Whites for the cellar

Riesling Grapes
Riesling Grapes (source: Wikipedia)

When we talk about wine investment we seldom mention white wines, and least of all dry whites – it is true that dessert wines can age majestically but their dry counterparts are not known to age particularly well. This is largely due to the fact that red wines are high in tannins, which help them to age, and white wines have significantly less tannin. However there are a few exceptions among dry whites that deserve a bit of time in the cellar in order to fully reach their potential.

The best white Burgundy

The best Chardonnay in the world comes from Burgundy and while the grape is not known for wines destined for the cellar, the sheer complexity of the top white Burgundies can take a few years to emerge. The best wines from top producers will benefit from cellaring in order to become rich, deep, and complex. Continue reading

In search of DRC

DRC-LaTache-Labels (Wikipedia)In spite of the global popularity of Bordeaux, a wine from Burgundy has eclipsed the first growths for the second time in a row to top Sotheby’s rankings in 2014. Although wines from Bordeaux dominated the overall sales as usual, it was a lot of 114 wines from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, known as DRC, that hit the headlines with a record-breaking HK$12.5 million when it was sold in Hong Kong last year, which is equivalent to US$1.6 million.

Legendary status

For many of even the most avid wine collectors DRC will remain an elusive wine – Burgundy’s entire production is tiny compared to the phenomenal annual output of Bordeaux, and so it is no surprise that the wines of this legendary estate have achieved something of a legendary status. So, what’s so special about them? Continue reading

Can we predict the next cult wine from Napa?

Napa Valley photo by  Malcolm Carlaw
Napa Valley photo by Malcolm Carlaw

Wine-Searcher recently reported on the exclusive Premier Napa Valley auction which is coming up in February – although not the biggest of its kind, the same event last year raised nearly $6 million (read the full article here ). It’s a great opportunity for fans of ‘cult’ Napa Cabernet Sauvignon based wines to attempt to purchase emerging superstar wines. Brands like Scarecrow and Shrader have emerged in recent years, firmly securing a place for their wines in the exclusive $1000+ per bottle club, often much more.

Big names and perfect scores

The biggest names in Napa include Screaming Eagle and Harlan Estate, and their success is largely due to perfect scores from Robert Parker. Unfortunately this remains the only way to get one’s wines into the exclusive club. Parker’s review of barrel samples of the wines and consequent evaluation as ‘candidates for a perfect score’ is what defines them as cult wines. Continue reading

A Word on That Prosecco Row

Since the turn of the new year, the wine industry has turned its attention to the well-priced and popular fizz Prosecco, and in particular a row that is ‘bubbling’ between the producers of the wine in its native Italy and those that who are selling it here in the UK. Producers are unhappy that the wine is being sold on tap in the UK’s on-trade.

A problem of definition

 Prosecco must come from a bottle (source: Wikipedia)
Prosecco must come from a bottle (source: Wikipedia)

The problem relates to the definition of the wine – the wine that is sold in barrel and served via a tap is the same as bottled Prosecco, but according to legislation there must be a clear distinction between the two in terms of how they must be labelled and presented to the consumer. There are strict EU laws dictating how sparkling wines must be sold, and producers are angered that these are being ignored by those serving the wine on tap. By definition, the wine they are selling cannot be called Prosecco, because Prosecco must come from a bottle. Continue reading

A successor to Robert Parker

Robert Parker
Robert Parker

Whether we approve or disapprove of the power Robert Parker wields over the fine wine market, particularly in Bordeaux, we can’t deny that his scores remain highly influential. Parker’s initial scores have historically had an impact on wine futures, and in the last few years our attention has been drawn to the consequences of a favourable Parker re-score.

The power of the re-score

The biggest winner this year was Chateau Montrose, whose 2003 and 2010 vintages were re-tasted by Parker in 2014 and both received an elevated score. It’s clear that Parker is a fan of Montrose, and his evaluation during a vertical tasting pushed the score of the 2003 from 97+ to 99 and the 2010 crept up a single point to achieve a perfect 100/100. Of course, the market jumped on this wine, deemed by Parker to be flawless, and merchants reported an extraordinarily rapid flurry of sales. Continue reading

Discovering the Rhône Valley

At the end of a challenging year across France’s wine regions, it’s great to hear that the Rhône valley has had a larger harvest than 2013, and early signs are that the 2014 wines will be ones to watch. One of the Rhône’s most renowned producers, Michel Chapoutier, has remarked that lower temperatures have contributed to the creation of wines that will demonstrate the individual character of the wines within each appellation.

Household names

Rhône valley 2014 vintage will be a good year?
Rhône valley 2014 vintage will be a good year? (source: Wikipedia)

Historically the Rhône has lagged behind Bordeaux and Burgundy in terms of the global popularity of its top wines but as prices have soared in both rival regions, many savvy investors as well as drinkers have turned their attention to the Rhône. Some of the appellations have become household names, widely associated with quality – wines like Châteauneuf-du-Pape can be found in any British wine merchant or even supermarket. Quality is generally high but there is great variation between wines and vintages, with 13 permitted grape varieties within the appellation. Grenache is often the dominant grape in the top wines from Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Continue reading

The Future of Wine Futures

Much has been written this year about Bordeaux’s en primeur campaign, and it is unclear whether buying ‘wine futures’ will become a thing of the past. Bordeaux négociants have suffered in the last few years as Chateaux have steadfastly refused to reduce their prices in response to demand. Is it possible that next year’s en primeur campaign could be the last of its kind?

A good deal for negociants

Future of en primeur hangs in the balance (source: Wikipedia)
Future of en primeur hangs in the balance (source: Wikipedia)

The way the system works at the moment, wine is offered for sale based on samples from the barrel offered in the April after the vintage. Historically this has been a good option for negociants to get a good deal on wines that have not been bottled yet. It’s not without risks of course, but in the past it was an exciting way of procuring the top wines before they had been released at a significantly lower price than what was commanded once they were bottled. And of course the price that the negociants pay is significant in terms of how this filters through to the end consumer.

For the last 5-6 years, negociants have shied away from en primeur – it hasn’t offered them a particularly good deal with the Chateaux retaining much of the profits. One weak campaign after another has ensured that the future of en primeur hangs in the balance now. Continue reading