Ditton Wine Traders’ fine wine blog
16 April 2013Bordeaux 2012
by Ben Grosvenor
A quick campaign!?
In a complete reversal on the late and sporadic releases of last year, it looks as though the Chateaux of Bordeaux won’t even allow the trade back to their desks before releasing their prices in this year’s campaign. Early reports claim that the campaign should all be over by Vinexpo, which runs 16th to 20th June, much earlier than last year’s finish in July.
So, with that in mind, and the possibility of further large releases during the course of this week (Source: Decanter), we will keep our report brief. In our opinion, if the pricing is right, this is a vintage not to be missed. There are some excellent wines to be had, with a quality that reaches higher points than 2011 did.
The Ditton team of two were in Bordeaux last week to find out exactly what the wines are like, and where they should be placed in the market. Having purposefully avoided all tasting notes and vintage reports already released, we went over there with no pre-conceptions as to the quality of the wines. I think it is fair to say we were pleasantly surprised.
Chateaux Clinet & l'Eglise Clinet
As promised above, we want to keep this brief – so, as in “here’s one someone else prepared earlier” style – courtesy of Jancis Robinson and Gavin Quinney – an excellent weather report can be found here.
One of the key points here, is that following on from the two excellent previous vintages, 2011 and 2012 have it pretty tough. But, and this is key, they (‘11 & ’12) are not nearly the same vintage due to completely differing weather conditions throughout the two vintages. It is likely though that the two will be compared, simply because they are not 2009 and 2010. So, prices are bound to be compared to the 2011 releases. And on that factor, I think it is fair to say that any 2012’s released at a lower price than the 2011’s will look a relatively good buy. It is, on the whole, and in our opinion, a better vintage than 2011.
The buzz words in the 2012 vintage will be “fresh, balanced, approachable, and elegant,” to name a few. These do provide a pretty fair description. The 2012’s are not “classic” Bordeaux to put away for 30 years (with some exceptions.) On the whole, they are wines that will really appeal to drinkers. They have the typicity of their appellations; they will be approachable early on. In short there are some spectacular wines to be had, especially on the right bank, where this is a vintage that has allowed Pomerol in particular to produce wines with brilliant balance, incredibly fine tannins, and a real elegance.
The Vineyard's of Vieux Chateau Certan
It looks likely that some big names will be released prior to Parker’s scores, such as this morning’s Chateaux Gazin, which can be bought from us at £450/ 12. This, we feel, is excellent news! Although we’ll happily give you a few of our highlights, these are very unlikely to move the market. It is anyone’s guess as to which wines will perform well with Parker, and therefore too, a gamble as to which wines will offer potential re-sale value. Again, a huge positive for the drinker!
Pomerol is the area that really stood out for us – with La Fleur Petrus, l’Eglise Clinet and Vieux Chateau Certan all excellent. The fantastically intense Conseillante will divide opinion, while Chateau Clinet have continued their run of exceptionally well made wines.
5 minutes down the road in St Emilion, Ausone, although impossibly difficult to assess at this stage, shows superb promise, along with its second wine Chapelle d’Ausone with similar characteristics, yet more approachable now. Clos Fourtet we felt was another excellent St Emilion, along with Cheval Blanc, Figeac, Troplong Mondot and Clos de Jacobins.
Tasting at Ausone
Over on the left bank, the vintage becomes harder to group. Pauillac, St Julien and St Estephe are all inconsistent in terms of quality. Chateau Latour, as well as showing their 2012’s, also showed their latest “ready to drink” ex Chateau releases, as part of their plan to remove themselves from the En Primeur system. More about those later, but I think it is fair to say I would rather be buying the Forts de Latour 2005 than the 2012. Although we’d heard of bad samples in the past, at Lafite we think we encountered one, and so it would be unfair to pass judgement without trying it again. The Carruades however, was one of the best we have tasted. Of the first growths in the Medoc, it is perhaps Mouton who have produced some of the finest wines in 2012, where special mention should go to Clerc Milon. Mouton and Petit Mouton are both brilliant.
Bruno Borie has made some special wines at Ducru Beaucaillou, with both the Grand Vin and the second wine Croix de Beaucaillou performing well above the average. Should the price be right on Lalande Borie, this too will offer lovely mid-term drinking.
Tasting at Ducru Beaucaillou
Pontet Canet, in recent years always one of the most consistent, have produced arguably the best wine on the left bank in 2012. Other gems include St Pierre, Branaire Ducru and Lynch Bages.
Sadly, we felt Margaux was a little disappointing, with some highlights, including Brane Cantenac, Giscours, Rauzan Segla and Malescot. Unfortunately because of time restraints, we did not manage to taste in Graves, and so notes on those wines will follow soon. Finally, unless priced well below market, most Sauternes will be trumped by their 2011 counterparts.
Horses & tasting at Pontet Canet
2012 Bordeaux vs others –
To summarise, the 2012 vintage has produced some truly brilliant wines, but of course, whether or not to buy them will depend much on price, and whether or not it makes sense compared to previous vintage prices of equal quality. What we must remember though, is that quality in 2012 can be very high. Having spoken to many Chateaux owners, and wine-makers, it is very difficult to compare this vintage to any other previous vintage. 2001 & 1999 were mentioned, but we were told on many occassions you might have to go back to the '70's to find similar.
If you are new to buying Bordeaux En Primeur, the 2012’s will offer an excellent opportunity to start your collection, as many will offer short to mid-term drinking, yet there are those that will evolve beautifully over the next few decades. En Primeur is also an excellent time to get requests in for larger format bottling, as well as half bottles.
As stated above, we prefer this vintage overall to 2011, and would urge consumers to buy, provided releases are at the right price. We’re very happy to advise on your favourite Chateaux, regions, or whether a wine looks good value for money and may have the potential for re-sale in the future.
With every release we offer, we’ll show its price in comparison to previous vintages, any tasting notes available, and we’ll also provide our own thoughts on the wine. This is however a very difficult vintage to compare to previous vintages in terms of quality – but placing it above 2011 gives some idea.
If you have any ‘wants-lists,’ or wines you’d particularly like to be kept updated on, please do let us know and we will do our best to offer these to you as soon as possible.
12 March 2013I hate to say we told you so
by Mark Schuringa
But I will anyway.
The dip in the market has been deeper (25% or so on average) and longer than most expected, but fine wine prices have stopped falling and indeed are moving up again.
Prices as measured daily by the Liv-ex 50 have been steadily increasing since December last year:
This has resulted in the Liv-ex 100 – the most widely quoted benchmark of fine wine prices – also changing direction:
Many people were waiting for the right moment to move (back) in. It's always tempting to try and call the bottom of the market as that strategy would lead to you maximising your returns, but it's also risky.The next best thing in terms of return but far more attractive in terms of risk, is to jump on the train when it has started to move. Make use of the momentum. Many institutional investors and indeed the trade have. Like always, it's the private collector/investor that's still mustering up enough courage.
We believe the current market presents an excellent opportunity. Risk is low if you compare it to other moments in time and the potential return looks attrractive. There are a number of strategies that can take advantage of this opportunity. We would be more than happy to talk you through them.
I'd say don't wait until the train is moving too fast or is out of sight.
26 February 2013£1 wine? We’d rather have a beer!
by Ben Grosvenor
It’s been a tough few years for smaller and independent wine chains. The likes of Oddbins have seen administration, and closure, while others have been forced to change strategy. However, Andy Shaw, head of buying at Bibendum, gives us news that this may be about to change somewhat indirectly.
The prediction, made by forecast figures from Vinexpo, that Briton’s will drink almost 4% less wine in 2016 versus 2012, sounds like a bad thing on the face of it. But, if we examine one of the larger contributing reasons to the forecasted decrease in sales, it appears that a decrease in the number of bottles available at sub £5 may be to blame. Now, we’re definitely not elitists at Ditton Wine Traders, but having a good understanding of the charges associated with a bottle of wine, allows us to believe that this is not necessarily a bad thing. In a £5 bottle of wine, at least £2.70 is the duty and VAT alone. We then have to take transport, storage, marketing & packaging costs in to account, before we are left with the actual value of the liquid. In reality, the value of the liquid in a £5 bottle is probably under £1. Personally, we’d rather have a beer.
This telling sign threatens the very wine “deals,” in the supermarkets that have made it so difficult for the honest wine merchants to make a living. If 4% of the market are no longer interested in wine because it is no longer seen as cheap, then this allows the smaller wine merchants to move in at what they’re good at, and the supermarket is not so good at.
Andy Shaw told Decanter earlier “there’d have to be a very good reason not to reduce the amount of space dedicated to beer, wine and spirits – shorter supermarket wine isles may boost “proper” wine shops with trained staff, selling more premium products on a more genuine value message.”
We’ve said in previous ramblings that we weren’t happy with many of the "deals" the super markets put out there, and we are hopeful that this is a sign of better wine for all, all round.
Just by increasing the amount you pay for a bottle of wine from £5 to around £6.50 – the value of the liquid inside the bottle will double, and chances are, so will your enjoyment!
We do have plenty of incredible value wines under £10/ bottle, that we are certain punch well above the likes of First Cape offered at £10/ bottle in many chains of Sainsbury’s, such as the highly rated l’Estang 2009 from Castillon, and the Decanter Trophy Winning Karantes Bergerie from La Clape at £9.28/ bottle, which represents one of the best values we found last year.
Do let us know if you're interested in any...
10 January 2013Fine wine prices could rise 14% this year
by Ben Grosvenor
"Fine wine prices could rise 14% this year." Headline news on Decanter’s website this morning – coming from The Wine Investment Fund’s investment manager, and former government economist, Chris Smith. He predicts a worst-case scenario of a fall of 5% this year in the Liv-Ex 100, with a rise of 25% “well within the bounds of possibility.”
Economic environment, a dismal En Primeur Campaign, and a high level of net sales by professional asset managers were the three main factors, according to Smith, which caused last year’s downturn in the wine market, with conditions now appearing much brighter.
Smith gives 3 main reasons for optimism in 2013: The falls in 2012 took place in the first half of the year, with the second half of the year seeing a return to stability and some recovery; Prices have fallen to below trend, potentially allowing for a sharp recovery; And, the institutional sales have fallen away. (Click here to read the full article).
“We believe that now may prove to be as good a time to enter the market as we have seen since 2009,” Smith said. We’re inclined to agree with Smith, particularly because “the risk profile of the market compares much more favourably to recent years.”
To add to this, the MSCI Asia Pacific Index closed at its highest point yesterday since August 2011. In the past, there has been a correlation between this index and fine wine prices as measured by the Liv-Ex 100. Interestingly, the Liv-ex 100 now is 32% lower than it was in August 2011, suggesting that – if the correlation still exists – the Liv-Ex 100 has some catching up to do.
The Liv-Ex 100
Should you agree that now may prove to be as good a time to enter the market as we have seen since 2009, please see below for some recommendations that look particularly attractive.
Hermitage La Chapelle 2010 – £540/ case (6x75)
96+ Robert Parker
(2009 market price £700/ case – 97 Robert Parker)
Guigal La Mouline 2005 – £2,500/ case (6x75)
100 Robert Parker
(1999 market price £3,250 – 100 Robert Parker)
Pontet Canet 2010 – £1,295/ case (12x75)
96-100 Robert Parker
(2009 market price £1,550 – 100 Robert Parker)
If you require full tasting notes, or more information, please do not hesitate to ask. Alternatively, please do get in touch to discuss any needs you might have.
Wines offered subject to availability.
18 December 2012That was the year that... wasnt!
by Ben Grosvenor
So, if the conspiracy theorists out there are correct, we might not even make it to Christmas this year, with the world due to end in just a few days time…
Reflecting on this, we wondered how the wine trade would fare without its customers, should there indeed be none remaining by January.
Having endured just about the worst en primeur campaign ever seen, the Bordelais would probably notice little change. After all, there were very few buyers for the 2011’s, so a dozen fewer probably wouldn’t make a huge difference…
Champagne too has seen a fairly dire vintage this year, and along with Burgundy, production levels have fallen to some of the lowest ever recorded. Poor old Chateau d'Yquem has even had to forego its entire 2012 vintage, along with one English sparkling producer and a Cru Bourgeois in Bordeaux. So, should the population be more sparse in 2013, it might not be a bad thing for these regions, given that there’s not going to be much wine available.
All of which seems to suggest that if there were no consumers next year, it probably wouldn’t make any significant difference to a wine industry which has just slept through one of its quietest ever years.
But could 2013 really be that bad? On the simple basis that the wine market is currently at its lowest ebb for the best part of three years – reflected by some of the most competitive prices we’ve seen – next year is very likely to bring a renewed interest from all sorts of buyers – speculators, investors and drinkers alike
For the drinkers, various back vintages of Bordeaux, the Italian Icons and many Rhone’s are currently at their lowest prices for a very long time. For investors, getting into the 2013 market early is likely to reap dividends, given that the likes of Mouton 2008 (down from a high of £8,500 just last year to just over £3,000 at the latest review), can now only start to climb, making investment in the right wines more attractive than at any time in the last 15 months.
So I’m actually looking forward to 2013, anticipating a re-ignited interest in all things vinous! Burgundy 2011’s will be released – wines that promise to be real ‘crackers’ – the Bordelais must surely take the hint and drop prices to more realistic levels for their 2012’s (perhaps even prompting another 2008), while the Rhone continues to deliver some of the best value wines in the world, 2011’s included.
Rest assured, as soon as we’re fully recuperated from the festive break and back at our desks in the New Year, we’ll be offering many of the above, including our favourite Rhone 2011’s, Burgundy 2011’s, Up & Coming Italians, and some absolute gems from the New World.
From all at Ditton Wine Traders, we wish you a Very Merry Christmas, and a prosperous New Year. Provided the Mayans have miscalculated the timing of Earth’s demise, the signs are there for a decent, more pragmatic but considerably more successful 2013!!
Mark, Ben & Cristina
Ditton Wine Traders
5 November 2012Value for money...
by Ben Grosvenor
Discussing recently with friends the “supermarket bargains” that can be had – things such as the Cape Peak Heritage Chardonnay from Tesco, which one could pick up for a nifty £8.99 a bottle, but when on deal, you’d only have to pay another £1.01 for another 2 bottles of the stuff – it got us thinking about wines which actually do offer genuine value for money, wines which really do punch above the price tag…
We all decided that not one of us would have been happy had we paid the full £8.99 for either the Cape Peak Heritage Chardonnay, or the ridiculous £9.99 for the “Wines from France Sauvignon Blanc,” which for another penny would have seen you able to pick up another bottle… these crazy cuts are only possible if the supermarket has listed the wine at its “full price” for 28 days or so – and so the supermarket picks wines that are no-where near worth the price that they will put them on for those 28 days. This doesn’t happen with fruit and veg does it!? Imagine if you saw the minced beef put up to £15/ 500g – just so they can claim it’s 66% cheaper a month later – sadly, with wine, it is much easier for them to get away with this – and even more unfortunately, it completely under-values the brands which have signed up to these deals, and often limits customers to a select few brands.
At Ditton Wine Traders, we’re not able to offer these sorts of deals, and we’re quite proud of that, because our margins are as low as they can possibly be in the first instance. If Tesco are able to give the Cape Peak away at £3.33 per bottle, how can they justify charging £8.99 per bottle in the first place!? When we offer a wine, like our fabulous sparkling Blanquette de Limoux, at £11.92, that’s genuinely as low as we can go on the price, but believe us, it’s worth every penny! It scores half a point lower than the Dom Perignon 2003, as rated by Jancis, which would set you back around £100 for the bottle… We’re not saying it’s as good, but it certainly punches well above the £12/ bottle mark.
Prior to our recent tasting, held at Watermen’s Hall in London, Ditton Wine Traders had been on a quest to find some of the best value for money bottles out there – and our three favourites, which were also the favourites of the majority at our tasting, are highlighted below. These will certainly be making an appearance on my table this Christmas, and if you want to stray from the supermarket pack: These wines are the best way to…
Domaine J Laurens, Blanquette de Limoux – £90/ case IB (12x75) - £11.92/ bottle inc. duty & VAT
Pretty nose with a little bit of development on it. Tight bead. Bone dry. I suppose I like it because it is not so obviously Mauzac as, say, the Delmas. Tut, tut. Very, very clean though.
17/ 20 – Jancis Robinson
Mont Perat Blanc 2010 – FRANCE, Bordeaux – £76/ case IB (12x75) - £9.88/ bottle inc. duty & VAT
Lush fruit, honeyed melons and grapefruit are well-presented in this medium-bodied, delicious dry white.
87-89 Points, Robert Parker
Clou du Pin 2010 – £60/ case IB (12x75) - £8.28/ bottle inc. duty & VAT
The Clou du Pin delivers in a way the price would suggest it shouldn’t. Deep ruby colour, and a perfume of roasted coffee bean, blueberry and a hint of chocolate, showing elegant berry fruit and some spice on the palate – this is a deep, medium to full bodied wine with great concentration and texture. (The 2011 is the highest scoring Bordeaux Supérieur in the Decanter tasting of 2011 Bordeaux Supérieur – the 2010 in our opinion is much, much better!)