Ask any true wine connoisseur or expert what the world’s finest Champagne house is and you’ll get one resounding answer - Champagne Salon. Founded by Eugène-Aimé Salon at the start of the 20th century, the house was born out of a pioneering vision to make an outstanding Blanc de Blancs which would be aged for at least 10 years to allow the Champagne to reach its full potential.
Before long Salon’s brand-new Blanc de Blancs concept had built a cult following amongst the elite of the Roaring Twenties. Salon was served as the house Champagne at Maxim’s and became the drink of choice for high society, politicians and the great thinkers of the day.
Today Salon is owned by Champagne Laurent-Perrier thanks to the unique wartime experience of the company’s late president, Bernard de Nonancourt. At the end of the Second World War Nonancourt was one of the first Allied soldiers to arrive at Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest. While there a cache of 200 odd stolen bottles of Salon 1928 were discovered. Nonancourt had the opportunity to taste the Champagne, and a lifelong dream to purchase the house was born which he was only able to fulfill in 1988.
The fruit used for Salon is sourced from 20 small vineyard plots in Le Mesnil-sur-Oger which were originally identified by Eugène-Aimé Salon as the perfect terroir for making world-class Champagne. Thanks to the quality of the terroir and the lengthy ageing process, these are Champagnes which are designed to age beautifully and can be cellared for at least 20-30 years after release.
The very first Salon Blanc de Blancs was produced back in 1911 and over the intervening years the house has only released a Champagne for 40 vintages. Salon has a strict policy of only producing their world-famous Champagne during the most exceptional vintages. In lesser years the wines are simply sold off to other companies.
Another factor which contributes to Salon’s breathtaking rarity is the tiny quantities produced during those exceptional vintages. This makes Salon a very attractive investment prospect, with scarcity pushing mature vintages up as high as £30,000 per case.
Top recent releases from Salon include the 2008 vintage which was awarded a perfect 100 point score by Antoni Galloni, while the similarly-lauded 2006 was awarded 100 points by Wine Enthusiast.
The story of Giacomo Conterno dates right back to 1908 when Giovanni Conterno first opened a small inn in the tiny village of San Giuseppe just outside Monforte d’Alba in Piedmont. In order to keep his inn supplied with wine he began to make his own, and winemaking soon became the family business with his son, Giacomo, taking over when his father died in 1934.
Giovanni Conterno, the eldest son of Giacomo, was a legendary figure in Barolo thanks to his lifelong dedication to the art of winemaking and guardianship of the region’s ancient vinicultural traditions. The estate is now in the capable hands of Giovanni’s son, Roberto, who continues his father’s approach of crafting powerful yet elegant expressions of their top quality terroir.
The estate is planted predominantly with Nebbiolo and Barbera with traditional winemaking techniques applied to produce incredibly ageworthy and complex wines. The winery’s most revered bottling is the Barolo Monfortino Riserva which was first made by Giacomo during the 1920s. Interestingly, before this time Barolo was typically sold in the cask or demijohn and was designed for drinking straight away rather than extended ageing in the cellar. After Giacomo returned from serving in the First World War he was determined to make his own mark by crafting a Barolo that would age and develop in the bottle as was standard practice in French regions like Bordeaux.
This exceptional wine has continued to be made across the three generations of Conternos to head up the estate. Today Monfortino Riserva is only produced in tiny quantities during the very best of years by selecting one special vat to age for at least 7 years in traditional large oak casks. This sensational wine is widely considered one of the finest Barolos on the market and it is made in very modest quantities of up to just 7000 bottles per vintage.
Considered one of Barolo’s more traditional producers, Roberto’s wines enjoy cult status in Italy and private cellars all over the globe, providing very healthy and consistent demand on the secondary market. Top recent performers include the Giacomo Conterno Barolo Riserva Monfortino 2008 which has seen 87.8% growth over the past 5 years.
Tenuta San Guido
The story of Sassicaia begins in the 1940s when Marchese Mario Incisa della Rocchetta experimented with crafting a top Bordeaux-style red on his wife’s Tuscan estate in the then little-known region of Bolgheri. The result of his experiment was a runaway success, and Sassicaia quickly became known as one of Tuscany’s finest wines.
The Marchese was the first of a series of pioneering winemakers to start crafting fine wines here in Bolgheri. Following the Second World War, Mario Incisa began working to regenerate the estate and initially had great success with producing fruit and vegetables. The region lies a short distance from Tuscany’s Maremma coastline and Mario Incisa quickly recognised the land here has similar qualities to Bordeaux’s Left Bank. As well as the proximity to the sea there are stony soils and gently-elevated hills.
Curious about whether he could produce a Tuscan wine on the Tenuta San Guido estate to rival Bordeaux’s finest, Mario Incisa spent time with family friends at Mouton Rothschild to study the Bordelais approach to winemaking. Equipped with this knowledge, he then set out to create his own Tuscan interpretation of Left Bank Bordeaux, planting Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc in the vineyard he named “Sassicaia” or “place of many stones”.
Although the first vintage was bottled in 1945, Sassicaia was only commercially released in 1968. Mario Incisa enlisted the help of the Antinori family’s top winemaker Giacomo Tachis to fine tune the wine before he deemed it ready for the competitive fine wine market. In 1978 Sassicaia officially proved itself on the world stage at Decanter’s ‘Great Clarets’ blind tasting competition where the Bolgheri wine took top place, beating 33 exceptional fine wines from 11 different countries.
Sassicaia has gone from strength to strength in recent years, with the 2016 vintage awarded 100 points by Monica Larner from Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate. The 2015 also received an important boost in both prestige and price when it was revealed as the 2018 Wine of the Year by the iconic magazine Wine Spectator.
Sassicaia is easily one of the most famous wines made anywhere in the world and enjoys very healthy demand from wine collectors and consumers, especially in the U.S. and Asia. Top recent performers include the Sassicaia 2015 which has achieved growth of 81.8% over the past two years, largely as a result of being selected as Wine Spectator’s Wine of the Year.
This historic Veneto estate dates back to 1924, but the current success of the property is largely due to Giuseppe Quintarelli who insisted on pursuing high quality traditional methods while most of his neighbours converted to mass-scale production. Today the estate which bears his name has a global reputation for exceptionally complex Amarone wines which age for years in Slavonian oak.
Quintarelli Giuseppe is now in the hands of Giuseppe’s daughter Fiorenza, his son-in-law Giampaolo, and his grandsons Francesco and Lorenzo who have worked hard to preserve many of the founder’s traditions while also ensuring the estate keeps up with the times. One moving connection with the past is the charming labels which mimic old-fashioned handwriting and remind of the artisanal nature of these exquisite wines.
The family also show great care and dedication to their vineyards where every vintage the harvest is carried out with several passes through the vines to ensure the fruit is harvested at optimal ripeness. In keeping with the traditional winemaking practices of the region, many of their wines are crafted using the appassimento technique of drying the grapes on straw mats to concentrate the flavours and sugars.
As well as the line of traditional Amarone wines, the estate has also embraced innovation and grows Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot as well as the region’s indigenous varieties. One excellent example is the Alzero which is crafted from Cabernet Sauvignon and Franc with a touch of Merlot. As with their Amarone, the grapes are carefully dried with the appassimento technique to produce a very intense, full-bodied style of wine.
The wines of Quintarelli Giuseppe rank amongst Veneto’s finest and make an excellent addition to any serious collector’s cellar. They are also proving their worth on the investment market, with the Quintarelli Alzero 2007 showing impressive growth of 31.2% over the past two years.
Often nicknamed the “Italian Petrus”, Masseto is an outstanding single vineyard wine crafted from 100% Merlot grapes. The Masseto story begins in the 1980s when Lodovico Antinori founded a new estate on land his mother had given him from her holdings in Bolgheri. He was determined to craft top quality Bordeaux-style wines with the influence of the unique Tuscan terroir. First was the Ornellaia which celebrated its first vintage in 1985, closely followed by the powerhouse sister wine Masseto.
At that time Bolgheri was considered a backwater, and it is only thanks to the hard work of Antinori and a number of other pioneering winemakers that the region has become synonymous with exceptional red wines. Key to Antinori’s success was the hiring of Russian-born oenologist André Tchelistcheff who is widely considered the grandfather of Californian Cabernet.
Tchelistcheff quickly recognised the potential of one modest 7-hectare plot on the Bolgheri which was perfectly suited to the Merlot grape thanks to its distinctive blue-grey clay soils which remind of those found at Chateau Petrus in Pomerol. This would prove to be a pioneering move as Merlot was relatively untested in Tuscany at that time and the even Bolgheri’s most famous Super Tuscan wine, Sassicaia, has never included Merlot in the blend.
Today the head winemaker for Masseto is Axel Heinz who cut his teeth at Château la Dominique in St-Emilion. Over the 15 or so years Heinz has been involved with the project Masseto has continued to blossom into one of Italy’s most sought-after Super Tuscans. Under his watch the vineyard has converted to organic agriculture and he is also experimenting with a small proportion of barrel fermentation.
Another recent change concerns the maturation process. While Masseto used to age in 50% new oak barrels for 18 months, the wine now ages in new oak for two years. The well-built structure and intense flavour character of warm-climate Merlot have proven to be an excellent match for new oak barrels which add complexity while rounding out relatively high alcohol and tannin levels.
Following Masseto’s debut release in 1987 the wine has racked up a slew of outstanding scores. Top recent vintages include the 2016, 2015 and 2005 which all received a perfect 100 point score from Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate. The wine also performs well as an investment, with Masseto 2006 achieving consistent growth of 46% over the past five years.
Maison Louis Jadot was founded in 1859 by a family who had already been Burgundian vignerons for generations. Today the house owns 60 hectares of prime premier and grand cru vineyards across Burgundy, including the famed Clos des Ursules vineyard in Beaune which was acquired by the family in 1826.
In recent years there has been significant investment in the winemaking facilities including a brand-new dedicated site for white winemaking plus the expansion of their purpose-built cellars on the Route de Savigny. Louis Jadot also has one of the region’s most respected winemakers at the helm, Jacques Lardière, who has taken care of their wines since the 1970s and pursues a rather distinctive winemaking philosophy.
After selecting top quality healthy grapes, Lardière’s approach in the winery is to allow the wine to guide its own course as much as possible. This includes avoiding controlling the fermentation temperature and long macerations for red wines, and no pumping over as this speeds up the fermentation process rather than letting nature take its course. During the maturation process Lardière tends to use between a third and half new oak barrels.
Lardière’s particular winemaking style tends to produce an opulent and powerful style of red Burgundy which responds very well to extended cellaring. With both the reds and whites, Louis Jadot favours minimal use of oak to allow the pure character of the grapes and the terroir to take centre stage.
Maison Louis Jadot has a broad portfolio of wines drawn from across a wide range of appellations which includes both very accessible entry level wines and exceptional Grand Cru expressions. In addition to their own vineyards, Louis Jadot is also one of Burgundy’s top negociants and sources top quality fruit from across the region to great critical acclaim.
Highlights include their Le Montrachet, Echezeaux, and Clos de Bèze Grand Crus as well as a host of top vineyards in Chassagne-Montrachet, Corton, and Puligny-Montrachet. These wines make great investment bottles, achieving consistent growth in a buoyant global market for well-made Burgundy. Recent strong performers include Domaine Louis Jadot Chapelle Chambertin 2015 which has shown 99.7% growth over the past four years.
One of the most famous names in the ultra-premium Champagne sector, Krug needs little introduction. The house was founded in 1843 by Joseph Krug who had previously worked as Champagne Jacquesson’s accountant and bookkeeper. During the First World War German-born Krug was taken prisoner, leaving his wife Jeanne to run the estate. Today the original family is still very much involved in decision-making within the brand and have played a pivotal role in guiding Krug to its current position as one of Champagne’s top producers.
Even for the entry-level Krug Champagne each vineyard plot is vinified separately to capture the unique quality of the terroir. These lots are then carefully blended with complementary lots to compose the perfect cuvée for each of the house’s distinctive Champagnes. Any lot which does not meet Krug’s high standards is sold off to another producer.
A unique feature of Krug’s winemaking process is that the house vinifies all of their base wines in wooden casks, a technique which adds body, structure and complexity to the finished Champagne. This helps to create the signature Krug style of richly-flavoured and extremely ageworthy wines which can be kept in the cellar for decades.
Krug’s best known Champagne is the Grande Cuvée. Despite being the house’s most accessible wine, this complex Champagne is crafted from more than 120 different base wines from 10 different vintages. When the final blend has been decided the Champagne then spends at least 6 years maturing in the bottle until it is deemed ready for release.
For those looking for something special, Krug’s most sought-after Champagnes for collectors are the Clos du Mesnil and Clos d'Ambonnay, as well as the Krug vintage which can offer a more accessible entry point. Outstanding recent cuvées include Clos du Mesnil 2002 and 1996 as well as the Clos d'Ambonnay 2002which received a near-perfect score of 99 points from Robert Parker.
Krug Champagnes also perform very well as investment pieces, with Clos d'Ambonnay 1996 achieving 87.3% growth over the past five years. Krug is currently listed on the Liv-ex’s Power 100 and in 2017 the house jumped from 15th place from 58th place in 2016. Champagne has been one of the fastest growing regions for investment performance in recent years, and Krug is definitely one to watch for exceptional future gains.
One of the original Californian cult wines, Screaming Eagle was founded in 1986 when former Napa Valley realtor Jean Philips purchased the property using her insider knowledge of where the best soils were. She gradually acquired the land one plot at a time and began selling grapes to neighbouring wineries while also experimenting with home-made wine to learn the basics of winemaking.
In 1992 Philips took a sample of her home brew down to Robert Mondavi who encouraged her to bottle it, and also advised her to rethink the proposed name. Philips took part of Mondavi’s advice and brought on board top local winemaker Heidi Peterson Barrett. The result was instant critical acclaim; Robert Parker gave the Screaming Eagle 1992 a near-perfect 99 point score and the wine immediately gained cult status.
Philips’ well-chosen site is one of the secrets to Screaming Eagle’ sensational depth of flavor and structure and consistent quality. The vineyard sits on a rocky west-facing slope with excellent drainage and exposure. During the day there is plentiful warmth and sunshine to ripen the Cabernet, but the vineyard also benefits from cooling breezes from San Pablo Bay to the south.
Screaming Eagle’s current winemaker is Nick Gislason who joined the estate in 2010 right after finishing his master’s in viticulture and oenology at UC Davis. Gislason quickly proved his worth with the challenging and rainy 2011 vintage when he took over as sole winemaker. As other Napa estates cursed their bad fortune, Gislason’s wines emerged as the region’s top-rated for that year with Antonio Galloni of Vinous awarding Screaming Eagle 96 points.
The estate currently produces just 500 cases a year which are sold through a very strict allocation list. The combination of tiny production and high demand from wine enthusiasts across the globe means it is incredibly difficult to get hold of. All vintages of Screaming Eagle perform extremely well on the secondary market.
Screaming Eagle has a reputation as a personal favourite of legendary American wine critic Robert Parker. In recent years he has described the 100-pointer 2010 as “utter perfection” and has also awarded a 100 point score to the 2016, 2015, 2012, and 2007 vintages.
Screaming Eagle is also one of California’s top investment wines which has seen sustained growth over the past decade or so against a backdrop of rising demand. Strong performers include Screaming Eagle 2011 which has grown 113.5% over the past five years. As an investment or as a wine to simply take pleasure in, Screaming Eagle never fails to impress.
Opus One was founded in 1979 as a joint venture between legendary local winemaker Robert Mondavi and Baron Philippe de Rothschild after a chance meeting in Hawaii in 1970. Out of this collaboration was born a cult Californian wine which combines time-honed French winemaking expertise and the energy and vision of the New World.
The first vintage was made in 1979 by Chateau Mouton Rothschild’s winemaker, Lucien Sionneau, and Robert Mondavi’s son Timothy, with the project making it’s official debut on the nascent Napa market the following year. Even in those early days Opus One was setting records with a 12-bottle case selling for $24,000 at the very first Napa Valley Wine Auction in 1981, a remarkable price given the relative obscurity of Californian wine at the time.
The estate is located in western Oakville and consists of four prime vineyard plots which are predominantly planted with Cabernet Sauvignon along with smaller amounts of Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec. Two plots are part of Napa’s renowned To Kalon vineyard which was first planted by Henry W Crabb in the late 1860s and has produced scores of 100 Parker point wines.
Opus One is strongly committed to sustainable viticulture and its vineyards have been certified as a Green Winery under the rigorous Napa Green program. As part of this certification Opus One has implemented 100 ambitious practices aimed at saving energy, conserving scarce water supplies, and improving the overall sustainability of the business.
Now with 40 years of exceptional grape growing and winemaking under its belt, Opus One has earned a place in the hearts of collectors and enthusiasts around the globe. The namesake flagship wine is a Bordeaux-style blend made from the estate’s finest quality fruit which ages in French oak barrels for 18 months. Then follows another 18 months of bottle ageing before it is deemed ready for release.
Opus One’s commitment to quality and sustainability extends to the winery where each individual plot is fermented separately and grapes are sorted by a high-tech optical sorter which analyses every individual berry. The winery buys over 1000 new oak barrels each year which come from 14 different cooperages.
On the international market Opus One receives a hero’s welcome with each new vintage that is released. Consistently ranked in the mid-90s by the international wine media, this bottle is the most searched-for wine on the American market and commands a very strong secondary market. Top performing recent vintages include Opus One 2009 which has enjoyed very healthy growth of 86% over the past five years.
Domaine de la Romanée-Conti
Easily the most revered producer of fine wine, Domaine de la Romanée-Conti crafts some of the most coveted and expensive bottles on the planet. Frequently referred to simply as “DRC”, the domaine boasts 25 hectares of Grand Cru vineyards which include the legendary La Romanée Conti and La Tâche plots. This is a unique advantage which sets DRC apart from any other Burgundy domaine since they only produce wine from Grand Cru sites.
The origins of DRC date right back to 1232 when it was owned by the Abbey of Saint Vivant in Vosne. The monks worked a vineyard of 1.8 hectares in what is today the La Romanée Conti plot. Even in those early days the monks recognised the exceptional quality of the terroir. Four centuries later under the ownership of Philippe de Croonembourg the La Tâche vineyard was added to the property.
In 1760 the domaine was sold for an enormous sum to the Prince of Conti who successfully won a bidding war with the King’s mistress, Madame de Pompadour, and added his name to the estate. More drama was to follow when the domaine was confiscated following the French Revolution and sold off at auction.
Today the domaine is joint owned by the de Villaine and Roch families and is run by Aubert de Villaine and Henri-Frederic Roch. DRC’s philosophy is centred on producing tiny yields of exceptional quality grapes which are treated with a very light touch in the winery. Each year the domaine produces a scant 6000-8000 cases across all of its Grand Crus which are quickly snapped up by with deep pockets and the right connections.
Romanée-Conti Grand Cru is the estate’s flagship wine which regularly receives perfect scores from international wine media; the 2016 and 2015 vintage received 100 points from Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate. Widely regarded as the highest expression of the Pinot Noir grape, just 450 cases of Romanée-Conti are crafted each vintage making this the rarest and most expensive wine in the world.
Other top wines include La Tâche, Richebourg, and Grands Echezeaux. DRC also has the benefit of owning the most land in each of the Grand Crus it uses for red wine, meaning that in slightly less prestigious crus like Échezeaux wines made from their prime vineyards are typically far better than those of their neighbours.
From an investment perspective, Romanée-Conti’s top wines have soared in value in recent decades. A prime example is the DRC Romanée-Conti 1990 which has risen by more than 3000% over the past 20 years. More recently, the focus has shifted to the domaine’s more accessible wines which have shown excellent growth; the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Echezeaux 2010 rose in value by 176.9% over the last five years.
Chateau Mouton Rothschild
Chateau Mouton Rothschild has been under vine since the early 18th century when the property was owned by the de Segur family who also founded several other top Bordeaux estates including Chateau Calon Segur. Throughout its early history the estate’s wines were frequently amongst Bordeaux’s finest. A brief decline in the 1840s meant Mouton missed out on First Growth status in the 1855 Classification which ranked the top estates of the Left Bank by bottle price.
In 1853 Mouton was purchased by the current owners, the Rothschild family, and the estate became known as Chateau Mouton Rothschild. Although the property was initially purchased as an investment, within a generation members of the Rothschild family began to take a close interest in the estate and the quality of the wines returned to its earlier splendour.
One of the estate’s most visionary owners was Baron Philippe de Rothschild who took control of the estate in 1922 aged just 20. Amongst Philippe’s outstanding achievements was managing to get Mouton upgraded to a First Growth estate in 1973. To this day this success remains the only change to the 1855 Classification.
Philippe’s other innovations were to change how fine wine was made in the Bordeaux region altogether. From the 1920s he insisted that all of Mouton’s wines were bottled on the estate rather than the typical custom of selling it in barrels to negociants who would then bottle the wines. Chateau-bottling quickly became standard practice across Bordeaux since it allows the winery to control every aspect of the winemaking process and ensure consistency and quality.
After the Second World War Philippe instigated Mouton Rothschild’s striking tradition of selecting a different artist to design the label for each vintage. Over the years the list of artists who have participated reads like a who’s who of the art world; Picasso, Salvador Dali, Andy Warhol, Francis Bacon, David Hockney are just a few of the famous names who have created bespoke label designs for Mouton.
The estate’s Grand Vin is frequently described as “flamboyant” thanks to the sheer opulence and power of its bold flavour profile and structure which requires at least 15 years of cellar ageing before it is ready to drink. Mouton typically uses just 50% of their annual yield for the Grand Vin with much of the fruit coming from 50 to 100 year old vines. This means production is strictly limited to a maximum of 20,000 cases of Grand Vin per vintage. These are iconic wines which perform extremely well in the cellar and are highly sought-after all over the globe by wine collectors and investors.
Chateau Mouton Rothschild frequently achieves outstanding scores from famed international wine critics; the 2016 vintage scored a perfect 100 points from Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate and 99 points from Wine Enthusiast. Other top performing recent vintages include the 2013 vintage which has shown growth of 70.1% over the past 5 years.
Regarded as one of Ningxia’s finest boutique wineries, Silver Heights represents a new wave of exceptional producers at the forefront of China’s viticultural revolution. The winery has even been endorsed by Xi Jinping who served Silver Heights Family Reserve Chardonnay 2017 to visiting French premier Macron at a state dinner in 2019.
Founded by father and daughter Lin Gao and Emma Gao in 2007 after a 10-year search for the ideal site, Silver Heights is set in the foothills of the Helan Mountains in China’s northwestern Ningxia province. Lin Gao had long believed that Ningxia had the potential to be a world-class wine region and he persuaded his daughter, Emma, to study winemaking in Bordeaux.
While there Emma interned at several top estates including Château Calon-Ségur where she fell in love with and married winemaker Thierry Courtade. The couple soon moved to China and began working with Emma’s father to make tiny quantities of wine on her parents’ farm.
Over the years the project has grown dramatically from these humble beginnings to become one of China’s most exciting boutique wineries. As well as being presented to Macron, their Family Reserve Chardonnay has also been served to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, with the 2014 vintage poured at a state dinner during her visit to China in 2016.
Silver Heights’s other wines include Emma’s very special private collection bottling, Emma’s Reserve, of which just 2,000 bottles produced each year. Conceived as a rival to Bordeaux’s Grand Crus, the wine is crafted from 100% Cabernet Sauvignon and ages in new French oak for 24 months. The 2009 vintage was awarded 17 points out of 20 by Jancis Robinson MW, making it the highest-scoring Chinese wine according to the legendary British wine critic.
The Summit is Silver Heights’ flagship wine and is styled as a Bordeaux-style blend composed of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The name captures the Gao family’s drive to produce world-class Chinese wines and also references a revered ancient Chinese poem. Aged in new French oak for 12 months, this is an opulent, well-structured wine which is already one of Ningxia’s most sought-after bottlings.
Dominio de Es
Tucked away in the isolated valley of Atauta at the eastern end of Ribera del Duero is this unique project founded by French winemaker Bertrand Sourdais. Sourdais’ career includes stints at Mouton-Rothschild, Santa Rita in Chile, and Alvaro Palacios in Priorat. In the 2000s Sourdais secured his first official position as winemaker at Dominio de Atauta in Ribera del Duero.
Success followed quickly when Sourdais made the legendary Llanos del Almendro 2002 wine which helped put the estate on the viticultural map. The wine was tasted along with 31 outstanding French and Spanish wines by top French wine critic Michel Bettane who gave it first place tied with Vega Sicilia 1994. Chateau Latour 2000 came in next with second place.
Inspired by his work at Atauta with the estate’s remarkable pre-phylloxera vineyards, Sourdais leased 25 small plots in the village which he works as a humble vigneron. The modest vineyard holdings produce tiny yields of exceptional fruit which Sourdais uses to craft his extremely rare Dominio de Es wines. In keeping with local winemaking traditions, he blends a small quantity of a local white variety called Albillo into his Tinto Fino reds.
Sourdais produces just 500 bottles of his flagship wine, La Diva, with grapes sourced from a very special vineyard with sandy limestone soils at the end of a narrow valley. The vines here are ungrafted since the area’s harsh climates and poor soils prevented phylloxera from reaching it. In the winery the grapes ferment in open wooden tanks for 20 days and the young wine spends up to 19 months maturing in French oak barrels.
Dominio de Es’ second wine, La Mata, is sourced from a 7-hectare pre-phylloxera site which has 14 different owners and distinctive heavy clay soils. Again, due to the low yields and the limited acreage, La Mata is produced in tiny quantities of around 600 bottles per year. Vinification is the same as for La Diva, with the exception of the maturation which lasts 14 months in new barrels.
Dominio de Es also has a third wine which is labelled “Viñedos Viejos de Soria" or “Old Vineyards from Soria” and crafted from what Sourdais regards as “premier cru” vineyards planted on sandy limestone soils. Powerful yet approachable even in youth, this bottling demonstrates the depth and intensity of flavour of the old vines along with an attractive earthy and floral character. Just 5000 bottles are produced each year and the wine ages in used Burgundian barrels for 18 months.
Castellare di Castellina
At the height of the Italian wine renaissance in the 1970s, winemaker Paolo Panerai united four estates, Castellare, Caselle, San Niccolò and Le Case, to create the 80 hectare property today known as Castellare di Castellina. The estate has 33 hectares of vineyards planted on hillsides in the heart of Chianti Classico on a natural amphitheatre which ensures excellent exposure and good drainage.
The soils here are a mixture of limestone, clay, and galestro which is a rocky, marl-like soil commonly found in Tuscany. Along with the low yields and average altitude of 370 metres, these conditions help to craft intense, well-defined wines with excellent ageing potential.
Castellare predominantly works with traditional Tuscan varieties, although it also produces a single varietal Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. The estate has done extensive research into Sangiovese and collaborated with the University of Milan and Florence to found Chianti’s first experimental vineyard to study the characteristics of various Sangiovese clones. Castellare also has a sister estate, Rocca di Frassinello, in Maremma where Sangiovese is blended with Bordeaux varietals.
Although respect for Tuscan traditions is a core part of Castellare’s philosophy, the winery became one of the first in Italy to start using small French oak barrels for maturation. Castellare’s top wine is I Sodi San Niccolò which is composed of 85-90% Sangioveto and 10-15% Malvasia Nera and aged in 50% new French oak barrels for up to 30 months. This exceptional wine frequently ranks in Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines and has also won Tre Bicchieri Gambero Rosso and Cinque Grappoli Bibenda awards.
The estate also produces an excellent range of Chianti Classicos which have also previously been ranked in Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines. These include the Chianti Classico Riserva Il Poggiale crafted from an outstanding single vineyard and their Chianti Classico Riserva which is made from the best grapes selected from across the estate each year.
Rocca di Frassinello
Born as a joint project between Domaines Barons de Rothschild-Lafite and leading Tuscan winery Castellare di Castellina, Rocca di Frassinello combines the very best of French and Italian winemaking traditions and know-how.
The estate sits between Gavorrano and Ribolla in Maremma where the soils have much in common with Chianti and Montalcino. Thanks to the proximity to the sea, conditions here are typically 4-6°C warmer than other parts of Tuscany which helps later ripening varieties to achieve optimum maturity three to four weeks earlier.
It took two years to assemble Rocca di Frassinello’s 500 hectares of land spread across five different farms. 90 acres are currently under vine with an event split between French and Italian varieties. The principal varieties are Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot, along with smaller quantities of Petit Verdot and Shiraz.
The estate’s iconic wines include Baffonero which is crafted from 100% Merlot and was originally conceived as a rival to the legendary Masseto. Baffonero is vinified in concrete vats and then transferred to new French oak barriques for 14 months, followed by an additional 12 months in bottle. The wine is named after the exceptional vineyard just below the winery building where once upon a time local men and their dogs used gather to begin the boar hunt; the leader of the hunt was known as the “baffonero”.
Other top wines include Rocca di Frassinello and Le Sughere di Frassinello which are both blends of Bordeaux varietals with Sangiovese. Le Sughere is viewed as the estate’s second wine and has enjoyed great success on the international market with the 2008 vintage featuring in Wine Spectator’s Top 100 wines.
The site also boasts a stunning modern winery designed by famed architect Renzo Piano who is responsible for such world-class buildings as Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris and The Shard in London. When the grapes arrive at the winery during harvest they are sorted in an area Piano christened the “sagrato” or “churchyard” before being transferred to the fermentation vats by gravity through openings in the floor. Below sits the majestic cellar, an immense 40 metre by 40 metre space designed to store the barrels at optimal humidity and temperature.
Mounir and Rotem Saouma
Best known for their boutique negociant house Lucien Le Moine which is headquartered at their cellar in Beaune, Mounir and Rotem Saouma also have a highly-successful project in Châteauneuf-du-Pape where they now own 21 acres of prime vineyards. The Saoumas had long desired to have their own vineyards when they stumbled across a neglected 5-acre site in Pignan which was being sold off by the French government.
Given the impossibility of acquiring such prime vineyards in Burgundy at a reasonable price, the couple seized the opportunity and began producing their first wines here in the late 2000s. Over the years they have slowly added additional plots covering all of the five towns included in the Châteauneuf-du-Pape AOC: Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Bedarrides, Sorgues, Courthezon and Orange.
The project has offered Mounir the chance to show off his skills both as a winemaker and vigneron. He takes a simple approach in the vineyard, working with organic manure, very low yields, and tailoring his cellar work to the rich tapestry of terroirs found on the couple’s land.
The vessels used for fermentation and maturation range from traditional oak barrels and larger wooden foudres to cement tanks and concrete eggs which he uses like an artist’s palette to capture the unique character of each vineyard and grape variety.
Mounir and Rotem’s iconic wine from the Rhone is their Châteauneuf-du-Pape Omnia which shows off the complexity of the local terroir with fruit from 13 varieties, 9 soil types and five villages. Made with 100% estate grapes, Omnia is aged in a combination of foudres, cement and 500 litre barrels for an extended period and bottled without racking, filtering or fining.
The Saoumas are also passionate about white Châteauneuf-du-Pape and produce a sensational bottling called Magis from old vines sourced from a few plots in northeast Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Unlike most white Châteauneuf-du-Pape which matures for 6 months or so, Mounir ages his for 18-24 months in a style that is reminiscent of his finest white Burgundy crus.
Lucien Le Moine
Founded by winemaking couple Mounir and Rotem Saouma, this exceptional boutique negociant specialises in crafting tiny quantities of top Grand Crus and Premier Crus from Côte d'Or. The house’s name is a jocular reference to Mounir’s unusual initiation into the world of winemaking; before moving to France he studied and worked at a Trappist monastery in his native Lebanon. He then studied Viticulture and Oenology at the ENSAM Montpellier and racked up 6 years of winemaking experience in France and California.
In 1999 the Saoumas boldly purchased a cellar in Beaune and set about building an extensive network of contacts to source exceptional wines from the finest vineyards in the Côte d'Or. Each year they select tiny quantities of promising wines right after pressing which are finished by hand by the couple in their cellar. The young wines immediately go into barrels for malolactic fermentation which typically begins in the summer of the year following the vintage due to the coldness of the Saoumas’ cellar.
The couple age their wines for long periods on the lees and avoid racking at this time to minimise the need for sulphur. The house style uses 100% new French oak and the Saoumas work closely with Stéphane Chassin, their barrel supplier, to source barrels perfectly-suited to each wine which are crafted with fine-grained wood from the revered Jupilles forest.
Another Lucien Le Moine trademark is that all of their wines are produced in tiny quantities, with the cellar’s maximum capacity of 100 barrels providing the upper limit. There are no plans to expand since the Saoumas pride themselves on doing everything themselves and having complete control over what happens in the cellar. Their philosophy of producing just 300 to 900 bottles per cru drives demand for their top Grand and Premier Crus through the roof each vintage.
Those lucky enough to get their hands on these wines are rewarded with exceptional non-interventionist winemaking and incredible purity and typicity. Lucien Le Moine’s finest bottlings regularly receive perfect 100-point and high 90s scores from top wine critics like James Suckling and Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate.
Iconic bottlings from Lucien Le Moine include their Montrachet, Echezeaux, Corton Charlemagne, Richebourg, and Bonnes Mares Grand Crus. Lucien Le Moine does not work with grower contracts, preferring to select his wines according to the vintage. In a typical year he will produce 60-70 Grand Cru and Premier Cru wines, aiming to craft only the most “beautiful” crus of each vintage.
The name Lokoya honours the Native American tribe who once inhabited Mount Veeder in the Mayacamas mountains on the western side of Napa Valley. The winery was founded in 1995 by Jess Jackson who began acquiring prime sites in the area from the early 1990s with a vision of showcasing Napa’s finest mountain vineyards.
Today Lokoya produces exceptional and highly sought-after Cabernet Sauvignon from Mount Veeder, Howell Mountain, Diamond Mountain District, and Spring Mountain District, four of Napa’s most revered mountain AVAs. Here the cool microclimates, significant elevation ranging from 1000ft to 2100ft, and poor soils offer exceptional conditions for creating intense, powerful Cabernets balanced with plenty of elegance and finesse.
Chris Carpenter became Lokoya’s winemaker in 2000 after studying viticulture and enology at UC Davis and cutting his teeth at Cardinale. Carpenter’s commitment to quality is such that he keeps only the finest estate fruit for Lokoya’s wines which may amount to as little as a few rows of vines from certain blocks. His intimate knowledge of the estate’s vineyards means he is able to combine top fruit from Lokoya’s own vineyards with small quantities of carefully-selected grapes purchased from partner growers.
Each of Lokoya’s single vineyard wines is produced tiny quantities, fermented using wild yeasts and without filtering or fining to capture the pure essence of the terroir. Lokoya Diamond Mountain has the tell-tale markers of the volcanic ash, or “moon dust” as Carpenter calls it, which characterises the estate’s vineyards in the Mayacamas Mountains at the northern tip of Napa. This shows itself in the finished wine with an enchanting aromatic profile of cedar, burnt toffee, and rich dark cherry fruit.
In contrast, Spring Mountain above the town of St. Helena typically produces a more overtly aromatic wine with floral notes and spice plum, complemented by freshness from the cool summer nights. Lokoya’s Howell Mountain and Mt. Veeder wines are both deeper, darker bottlings with an intense depth and concentration of fruit and powerful tannins which will reward extended cellar ageing. These are serious Cabernets which enjoy a cult following amongst American collectors and growing interest in Europe and Asia.
Unusually for a Napa Valley vineyard, wine has been made continuously at Beaulieu for over a century. The estate’s story begins in 1900 when Georges de Latour's wife, Fernande, first saw the “beautiful place”, or “beau lieu” in French, which would soon become their first Rutherford vineyard. Not long afterwards, de Latour took a leap of faith and sold his thriving cream of tartar business to pursue a dream of making exceptional wines to rival those of his native France.
From those early days Beaulieu seemed destined for success against all the odds, thriving in the face of both the arrival of phylloxera in California and the devastation wreaked by Prohibition. De Latour imported valuable phylloxera-resistant rootstock from Europe and the estate achieved a four-fold increase in business during Prohibition by making sacramental wine for the Catholic Church.
After restrictions were lifted de Latour threw himself into researching how to produce truly extraordinary Napa wines and hired the legendary Russian enologist André Tchelistcheff. Tchelistcheff tasted the family’s private wine, then known as “Private Reserve”, and was so impressed that he insisted it be released as Beaulieu’s flagship bottling. The first commercial vintage of Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon came in 1940 and it quickly became Napa’s original “cult Cabernet”.
Much of the Cabernet Sauvignon for Georges de Latour is sourced from two vineyards right across the street from the winery, BV Ranch No. 1 and BV Ranch No. 2, which were planted by Georges de Latour in the early 1900s. In the winery a small proportion of Petit Verdot and Merlot are blended in and the young wine is matured in new French oak barrels for 22 months. Rich and powerful on the palate, this is a wine that is built for extended cellaring and is highly sought-after by American wine collectors.
Beaulieu’s other top wines include BV Tapestry, a robust Bordeaux-style blend weaving together top quality fruit from exceptional Napa AVAs like Rutherford, Carneros and St. Helena, and the very limited BV Reserve Clone 4 and Clone 6 bottlings. The estate also produces an excellent range of more accessible Napa wines like the BV Cabernet Sauvignon Rutherford which offer great value for money.
Today winemaking at Beaulieu is in the capable hands of Trevor Durling who is one of just five people to have held the position over the past 120 or so years. Durling’s connection with the estate dates back to the early 2000s when he sampled a 1968 Georges de Latour which he says first inspired him to become a winemaker.
One of Napa’s younger viticultural ventures, Alpha Omega was founded in 2006 when Robin and Michelle Baggett relocated to the Valley from San Luis Obispo. Robin’s background includes a 40-year career as an attorney while Michelle worked for many years designing five-star hotels. In 1988 Robin entered the wine world as a grape grower in San Luis Obispo where he planted over 750 acres of vines and a decade later established Tolosa Winery.
The estate’s founding winemaker was Jean Hoefliger who has worked closely with legendary “flying winemaker” Michel Rolland to create Alpha Omega’s signature style. These are polished, terroir-driven wines featuring some of Napa’s most revered vineyards including To Kalon in Oakville, Beckstoffer Georges III in Rutherford, and the historic Las Piedras which was the first vineyard planted in St. Helena.
In addition to these well-known vineyards Alpha Omega uses fruit from almost every Napa appellation combining estate fruit with carefully-selected grapes from historic vineyards. From the very beginning Hoefliger and Rolland have sought to craft Bordeaux-style blends with a distinctive Napa character.
The estate’s flagship wine is ERA which is typically dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon along with smaller proportions of Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Merlot. ERA is 100% barrel fermented with wild yeasts and matures for 22 months in 80% new oak. The wine is neither fined or filtered to create a powerful yet approachable wine which can age for decades.
Alpha Omega’s Single Vineyard wines are made in a similar way with barrel fermentation followed by lengthy maturation in new French oak barrels. These very limited production wines showcase the complexity of Napa’s varied terroirs, expressing the elegance of Stagecoach Vineyard sitting at 1,800 feet of altitude on Atlas Peak, the power of Thomas Vineyard in Rutherford, and the finesse and complexity of cooler climate Sunshine Valley in Oak Knoll District.
Alpha Omega takes sustainability seriously and has successfully obtained the stringent Napa Green certification for both the winery and vineyards. In 2016 the estate also installed a pioneering microgrid to utilise solar power and store energy which is the largest commercial system of its kind for a Napa Valley winery.
Brimoncourt had largely fallen into obscurity until the arrival of the dapper Alexandre Cornot and his ambitious plan to breathe life into this once-noble Champagne house. Born into a military family, Cornot initially worked as a corporate tax lawyer before an abrupt career change which saw him relocate to New York to pursue an internship at Christie’s at the age of 30 and become an art dealer in Paris.
A peculiar twist of fate led him to purchase a struggling print works in Aÿ which had produced Champagne labels. In 2008, shortly after making the investment, the business folded and Cornot was left with a stunning but empty 19th century building designed by Gustave Eiffel. His efforts to try to keep the business going had given him a strong network of contacts with local grape growers, so Cornot decided the next logical step was to start securing grape-buying contracts.
Cornot’s unlikely plan to revive an old Champagne brand in a fiercely-competitive industry and in the middle of a global financial crisis gradually began to gather pace. Cornot quickly brought third-generation Champagne maker Francois Huré onboard as his “chef du cave” or cellarmaster. Huré’s years of experience and expertise in crafting artisanal Champagne have played a key role in Brimoncourt’s success, with the brand’s first modern wines released in 2014.
Cornot and Huré primarily source Chardonnay from Cote des Blancs and Sezanais, while the house’s Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier comes from top sites in the Montagne de Reims and the Marne Valley. To preserve freshness and showcase terroir and varietal character the wines are all fermented in stainless steel, have a maximum dosage of 8 grams per litre and are aged for a minimum of 3-4 years.
Brimoncourt’s portfolio opens with the crisp, easy-going Brut Régence made predominantly from Chardonnay, followed by a precise, well-defined Blanc de Blancs which exudes grace and elegance. The house’s top Champagne is the Extra Brut which scored 97 points from Andrew Caillard MW and is dominated by Pinot Noir sourced from prime Grand Cru vineyards. There is also a delicate rosé crafted from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier which was awarded 95 points by Caillard.
Domaine de Pallus
Located in one of the best spots in the Chinon appellation, Domaine de Pallus has been in the hands of the same local family for five generations. In 1889 the property in Chinon was purchased by Josep Moron who recognised the excellent viticultural potential of the site with its varied soil types and attractive microclimates.
The current owner is Bertrand Sourdais who took over when his father retired in 2005. Sourdais’ varied career included stints at Mouton-Rothschild, Santa Rita in Chile, and Alvaro Palacios in Priorat before settling temporarily at Dominio de Atauta in Ribera del Duero, Spain.
While working there in his first official post as winemaker, Sourdais made the legendary Llanos del Almendro 2002 wine which helped put the little-known estate on the map. The wine was tasted along with 31 outstanding French and Spanish wines by top French wine critic Michel Bettane who gave it first place tied with Vega Sicilia 1994. Chateau Latour 2000 came in next with second place. Success in Spain led Sourdais to consider what could be done with his family’s well-sited vineyards to create a truly world-class Chinon wine.
A few years after his return to Domaine de Pallus Sourdais converted the entire property to organic viticulture. He has also adopted biodynamic practices including the use of horn manure and making his own compost. In the winery Sourdais prefers to use a long maceration of more than 30 days to express the “soul” of his Cabernet Franc followed by slow maturation in a combination of oak barrels, cement tanks and in bottle.
Today the estate boasts vines with an average age of 40 years which Sourdais uses to produce a diverse range of wines dominated by Cabernet Franc. At the top end are La Rougerie which is crafted from a stunning single vineyard planted in 1952 and La Croix Boissée which is set on a steep slope planted in 1974. Both wines age in Burgundy barrels for 18 months followed by additional ageing in the bottle before release.
Sourdais also produces Les Pensées de Pallus from top quality grapes selected from only the finest hillside plots in his Cravant les Coteaux vineyards. Here the sandy, calcareous soils and extended hours of sunlight help to craft an elegant yet well-structured wine which Sourdais regards as his “premier cru”. The portfolio is completed with a series of younger, fresher wines named Messanges and the aromatic Le Coq de Pallus which is crafted from Chenin Blanc.
The name of this up-and-coming Saint-Émilion estate means “golden key” in Latin, a traditional symbol of hospitality which represents passion, dedication, and an exceptional level of service. Clavis Orea’s two founders, Franck Jugelmann and Lahcene Boutouba, both hail from restaurateur families and consider their backgrounds to have played a decisive role in their development as winemakers.
Jugelmann learnt to cook by his grandmother’s side, eventually succeeding her in the kitchen as chef in his family’s restaurant before turning to winemaking as a career. He cut his teeth working at top estates including the renowned First Growth Château Haut-Brion in the Médoc and the Saint-Émilion Grand Cru Classé estate Château Fonplégade. Boutouba, on the other hand, began his career as a sommelier at world-class restaurants like the Ritz Hotel and The Connaught. He then moved into wine sales and ran into Jugelmann in London.
The fruit of this chance meeting was a decision to lease 8 hectares of vines from the Rollet family in Saint-Émilion to create their own wines. The first vintage came in 2015 and was quickly snapped up by top restaurants and members’ clubs including the Arts Club, 67 Pall Mall, and Sketch in Mayfair.
Key to Clavis Orea’s success is their combination of exceptional quality and very accessible pricing. Jugelmann and Boutouba typically produce around 30,000 bottles per vintage with the blend dominated by Merlot along with smaller proportions of Cabernet Franc and a dash of Cabernet Sauvignon.
Clavis Orea’s signature style interprets the traditions of Saint-Émilion in a thoroughly modern way, combining ample fruit character with firm tannins and well-integrated oak influence. The young wine ages in a combination of oak barrels and vats for 16 months to allow the beauty of the vineyards and grape varieties to shine through.
This is a Grand Cru which is approachable in youth, but also has the structure and definition to age gracefully over a couple of decades or more. Top recent vintages include the 2016 which was crafted from 100% Merlot and the 2018 which scored 95-97 points from esteemed Swiss wine critic Yves Beck.
Founded in 1984 by entrepreneur Bill Harlan, from its very beginnings Harlan has sought to be a Bordeaux-style “First Growth” estate in the heart of Napa Valley. The property occupies a stunning setting on the rolling hills of western Oakville where the vineyards rise up to 1225 feet above sea level.
This charming setting provides the perfect conditions for producing top quality Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot-based wines which combine power with elegance and an enchanting air of Old World sophistication. In the words of famed American wine critic Robert Parker, “Harlan Estate might be the single most profound red wine made not just in California, but in the world”.
Harlan Estate’s long-standing Director of Winegrowing is Bob Levy with renowned flying winemaker Michel Rolland acting as a consultant. Rolland, Levy and Harlan work closely together on the blending for Harlan Estate Proprietary Red and their estate’s other wines.
The first commercial release of Harlan Estate Proprietary Red was the 1990 vintage which was released in 1996. The long time gap between vintage and release shows the years of hard work that go into each bottle. These are powerful, long-lived wines which can easily age for several decades before hitting their prime.
Top recent vintages include the Harlan Estate 2015 which has shown growth of 98.8% over the past two years and received a 100-point score from Robert Parker. In total legendary American wine critic Parker has awarded eight perfect 100-point scores to Harlan since it began commercial releases, including the 2016, 2013, and 2007.
The estate makes a second wine called The Maiden which was first created from the 1995 vintage and released commercially in 1995. Over the past few years the wine has performed extremely well with all vintages except one receiving 90-plus points. There is also a younger wine called The Mascot which was first produced in 2008 and incorporates fruit from Harlan and sister projects Bond Estate and Promontory which are also owned by Bill Harlan.
Extremely limited availability, outstanding quality, and remarkable consistency from vintage to vintage have made Harlan a sensation on the fine wine market. Such is the popularity of the wine it is rarely seen outside of the U.S. with the exception of world-class restaurant lists and private cellars.
Set in the heart of Valpolicella Classico, Zýmē’s unusual name comes from the Greek word for “yeast”. This moniker was chosen as a reminder of the power of Mother Nature and the winery’s ambitions to craft exceptional wines in harmony with the rhythms of the earth. This is reflected in Zýmē’s commitment to sustainable vineyard management practices and a largely hands-off approach in the winery.
Zýmē’s winemaker and founder is Celestino Gaspari who happens to be the son-in-law of Giuseppe Quintarelli, a true legend in the wine world who was nicknamed the “nonno dell'Amarone” or “The Grandfather of Amarone”. Gaspari cut his teeth working for Quintarelli and on his own family’s estate before deciding to follow his dreams and start his very own project.
The Zýmē approach begins with the fundamental elements of Amarone - the terroir, grape varieties and winemaking traditions - and gives them a thoughtful modern twist. Gaspari’s wines display the classic Amarone richness of fruit and full body along with a distinctive freshness which provides perfect balance and elegance in the wine.
Zýmē is blessed with 30 hectares of vineyards across the Veneto region which were largely planted in 1999 and incorporate a diverse variety of microclimates and landscapes. The winery’s key bottlings include a stunning Amarone Classico and Amarone Riserva La Mattonara which is named after a sandstone quarry next to the vineyard. This superb Amarone Riserva is only made in the very best vintages and matures for nine years in Slavonian oak casks.
Gaspari’s portfolio also features two complex blends, Kairos and Harlequin, which both feature a minimum of 15 different varieties. The exact composition varies from vintage to vintage and includes varying quantities of Bordeaux varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot as well as indigenous Veneto grapes such as Teroldego, Croatina, Oseleta, Corvina, and Rondinella.
Chateau Lafite Rothschild
Set at the northern end of the Pauillac appellation, Chateau Lafite Rothschild is one of the most prestigious estates in Bordeaux. There has been an estate here since the 13th century which was owned by Gombaud de Lafite and the property still bears his name nearly a millennium later. The first vines are believed to have been planted on the site at this time, although it wasn’t until the 17th century that the estate began to produce wine seriously.
During the 18th century the wine developed a reputation internationally as one of the favourite wines of Thomas Jefferson who had purchased several cases while serving as the United States’ Minister to France in Paris. Lafite also received an important boost in 1855 with the Bordeaux Classification which defined it as one of just five Premier Cru or First Growth estates.
The property has been in the hands of the Rothschild family since 1866 and it is currently owned by Baron Eric de Rothschild who has implemented an extensive investment programme in both the cellar and vineyards.
The gravelly soils here are well suited to Cabernet Sauvignon which is grown alongside smaller quantities of Merlot and a touch of Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. All of the fruit is harvested manually to maintain optimal quality levels and the parcels are vinified separately to facilitate precise blending across the different lots.
Lafite is best known for the Grand Vin which has a distinctive refined and perfumed profile when compared with the power of Latour or the intensity of Mouton. Thanks to the well-built structure and ageing in 100% new oak barrels, this is a wine which typically has cellar potential for fifty years or more, making it very attractive for investors.
Recent top vintages for Lafite Rothschild include the 2015 which received a perfect 100-point score from Wine Enthusiast, the 2016 and the 2003 which scored 99 and 100 points respectively with Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate.
As one of Bordeaux’s most iconic estates, Lafite typically performs well on the secondary market with high demand from Asia and the United States. For example, the 2014 vintage has shown growth of 69.4% over the past five years and will continue to increase in value as it grows in rarity and maturity.
One of the older estates in Oakville, Cardinale was founded in 1982 close to the legendary Robert Mondavi Winery. The estate enjoys something of a cult following in the U.S. thanks to the vision and talent of Christopher Carpenter who took over as head winemaker in 2001.
Carpenter started out working in the medical field and bartending by night before making a fortuitous career change and enrolling in the prestigious viticulture and enology program at UC Davis. Following his training he honed his skills at a slew of top estates including Domaine Carneros, Domaine Chandon California, and Tenute Antinori in Italy before making the move to Cardinale in 1998.
All of the grapes Carpenter uses for Cardinale are sourced from the nearby Mayacamas and Vaca mountains including the top appellations of Diamond Mountain, Spring Mountain, Howell Mountain and Mount Veeder. The exact composition varies from year to year dependent on which subregions have performed the best, capturing a snapshot of the vintage across Napa Valley with each bottling.
Grapes from each plot are vinified separately giving the winemaking team a palette of as many as 40 different lots to work from during the blending process. The grapes are carefully sorted by hand and then fermented using wild yeasts found naturally in the winery and on the grape skins. From this top quality juice Carpenter creates a single Cabernet Sauvignon-based wine each vintage which is aged in 100% new French oak for 18-20 months.
The result is a lavish Napa Cabernet with plenty of power and structure which responds exceptionally well to a couple of decades of cellaring. Depending on the nature of the vintage, just 2000-4000 cases of Cadinale are produced each year with most quickly snapped up by collectors based in the US.
Cardinale typically performs well with top international wine critics like Robert Parker and his Wine Advocate team; the 2016 vintage was awarded 97 points by The Wine Advocate, the 2015 scored 96 points, and the 2014 vintage achieved a near-perfect 98 points.
The story of Henschke begins in the 1840s when Johann Christian Henschke arrived in South Australia after a tragic 98-day voyage from Silesia in modern-day Poland which claimed the lives of his wife and two of his children. After becoming a naturalised citizen he purchased land in the Barossa Valley in 1862 with the first recorded sale of Henschke wine following in 1868.
Today the winery is still in the hands of the fifth and sixth generations of the same family. Stephen and Prue Henschke are at the helm while their son, Johann, is the estate’s talented winemaker. The couple’s two other children, Justine and Andreas, are also heavily involved in the family business as marketing and PR manager and brand ambassador respectively.
Henschke is regarded as one of Australia’s greatest wineries; in 2009 Henschke was invited to join Australia’s First Families of Wine, a prestigious body made up of the country’s top family-owned estates. The estate is blessed with some of the country’s oldest vines including prized Centenarian (vines over 100 years of age) and Ancestor vines (over 125 years of age) whose gnarled and bent forms produce top quality grapes with incredible intensity and depth of flavour.
To allow the true character of their exceptional grapes and old vines to shine through the Henschke philosophy embraces minimal intervention in the winery and vineyard. There is a strong focus on sustainability and implementation of organic and biodynamic viticultural practices, and the older vines are dry-farmed to maintain purity and concentration of flavour.
Henschke’s iconic wine is Hill of Grace which commands some of the highest prices in Australia and consistently achieves scores in the high 90s from Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate. The wine takes its name from the exceptional single vineyard plot which boasts ancient vines dating back as far as the 1860s.
In 2014 Liv-Ex recognised the growing stature of Hill of Grace by including the wine in its prestigious Power 100 Index which also includes fellow Australian estate Penfolds. The vineyard has also been recognised by Langton’s Classification of Australian Wine which is loosely based on the Bordeaux classification in 1855. In 1996 Hill of Grace was given the top ranking of “Exceptional” which was also awarded to Penfolds Grange.
Top vintages in recent years have included the 2008 Hill of Grace which scored 96 points from Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate and has achieved impressive growth of 42.86% over the past five years. Other high-scoring vintages include the 2005 which received 99 points from Lisa Perrotti-Brown of The Wine Advocate and the 2002 with 98 points from Perrotti-Brown and Parker.
Hickinbotham Clarendon Vineyard
Hickinbotham’s Clarendon Vineyard has been under vine since the mid-1800s when it was in the capable hands of Sir Edward John Peake who was one of the first exporters of Australian wine to Calcutta, Java, New Zealand, and England.
During the Great Depression much of the estate’s vineyards were uprooted and it wasn’t until several decades later that the property was revived at the hands of the Hickinbotham family. Wine educator Alan Hickinbotham purchased the property for $54,000 and many years the estate supplied top quality fruit to prestigious Australian producers like Penfolds for their iconic Grange wine.
Since 2012 winemaker Christopher Carpenter has been at the helm of this historic vineyard and has helped lead the property in a new direction. This has included the creation of the Hickinbotham Clarendon Vineyard in honour of the family who played a key role in developing this exceptional grape-growing site.
Hickinbotham’s flagship bottling is The Peake which takes its name from Sir Edward John Peake who developed the original Clarendon vineyard. Produced from the finest fruit from the legendary Clarendon Vineyard, this magnificent Cabernet Sauvignon-Shiraz blend has a cult following amongst fine wine collectors and enthusiasts.
The vines used for The Peake date back to 1971 and are planted at 220-230 metres above sea level. This helps to ensure plenty of ripe fruit character balanced by acidity and a well-defined structure which will help the wine to age gracefully over the next couple of decades. As just 135 cases are produced each vintage, the very limited availability and exceptional quality make this a wine to watch for investors.
The Vérité estate was born of a collaboration between the late Jess Jackson, described by Robert Parker as “one of the most extraordinary men in the wine world I have ever met”, and top French winemaker Pierre Seillan. Jackson had challenged Seillan to come to California to make a wine to rival the legendary Chateau Petrus. Seillan responded they should try to make a world-class Merlot even better that Petrus, a wine which would harmoniously blend Old World winemaking excellence with New World vigour and ambition.
Over the years Seillan has developed an intimate knowledge of the estate where “every hillside, every aspect and elevation offers us a different micro-cru.” In total he has identified 40 of these micro-crus which are all manually farmed and vinified separately to allow the character of each plot to shine through.
This attention to detail extends even to the production of Vérité’s oak barrels. Specific plots of woodland are selected to supply the oak and the winemaking team carefully chooses the exact degree of toasting to match the wine that will mature inside each barrel.
Vérité is today one of the most highly-rated wineries in the world with 12 perfect 100-point scores from Robert Parker, more than any other Sonoma County estate. The estate produces three distinctive bottlings, La Muse, La Joie and Le Desir, which Robert Parker describes as “three of the finest wines being made in California”.
Seilan debuted both La Muse and La Joie in 1998; La Muse was conceived a Merlot-based rival to Petrus while La Joie is a Medoc-style Bordeaux blend crafted predominantly from Cabernet Sauvignon. The final member of the trio, Le Desir, was released in 2000 when Seillan achieved a long-standing dream to craft a top Californian wine from Cabernet Franc.
Top vintages for Vérité include 2013 which produced two 100-point wines. Both the 2013 La Muse and 2013 La Joie picked up perfect scores from Robert Parker.
Bodegas y Viñedos Artadi
Artadi was once a co-operative of 13 local growers based close to the town of Laguardia in the Alavesa sub-region of Rioja. Recognising the potential of these vineyards, Juan Carlos López de Lacalle purchased the estate and modernised the winemaking facilities and techniques to allow the unique terroir of the vineyards to shine through.
Over the years the estate has become one of Rioja’s finest, so Artadi’s decision to leave the appellation in 2015 sent shockwaves through the region. Although controversial at the time, this bold decision has proven a blessing for Artadi by enabling the estate to highlight their remarkable single vineyard wines free from the rigid regulations of the appellation’s governing body. This focus on the character of individual plots echoes the Burgungian approach and is just one example of Artadi’s commitment to producing exceptional quality wines.
In contrast with many more traditional producers in Rioja, Artadi insists on using French rather than American oak to age its wines. This gives a more delicate touch from the oak and allows the character of the Tempranillo grape and the terroir to take centre stage.
Artadi’s iconic wine is Viña El Pisón which is crafted from the 2 hectare El Pisón vineyard planted in 1945. Widely considered the equivalent of a Grand Cru by fine wine experts, the vineyard is blessed with an ideal microclimate and limestone-rich soils. Frequently lauded by wine critics as a supreme example of Spanish fine wine, the 2004 vintage was awarded 100 points by Robert Parker and currently fetches prices in excess of £450 per bottle excluding tax. The 2007 has also been a strong performer over the past two years, rising 80% since the beginning of 2018 from £1,650 per case of 12 to approximately £2,970 currently.
Another worthy investment option is Artadi’s sublime Grandes Anadas which is only produced during the very best vintages with grapes sourced from the estate’s finest vineyards. This is an intense, incredibly complex wine that needs plenty of cellaring to reach its full potential and its rarity means that investors should expect a good return when they finally do decide to sell.
From humble beginnings making wine in his family garage and maturing his first wine Cueva de Contador in an ancient cave, Benjamin Romeo has quickly become one of Rioja’s most impressive winemakers. Despite only founding Bodega Contador in 1995, over the past couple of decades Romeo has achieved every winemaker’s ultimate dream not once but twice: his 2004 and 2005 Contador wines received perfect 100 point scores from legendary American wine critic Robert Parker.
Thanks to these successes Romeo was able to further expand his operation and in 2008 he built a state-of-the-art winery designed by Hector Herrera in the charming village of San Vicente de la Sonsierra. Here he uses a thoroughly modern winemaking approach to craft elegant yet powerful Riojas which speak eloquently of the terroir. Romeo carefully vinifies the grapes from 62 individual vineyard sites separately and ages the young wines in new French oak for up to 20 months.
Romeo’s flagship wine is the Contador which is crafted from the finest fruit of each vintage and aged in oak for 18-20 months. The Contador is a high potential investment wine thanks to the consistent quality of each vintage. This excellence is demonstrated by the Robert Parker scores awarded to Contador over the past couple of decades; the average score for the years 2000 to 2015 is a very impressive 97.54 points. This sets Contador far above other top investment wines like Lafite with an average of 95.42 points, Latour with 96.62, Mouton Rothschild with 94.31, and Petrus with 95.67.
Each year the estate produces just 6000 or so bottles which are highly sought after by collectors around the globe. OenoFuture is currently the exclusive UK importer of these coveted wines, which means we are able to offer excellent pricing and availability to our investment clients.
A talented abstract artist and self-taught winemaker, Bibi Graetz is equal parts rebel and trendsetter. From modest beginnings working a 5 hectare vineyard set on a hillside with stunning views of the nearby city of Florence, Graetz quickly began to make a name for himself with the release of his very first wines in 2000. Since then Graetz’s characterful Tuscan wines have achieved cult status on the global wine scene and today regularly receive scores in the high 90s from the likes of Wine Spectator, Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate, and James Suckling.
By focusing on old vines and seeking out unique plots with exceptional terroir, Graetz has expanded the project to include exceptional sites like the gorgeous island of Giglio which produces fruit for his white wines. He currently owns or leases around 200 acres and produces a modest 41,500 cases per year under the Bibi Graetz label at his historic Hotel Villa Aurora winery in Fiesole.
Graetz primarily works with Sangiovese, Colorino, and Canaiolo for his red wines and the indigenous Ansonica and Vermentino grapes for his white wines which give his bottlings a unique personality and ancient connection with the traditions of the land. All of his vineyards are farmed organically to preserve a perfect equilibrium between man and nature.
Graetz’s iconic wine is the Colore which is made with equal parts of Sangiovese, Canaiolo, and Colorino sourced from 60 year old vines and aged in used barrels for 24 months. Only 600 bottles of this highly sought-after wine are produced each year, making it an excellent option for investment. Like all of his wines, the bold label design features Bibi Graetz’s abstract art which perfectly captures the intense energy and passion of this majestic cuvee.
Graetz also produces the sensational Testamatta made with 100% Sangiovese which has been described by James Suckling as “one of Tuscany's true cult wines”. The wine spends 18 months ageing in oak barrels, the vast majority of which are 10-15 years old to ensure their influence does not overpower the pure character of the grape variety. James Suckling awarded the 2015 vintage a near-perfect 99 point score and named it “the best Testamatta ever made”.
Bibi Graetz’s wines offer an excellent opportunity for investment thanks to the producer’s commitment to crafting outstanding bottles, a very limited production, and their growing status amongst wine connoisseurs around the world.
A remarkable tale of triumph against all the odds, the story of Chateau Belle-Vue begins in the 1990s when Naji and Jill Boutros returned to Naji’s hometown tucked away in the mountains some 16km from Beirut. There they found Naji’s grandfather’s hotel, the old Chateau Belle-Vue, completely destroyed by war and the village decimated by economic stagnation. The situation inspired Naji to leave a highly successful career as an investment banker and return to his roots where he’s made it his mission to give back to the local economy.
Over the years Naji has bought a variety of plots around the village and has restored and replanted the ancient terraced hillside vineyards where grapes had grown for centuries. The couple only employ local workers to help pump money back into the region and have set up a scholarship fund and community library for local school kids.
The estate’s vineyards are worked organically and without irrigation to produce exceptional quality fruit. The vines are carefully pruned to restrict production to a tiny yield of just a ton of grapes per hectare to maximise intensity and complexity of flavour. The mountain terroir has proven especially well-suited to the classic Bordeaux varietals Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot which thrive in the Mediterranean climate.
Chateau Belle-vue’s iconic wine is the Le Chateau which is typically composed predominantly of Cabernet Franc and Syrah along with smaller proportions of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon depending on the vintage. Just 2500-3500 bottles of this outstanding wine are produced each year, along with up to 15,000 bottles of Belle-vue’s second wine, La Renaissance.
Very approachable and drinkable when young, both of these wines age exceptionally well, offer incredible value for money, and deserve a place in every collector or investor’s portfolio.
One of Australia’s oldest and most prestigious wineries, Penfolds was founded in 1844 by English physician Christopher Rawson Penfold and his wife Mary. The resourceful couple obtained top quality vine cuttings from France which they took with them on the long journey to Australia. On arrival the Penfolds acquired a 500 acre property in Magill near Adelaide and Mary nurtured their vines with such success that by 1871 the estate was producing nearly one-eighth of South Australia’s total wine output.
Penfolds’ iconic Shiraz wine, Grange Hermitage, burst onto the fine wine scene in the 1960s following years of secret experimentation by Chief Winemaker Max Schubert. Schubert had fought in North Africa during World War Two and subsequent travel in France and Spain led him to create a great Australian wine inspired by the First Growths of Bordeaux.
The first Grange wines made in the 1950s received a frosty reception from the wine trade and Schubert was ordered to shelve the project. Fortunately Schubert had the foresight and audacity to hide away the existing experimental Grange vintages and to continue making the wine in secret. Over the years news began filtering out to the wine world about Schubert’s top secret project and in 1960 the management board finally gave Schubert permission to make the wine official.
A slew of perfect scores and gold medals were to follow, vindicating Schubert’s vision and dedication to making "a great wine that Australians would be proud of". Highlights include 100-point scores from both Wine Spectator and Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate for the 2008 vintage, Wine Spectator’s Red Wine of the Year 1995 for the 1990 vintage, and another 100 Points from Lisa Perrotti-Brown of Robert Parker's Wine Advocate for Grange 2013.
Today Penfolds’ Grange is Australia’s most celebrated fine wine and offers exceptional investment potential. Officially listed as a Heritage Icon of South Australia, the Grange is an intensely-flavoured and well-structured expression of the Shiraz grape which has been made every year since the first vintage in 1951. Grapes are sourced from top vineyard plots in Barossa, McLaren Vale, Clare Valley and from Magill estate, producing a wine with superb combination of finesse and power which can typically be cellared for 30 years or more.
Penfolds is also known for its strong tradition of “bin wines” which began in 1959 with the Kalimna Bin 28. This naming protocol is simply taken from the location in the cellars where the wine was stored and has become a distinctive feature of Penfolds’ special releases.. One of Penfolds’ most exciting recent releases is the Bin 111a, the estate’s first Special Bin release in nearly a decade. The wine is crafted from two top single vineyard sites in Barossa and Clare Valley, creating a complex, well-structured wine which has a very long life ahead of it. Bin 111a has already been awarded 100 points by Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate.
Visitors to Cos d'Estournel are immediately struck by the pagoda-style cellars which were built by Louis-Gaspard d'Estournel in the 1800s. His fascination with India led to Cos d’Estournel’s wines being exported to the subcontinent and also inspired the chateau’s extraordinary aesthetic which combines gargoyles with oriental architectural flourishes and carved palace doors from Zanzibar.
As well as pushing the boundaries of 19th century winery design, the pioneering Louis-Gaspard was amongst the first to bottle, label, and sell his chateau’s own wines. Such was the quality of Cos d’Estournel’s wines that two years after Louis-Gaspard’s death the chateau was recognised as a Second Growth in the legendary 1855 Classification.
The chateau’s current owner, the French entrepreneur Michel Reybier, has invested heavily in updating the winery and vineyards in recent years. Today Cos d’Estournel is regarded as the finest estate in the appellation of Saint-Estèphe. Its wines are frequently compared to top chateau in the neighbouring appellation Pauillac which is home to three of Bordeaux’s five Premier Cru estates.
In the Gascon dialect “cos” translates as “hill of pebbles” which is an apt description of the estate’s terroir. Cos d’Estournel’s 91 hectares of vineyards are divided between gravelly soils which are well-suited to Cabernet Sauvignon along with smaller areas of clay where Merlot thrives.
The chateau’s top wine, Cos d’Estournel, typically has an abundance of spicy dark fruit along with muscular tannins and a firm structure. Although Cabernet Sauvignon is the principle ingredient in the blend, the relatively high proportion of Merlot adds a distinctive smoothness and opulence on the palate.
Cos d’Estournel regularly receives exceptional reviews from international wine critics; the 2016 vintage was awarded a perfect 100 point score by James Suckling, Neal Martin, and Lisa Perrotti-Brown of Wine Advocate. This is a wine that is built to age, making it a magnet for wine collectors and investors. In exceptional vintages Cos d’Estournel can be expected to age for half a century and it is not uncommon for the wines to remain full of life a century after the harvest.
Tenuta di Arceno
Close to the stunning medieval city of Siena is the sprawling 2500-acre Tenuta di Arceno estate. The property’s roots go deep into Tuscany’s history with traces of the pre-Roman Etruscan civilization scattered across the gorgeous vine-speckled rolling hills. The estate’s modern story began in 1994 when it was purchased by the Jackson family who are best known for their string of outstanding Californian wines including Vérité in Sonoma County. To honour the estate’s ancient past an enigmatic Roman statue found at Tenuta di Arceno occupies pride of place on the labels of Arcanum, the estate's top wine.
Tenuta di Arceno’s great strength is its expansive vineyard holdings which encompass a remarkable range of terroirs including 13 different soil types. This allows the Jacksons to tailor their winemaking approach to each individual plot and helps ensure that even in challenging vintages there will be some vineyards that thrive.
Although the region is best known for its Sangiovese-based Chianti Classico wines, the estate’s 223 acres of vines are predominantly planted with Cabernet Franc. The variety is ideally suited to the property’s unique microclimates and soils, giving a unique character to the estate's bold Bordeaux-style wines.
Tenuta di Arceno’s Head Winemaker is seventh generation vigneron Pierre Seillan who has decades of experience of working with Cabernet Franc in his family’s vineyards in Armagnac and in the Loire Valley and Bordeaux. After becoming close friends with Jess Jackson, Pierre began collaborating with the Jacksons in the 1990s and is probably best-known today for crafting the sensational Vérité wines in Sonoma County.
Pierre’s expertise and passion for Cabernet Franc has shaped the creation of the estate’s top wine, Arcanum, which is a masterful expression of the variety blended with smaller proportions of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. The fruit is primarily sourced from the L’Apparita and Belvedere plots where well-draining sandy soils and exceptional exposure offer ideal growing conditions. Although eminently drinkable in youth with attractive notes of violets, roses, and sweet raspberries, this is a wine that is built to age and will gracefully evolve and develop in the cellar over the next decade or so.
Amongst Tenuta di Arceno’s other top wines is the Valadorna which is another Bordeaux-style blend composed predominantly of Merlot along with some Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petit Verdot. The Merlot is sourced from the Valadorna and Capraia blocks which are some of the coolest anywhere on the estate and are typically the last vineyards to ripen. Another exceptional choice for extended cellar ageing, the Valadorna is typically an intense, deeply fruited wine with immense complexity and a remarkably smooth, well-rounded texture even when young.
Tenuta di Arceno’s wines have enjoyed significant critical acclaim in recent years with the Arcanum 2008 awarded 96 points by Monica Larner from Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate magazine. The same publication also awarded 95 points to the Valadorna 2008 and 94 points to the estate’s Il Fauno di Arcanum 2008.
Poderi Gianni Gagliardo
Known for its sensational Barolos, Poderi Gianni Gagliardo boasts 30 hectares of vineyards including sites in top Barolo crus like Lazzarito, Castelletto, Monvigliero, Mosconi and Fossati. The estate was founded by the Colla family who had been making wine in Piemonte since at least 1847, but the property’s name comes from Gianni Gagliardo who married Paolo Colla’s daughter, Marivanna, committing himself both to the family and to the vines.
Today the estate is run by Gianni’s three sons; the winemaker Stefano, vineyard manager Alberto, and Paolo who is in charge of the commercial side. The Gagliardo philosophy has remained little-changed since the 1960s when Paolo Colla made the estate’s first Barolos; the family seeks to make wines that are above all enjoyable to drink while expressing the unique qualities of their top vineyard sites. In the vineyard the family use biodynamic practices and minimal intervention is the norm when the grapes arrive at the winery.
This outlook is reflected in the estate’s logo, an ornate theatrical mask. It’s a reminder of how a great wine encourages the drinkers to pause, reflect, and eventually drop their own masks to reveal their true selves.
While this might sound a little romantic, Poderi Gianni Gagliardo has a reputation for producing seriously good Barolo which offers a harmonious composition of ripe fruit character and balancing freshness. In the vineyard the family use biodynamic practices and minimal intervention is the norm when the grapes arrive at the winery to express the purity and intensity of their top quality grapes.
The winemaking approach is tailored to the particular characteristics of each harvest’s grapes. Their Barolos are often aged in traditional large oak casks for at least 30 months with smaller oak barrels used for certain vintages and vineyard sites.
In 2017 the family purchased the 15 hectare Tenuta Garetto in Monferrato’s Nizza appellation. This subzone in the Barbera d’Asti hills offers exceptional terroir for Barbera and will allow the Gagliardo brothers to expand and further enhance their portfolio with the estate’s old Barbera vines.
Top wines include the Barolo Serre 2010 which was awarded 95 points by James Suckling and the Barolo Lazzarito Vigna Preve 2013 which received 96 points also from Suckling.
Château de la Roulerie
The enchanting ivy-clad Château de la Roulerie sits at the heart of an estate which dates back to 1070 and is steeped in local folklore. The chateau itself was constructed in the 15th century and is named after a 14th century knight, Chevalier Raoul, whose connection to the property has been lost in the mists of time.
The current owner is Philippe Germain who reinitiated winemaking on the estate after a hiatus of 20 years. With help from his wife and brother, Philippe farms 38 hectares of vines which have been certified organic since 2015. These holdings include terraced plots on the gentle slopes of the Val du Layon which are a real rarity in the Loire Valley. The property is predominantly planted with Chenin Blanc which thrives on the schist soils.
The region is best known for its Coteaux du Layon sweet wines which achieve exceptional quality thanks to the nearby Layon river. Over millennia the river has carved out soft rolling hills like those found at Chateau de la Roulerie and creates morning mists during late summer which help to promote botrytis or “noble rot”. This fungus plays a critical role in the traditional winemaking techniques of the Val du Layon since it dries out the grapes, increasing their sugar content and intensifying flavours.
When vinified these grapes produce decadent dessert wines whose deep golden hue and nutty, honeyed flavours are reminiscent of fine Sauternes wines from Bordeaux. Chateau de la Roulerie’s sweet wines are frequently ranked amongst the finest Coteaux du Layon and have the ability to age gracefully for several decades.
As well as stunning sweet wines, Chateau de la Roulerie has treasured plantings of old Cabernet Franc vines and produces a number of dry wines in a traditional local style. These include an Anjou Rouge made from Cabernet Franc and a Rosé D'Anjou made from the Gamay and Grolleau grapes which are commonly grown in the Loire Valley.
Founded by a Finnish sea captain and today owned by the Coppola family, the Inglenook story is steeped in romance and celebrity stardust. The tale begins back in the 1870s when Gustave Niebaum arrived in Rutherford to settle down on dry land. He purchased an impressive estate with 500 acres of farmland and celebrated the first Inglenook vintage soon after in 1882. The estate went from strength to strength over the next couple of generations and remained in the Niebaum family until the 1960s.
The winery was sold in 1964 in need of significant repair and investment, signaling a period of decline and decay for the Inglenook name. For years Gustave Niebaum and later John Daniel Jr had been subsidising the running of the estate with their personal wealth. It wasn’t until the 1970s that this trend was reversed and the estate was set on the path to stardom when Francis and Eleanor Coppola bought the property with profits from The Godfather films.
The Coppolas arrived with a burning ambition to craft world-class wines and restore the good name of Inglenook. This long journey began with the first harvest in 1978 and the creation of the estate’s flagship Rubicon, a Bordeaux-style red named after Julius Caesar’s fated river crossing which marked the point of no return.
Over the years the estate has collaborated with top international winemaking consultants including the so-called “Dean of American Winemaking”, André Tchelistcheff, and top French vigneron Stéphane Derenoncourt. In 2011 Philippe Bascaules joined as general manager, a role which he juggles with being MD and head winemaker at Chateau Margaux in Bordeaux where he has worked for over two decades.
One of Bascaules’ early innovations was to create a 50-year plan for renewing Inglenook’s vineyards. Along with the celebrity status of the current owner, it is this kind of visionary thinking which has revived the fortunes of the estate as a producer blue-chip Californian wines. The estate is currently undergoing a major cellar expansion to mark its 140th anniversary which is expected to be completed by the 2020 harvest.
The investment potential of Inglenook’s top wine, Rubicon, has also benefited in recent years by a run of exceptional vintages. The 2012 was awarded 95 points by Robert Parker's The Wine Advocate, and the 2013 and 2014 vintages both received outstanding 97 point scores from American wine critic James Suckling.
Along with the romantic backstory, celebrity ownership, and superb quality, Inglenook’s relatively soft pricing compared with other top Californian estates makes the Rubicon a very attractive prospect for investors looking to diversify their portfolio.
Beloved by Thomas Jefferson and blessed with the prestigious rank of Premier Cru or First Growth by the 1855 Classification, Chateau Margaux is one of the most famous producers in the fine wine world. The estate’s winemaking history dates at least as far back as the 16th century, although it wasn’t until the 1700s that it began to earn its elite status. The 1771 vintage was the very first “claret” or red Bordeaux wine to feature in a Christie’s catalogue.
The elegant neo-Palladian chateau that graces Chateau Margaux’s labels was built in the early 1800s by the Marquis de la Colonilla who was the first to own the estate after its confiscation during the French revolution. The design earned the chateau the nickname of the “Versailles of the Médoc” and many years later it was the charming ionic columns that caught the eye of André Mentzelopoulos, reminding him of his Greek homeland.
André Mentzelopoulos purchased the chateau in 1977, passing the estate to his daughter, Corinne Mentzelopoulos, on his untimely death in 1980. Under Corinne’s visionary leadership Chateau Margaux has become a household name amongst fine wine collectors and enthusiasts. Today Chateau Margaux consistently makes the finest wines found anywhere in the Médoc and has an enviable ability to produce excellent wines even in more difficult years.
The estate boasts 82 hectares of vines which are planted with 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, and small quantities of Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. Like many wines of the Left Bank, these are densely-structured, perfumed and powerful red wines which are made to age for decades. Unsurprisingly, their exceptional character has repeatedly captured the attention of the world’s top wine critics; Robert Parker awarded 100 points to the legendary 1900, 1990, 1996, and 2000 vintages, while the 2016 vintage was awarded 99 points by Wine Enthusiast.
Chateau Margaux also holds the distinction of being the creator of the most expensive bottle of wine never sold. In 1989 wine merchant William Sokolin brought a bottle of Château Margaux 1787 from Thomas Jefferson’s collection to a Margaux dinner at the Four Seasons in New York. Tragically this rare bottle was destroyed by a server who knocked it over. William Sokolin had originally claimed the bottle had a value of $500,000, but insurers later paid out $225,000 to cover the loss.
Renowned for some of the finest expressions of Riesling found anywhere on the planet, the Trimbach family have been winemakers since 1626 and owners of the estate in Ribeauvillé for over two centuries. The house’s meteoric rise to international acclaim began In 1898 when Frédéric Emile Trimbach received the highest distinction at the International Wine Fair in Brussels. Today the house is run by cousins, Jean and Pierre, along with Pierre’s daughter Anne and Jean’s son Julien who represent the 13th generation to enter the family business.
The jewel of the estate is the tiny 3-acre Clos Sainte Hune vineyard which has been owned by the Trimbachs for over two centuries. Clos Sainte Hune lies inside the boundaries of the Rosacker grand cru, yet the Trimbachs modestly prefer to let the name of the vineyard speak for itself rather than emphasising the cru designation. In total the estate is blessed with 40 hectares in many of Alsace’s most highly-prized sites which are sheltered by the Vosges Mountains and reflect the region’s mosaic of limestone, sandstone, marl, and clay soils.
The Trimbach family has a special passion for the Riesling grape thanks to its incredible finesse, freshness, and seductive aromatic character. Head winemaker Pierre insists on only releasing their wines when they are ready to be drunk which means that some of Trimbach’s masterpieces spend five to seven years developing in the estate’s cellars before they are released to the market.
In addition to the iconic Clos Sainte Hune Riesling which showcases the unique terroir of this great vineyard and the Trimbach family’s masterful winemaking, the estate produces a second magnificent dry Riesling, the Cuvée Frédéric Emile. A delicate blend of two grand cru sites, Geisberg and Osterberg, this Cuvée exudes precision, purity and a distinctive flinty streak of minerality. Both of these wines will reward patience in the cellar, developing attractive notes of toasted bread and white truffle as they age.
In contrast with other top Alsace producers like Zind-Humbrecht whose wines offer power and generosity, the typical Trimbach house style is elegant and restrained with minimal residual sugar. Hubert Tribach, Jean’s father, describes the family’s philosophy to winemaking as “concentrated not heavy; fruity, not sweet; bracing rather than fat; polite rather than voluptuous".
This delicate balance between elegance, freshness, and fruit has proved a winning combination with wine connoisseurs around the globe. These are gastronomic wines which offer huge potential to be paired with a diverse array of dishes, and thus it is no surprise that Trimbach is listed in all of France's 26 Michelin 3-star restaurants.
Remarkably the Humbrechts can trace their winemaking roots back four centuries to the earliest record of the family’s winemaking activities in Alsace in 1620 during the early years of the Thirty Years’ War. In the 18thcentury local historian Canon Barth recorded the family as tenants of the Marbach Abbey vineyards near Guebershwihr in his survey of Alsace’s viticultural history.
The current estate was founded in 1959 following the marriage of Léonard Humbrecht and Geneviève Zind which united the Humbrecht family vineyards in Gueberschwihr with those belonging to the Zind family in Wintzenheim. During the 1960s and 1970s many of Alsace’s top plots where being abandoned due to their location on steep, practically inaccessible slopes which made them much harder to work than the flatter valley vineyards. Léonard spotted this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and was able to put together the exceptional portfolio of hillside sites in top Alsace crus which form the backbone of the domaine today.
Today the domaine is under the attentive management of the couple’s son, Olivier Humbrecht, who passed the notoriously tough Master of Wines exam in 1989 to become the first French MW. During his tenure at the helm of Zind-Humbrecht, Olivier has championed biodynamic winemaking on the property and has also served as president of the Biodyvin certification body since 2002. His approach is non-interventionist, adopting a light touch in the winery and allowing his spectacular grapes to speak for themselves in the finished wines.
The family’s 40 hectares of vines are spread across five picturesque timber-framed villages in the Vosges foothills where the mild climate and unique mosaic of terroirs produce remarkable Riesling, Gewurztraminer, and Pinot Gris wines. Amongst Zind-Humbrecht’s finest plots are those located in the Grand Crus of Rangen, Brand, Hengst, and Goldert. The domaine typically bottles their non-Grand Cru single vineyard wines under their vineyard name or lieu dit rather than the more generic Alsace label.
The Zind-Humbrecht house style is generous, fruit-forward wines which are made from low yielding vines to maximise the intensity of flavour. As a guide to collectors and wine enthusiasts, labels feature an index which describes the level of residual sugar inside with 1 representing a classic dry Alsace white wine and 5 indicating a richly sweet dessert wine.
The domaine’s carefully-controlled vineyard yields result in a very limited annual production of between 10,000 and 15,000 cases which are quickly snapped up by collectors and Alsace wine enthusiasts. Amongst Zind-Humbrecht’s most prized and rarest wines are the lavishly sweet Pinot Gris Clos Windsbuhl Sélection de Grains Nobles and Pinot Gris Rangen Clos St Urbain which offer an incredibly complex flavour profile with hints of caramel and tropical fruit carefully balanced by a bright acidity.
The domaine’s top wines all have very long lives ahead of them and Olivier recommends that those from his Brand Grand Cru plot need 30 years in the cellar before they reach their full potential. Those from the family’s Goldert Grand Cru holdings have even longer drinking windows with Olivier advising that even the 1959 vintage is still drinking beautifully to this day.
Fattorie Dei Dolfi
Born from ancient family vineyards and the infectious passion of a career-change winemaker, Fattorie dei Dolfi is a relatively young estate with a remarkably bright future. Giovanni Dolfi initially pursued a very successful career as a horse trainer during which he had the opportunity to meet the Queen Mother and began working for Marchese Incisa della Rocchetta, the owner of the legendary Tenuta San Guido which produces Sassicaia.
Through this connection he was introduced to the estate’s winemaker, Giacomo Tachis, who is regarded as the father of Sassicaia and was named Decanter’s Man of the Year in 2011. From then on Giovanni’s fate was sealed and it was only a matter of time before he and Giacomo began exploring how to unlock the potential of his family’s century-old vineyards close to the city of Pisa.
Oeno Director and Co-founder Daniel Carnio describes Giovanni’s project as “a small paradise” thanks to his relentless commitment to quality in his vineyards. Most of Fattorie dei Dolfi’s plots are surrounded by woodland which helps to shield the vines from contamination from other forms of agriculture and preserves a high degree of biodiversity. As well as creating a very low incidence of disease, this also means the estate does not need to use any chemicals on the vines.
To allow the remarkable quality of the fruit to shine through, Giovanni uses a light touch in the winery as well with his wines ageing in oak barrels previously used for Sassicaia. The estate’s top wines will be produced in tiny quantities of a few thousand bottles a year, making them highly attractive for investors and collectors of fine and rare Italian wines.
The Artorius and Imeneus red wines are both crafted using the Prugnolo Gentile grape which is the Sangiovese clone typically used in Montalcino. The former is an easy-going style ideal for enjoying with family and friends alongside a simple, wholesome meal. Imeneus, which is named after the beautiful son of Aphrodite and Bacchus in Greek mythology, is a more serious red which ages in oak barrels for up to 36 months. This bottling is a true collector’s wine with a remarkably complex flavour profile and high investment potential.
Finally, Bianco Per Amore is Giovanni’s personal project, created to be a wine that he himself would like to drink. Reminiscent of fine white Burgundy, this generous and full bodied white is made from a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot grapes. Giovanni only produces around 150 bottles of this very special wine of which he retains a significant proportion for his own drinking pleasure!
Domaine Des Beaumont
Under the talented leadership of Thierry Beaumont his namesake family domaine has been transformed from a modest under-the-radar producer to a hidden gem amongst Burgundy collectors. Thierry’s family have been involved in viticulture for at least seven generations and the current 5.5 hectares of vines are a patchwork of prime plots pieced together from aunts, grandparents, and parents in the two most famed winemaking villages of the Cote de Nuits, Morey-Saint-Denis and Gevrey-Chambertin.
Thierry’s guiding philosophy in the winery and vineyard is "use of everything, abuse of nothing". His estate grapes are always harvested by hand and grown using sustainable farming practices. In the winery Thierry and his brother, Vincent, have invested in high quality equipment including a pneumatic press to gently squeeze the juice from the grapes without risking over-extraction.
With his family’s vines and a small number of grapes that he buys in from a local grower Thierry produces a very modest 25,000 to 30,000 bottles per year. Amongst his top red wines are the Domaine des Beaumont Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru and Mazoyeres-Chambertin Grand Cru which are two of Gevrey-Chambertin’s most-prized vineyards. The low shallow slopes of these vineyards do not enjoy full exposure to the morning sunshine so these wines are typically fresh, light, and breathtakingly elegant.
Thierry also started making his own sparkling wines because he felt that his wife was buying too much Champagne! The wines are made using exactly the same method as that used for Champagne. Thierry releases these wines under the Cremant de Bourgogne appellation which has become very fashionable with Parisians and Bordeaux natives looking for a cool new alternative to Champagne.
Dominique Laurent enjoyed a successful career as a pâtissier before turning his hand to producing wine. Over the years he’s developed a knack for picking out the finest expressions of Burgundy’s diverse terroirs which he releases in tiny quantities through his negociant business based in Nuits-St-Georges.
From his first vintage in 1988 Dominique has specialised in artisanal Burgundy made from very old vineyards which are tended by experienced local vignerons. Dominique typically takes delivery of the young wine in the New Year and then decides how to mature each batch according to the vintage and specific characteristics of each vineyard.
Dominique’s treasure trove of talents also extends to barrel making. He quickly realised that the quality of the barrel plays a critical role in the success of a wine, and set about learning how to make them himself. It’s a long and involved process since Dominique insists on air drying the wood for up to seven years before it is ready to use. To maximise efficiency and to add an extra source of income to the business, Dominique produces extra barrels which he sells to prestigious wineries including Domaine de la Romanée Conti, Zind Humbrecht, and Pingus.
Lately Dominique has also teamed up with his son Jean to established his own domaine, Domaine Laurent Père & Fils, which has vineyards in top sites in Meursault Poruzots and Nuits-St-Georges.
Dominique’s top wines consistently receive scores in the mid and high 90s from respected international wine critics and magazines like Antoni Galloni, Stephen Tanzer, and Wine Spectator. Amongst his most exciting wines are the Dominique Laurent Chambertin Grand Cru Vieilles Vignes which received 98 points from Robert Parker for the 2005 vintage, and his elegant Echezeaux Grand Cru En Orveaux which is made from the domaine’s own vines in the cooler northerly part of Echezeaux.
Dominique’s wines are highly collectible due to the minuscule annual production and mature bottlings are prized on the secondary market by Burgundy connoisseurs. In some cases Dominique makes just one barrel of a particular wine, and his total output is typically less than 30,000 bottles spread across the whole of the portfolio.
Remoissenet Pere & Fils
Remoissenet Pere & Fils was founded in 1877 and is housed in a charming 14th century building in Beaune. For 30 years the domaine was under the vibrant leadership of Roland Remoissenet who was described as “one of the most dashing” Burgundy winemakers by top wine critic Robert Parker.
In more recent years the domaine has blossomed under the management of Bernard Répolt who is the former president of Louis Jadot and a legendary figure in Burgundy. There has been significant investment in the cellars and the domaine’s prime vineyard holdings are continually being added to. Recent vintages have been exceptional with a generous richness and firm structure thanks to Remoissenet’s tendency to be amongst the last to bring in the harvest from their own vineyards and their partner growers.
Remoissenet Pere & Fils currently owns 2.5 hectares of Premier Cru plots in Beaune which are all worked biodynamically. The domaine’s most prized sites are in Bressandes, Marconnets and Grèves and they also obtain top quality fruit from the Montrachet holdings of Baron Thénard as well as the Lanvin family holdings in the Côte de Nuits. This is supplemented by regular purchases of grapes by the negociant side of the business with growers incentivized to supply the best grapes possible via a bonus system for exceptional quality fruit.
The winemaking philosophy of the domaine is wholeheartedly non-interventionist with the grapes meticulously sorted by hand to ensure only the very best end up in the finished wine. Reds and whites alike are fermented with indigenous yeasts to add extra character and authenticity. The young wines are then aged in 350 litre oak barrels with a higher percentage of new barrels for the Premier Cru and Grand Cru wines.
Remoissenet’s finest whites tend to be the Montrachet Grand Cru bottlings which are consistently age-worthy from vintage to vintage thanks to the intense vibrancy and freshness balanced by rich fruit. This energy is also found in the domaine’s reds like the Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru which is sourced from 70-year old Pinot Fin vines. This extremely rare grape is thought to be related to Pinot Noir and produces small, remarkably concentrated berries which in turn create a unique take on red Burgundy.
One truly unique feature of Remoissenet Pere & Fils is the domaine’s extensive library of wines dating back to the 1950s, 60s and 70s. This is extremely rare in Burgundy as most producers are required to sell their entire annual production to finance the next year’s vintage and are able to keep very little stock of back vintages in their cellars. This collection represents an incredibly exciting opportunity for collectors and admirers of well-matured Burgundy which tends to be sold for reasonable prices.
Mischief & Mayhem
Mischief & Mayhem was founded in 2003 by Michael and Fiona Ragg who were drawn to the pretty village of Aloxe-Corton by a burning passion for wine and for the charming Burgundy region. Michael worked for the Berry Bros & Rudd wine merchants in London for a decade before deciding to turn his hand to winemaking.
Initially the couple focused on using their remarkable contacts across Burgundy to buy in top quality wines which they then finished themselves. In 2012 they then took the plunge to become a fully-fledged domaine with the purchase of a prime 1 acre plot of vines in Aloxe-Corton, followed by a further Premier Cru plot in Savigny-les-Beaune in 2013. The Raggs have also shifted to buying in greater quantities of grapes rather than wines to give them greater control over the whole winemaking process from fruit to barrel.
The typical Mischief & Mayhem style is pure, clean and incredibly focused wines which speak eloquently of the terroir which gave them birth. Their whites display a crisp, precise minerality while the reds are light and elegant. Michael usually only uses a light touch of oak which allows the authentic personality of the Pinot Noir and the influence of the terroir to shine through.
The Raggs’ negociant and domaine business model has proved a huge success, offering the couple the freedom to select from Burgundy’s finest terroirs while also enjoying full oversight of their own vineyard holdings. While other producers are heavily dependent on Burgundy’s highly variable weather conditions, the Raggs have the flexibility to source the very best grapes from each vintage. This means their bottlings offer consistently high quality year on year and represent some of the best value for money anywhere in Burgundy.
Thanks to their combined negociant and domaine approach, the Mischief & Mayhem portfolio is diverse, offering everything from stunning AOC Bourgogne Chardonnay and Pinot Noir through to their outstanding Grand Crus from Corton-Charlemagne and Clos de Vougeot. From the newcomer to the world of fine wine to the true Burgundy expert, the wines of Mischief & Mayhem offer enough breadth to interest every type of buyer and collector.
Bordeaux has a reputation for being liberally sprinkled with prestigious estates producing stellar wines with price tags to match, but there is one estate that stands out from all the others. Named after the ancient Roman god of viticulture, Liber Pater is a small boutique winery in Graves which only began production in 2006 and labels its wines simply as “Vin de France”.
So, how is it that Liber Pater has rapidly developed a cult following as Bordeaux’s finest producer? The answer lies in maverick winemaker and owner Loic Pasquet. His inspirational dedication to reviving forgotten Bordeaux varietals like Marselan, Tarney Coulant, and Castet and laser-like focus on quality produces exceptional wines which frequently receive ratings over 90 points by top wine critics.
Pasquet primarily works with ungrafted rootstock which he believes allows him to create more authentic wines. During the rapid spread of the phylloxera disease in the mid 1800s which wiped out over 40% of French vineyards, French shoots were grafted onto American rootstock which was resistant to the disease. Pasquet’s bold use of ungrafted rootstock gives drinkers a taste of what pre-phylloxera Bordeaux was like, providing a nostalgic point of comparison with modern Bordeaux styles.
Accompanying the focus on little-known historic varietals is a move back to traditional winemaking techniques. Pasquet farms his vineyards with little more than a 150 year old plough and a mule and works organically which helps him to tread incredibly lightly on the natural environment. Of course, making wine in this way is labour intensive and significantly more costly than mechanised modern methods, but the end result is a thing of rare beauty; a wine which reminds of the ancient harmony between man and earth.
Since Loic produces miniscule quantities of his Liber Pater wines each year, they are incredibly rare and difficult to get hold. Approximately 2400 bottles of the Liber Pater red are made each year depending on the harvest along with 300 bottles each of Pasquet’s delicious oak-fermented white and sweet dessert wine. Depending on the vintage, Pasquet’s iconic Liber Pater red is designed to mature and age for between 10 and 25 years in the cellar before reaching optimum maturity.
These modest quantities and terrific quality are why Liber Pater wines are highly sought-after all over the globe despite the recent founding of the estate. For an investor looking to go beyond Bordeaux’s traditional top estates, Liber Pater is an excellent option with potential to deliver significant returns in the future thanks to the exclusivity, authenticity, and pure passion which lie behind the label.
Domaine Lamy-Pillot is typical of the small family-run estates which dot the Burgundian landscape, giving this prestigious wine region its unique homespun charm and endless diversity of wine styles. The domaine was founded in 1973 by René and Thérèse Lamy-Pillot who chose to make their home in the rural hamlet of Morgeot in Chassagne-Montrachet.
Over the years the couple have expanded the domaine to include 20 hectares of vineyards in Chassagne-Montrachet, Saint-Aubin, Santenay, Meursault and Beaune. René and Thérèse have recently given over the day-to-day running of the estate to their daughters, Florence and Karine, and their sons-in-law, Sébastien and Daniel.
The crown jewel in the family’s holdings is their Le Montrachet plot which is considered to be the finest terroir for white Burgundies. The Montrachet vineyard enjoys a prime hillside position with plentiful exposure to sunshine to ripen the Chardonnay grapes in Burgundy’s notoriously fickle climate and well-draining soils to remove excess rainfall. Here Lamy-Pillot’s vines rub shoulders with fabulously famous and expensive neighbours like Bouchard Père et Fils and Domaine de la Romanée-Conti.
The typical Lamy-Pillot style features crisp, pure fruit and a distinctive flinty minerality for their white Burgundies and luscious, well-structured red Burgundies from the Clos St Jean cru in Chassagne-Montrachet and Premier Cru plots in Blagny.
Great attention to detail in the vineyard produces exceptional quality fruit which reflects both the terroir and the specific weather conditions of each particular vintage. Grapes are harvested by hand, canopy management is used to ensure optimal maturity is achieved, and the family take good care of the soils by using natural fertilizers and avoiding chemical herbicides wherever possible.
This dedication and hard work in the vineyard produces top quality grapes which need relatively little intervention in the winery. The family favour used oak barrels over new ones to allow the pure expression of the grape variety and terroir to come to the fore, and skilfully adapt their winemaking approach each year to best fit the characteristics of that vintage.
Domaine Alain Burguet
Alain Burguet was born into a winemaking family and from a young age he was set to work along with his brother in his father’s vineyards in Gevrey. Yvon, Alain’s father, expected the boys to work hard and the brothers frequently had to carry baskets of grapes that weighed nearly as much as they did! When he turned 14 his father decided it was time for his son to learn the family trade and he left school to work for his father full-time.
In time Alain decided to found his own domaine, relying initially on grapes purchased from other local vignerons or grape growers. In 1974 he was able to purchase 2.10 acres of vines in his home village of Gevrey followed by a prized Premier Cru Les Champeaux site in 1985.
Domaine Alain Burguet & Fils is unusual in Burgundy for being created from scratch since most domaines in the region have their roots in generous inheritances or fortuitous marriages. In recent years Alain has taken a back seat with his sons, Jean-Luc and Eric, taking over the running of the domaine from the 2011 vintage.
Thanks to the Jean-Luc and Eric’s preference to harvest late, the domaine has a reputation for big, generous wines with well-developed structures and smooth, defined tannins. The family’s vineyards have been farmed organically since the very beginning and the brothers have now adopted biodynamic practices in order to work in harmony with the natural environment.
In the winery the brothers prefer to adapt their winemaking approach to each wine and vintage to craft bottlings which have their own individual personality. Jean-Luc and Eric rely on indigenous yeasts which they believe highlight the vibrant streak of minerality in their wines. They also ascribe the brilliant purity of flavour in their wines to their insistence on using minimal amounts of sulphur during the vinification process.
The domaine continues to purchase grapes from trusted local growers which gives them access to a wide range of terroirs, although the focus remains heavily on the classic Pinot Noir heartland of the Côtes de Nuits along with a couple of white wines from Meursault.
The brothers’ most sought-after wine is their Chambertin Clos de Bèze Grand Cru which is made with top quality Pinot Noir grapes sourced from a vineyard on long-term contract to Domaine Alain Burguet.