2019 French Wine Review
Wednesday, December 18, 2019 in News
It's been an incredible year for our French wine portfolio. While DRC, Pétrus and Salon all continue to drive demand at the top end, our customers have justified our selection of exclusive imports of internationally sought-after producers. It’s been an incredible year, but not one without its challenges. Shop French Wine.
In April, we launched our En Primeur 2018 campaign and, in August, our Bordeaux 2016s landed after a long two-year wait.
En Primeur 2018 was a tonic after what was a challenging previous year. With strong reviews, confidence returned to the Bordeaux market. The campaign revealed greater interest in 2nd and 3rd growth wines.
We also hosted the first En Primeur tasting in Australia. Our guests in Sydney and Melbourne were able to taste new-make claret before being finished in barrel. While the event was a great success in terms of enjoying the wines and meeting the producers, it was also an opportunity to better understand the advantages of buying en primeur and show why ageing is so important with these incredible wines.
Our Bordeaux 2016s landed later in the year and we delivered those wines to our clients in good order. The campaign was strong with steady growth across Pauillac on the Left bank and Saint-Émillion on Right.
Saint-Estèphe was the big Bordeaux winner this year. Leading the line were the Châteaux of Cos d’Estournel, Montrose and Phélan Ségur driving 30%+ growth in that market.
Across vintages, the big hitters Left (Lafite, Mouton, Latour et al) and Right (Angélus, Pavie, Ausone, Cheval Blanc et al) continued to drive expected demand. The quality of the 2016s–backed up by a dizzying array of perfect and near-perfect scores–were priced accordingly, serving to highlight the value to be had in the 2014s. Hence an increased uptake on our back vintage holdings.
Burgundy is a puzzle. Solving it, piecing it together, is work that starts in earnest each vintage and yet never seems to end. Byzantine at times, the challenges presented in understanding, let alone mastering this most idiosyncratic of regions is a large part of the appeal.
While the most coveted wines (the DRCs, the Henri Jayers, the Ponsots) every year fail to meet the seemingly inexhaustible demand, we are seeing growth right across our portfolio. In short, Burgundy is more popular than ever.
The big mover. Driven primarily by extending our Jérôme Galeyrand presence and introducing the sensational wines of Henri Magnien, Langton’s has seen 60%+ growth in our wines from Gevrey-Chambertin. As these two Bourgogne producers are on the rise, Burgundy lovers and collectors are seeing great value in the wines.
Staying in the Côte de Nuits, we head south to Morey-St-Denis with wines from the region enjoying a healthy 20% growth. Domaine Ponsot has been a driving force in this. We had the pleasure of welcoming Head Winemaker Alexandre Abel for a 2019 Masterclass with some of our most devoted Ponsot collectors. Domaines Arlaud and Lignier-Michelot have also been of increasing interest to our clients.
We have seen a dramatic increase in demand for Chablis, equalling that of Gevrey-Chambertin. Indeed the demand for quality White Burgundy is on the rise. Chablis has, in recent vintages, sorted out its production volumes. This, along with our expanding portfolio (and volumes), has answered an existing demand amongst our customers.
Lovers of high-quality Chardonnay
It’s worth noting the impact the increase in quality and regional distinctiveness of Australian Chardonnays has had on the price of the wine. Great Australian Chardonnay producers are selling their wines at prices that reflect the market demand. And rightly so. However, a consequence of this is that they are now entering the price brackets that compete with quality Bourgogne Blanc and lovers of high-quality Chardonnay are keen to enjoy both.
Burgeoning Burgundy Markets
We’re seeing a growing demand for Bourgogne Blanc from the Saint-Aubin, Pouilly-Fuissé and Mâcon. It’s Chardonnay again. Getting the right volumes of the right quality at the right price is, of course, always the challenge. You can expect to see more from us in these markets over the coming year. It’s worth speaking to your Wine Broker about new wines and future allocations.
What a year it’s been for Champagne. The big talk, of course, has been the swath of phenomenal 2008 releases from so many of the great houses. Many of our ‘08 greats sold out on release. The 2008 Cristal from Louis Roederer is the first amongst equals.
An Exclusive Club
While Cristal might be king, the popular choice was Robert Moncuit. Exclusive Grand Cru Champagne, classic, rich, full, bold and generous. It’s the wine you drink (and you drink quite a lot of it) and think, this is why I love Champagne. It is an exemplary drop and frankly takes other wines in its class to school in terms of value. Three-to-one our best seller compared to our collection of favourites in second place.
Speaking of our exclusive club of fizz discoveries, our two more recent additions in AR Lenoble and Coessens have caused a bit of a stir. In terms of style, they each have a contemporary edge, but these are not wines made simply to be appreciated, they demand to be enjoyed.
The making of AR Lenoble is a Champagne anorak’s dream with magnum bottle ageing under greater pressure to preserve freshness, vintage focussed disgorgements of non-vintage wines and so on. Meanwhile, the Coessens’ Largillier holdings are a good approximation of would happen if Burgundy and Champagne merged. The growing depth and breadth of our Champagne portfolio reflect increased demand from our clients for discovery fizz. This greater sense of adventure owes much to the success of our exclusives from Moncuit and Vazart as well as growers such as Larmandier-Bernier and Egly-Ouriet.
Pink Champagne, seriously.
If you’ve spoken to a Champenoise winemaker in the last few years (and we’ve spoken to quite a number), Champagne Rosé will no doubt have popped up in conversation. Every Champenoise winemaker will tell you verbatim, ‘to make a great Champagne, first you must make a great wine.’ And they’re right.
Rosés are becoming more popular with clients and more familiar (every Champagne tasting has at least one) but they do present a bit of a challenge. For most of us, regardless of how good the Champagne is, we do want them to have that note of celebration. Champagne Rosé with a touch more tannin, spice and of course red fruit, makes the wine ideally suited to a multi-course meal. While you still get the pop! and the fizz, it has so much more potential, and our customers are coming to the same conclusion with a steady uptake across our portfolio. This is a broader Champagne trend, and we’re certainly seeing it at Langton’s.
Growers vs Great Houses
Well, that didn’t last long. Over the last decade or two we’ve seen (and contributed to) the debate around the Grand Maisons versus the Growers movement in Champagne. We can drop the word ‘versus’ now. They’ve made up.
In truth, grower Champagne introduced a new way of thinking about the region and influenced how the great houses about talk about terroir and increasing the breadth of their offerings. The growers have benefited from favourable comparisons with the big names and increased interest in the nuances of the region. Most importantly, we get to enjoy more and better Champagne. Cheers!