Talking Trade: 16th – 22nd September

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The Liv-ex Fine Wine 50 continued to firm and closed at 318.82 on Thursday, up 0.3% on the previous week. It is now at its highest level since May 2013. Market activity improved with value and volume up on last week. Bordeaux activity was brisk with the region taking a 77.8% share of trade.

This week Latour 2007, Yquem 2014, Haut Brion 2006 and Mission Haut Brion 1999 were released ex-Chateau. None saw trade in the secondary market.

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First Growths were more active, led by Lafite 2013 (WA 87-89) – the top wine traded by value. Haut Brion 2012 (WA 98) was also in the top wines traded by value and hit a fresh high of £3,092 per 12×75. It continues to be a popular wine and was heralded as “one of the stars of the vintage” by Robert Parker.

It was a strong week for Italy with its share of trade up at 8.1%. Tignanello 2013 and Sassicaia 2013 (WA 97) both saw good volume on the Exchange. Sassicaia 2013 traded at an all-time high of £1,100.

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Pape Clement 2012 (WA 97) has seen a flurry of activity since the beginning of the month. It was the second wine traded by volume and hit a fresh high of £728. Robert Parker said it is “a truly great wine and not far off their magnificent 2005 and 2010.” The 2005 was awarded 99 points and the 2010 was awarded a perfect 100-point score.

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Bordeaux 2016 – refreshment at last

Five weeks ago, Bordeaux grower, winemaker and writer Gavin Quinney (@GavinQuinney) of Chateau Bauduc wrote a report on the progress of the 2016 vintage. Liv-ex has once again opened up the blog to Gavin. His insider’s report on how things are shaping up for the harvest is below. 

It’s five weeks since my mid-August report on ‘Bordeaux 2016’s glorious Summer’, so here’s an update on how things are shaping up for the harvest. The white harvest is well under way as we await the Merlots and Cabernets.

The ‘glorious summer’ continued, in fact, for four more weeks until the night of 13th September. It had proved to be exceptionally dry. For the 12 weeks from 23rd June (that infamous date seems a long time ago now), many areas of Bordeaux saw ten times less rainfall than the 30-year average: St-Emilion, Sauternes, Margaux and parts of the Entre-Deux-Mers had around just 14mm compared to the average of 140mm. Even Blaye, which registered more rain than most, had only 30mm in those 12 weeks – less than a quarter of the norm. It was also hot for long stretches, but as you can see from the chart below, the night-time temperatures were not unbearably warm, and the switch between cooler nights and daytime heat was beneficial for the vines.

The lengthy drought ended with a bang last Tuesday evening, with a thunderous storm that had worryingly come with a hail warning. A few hailstones caused a few anxious moments as they tapped on the windows but mercifully there was nothing more serious than that. The vineyards did, though, get a proper dousing, and not before time. The figures in my temperature and rainfall graph below refer to my local weather station. St-Emilion and the far north of the Médoc had a bit less with 32mm, while Margaux, St-Estèphe and Léognan had 47-51mm on the Tuesday and the Wednesday.

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Lafite Rothschild - Cabernet Sauvignon on the left, Merlot on the right
Lafite Rothschild – Cabernet Sauvignon on the left, Merlot on the right
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Chateau Bauduc before the storm

The night of the 13th also seemed to usher in the Autumn, with cooler daytime temperatures and noticeably chillier mornings. It feels that we’ve now entered the third and final stage of this year’s growing season. Spring was wet and relatively cold, Summer was very dry and comfortably hot, and now the build up to the Autumn harvest, and the harvest itself, will be dry, sunny and fresh – with any luck, of course. The forecast, at least, seems fine for the moment, and that rain might just be the refreshment that the vines called out for.

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Chateau Bauduc
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Saint-Emilion

Much depends on the subsoils and how the root systems coped with the lack of any summer rain – see the table below for a comparison of recent vintages. Many better-placed vines look in a remarkably good state, while younger plants on more porous or drier ground have undoubtedly suffered. It would though, I think, be a mistake to assume it’s just a case of the top appellations versus the rest: some parcels or rows in, say, Pomerol and Margaux look markedly parched, while others in the (less expensive) Côtes look as fresh as a daisy. And vice versa.

table

The red vines do need some water stress in Summer to produce the best fruit but the roots need access to just enough moisture. Fortunately the wet Spring put enough in reserve for many estates.

As with last year, the argilo-calcaire (clay-limestone) terroirs of St-Emilion (pictured), for example, appear to be in rude health despite the drought. (Last year though there was rain in August.) On the Left Bank certain plots of the Haut-Médoc and its famous appellations within its borders (see Lafite, pictured) have also coped really well, while others had vines that were noticeably flagging – at least until last week’s rain. Yields have been affected by the drought but there are plenty of heavily laden bunches, especially on the Merlot. The overall crop size should be good, thanks to excellent flowering on the Merlot which makes up two thirds of the red in Bordeaux (and nearly 90% of the vineyards are red). That’s the third good production in a row following on from the poor yield of 2013.

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Chateau Bauduc

It will be fascinating to see how the prolonged stress will have stamped its character on the vineyard sites and the resulting wines. Much will depend on the run-in for the reds, both with the weather and the decision making over harvest dates. After tasting red grapes from around the region, I’d suggest there’s no rush. The rain may have caused a little dilution but given a few weeks of dry, sunny weather, the prospects are exciting if the weather holds.

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Chateau Bauduc

The dry whites have been and are currently being picked in the Graves and Pessac-Léognan (the first grapes were harvested at the beginning of the month) and now also in the Entre-Deux-Mers (pictured). These recent chilly mornings have been terrific for the Sauvignons and Semillons. Meanwhile, some of the larger ‘caves’ or co-ops have finished their whites already. ‘They want to make a safe wine like one from Gascony’, said one dismissive neighbour, a former head of the Entre-Deux-Mers syndicate. He started his whites today.

Given that we haven’t seen a growing season quite like this, I suspect there’ll be a few debates about what and when to pick. And that’s even before consulting the weather forecast.

If you want to see how the Bordeaux harvest progresses, I’ll be posting plenty of images on Twitter and Instagram @GavinQuinney using #bdx16.


 

Spotlight on… Canon

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Owner: Wertheimer Family (owners of luxury brand Chanel)
Appellation: Saint Emilion
Classification: Premier Grand Cru Classe B
Vineyard area: 34 hectares
Average annual production: 7,500 cases (Grand vin Chateau Canon), 6,000 cases (Croix Canon)
Colour: Red
Standard blend: 72% Merlot / 28% Cabernet Franc (2015)
Second wine: Croix Canon (known as Clos Canon until 2011)

History

Canon started out as part of the Clos St Martin vineyard in the eighteenth century. It was purchased in 1720 by Jacques Kanon who expanded the vineyard and built the original chateau. Kanon sold the estate in 1770 to Raymond Fontemoing, a leading Libournais negociant who improved and established the wine. In 1853 the estate was given the name Chateau Canon. It was sold by the Fontemoing family in 1857.

In 1919 the property was purchased by Gabriel Supau as a gift for his daughter and her husband Andre Fournier. The Fournier family invested in modernising the estate and vineyard. It remained under their ownership until 1996 when the Wertheimer Family (owners of luxury brand Chanel) bought the property.

Chateau Canon was managed by John Kolasa until 2015 and his team are responsible for much of the recent progress in wine production. In 2014, Nicolas Audebert – former winemaker at Cheval des Andes (an LVMH owned property in Argentina) – was hired to replace John Kolasa on retirement.

There is some contention over the origin of the Chateau Canon name. One theory is that “Canon” is the phonetic spelling of Jacques Kanon’s surname. The Fontemoing family, however, owned a second property in Fronsac named Chateau Canon. There is also speculation that the name was adopted by the Fontemoing’s to sell both wines under one brand name.

Acclaimed vintages

Canon did not receive significant attention until the release of the highly rated 2015 vintage. Neal Martin awarded the wine 98-100 points and James Suckling gave it a straight 100 points. It is the first Canon vintage to achieve a perfect score. Suckling said it was the greatest red ever produced by the chateau, adding that it was “even better than the great wines of the 1950s and 1960s.” Martin said that after a bad run of vintages in the 1990s, the 2015 “marks the opening of a new chapter for the revitalized estate”. He sees Canon as a potential Premier Grand Cru Classe A wine.

The 2015 sold through on release and is now offered at a Market Price of £1,274 per 12×75, up 70% on its original UK merchant offer price. Liv-ex members ranked it as their joint third favourite ‘value’ wine in the Liv-ex Bordeaux 2015 Members’ Survey.

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Vintage prices

The last ten physical vintages have risen by 20.3% on average over the last 12 months and buyers have tended to focus on value. The 90-point 2007 has risen the most over the period, up 56.7%. It was the cheapest physical vintage available one year ago, 16% less than its identically scored 90-point 2008 sibling. The 94-point 2009 vintage is the worst performing physical vintage, having fallen 1.2% over the past year. It was the most expensive vintage in August 2015.

canon-table

High scoring vintages

Before the release of the 2015 vintage, the 1959 had received the highest score from the Wine Advocate. It was rated 95 points by Robert Parker who said the wine had “superb richness” and was “a magnificent example of Canon”. The 2011 and 2009 are the joint third highest scoring physical vintages, while the 2014 – still in barrel – was awarded a range of 93-95 points by Neal Martin. He said it was an “outstanding” example of the Bordeaux 2014 vintage with a “pure and ‘classic’ finish.” Its Market Price is £497.


 

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.


 

Talking Trade: 9th – 15th September

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Market activity was slower with trade by value and volume down on the previous week. The Liv-Ex Fine Wine 50 was firmer, up 0.3% and is now at its highest level since June 2013. This week Solaia 2013 and Sena 2014 were released on La Place de Bordeaux.

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Bordeaux activity was down on week at 68.9%. First Growth trade was also lower. Latour was the most active, led by Latour 2009 (WA 100) and Latour 2001 (WA 95).

It was a strong week for Burgundy with high value DRC 2012s finding the bid. Trade for Champagne and the Rhone was also stronger. Krug, Clos Mesnil 1998 (AG 96) and Louis Roederer, Cristal 2007 (AG 97) saw good activity. Guigal, Cote Rotie Landonne 2007 (WA 97) and Janasse, Chateauneuf Du Pape Vv 2004 (WA 95) were the most active wines traded by volume from the Rhone.

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Lynch Bages 2000 (WA 97) was in the top five wines traded by value this week. A number of Lynch Bages vintages traded at all-time highs in August and September. The 2006 (WA 93) traded at £925 per 12×75 this week, up 21% from the beginning of 2016.

Figeac 2007 (WA 85) and Yquem 2003 (WA 94) were active this week. Both featured in the top five wines by value and volume.

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How LWIN helped to transform operations at LCB Vinotheque

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A case study published by Liv-ex this week reveals how the Liv-ex Wine Identification Number (LWIN) has enabled fine wine warehouse LCB Vinotheque to dramatically increase efficiency – as well as making it possible to produce stock valuation reports.

The study outlines two challenges that were faced by Vinotheque. The first was a demand for accurate and independent stock valuations – useful internally as well as for customers.

The second was the difficulty of accurately transferring information about wines between systems. This is because fine wines have, historically, been referred to inconsistently across the supply chain. For example, the same bottle might reasonably be described as “Grange” or “Penfolds Grange” – a discrepancy that can often be understood by people, but not by computers.

The study explains how, by standardising wine names, information can be transferred automatically and valuations can be produced.

To find out how, read the full study on the Liv-ex developer website by clicking here.


 

“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.


 

Liv-ex interviews David Pearson of Opus One

David Pearson, Opus One CEO

Since 2004 David Pearson has acted as CEO of Opus One, the iconic Californian estate founded as a joint venture between Robert Mondavi and Baron Philippe de Rothschild. Liv-ex recently caught up with Pearson to discuss his experience in the wine industry and with Opus, the distribution and market for his wines, the recently released 2013 vintage and his views on the role of Liv-ex.     

What triggered your interest in the wine industry – and what led you to Opus One? 

In the summer of 1980 during summer travels through Europe, I met a most genial French Burgundian winemaker, Armand Cottin.  When he later came to visit me at UC Davis, he told me that when I finished my degree in enology, he would invite me to come to France to learn French winemaking.  He was good to his word; I began to learn about French winemaking.  But from M. Cottin I learned mostly about the warmth and conviviality of our industry.  My road to Opus One surely was a result of the fortunate chain of events whereby through the years I worked for both Baron Philippe de Rothschild and Robert Mondavi Winery.  Ironically, I worked for Rothschild out of New York and for Robert Mondavi based primarily in France.

What major changes have been made since your appointment to Opus in 2004?

Everything at Opus One has evolved and changed, while we have at the same time stayed true to the original vision of our founders, Baron Philippe de Rothschild and Robert Mondavi.  We began a major replant program for our vineyards and implemented new farming practices – irrigation techniques, pruning and canopy management – while bringing new technology into the cellar – optical sorting, use of indigenous yeast cultures.  Our marketing strategy has blossomed as we began to focus on the international markets.

How have production methods changed over the past ten years? How does the quality of the wine produced now compare to the Opus of the 90s? 

We have focused on each Opus One vintage working to authentically express place and time.  Greater attention to detail in the vineyards with regard to the timing and precision of our work coupled with changes in our pruning and irrigation practices have produced earlier ripening fruit at higher quality.  Opus One wines today share the same profile and character of those of the ‘90’s, while having greater concentration.

Do you have a favourite Opus One vintage? 

No, and yes…  We always say that we love all of our children; and I do love all of the vintages of Opus One.  Yet, I can’t help but admitting to have a special feeling for the more recent vintages.  I do believe that we are making some of the finest Opus One wines these days.  And yet, I have had unforgettable experiences with the older vintages, 1980, 1981, 1987, 1996 and even the 1998 from a very challenging year.

Prices for top Californian wines have been skyrocketing over the past decade. Which factors do you believe have contributed to this? 

Quality and demand.  I am aware through my travels around the world that there is a great recognition and appreciation for the quality of the wines of California and Napa.

Do you think that pricing at the current level is sustainable?

Yes, because it is based on the market’s and consumers’ true assessment of quality.

Do you think people are buying Opus One for speculative reasons?

No, not too much.  It is clear that our older vintages have been appreciating nicely in value over the past years.  But I am particularly pleased that people are drinking and enjoying Opus One.

Opus One 2013 has been recently released. There has been considerable excitement about the quality of the vintage overall. How is Opus showing?

The 2013 Opus One has all the hallmark characteristics of a great vintage: complex and attractive character, great concentration, integration and length.  The 2013 Opus One can be enjoyed now, but looks to be able to age beautifully for a very long time.

How was the price of the 2013 determined?

We take many factors into consideration.  But most importantly we look closely at current market conditions all around the world.  Exchange rate variations have played a significant factor in our eventual market pricing over the past few years.

Who do you position Opus against? Mainly Californian producers, or premium producers globally?

We honestly do not position Opus One against any particular set of wines, Californian or global.

You were pioneering in your decision to distribute via the La Place de Bordeaux. What inspired this decision, and what are the advantages of it?

Baron Philippe de Rothschild, of course, understood the potential value of La Place de Bordeaux to Opus One and drove the decision for Opus One to make the move.  The Negociants of La Place give us a broader visibility in markets around the world.  The result is a more truly market demand driven distribution of our wine.

Opus historically had a strong following in Japan. Have your key international markets changed since moving to La Place?

Japan remains a wonderful market for Opus One.  We have so many very close friends in Japan.  However we have also increased our presence around the world.  Today we are in more than 90 countries.

What are your key strategies in promoting Opus One around the world?

It is very simple: we travel to the markets and tell the story of Opus One.  We share the passion, pride and joy that our founders felt – and today we feel – for Opus One.  Also we invite our friends to come visit us at Opus One.  The wines do the rest.

From the perspective of a producer, what is your view on the role of Liv-ex, the fine wine market?

Intelligent markets are good markets.  Informed markets create sophisticated buyers who make purchase decisions based on real and relevant data.  Markets can only be intelligent with good access to reliable information.  Liv-ex plays a central and vital role in this process.

Wine critics have and continue to provide an important source of information for wine buyers. Do you see their roles changing with the increased presence of social media?

Yes.  Social media has allowed wine consumers to communicate their opinions on wine more readily and directly with each other.  Wine critics will continue to play a central role in creating and leading the conversation on wine quality.  But today and going forward the conversation will be much more dynamic and free-flowing between the media and consumers.

The second wine of Opus One, Overture, was originally only available at the winery but is now available through retail outlets and restaurants. What led you to decide to distribute it more widely?

We have produced our second wine, Overture, since 1993 – over the years only available at the winery.  With time the reputation of the wine grew by word of mouth around the world.  Significant parallel and grey markets developed for Overture, sometimes selling the wine in ways and in places that were not ideal.  The best way for us to ensure that Overture was made available to our best customers around the world was to do it ourselves.

Opus One is run as a joint venture between Constellation Brands and Philippine de Rothschild. Where does it sit within the Constellation empire, and what has been the secret to the success of this collaboration?

The secret to the success is simple.  When Constellation acquired Robert Mondavi in 2004, they agreed with Baron Philippe de Rothschild that Opus One should be managed independently from both partners.  Winemaking, sales and administration of Opus One are all done locally and independently from each.  This has allowed Opus One to remain true to the founding partners’ vision, while further establishing the unique personality of Opus One.


 

Sena 2014 released: “already a beauty”

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Sena 2014 was released on the international market today at £415 per 6×75 – equivalent to £830 per 12×75.

As the chart above shows, it is being offered around the level of the 2005, 2006 and 2008, but has a higher score from James Suckling.

The 2013 (WA 96) is currently available at £660, a 20.5% discount to the new release. James Suckling was even more enthusiastic about the 2013 vintage and gave it 99 points. He said it showed “the structure of a first growth Bordeaux.”

Suckling is the only notable critic to have scored the 2014 vintage and commented that it is “already a beauty”. He gave it 97 points and added that the wine is of “a wonderful purity”.