2013 Bordeaux En Primeur Report

Last week the Wine Invest team descended upon Bordeaux to taste the 2013 vintage. Swathes of wine merchants, traders, journalists and critics make the trip and try to gauge the quality of wine on show. 


Tasting at Chateau Montrose

In general, 2013 was not an easy vintage, mainly due to adverse weather. With every vintage, some Chateau just get it right and work with unfriendly conditions, producing wines that deserve consideration. I hope this report gives you some insight into the quality of the vintage as a whole and some specific tips for wines that were showing particularly well. In general, the press has been quick to dismiss the 2013 crop as a disaster; something we believe is a little premature given that nobody had tried the wines! It was a ‘hit and miss’ vintage and where the wines are poor, it is very obvious that the grapes were not fully ripe with green, astringent flavours but where they are good; the wines have lovely clean and fresh characteristics. The best wines (most of which mentioned are below) add power, precision and depth. 

One factor that will influence most buyers will be the pricing. For the 2011s, we saw significant price drops from the dizzy heights of 2010 and a further fall, on the whole, for the 2012s. 2013 was a vintage that has seen yields slashed – most Chateau that regularly work to 30-35 Hectolitres per hectare, produced yields of near 20-25 hl / h – so naturally, producers would want to make up the shortfall in volume with higher prices. Despite this, prices will generally decrease from last year. We are likely to see a small reduction; probably averaging at 10% less. 


Chateau Lafite-Rothschild

The main reason for these low yields were the cool temperatures and rain in spring that affected consistent flowering. This was particularly a problem for the early ripening Merlots. A dry summer saw grapes ripen under very good conditions and while the harvest would be small, those Chateaux that picked at the right time, avoiding the September showers, managed to produce some charming, clean juice with an elegant fruit profile. 

Below is the list of wines, with notes, that we believe outperformed the general quality of the vintage:


– Chateau Lafite Rothschild

98% Cabernet Sauvignon

 2 % Merlot

“Fragrant and expressive nose. Bramble fruits, cherry and heather. Palate is well concentrated with lean, delicate tannin. Cohesive and balanced well with precise acidity giving a long, satisfying finish”.


– Chateau Mouton Rothschild

89% Cabernet Sauvignon

7% Merlot

4% Cabernet Franc

“Dark, brooding aromas. Stewed cherry and blackberry with spice, hay and meaty/roasted nose. Very clean and fresh entry. Big, rich and wholesome mid-palate underpinned by firm tannin. Well rounded but very intense and aromatic. Excellent!”


– Chateau Pontet Canet

Cepage NA (Cabernet Dominant) 

“Very complex and striking aromas of dark red berries, smoked meat, fennel. Impressive concentration of fruit on the palate cut by acidity and wrapped up by sweet tannin. A lot to like here…very much on point again from Pontet Canet.  50% down on production! While their early release was widely greeted with distain, they were obviously confident in the quality and the wine is undoubtedly a first rate effort. Probably the best wine tasted on the day”. 


– Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande

100% Cabernet Sauvignon

“The first time this wine has exclusively contained Cabernet Sauvignon. Wide open and fragrant bouquet of Blackcurrant and Raspberry. Like most 2013 Pauillac wines, the tannins are sweet, almost chewy. This is a pleasing open-knit, early drinking style not a million miles away from leading Napa Cabernets”. 



– Chateau Calon Segur 

92% Cabernet Sauvignon

6% Merlot

2% Petit Verdot

“Deep, earthy scents of dark red fruit, lead pencil, wet slate. The palate is graceful and lingering. All the fruit is enveloped by tough tannin. One of few that will last a long time”. 


Cos d’Estournel 

78% Cabernet Sauvignon

20% Merlot

2% Cabernet Franc

“Superb aromas of red fruit conserve, pepper and anise. Lovely freshness on the palate but real weight on the mid-palate but the class is all in the finish…spicy, peppery and very long”.   



– Chateau Leoville Las Cases

74% Cabernet Sauvignon

12 % Merlot

14% Cabernet Franc

“Dark brambly fruits, smoked meats, stewed plum and eucalyptus all jump out of the glass. Elaborate and complex. A charged, coiled palate starts with clear, pure fruit yet unfolds to show chestnuts, game meat and notes. The structure and acidity are sound with firm tannins. Excellent.

It would seem their decision to pick the fruit late on (right up to October 17th!) has paid dividends”. 


– Chateau Gloria

Cepage NA

“Often dubbed the ‘Wine Merchants Wine’, Chateau Gloria doesn’t disappoint at the value end. An enticing nose of blackcurrants, mincemeat and spice. A textural, lucious palate is comforting and coats the palate well…almost creamy. There is a bite of tannin and acidity but a young drinker”. 



– Chateau Potensac

28% Cabernet Sauvignon

66% Merlot 

6 % Cabernet Franc

“The most energetic and lively wine from the Medoc appellation. Once again, Domaine Delas’ decision to pick late has meant they are one of very few wines to have ripe Merlot in the blend! A lovely, perfumed nose and a bright clean palate of plum, mincemeat and pepper. Tannins are soft and pliable. Last year, this wine released at circa 13€ per bottle! This is amazing value and one to load up on this year. Tasted on 3 occasions and consistent notes each time”. 



– Chateau La Conseillante

Cepage NA

“Initially a suppressed nose of black cherry, and green peppers but really opens up after 1-2 minutes in the glass. A sticky, jammy palate of damson and layers of black fruits. A sterling effort from a problematic year for the right bank”.


– Chateau L’Evangile

87% Merlot

13% Cabernet Franc

“Best of the Pomerols we tried. A very plump, full nose of fig and raisin. Juicy, palate of raspberry and blackberry with sweet tannin and a buttery, thick texture. Very nice indeed!” 



– Chateau Haut Brion Blanc

24% Sauvignon

76% Semillon

“This is the best young white wine I have ever tried. Unreal! Nose has white stone fruits, candied citrus peel then rich butter, banana, toasted pine nuts. The palate has so much going on and different flavours come through every 3-4 seconds and the finish lasted for about 5 minutes. Perfect!”


Chateau Pape Clement Blanc

Cepage NA

“Very clean and fresh nose of Lemon, Pineapple and flint. Acidity is precise and persistent. The body wraps around fruit to complete a lovely wine!”


Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte Blanc 

Cepage NA

“A more energetic and aromatic nose of pear drops, Citrus rind, faint smoke. Tastes of Lime, gooseberry then melon and apricot. Sweeter, fuller palate with honey and vanilla”.


Please do let us know if there are specific wines you have interest in buying and we will do our upmost to secure them for you: http://www.wine-invest.co.uk/special/ 



Calon Segur cellar




“Counterfeiting… not only for fine wines”

WineThiefCounterfeiting wine is a lucrative business, which not only affects the most prestigious wines.

The famous Burgundy wine, Domaine de la Romanée -Conti, (where price can exceed € 10,000 the bottle)  was recently the victim of a European counterfeiting network. Earlier this month seven people were arrested  in France and Italy. Among the main suspects, two Italians, a father and his son from the wine trade. The fraud was estimated at two million euros, for at least 400 bottles of fake Romanée –Conti.

The famous DRC is unfortunately not the only one to be copied. In Bordeaux, a lot of wines are also victims of counterfeiting.

Christophe Chateau, from the Interprofessional Council of Bordeaux wines in France, explains what is being done to fight against this type of fraud:

Are Bordeaux wines victims of counterfeiting?

All wines with a strong reputation are copied. It is obviously very difficult to estimate the volume. But it is a type of fraud that we’ve seen in China, for example. We discovered false Bordeaux generic names. This phenomenon affects all types of wines, not only fine wines.

What is done to fight against counterfeiting?

In China for example, we work on the recognition of Bordeaux as an appellation. This is not yet the case. We hope that this will be done by the end of the year. We also joined the World Customs Organization and we have created a database called “Smart Bordeaux”. This smartphone application allows consumers to be immediately informed about the bottle of wine they want to purchase. It gives them information on the wine region, its appellation. But consumers can also check if the bottle labels match the ones shown on the application. We have for example, found false Bordeaux labels mentioning ” syrah, cabernet and pinot noir ” (note: Syrah and Pinot Noir are not Bordeaux grape varieties).

How do the Chinese authorities react?

Their attitude has changed recently. A few years ago, they use to think that counterfeiting was the price to pay for importing products with high reputation. But for four to five years now, they help us to fight against counterfeiting. They fear health scandals. We found false burgundy made ​​from products that were not wine”.

In the UK, Council trading standards teams carry out regular inspections across the country seizing bottles of counterfeit wine, masked as popular brands like Jacob’s Creek and Blossom Hill, that could pose public health risks by containing harmful chemicals.

Local authorities, who take seriously their public health responsibilities, refuse to let dodgy dealers threaten the livelihoods of genuine traders and put residents at risk. Shop owners caught flouting the law risk losing their licence, hefty fines and can face criminal prosecution.

The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents more than 370 councils across England and Wales advise people to be on the lookout for the tell-tale signs that bottles are not legitimate when browsing this summer.

Counterfeit wines can often contain one or several of the following flaws:

  • Spelling mistakes on the label
  • Bottles of the same brand looking slightly different
  • Bottles not filled to the same level
  • Poor quality printing of labels or labels not being straight
  • A smell of nail varnish and an unusual taste.

Cllr Mehboob Khan, Chair of the LGA’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said: “Counterfeit alcohol can be extremely dangerous as it is usually mixed with chemicals that aren’t fit for consumption and is most likely to be a cheaper product poured into the bottle of a more expensive one. Shoppers should be suspicious of really cheap wine and should never buy bottles that have spelling mistakes on the label, look slightly different from a bottle of the same product, with the contents not filled to the same level, or with wonky labels”.



In praise of… Second wines

Clos du Marquis, Alter Ego de Palmer, Echo de Lynch Bages, Sarget de Gruaud Larose….

These are some of the second wines that have seen their popularity grow and grow and many would argue have a cult status among Bordeaux drinkers.

At approximately 1/3 of the price of the Grand Vin, the second wine of your favourite Chateau still provides the theatre of Cru Classé Bordeaux but at a more realistic level that could, depending on your outlook, be called ‘every day’ drinking.


As the price of top claret has risen over the last 10 years, drinkers have increasingly looked to second wines for their better prices with the added bonus that it is always ready to drink sooner than its Grand Vin counterpart, thereby realising a saving on a few years of storage costs also.

There have also been some spectacular performances from an investment point of view also from some of the 1st growths’ second wines.  Take Carruades de Lafite 2000 for example, which came on the market at about £200 per case in 2001, now changes hands for about £2,400.

As well as the first growths (Les Forts de Latour, Pavillon Rouge de Margaux, Carruades de Lafite), look for the ‘cult’ wines mentioned above with the addition of Pagodes de Cos and Duo de Conseillante in En Primeur season.

by Rob Webber

www.wine-invest.co.uk www.wine-invest.hk 

“Bordeaux’s Right Bank leads the pack”

“Bordeaux’s Right Bank leads the pack”

An interesting trend has opened up recently, with wines from the Right Bank, that’s the St Emilions and Pomerols of this world, gaining the most value during the year from August 2012. The Right Bank 100 index is a star … Continue reading

“The Young Americans”

usa-wine-flag During recent years, since the frantic 2009 Bordeaux En Primeur campaign, commentators have relentlessly hammered  away at the idea that the  direction of the fine wine market is going to be dictated by the new consumers in the Far East.

The standard article has gone something like this:  “Blah blah blah Chinese getting richer, blah blah  blah, Bordeaux prices higher”.

Although in the past year, a flurry of articles could substitute the word “Bordeaux” for “Burgundy”.  Here’s a good piece from Jeannie Cho-Lee, one of Asia’s leading wine critics, on the subject.

In fact, the world’s largest consumer of wine, the USA, receives much less press.  Some interesting stats from a recent Wine Spectator article:  there are one hundred million wine drinkers in the USA and they consumed 324 million cases of wine in 2012.  More than any other country.  In fact, America has been number one since it overtook France in 2011.

The outlook for the USA is overwhelmingly positive, mainly because younger people are buying more imported wine.  The American demographic that bought the most imported table wine was the 25-34 year olds, while baby boomers tended to stick to Californian wine, according to the article.

According to the Provence Wine Council, exports to the USA grew 41 percent in 2012 alone.  Argentinean wine exports to the US grew by over 100 percent from 2007 to 2011, New Zealand saw a 44 percent gain for the same period. According to a Nielsen report, retail sales of Moscato (popularised by Kanye West) have risen 66 percent in 2012, Prosecco sales by 35 percent.

While China gets all press coverage, the world’s largest economy and largest consumer of wine is quietly on an up trend, driven by its next generation of wine lovers.

Rob Webber



The 2013 Bordeaux Liv-ex Classification vs. 1855 Classification

Since 2011, Liv-ex have published a yearly classification of Left Bank Bordeaux chateaux based on the price of the five most recent vintages.  Here we take a look at some of the risers and fallers since both 1855 and 2011 and offer some commentary on their movement.

ImageLynch Bages and Pontet Canet, the pair of over-performing 5th Growths, are the most obvious winners of this table, both firmly now classed as 2nd Growths by Liv-ex.  Their rise has been very different, as trade and consumers really woke up to Lynch with their pair of back-to-back 99-point wines in ’89 and ‘90.  By contrast, Pontet Canet has put itself on the map more recently with its pair of 100-pointers in 2009 and 2010 and it’s much fan fared biodynamic ethos.

Palmer deserves a mention, climbing from 3rd Growth to the very top 2nd Growth, as does Beychevelle (4th Growth to 2nd Growth).

Whilst the movement since 1855 is interesting, the movement since 2011 is probably more useful because it is a measure of the price movement of recent vintages against other chateaux.  This may give an idea of which chateaux are on an uptrend in the short term at least.  The biggest climbers since 2011 are Durfort Vivens, the 2nd Growth that has struggled to make top class wine for years, and Boyd Cantenac.  It’s very interesting to see these two chateaux occupying the spot of best short-term performers as their wines have been out of favour for some time.  Time to buy these wines?  Maybe.

 Other chateaux gaining places since 2011 that are worthy of a mention are Saint-Pierre and Smith Haut Lafitte, both examples of Chateaux that outperformed expectations in ’09 and ’10. 

 The chateaux that have risen on both scoring measures (since 1855 and since 2011) form an exclusive club.  These are Chateaux that have both a long and short term uptrend and should be given very close examination, both now (for back vintages) and in en primeur season.  They are Latour, Cos d’Estournel, Montrose, Pontet Canet, Pichon Baron, Calon Segur, Smith Haut Lafitte and Saint-Pierre.  Most of us have a few ‘favourite chateaux’ for sentimental reasons or otherwise.  If any of these are among your favourites, the signs are good.  If they are not, you may want to consider making them so!

 PS: Props to the three big hitting rivals from Pessac-Leognan, Pape-Clement, Smith Haut Lafitte and Haut Bailly, all unclassified in 1855 (but later classified in 1953), storming high up the table to settle comfortably as low 2nd / high 3rd Growths.  All these Chateaux made fantastic wines in ’09 and ’10, including some 100 pointers.  Watch them closely.  We will be.

Low-calorie wine brands US success

The Drink Business db reports that with around 20% of Americans on a diet, low-calorie wine brands are booming in the US, and particularly where celebrities are involved.


Kick-starting the trend was Skinnygirl, which, as previously reported by db, was a label created in 2009 initially for ready-made cocktails by chef, author and TV star Bethenny Frankel.

The brand now also includes a range of three wines, which were added to the line-up in March 2012 (following the sale of the label to Fortune Brands/Beam for US$8.1 million in March 2011).

More recently, in January this year, former Foster’s wine division Treasury Wine Estates launched The Skinny Vine in the US, backed up by Christine Avanti, a celebrity nutritionist and author of Skinny Chicks Eat Real Food (pictured, left).

According to the company, the new product has already sold 100,000 cases, half the quantity sold by Skinnygirl wines in its first year, although The Skinny Vine is cheaper, with an RRP of US$11 compared to Skinnygirl’s $15 per bottle.

The Skinny Vine also promises slightly fewer calories per serving than the Skinnygirl wine. While the latter product has 100 calories per 5-ounce serving (148ml) from its 12% abv, The Skinny Vine contains 95 calories for the same measure.

Currently, the range comprises Slim Chardonnay (8.5% abv), Mini Moscato (7.3% abv) and Thin Zin (7.5% abv).

California’s Beringer brand, part of Treasury Wine Estates, had previously tried to crack this sector in late 2004 with the launch of White Lie – a low-calorie 9.5% abv Chardonnay – but withdrew the product one year later due to a lack of interest.

In fact, the calorie savings in either Skinnygirl or The Skinny Vine aren’t particularly significant: a bottle of white wine at 13.5% abv contains around 560 calories, meaning a 5 ounce/148ml serving will provide you with approximately 112 calories – which is just a 12-17 calorie saving per glass, the equivalent of a small bag of carrot sticks.

Of course the US isn’t the only source and consumer of low-calorie wines, and as previously reported by db, the UK has a thriving low-alcohol – and therefore low-calorie – wine sector.

Driven by a lower duty rate on wines at or below 5.5%, a raft of labels have been launched for UK retailers taking the low-alcohol category to 1 million cases in 2012.

Leader among these is the 5.5% abv Café Collection from South Africa’s First Cape, followed by Banrock Station Light, although big brands such as Blossom Hill and Gallo have both recently unveiled 5.5% wine-based drinks for the UK market, as well as Blue Nun with its Delicate range extension.

Aside from these products, which are technically “wine-based drinks” and not wines, there is a growing number of lower-alcohol (as opposed to low-alcohol) wines coming onto the market, such as Jacob’s Creek Cool Harvest orMcWilliams Harmony range endorsed by Weight Watchers.

Germany’s Reh Kendermann has however been producing wines under licence for Weight Watchers since 2002 and currently retail a white and rose with 8.5% abv (and 75 calories per 125 ml glass).

Furthermore, particularly dynamic in this lower-alcohol sector at present is New Zealand, above all the Marlborough wine region.

Already available in New Zealand, Marlborough’s Brancott Estate ‘Flight’ is a lower alcohol range that will be launched to the UK on- and off-trade later this year according to Adrian Atkinson, wine development director at brand owner Pernod Ricard.


Chef, author and TV star Bethenny Frankel created the Skinnygirl drinks brand in 2009 initially for ready-made cocktails

This will join longstanding 9.5% abv The Doctor’s Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough’s Forrest winery and newcomers such as the same region’s “First Pick” – a 9% abv offering from Constellation-owned Kim Crawford – and the 9% abv “Bella” Sauvignon Blanc from Invivo Wines.

Of course, it should be added that there are plenty of traditional, naturally lower-alcohol wines produced worldwide, from Mosel Rieslings to Vinho Verde or English Bacchus. There’s also always the home-made solution with the white wine spritzer.

It should also be noted that while the booming Moscato sector offers drinkers lower alcohol levels, the high sugar levels in the wines don’t provide significantly reduced calorie counts.

Consequently, a Moscato such as Gallo’s Barefoot Moscato has a calorie content of 127 calories per 5 ounce (148ml) serving from an abv of 8.5% and 64 g/l of residual sugar. That’s actually a handful more calories than found in a standard abv dry white wine.

Finally, for those wanting to work out just how many calories there are in a measure of wine, one alcohol unit is measured as 10ml or approximately 8g of pure alcohol, and alcohol has 7 calories per gram. This means one unit has 56 calories.

To work out the number of units in a drink, multiply the volume (in ml) by the alcohol content (in %) and then divide by 1000 – so, a 750ml bottle of 13.5% wine is 750×13.5/1000 = 10.125 units.

Please click here to read more and discover db‘s top 10 low-calorie wine brands, ranked according to their scale, awareness and, primarily, calorie content.

Join the conversation!




Green tea and red wine to fight Alzheimer’s disease

Natural chemicals found in green tea and red wine may disrupt a key step of the Alzheimer’s disease pathway, according to new research from the University of Leeds.

In early-stage laboratory experiments, the researchers identified the process which allows harmful clumps of protein to latch on to brain cells, causing them to die. They were able to interrupt this pathway using the purified extracts of EGCG from green tea and resveratrol from red wine.

The findings, published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, offer potential new targets for developing drugs to treat Alzheimer’s disease, which affects some 800,000 people in the UK alone, and for which there is currently no cure.

“This is an important step in increasing our understanding of the cause and progression of Alzheimer’s disease,” says lead researcher Professor Nigel Hooper of the University’s Faculty of Biological Sciences. “It’s a misconception that Alzheimer’s is a natural part of aging; it’s a disease that we believe can ultimately be cured through finding new opportunities for drug targets like this.”

Alzheimer’s disease is characterised by a distinct build-up of amyloid protein in the brain, which clumps together to form toxic, sticky balls of varying shapes. These amyloid balls latch on to the surface of nerve cells in the brain by attaching to proteins on the cell surface called prions, causing the nerve cells to malfunction and eventually die.

“We wanted to investigate whether the precise shape of the amyloid balls is essential for them to attach to the prion receptors, like the way a baseball fits snugly into its glove,” says co-author Dr Jo Rushworth. “And if so, we wanted to see if we could prevent the amyloid balls binding to prion by altering their shape, as this would stop the cells from dying.”

The team formed amyloid balls in a test tube and added them to human and animal brain cells. Professor Hooper said: “When we added the extracts from red wine and green tea, which recent research has shown to re-shape amyloid proteins, the amyloid balls no longer harmed the nerve cells. We saw that this was because their shape was distorted, so they could no longer bind to prion and disrupt cell function.

“We also showed, for the first time, that when amyloid balls stick to prion, it triggers the production of even more amyloid, in a deadly vicious cycle,” he added.

Professor Hooper says that the team’s next steps are to understand exactly how the amyloid-prion interaction kills off neurons.

“I’m certain that this will increase our understanding of Alzheimer’s disease even further, with the potential to reveal yet more drug targets,” he said.

Dr Simon Ridley, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, the UK’s leading dementia research charity, which part-funded the study, said: “Understanding the causes of Alzheimer’s is vital if we are to find a way of stopping the disease in its tracks. While these early-stage results should not be a signal for people to stock up on green tea and red wine, they could provide an important new lead in the search for new and effective treatments. With half a million people affected by Alzheimer’s in the UK, we urgently need treatments that can halt the disease — that means it’s crucial to invest in research to take results like these from the lab bench to the clinic.”