finca Altamira with a score of 739. Appearing in 7% of restaurants and receiving 999 searches each month, it achieves its best score in the Brand category, comfortably outperforming its Quality score (581) and Economics score (183).
The last two spots are filled by two more wines from Bodega Catena Zapata – Malbec Argentino in fourth place (694) and Adrianna Vineyard Malbec in fifth place (661). Both receive a similar number of searches each month (744 and 793 respectively), and are visible in 6% and 4% of restaurants respectively.
Wine Lister’s Brand category measures a wine’s performance across two criteria: popularity and distribution. In conjunction with its Quality and Economic performance, this allows a holistic assessment of a fine wine. It also enables a comparison of the performance of entire fine wine regions. Below we look at the average scores over both Brand criteria of the top 50 wines in Bordeaux, Burgundy, California, Italy, and the USA.
Bordeaux dominates, with powerhouses Yquem and Mouton demonstrating the success of its classification system and the centuries-old global repute of its top crus. Its best wines are by far the most popular with consumers – searched for nearly four times more frequently on average than second-placed Italy. They are also the best distributed in the world’s most prestigious restaurants, present in 31% on average, and with 5 references per list.
Whilst Champagne comes second in terms of breadth of presence in restaurants, its top wines don’t achieve much depth in terms of vintages or formats listed – presumably because many of them are non-vintage.
Burgundy competes well in terms of restaurant presence, with the likes of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Romanée-Saint-Vivant Grand Cru enjoying a strong showing in top restaurants. Meanwhile the region is fourth most popular in terms of searches each month on Wine-Searcher.
Italy is unique in that Sassicaia is both its most popular wine and also its best distributed. However, whilst its top wines are the second most popular overall, they also experience the second lowest level of distribution.
Finally, the USA’s best wines achieve a strong level of vertical restaurant presence, but come last in terms of both horizontal presence and popularity, suggesting the New World still has a way to go in terms of brand strength.
Download a PDF version here.
First published in French in En Magnum.
Wine Lister’s four Indicators – Investment Staples, Value Picks, Hidden Gems, and Buzz Brands – were designed to enable users to find the perfect wine for any scenario in just a couple of clicks. Buzz Brands, the most talked-about wines, are sure to impress: they have strong distribution across the world’s top restaurants, show high online search frequency or a recent growth in popularity, and are identified by the fine wine trade as trending or especially prestigious.
Having recently expanded and updated Wine Lister’s restaurant presence coverage, 29 new wines now qualify as Buzz Brands, their global distribution broadening. To achieve Buzz Brand status, a wine must be among the top fifth of all wines that feature at least once on the menus of the world’s best restaurants – prized for their wine lists as well as their food.
Of the 29 wines above, 11 hail from Burgundy, confirming the region’s continued demand amongst the restaurant trade. Domaine du Comte Liger-Belair fares particularly well, with three of its wines becoming new Buzz Brands, thus suggesting it is a producer on an upward trajectory. These wines also benefit from a high online search frequency, as measured by Wine-Searcher, with the wine with the highest number of searches, Domaine du Comte Liger-Belair Echezeaux Grand Cru, seeing 1,400 searches per month.
Champagne has also benefitted from the restaurant presence update, with four wines from the region gaining Buzz Brand status. Of this month’s new Buzz Brands, Bollinger Rosé now has the most impressive distribution, present in 17% of the world’s top establishments.
Piedmont sees four wines attain Buzz Brand status. Two new wines from La Spinetta now qualify as Buzz Brands, with Ceretto Barolo Bricco Rocche and Giacomo Conterno Barbera d’Alba Cascina Francia making up the quartet.
There are three new Bordeaux Buzz Brands, and one carries the accolade of being the most searched-for wine in the table. Château Saint-Pierre receives in excess of 3,700 searches per month, which in addition to appearing on 8% of the world’s very best restaurants makes it well-deserving of its new Buzz Brand status.
As Wine Lister’s holistic rating system demonstrates, there are many factors (nine criteria, in all) to take into account when calculating a wine’s greatness. One of these is distribution in the world’s top restaurants, our measure of a wine’s prestige and clout on the international market. In order to identify the restaurants that count – not just for the food but for the wine – we have created a matrix of global restaurants with Michelin stars, 50 Best Restaurants, World of Fine Wine Best Wine List awards, and more. We take the most formidable combination of these as the basis for our painstaking analysis.
We are expanding our coverage constantly, and the latest instalment is now in. This year alone has seen an increase of 50%, to 150 restaurants analysed. New entrants come from across the globe, from New York’s Balthazar to Paris’s Carré des Feuillants.
The table below shows the 20 wines to have seen their restaurant presence increase the most since the last update in April:
The top three wines are Champagnes: Salon Le Mesnil, Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé, and Dom Pérignon Oenothèque (the last all the more impressive since the wine was re-branded a few years ago). None of them, however, is the wine with the largest restaurant presence. That accolade falls to Yquem, which saw its presence increase by 7.3% in the latest update, appearing on 69% of the world’s top wine lists – including Boulud in New York and Sketch in London.
Second most popular of the wines above is Mouton Rothschild, whose restaurant presence increased by 5.7%, and which overall features on 58% of the best restaurants, from The French Laundry in California to L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon in Hong Kong.
It is also interesting to note the wines that have relatively low overall restaurant presence but saw a significant increase in the latest update, suggesting that their stars are on the rise. These include Bordeaux Saint Pierre and Champagne Delamotte Blanc de Blancs Millésimé, which appeared on 2% of the previous restaurant lists but are now at 8% and 9% respectively. Meanwhile, Smith Haut Lafitte Rouge found its restaurant presence tip from 9% to 15% in the latest update.
Today’s blog continues to explore some of the findings from the Bordeaux Market Study, by taking a look at global restaurant presence. A fine wine’s prestige and clout on the international market is demonstrated by its distribution across the world’s top restaurants, hence this is one criteria that feeds into our Brand score. (Remember that you can read exactly ‘how it works’ on our eponymous page).
As shown in the chart below, sweet white Yquem dominates: just as it did in the 2016 study (now available to all here). Next comes indomitable fifth growth Lynch-Bages – a wine that the trade has cited as one of the best-selling Bordeaux brands – ahead of all the first growths. Lynch-Bages has overtaken Latour and Margaux since this time last year. Mouton has also moved up the ranks, present in 52% of restaurants compared to 50% in last year’s analysis. Meanwhile, Gruaud-Larose is a new entry into the top 15, replacing Montrose.
This is just a taster of Wine Lister’s 48-page Bordeaux Market Study – subscribers can download the full report from the Analysis page.