Continuing on from yesterday, I examined the release prices of 2016s, took a peek at prices of recent vintages and came up with a list of wines that I would buy. (I also included an alternative vintage, if I sought a mature bottle ready to pop.) Readers should note that the real bargains are probably at the Cru Bourgeois level or satellite Right Bank appellations. The problem is that many are not actually sold en primeur or they are sold directly to distributors, which means I do not have access to price information. You will notice that there are wines that I praised from barrel but do not appear below, either because their price increase made them less attractive vis-à-vis another or simply by limiting myself to a dozen names. One observation is that the long list contained a majority of wines from the Left Bank. This might be explained by greater price inflation on the Right Bank, which is nothing new. Estates are generally smaller in Saint-Émilion and Pomerol and therefore have less risk of unsold stock if they choose to pursue a much higher price.
The estate released the Grand Vin at €120 per bottle, the same price as the 2015. I saw this as a fair gesture given the quality of the wine. I have tasted here since 1997 and it is probably the best I have tasted from this estate. At 5% below the price of the 2015 in US dollars I would be vacuuming this up.
At €102 per bottle this was competitively priced, so much so that the dollar value was 6% below 2015. I was told that the tranche was small so the question is how many consumers were able to take advantage. I scored this 97-99 points because Cos d’Estournel had the edge, however, Montrose often gains something extra once in bottle and I will be looking out for that down the line. Although their 2016 is more approachable than previous vintages, I would still afford this a decade in cellar because Montrose always blossoms with age.
Alternatively: 2003 Montrose. Having tasted this three times this year—twice blind—this is clearly a candidate for wine of the vintage, equal to if not surpassing the First Growths.
Limiting myself to one First Growth I was torn between Mouton-Rothschild and Haut-Brion, both released at €420 per bottle. Assuming I am not allowed both, I would go for the Pauillac. Philippe Dhalluin is amidst a startling run of form and there is always anticipation finding out what artist will adorn the label. They elected to release the same quantity as last year in a single tranche, which makes it easier for consumers to decide whether to buy or not.
Alternatively: First Growths are a commonly traded commodity, which means that there are many physically available mature vintages to choose from, at prices little different to the latest release (unless you go way back to icons such as 1982 or 1990). A quick survey of the market and I could find the jaw-dropping 2009 and 2010 at prices that work out cheaper if you factor in loss of interest, opportunity cost, etc. So maybe I would save a couple of grand and go for the 2008 Mouton-Rothschild. I tasted this four times last year. Sure it’s destined to be over-shadowed by the following two vintages but remember that the 2008s will be under the spotlight again next with the 10-Year On tastings.
“The poor man’s Mouton-Rothschild” is the sobriquet that was once applied to Lynch Bages. Not anymore. The 2016 was released at €96 per bottle, a 14% increase on 2015. That translates to just under £100 per bottle, which given the astonishing quality is better value than some Super-Seconds. It is not the bargain Fifth Growth of 10 years ago, but Lynch Bages is certainly going places with Jean-Charles Cazes firmly at the helm and an ambitious new winery being constructed.
Alternatively: prices of nearly all the recent vintages have increased in recent years. I would actually head for the 2009 Lynch Bages, a fantastic Pauillac that is up there with the legendary 1989 and 1990.
Bernard Magrez is sometimes portrayed as a billionaire in immaculate tailored suits, far removed from the romantic notion of an artisan winemaker with gnarled hands and grit under his fingernails. Truth is that he is extremely savvy when it comes to pricing his wines. Refreshingly, what is important for him is that his wines are out there in restaurants and wine-lovers’ cellars, being consumed and enjoyed. Pape-Clément has not only improved in recent years, drawing back from a period when the wine felt overdone, but prices look very attractive compared to its peers. At €66 per bottle he wisely positions it below the likes of 2009 and 2010, something that cannot be said for others.
Alternatively: the 2006 Pape-Clément showed very impressively in last year’s ten-year on report. Approaching maturity, drinking beautifully, I would be searching for bottles.
At €21 per bottle, this great Moulis is a no-brainer for me. Moulis and for that matter are often over-looked by cognoscenti. A recent encounter with a 1947 Chasse-Spleen showed how well it can age. This is one example where I would ignore percentage price increases because it translates as around just over twenty quid a bottle—a bargain considering the quality inside.
Alternatively: 2010 Chasse-Spleen. Prices have remained static for the 2010 vintage but that will not last forever.
While the appellation of Margaux did not have a slam-dunk winning year like those further north, Labégorce has become the dark horse of Margaux. The 2016 was exceptionally fine and I scored it an impressive 94-96. It was released at €19.80 per bottle—an absolute steal.
Alternatively: historical vintages are rather inconsistent so I would go for the 2014 Labégorce that is now physically available and tasted diddly-scrumptious.
I was expecting a price increase given that this was the best Brane-Cantenac that I have tasted in 20 years, landing at 96-98 points. It was the wine that other winemakers were whispering about during my round of visits, rightly seen as a benchmark for Henri Lurton and his team. A 16% increase might be on the high side, though at €51.60 per bottle that is still relatively good value compared to similar performing wines and below top vintages such as 2005, 2009 and 2010, all of which I recently reviewed.
Alternatively: there are quite a few well-priced vintages on the market, no surprise given that this estate, quality notwithstanding, has never been investor catnip. Given current prices check out the 2011 Brane-Cantenac as one with plenty of future potential.
This list would not be complete without one of Denis Durantou’s awesome Right Bank “minnows.” I could have picked any of them but opted for his Lalande de Pomerol, Les Cruzelles. I am not sure of the release price from Bordeaux but you can buy this 91-93 pointer for £200 per case from U.K. merchants.
Right, I want a big n’ bold Saint-Émilion, packed to the rafters with fruit and to hell with the alcohol level. And while I’ve been critical of Gérard Perse’s Bellevue-Mondotte in the past, I was smitten by the 2016. At €115 per bottle it’s not cheap—but that is just 6.5% over 2015 when other properties ratcheted up the price much more. (Sure, the 2016 Pavie is the bee’s knees but it is over double the price.)
Alternatively: I might go for another well-crafted modern style wine such as the superb 2012 Pavie-Macquin. It is also worth mentioning that the 2016 was only a 6.5% increase on the 2015.
In contrast to the Bellevue-Mondotte, there is the more classically styled 2016 Canon, which has seen one of the most dramatic improvements under Nicolas Audebert. The 20% increase to €72 per bottle was perhaps hard to swallow for some, although it must be said that relative to many of its Saint-Émilion peers, you get far more bang for bucks.
I do not think Pomerol excelled over other appellations in 2016 but there is a heap of fantastic wines, one of which is Clinet. This was released at the same price as Canon at €72 per bottle. Sure, it represents a 20% increase over 2015 although compared to the top Right Banks this is fair value in my book.
Alternatively: the 2011 Clinet was an excellent wine for the vintage and market prices still look reasonable. Or the 2008 Clinet (if you can still find some bottles) looks like a good bet, praised by both Robert Parker and myself.