White Bordeaux: Pessac-Léognan 2006/7

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We look at the percentages of white varieties against the total area planted with red and how the varieties planted breakdown by estate. We also highlight yields, vine age, and production. We examine the differences between the two vintages, the differences in weather and calculate a QPI based on release prices. We consider the quality of the wines as perceived en primeur and their eventual evaluation in bottle. We consider best buys and long term investments and look at wines traded at auction. We compare release prices with auction prices and eventual bottle prices.

Introduction

Smith Haut Lafitte

The Appellation of Pessac-Léognan in Bordeaux, created in 1987, is rightly known for its white as well as its red wines. On a good day the white wines of Pessac-Léognan (in the region of Graves) are some of the best in the world. The wines are beautifully mineral, dry with terrific fruit, complexity, depth and persistence. The wines are highly sought after and may often be difficult to obtain after the en primeurs sale. In total Pessac-Léognan produces approximately 170k cases of white wine. The quantities produced are small compared to their red counterparts. For example, Domaine de Chevalier has 35ha devoted to their red varieties but only 5ha. of Sauvignon blanc and Semillon.

Table 1: Percentage of white varieties (approx.) with total (ha.), red and white, in brackets

Even the largest estates such as Rochemorin have less than one-fifth of their vineyards planted with white varieties but in their case this is slightly misleading since this still represents 18ha. Otherwise the highest percentages devoted to white varieties are on the smaller estates. Other unusually large estates for white wines are La Louvière, and de Cruzeau. [L=one of the largest estates; S=one of the smaller estates]

Château Bouscaut | 13% | (54ha.)
Château Brown | 14% | (28ha.)
Château Cantelys | 23% | (19,5ha.)
Domaine de Chevalier | 13% | (40ha.)
Château Couhins-Lurton | 26% | (23ha.)
Château Couhins | 29% | (17ha.)
Château de Cruzeau | 27% | (101ha.) L
Château de Fieuzal | 12% | (68ha.)
Château de France | 10% | (40ha.)
Château Haut-Bergey | 7,5% | (27ha.)
Château Haut-Brion | 6% | (51ha.) | S
Château Haut-Lagrange | 10% | (20ha.) | S
Château Laville Haut-Brion (La Mission Haut-Brionblanc from 2009) | 15% | (21ha.) | S
Château Lafargue | 16,4% | (22.5ha.)
Château Larrivet Haut-Brion | 17% | (60ha.) | L
Château Latour-Martillac | 22% | (46ha.)
Château La Louvière | 22% | (62.5ha.)
Château Luchey-Halde | 18% | (22ha.)
Château Malartic-Lagravière | 13% | (53ha.)
Château Olivier | 18% | (55ha.)
Château Pape Clément | 9.2% | (32,5ha.) | S
Château de Rochemorin | 17% | (105ha.) | L
Château de Rouillac | 11% | (18ha.) | S
Château Le Sartre | 27% | (37,5ha.)
Château Smith Haut Lafitte | 17% | (66ha.) | L
Château La Tour Haut-Brion | 50% | (10ha.)

Table 1a: Wines and their varieties by percentages

Baret 2007 | Sauvignon Blanc 70% | Sémillon 30% Note 1 where no year given this is the standard assemblage or capability
Brown 2007 | Sauvignon Blanc 70% | Sémillon 30%
Bouscaut | Sauvignon Blanc 42% | Sémillon 48%
Bouscaut 2006 | Sauvignon Blanc 48% | Sémillon 52%
Bouscaut 2007 | Sauvignon Blanc 70% | Sémillon 30%
Cantelys 2006/7 | Sauvignon Blanc 50% | Sémillon 45% | Sauvignon Gris 5%
Couhins | Sauvignon Blanc 95% | Sémillon 5%
Couhins-Lurton | Sauvignon Blanc 100%
de Cruzeau | Sauvignon Blanc 100%
Domaine de Chevalier 2007 | Sauvignon Blanc 85% | Sémillon 15%
Ferran 2006 | Sauvignon Blanc 45% | Sémillon 55%
de France 2006 | Sauvignon Blanc 70% | Sémillon 30%
de France 2007 | Sauvignon Blanc 80% | Sémillon 20%
de Grandmaison 2006 | Sauvignon Blanc 65% | Sémillon 20% | Sauvignon Gris 15%
Haut Bergey 2006 | Sauvignon Blanc 80% | Sémillon 20%
Haut Lagrange | Sauvignon Blanc 50% | Sémillon 50%
Olivier 2006 | Sauvignon blanc 50% | Sémillon 48% | Muscadelle 2%
Olivier 2007 | Sauvignon blanc 75% | Sémillon 23% | Muscadelle 2%
Haut-Brion | Sauvignon blanc 52.6% | Sémillon 47.4%
Lafargue 2006/7 | Sauvignon Blanc 60% | Sauvignon Gris 40%
La Louvière 2007 | Sauvignon Blanc 85% | Sémillon 15%
La Louvière 2006 | Sauvignon Blanc 85% | Sémillon 15%
Larrivet Haut-Brion | Sauvignon Blanc 81% | Sémillon 19%
Larrivet Haut-Brion 2006/7 | Sauvignon Blanc 65% | Sémillon 35%
Luchey-Halde 2006 | Sauvignon Blanc 50% | Sémillon 50%
Malarctic-Lagravière | Sauvignon Blanc 80% | Sémillon 20%
Malarctic-Lagravière 2006 | Sauvignon Blanc 90% | Sémillon 10%
Malarctic-Lagravière 2007 | Sauvignon Blanc 85% | Sémillon 15%
Pontac Monplaisir | Sauvignon Blanc 50% | Sémillon 50%
Pape Clément 2006/7 | Sauvignon Blanc 40% | Sémillon 35% | Sauvignon Gris 16% | Muscadelle 9%
de Rochmorin | Sauvignon Blanc 100%
Le Sartre 2006/7 | Sauvignon Blanc 80% | Sémillon 20%
Smith Haut Lafitte 2006/7 | Sauvignon Blanc 90% | Sémillon 5% | Sauvignon Gris 5%

Table 1b: Other notes on each estate

Wine | Av. Yield | Av. Age of vines | # bottles | New oak | Aging (yrs) Note 2where no year given this is the average expectation
Baret 2007 | 25 | 18,000 | 30% | 11mths
Bouscaut | 35 | - | 50% | 12mths
Brown 2007 | 20 | 80,000 | 33.33% | 14mths
Cantelys 2006/2007 | 16/17 | 9,600/8,500 | 10mths
Couhins | 25 | 77,000 | 10mths
Couhins-Lurton 2006/7 | 18 | 15,000 | 10mths
de Cruzeau 2006/7 | 18 | 70,000/60,000 | 10mths
Ferran 2006/2007 | 25 | 18,000 | -
de France 2006/2007 | 20/21 | 10,000/9,000 | 40%
de Grandmaison 2006/7 | 10 | 15,000 | 40% | 5mths
Haut Bergey 2006/7 | 20/21 | 6,000 | 33.33% | 12mths
Haut Lagrange 2006/7 | 17 | 7,000/6,800 0% | 9mths
Lafargue 2006/7 | 25 | 12,469/13,340 | 50% | 10-12mths
Larrivet Haut-Brion 2006/7 | 20 | 30,000/25,000 | 100% | 11mths
La Louvière 2006/7 | 20 | 60,000/50,000 | 10mths
Luchey-Halde 2006/7 | 5 | 15,000 50% 12mths
Malarctic-Lagravière | 25 | - | 12mths
Pape Clément | 33 | 6,500 | 100% | -
Pontac Monplaisir 2006 /7 | 30 | 22,000/14,000 | 50%/60% | 10mths
de Rochmorin 2006/7 | 18 | 80,000 | 10mths
Le Sartre 2006/7 | 25/26 | 35,000 | 10mths
Smith Haut Lafitte 2006/7 | 38 | 35,000/28,000 | 50% | 12mths

The Wines | 2006 & 2007

(See tasting notes for various Châteaux in Related Articles). From the wines we tasted it was clear that 2006 was superior to the 2007 vintage in more cases than not. Of the chateaux whose wines showed best in 2007, they are distributed all around the Appellation and one might only conclude therefore that it was a change in their techniques - viticulture or vinification - which led to the improvement - Couhins (Villeneuve d'Ornon in the east), Cruzeau (Saint-Médard d'Eyrans in the south-east), de France (Léognan in the centre) and Luchey Halde (Mérignac in the north). Of the 27 of the châteaux whose wines we tasted from the vintages 2006 and 2007, almost half of these produced better wines in 2006 than 2007 and of the remaining it was almost equally distributed between wines which were good in both years and wines which were better from 2007 (e.g. only 25% of the sample).

The weather 2006 | 2007

Hydric stress or the reverse, an over-abundance of water at different times in the growing season, can have a significant impact on the quality of the grapes harvested. Note 3Too much water may lead to dense foliage which restricts fruit exposure and larger more dilute fruit, compact clusters and unsanitary conditions e.g. mildew, grey rot. Good drainage counteracts some of the problems caused by heavy rainfall. Too little water and vine growth is stunted and maturity delayed. Non-functioning leaves (no photosynthesis) can also inhibit ripening. Whilst sugar can increase this is only as a percentage of the juice which is already lower in volume. Late stress can affect the flavours too. Excessive stress tends to produce wines which are of lower flavour which are less complex, less ripe, lower volume and with less aging potential. In 2006 heavy rain storms arrived in late September but some parts of Pessac-Léognan suffered less than other regions but this tended to affect the red wines more as the harvest for early-ripening plots of gh sugar content, balanced by good acidity, and a complex, fruity intensity, thanks to the cool weather in August. In 2007 the weather was also conducive to producing good white wines and it is hard to explain why they were so much less successful than the 2006s which were described in one report as “Just a tad below the delicious 2006s”. Note 4Rapport du millésime proposé par la Faculté d'oenologie de Bordeaux The Report went on: “Staggered picking to achieve complete maturity...Unexpectedly fine weather and slow maturity explain why harvests were uncommonly prolonged. Picking for dry white wines began in the first days of September in the earliest-ripening vineyards; ...alas, yields at most properties were lower than in 2006”.

Best buys and long term investments

I have written before on the usefulness of calculating a Quality Price Index (QPI). One can use the indices to sort the wines to obtain seemingly best value wines. However, for these vintages in question I am generally lacking specific data on release prices particularly for 2006/7. Where they exist I have included them and also any recent auction data (which is scarce – see Table 5 below).

Table 2: Best QPI based on release prices 2006/7 Note 5 Release prices from Leguern.fr

Wine Score \\ Release price \\ QPI \\ Sale date Note 6Sales dates for wines sold at auction \\ Auction price
Olivier blanc 2007 \\ 88 \\ $27 \\ 3.3
Brown blanc 2007 \\ 84 \\ $26 \\ 3.3
Haut Bergey blanc 2006 \\ 87 \\ $28 \\ 3.1
Larrivet Haut Brion blanc 2006 \\ 89 \\ $32 \\ 2.8
La Louvière blanc 2006 \\ 82 \\ $30 \\ 2.7
Bouscaut blanc 2006 87 \\ $32 \\ 2.7
Carbonnieux blanc 2007 \\ 88 \\ $34 \\ 2.6
Larrivet Haut Brion blanc 2007 \\ 89 \\ $37 \\ 2.4
Bouscaut blanc 2007 \\ 83 \\ $35 \\ 2.4
Haut Bergey blanc 2007 \\ 85 \\ $36 \\ 2.4
Malartic Lagravière blanc 2007 \\ 90 \\ $60 \\ 1.5
Dom. de Chevalier blanc 2006 \\ 93 \\ $80 \\ 1.2 / 1.7 Note 77/11/2010 \\ $55
Smith Haut Lafitte blanc 2006 \\ 89 \\ 1.4 Note 823/06/2010 \\ $66
Smith Haut Lafitte blanc 2007 \\ 87 \\ $83 \\ 1.0
Dom. de Chevalier blanc 2007 \\ 82 \\ $98 \\ 0.8
Pape Clément blanc 2006 \\ 89 \\ $193 \\ 0.5
Pape Clément blanc 2007 \\ 87 \\ $204 \\ 0.4
Laville Haut Brion blanc 2007 \\ 96 \\ $580 \\ 0.2 / 0.4 Note 923/06/2010 \\ $262
Laville Haut Brion blanc 2006 \\ 98 \\ $617 \\ 0.2 / 0.3 Note 1005/11/2010 \\ $315
Haut Brion blanc 2006 \\ 98 \\ $630 \\ 0.2 / 0.2 \\ 3/10/2010 \\ $585
Haut Brion blanc 2007 \\ 96 \\ $726 \\ 0.1 / 0.2 Note 115/6/2010 \\ $524
Haut Lagrange blanc 2007 \\ 85 \\ $No prices
Haut Lagrange blanc 2006 \\ 85 \\ $No prices
Brown blanc 2006 \\ 84 \\ $No prices
le Sartre blanc 2007 \\ 83 \\ $No prices
Couhins blanc 2007 \\ 82 \\ $No prices
de France blanc 2006 \\ 82 \\ $No prices
le Sartre blanc 2006 \\ 82 \\ $No prices
Ferran blanc 2006 \\ 81 \\ $No prices
La Louvière blanc 2007 \\ 81 \\ $No prices
Lafon Menaut blanc 2007 \\ 81 \\ $No prices

Only Haut Brion, Domaine de Chevalier, Laville Haut Brion have any real auction presence but are very scarce as one can see from Table 3 below. 2006 is a more highly rated at auction than 2007. Without exception recent auction prices have been lower than release prices which should give pause for thought.

It is interesting to compare the wines above with comments from the en primeurs and compare their relative quality after bottling.

Wine Rated lower at en primeur (+) Rated higher at en primeur (-)
Bouscaut blanc, 2006 +
Bouscaut blanc, 2007 +
Carbonnieux blanc, 2007 +
de France blanc, 2006 -
Domaine de Chevalier blanc, 2006 + (marginal)
Domaine de Chevalier blanc, 2007 -
Haut Bergey blanc, 2006 - (marginal)
Haut Bergey blanc, 2007 -
La Louvière blanc, 2006 - (marginal)
La Louviere blanc, 2007 -
Larrivet Haut Brion blanc, 2006 +
Larrivet Haut Brion blanc, 2007 - (marginal)
Olivier blanc, 2007 + (marginal)
Pape Clément blanc, 2006 +
Pape Clement blanc, 2007 -
Smith Haut Lafitte blanc, 2006 +
Smith Haut Lafitte blanc, 2007 -

Of the 16 wines above, half were rated slightly lower at the en primeurs tastings (2 of which are essentially marginal differences) – 3 related to 2007, 5 to 2006. The other half which were rated higher at the en primeurs (3 of which were marginal differences), 3 were 2006 and 5, 2007. This tends to suggest that perhaps 2006 was slightly under-rated at the time, and 2007 was slightly over-rated. However, this needs to be considered in the context of how the scores were calculated at the time and I have often commented on the difficulties and errors which compound when trying to consider scores as an immutable standard.

Auctions

Table 3: Auction data Note 12 based on records up until the end of April 2011 - wines from Pessac-Léognan 2006/7

Vintages || # records || # bottles
2009
London || 1 || 3 || $989
2010
Hong Kong || 6 || 61 || $32,282
London || 6 || 72 || $3,860
New York || 9 || 69 || $23,989
2011
London || 3 || 18 || $5,627
TOTALS || 25 || 223 || $66,748

Nearly all of those sold were in 75cl format. London is still the most popular venue for selling these wines, however, the most expensive wines are sold in HK and NY.

Table 4: Count of auction sales worldwide for wines from Pessac-Léognan

Location of sale \ # lots sold

Sotheby's London \ 9
Sotheby's New York \ 5
Sotheby's Hong Kong \ 4
Zachys New York \ 3
Zachys Hong Kong \ 1
Christie's London \ 1
Acker Merrall & Condit New York \ 1
Acker Merrall & Condit Hong Kong \ 1

Total \ 25

Clearly, Sotheby's are the leader for these wines and it must be concluded that sellers regard them as best understanding their merits and thus best able to obtain good prices.

Table 5: Recent lots sold at auction 2006 / 2007 vintages wines from Pessac-Léognan.

Wine | Qty | CostUSD | $/75cl | CostGBP | £/75cl | Sale #

Domaine de Chevalier Blanc 2006 | 12 | $657 | $55 | £414 | £35 | Sotheby's London | L10711 | 17/11/2010
Domaine de Chevalier Blanc 2006 | 12 | $657 | $55 | £414 | £35 | Sotheby's London | L10711 | 17/11/2010
Domaine de Chevalier blanc 2006 | 12 | $657 | $55 | £414 | £35 | Sotheby's London | L10711 | 17/11/2010
Domaine de Chevalier blanc 2006 | 12 | $630 | $52 | £391 | £33 | Sotheby's London | L10701 | 27/1/2010
Domaine de Chevalier blanc 2006 | 12 | $630 | $52 | £391 | £33 | Sotheby's London | L10701 | 27/1/2010
Domaine de Chevalier blanc 2006 | 12 | $630 | $52 | £391 | £33 | Sotheby's London | L10701 | 27/1/2010
Haut Brion blanc 2006 | 12 | $7,017 $585 | £4,461 | £372 | Sotheby's Hong Kong | HK0336 | 3/10/2010
Haut Brion blanc 2006 | 12 | $7,017 $585 | £4,461 | £372 | Sotheby's Hong Kong | HK0336 | 3/10/2010
Haut Brion blanc 2006 | 12 | $7,017 $585 | £4,461 | £372 | Sotheby's Hong Kong | HK0336 | 3/10/2010
Haut Brion blanc 2006 | 6 | $3,630 $605 | £2,381 | £397 | Sotheby's New York | 8621 20/3/2010
Haut Brion blanc 2006 | 6 | $3,630 $605 | £2,381 | £397 | Sotheby's New York | 8621 20/3/2010
Haut Brion blanc 2006 | 6 | $3,630 $605 | £2,381 | £397 | Sotheby's New York | 8621 20/3/2010
Haut Brion blanc 2006 | 12 | $6,205 | $517 | £3,879 | £323 | Sotheby's Hong Kong | HK0332 23/1/2010
Haut Brion blanc 2006 | 3 | $989 | $330 | £600 | £200 | Christie's London | 7748 5/11/2009
Haut Brion blanc 2007 | 3 | $1,573 | $524 | £1,085 | £362 | Sotheby's New York | N08639 5/6/2010
Haut Brion blanc 2007 | 6 | $3,660 | $610 | £2,568 | £428 | Acker Merrall & Condit New York | 103 19/5/2010
Laville Haut Brion 2006 | 6 | $2,069 | $345 | £1,265 | £211 | Sotheby's London | L11703 | 23/3/2011
Laville Haut Brion 2006 | 6 | $1,677 | $279 | £1,035 | £173 | Sotheby's London | L11702 | 23/2/2011
Laville Haut Brion 2007 | 6 | $1,881 $314 | £1,150 | £192 | Sotheby's London | L11703 | 23/3/2011
Laville Haut Brion blanc 2006 | 12 | $3,777 | $315 | £2,328 | £194 | Acker Merrall & Condit Hong Kong | 105A | 5/11/2010
Laville Haut Brion blanc 2007 | 6 | $1,573 $262 | £1,059 | £177 | Zachys New York | 1006NY | 23/6/2010
Laville Haut Brion blanc 2007 | 12 | $5,143 | $429 | £3,548 | £296 | Sotheby's New York | N08639 | 5/6/2010
Olivier Blanc 2006 | 12 | $363 | $30 | £229 | £19 | Zachys New York | 1012NY | 10/12/2010
Pape Clement Blanc 2006 | 1 imperial | $1,249 | $156 | £822 | £103 | Zachys Hong Kong | 1002HK | 26/2/2010
Smith Haut Lafitte blanc 2006 | 12 | $787 | $66 | £530 | £44 | Zachys New York | 1006NY | 23/6/2010

En primeur

Table 6: Comparison of en primeur prices and those in FAV Note 13 Foire aux vins (2 years later) Note 14 https://bleguern.fr/blg/primeur/

% diff. || wine || release price € || FAV € || outlet

-12 || Smith Haut Lafitte blanc 2007 || 62.48 || 55.00 || Auchan
-9 || Larrivet Haut-Brion blanc 2008 || 29.64 || 26.95 || Hyper u
-8 || Olivier blanc 2006 || 18.07 || 16.70 || Intermarche
-6 || Carbonnieux blanc 2007 || 25.45 || 23.95 || Carrefour
-5 || de Fieuzal blanc 2006 || 29.29 || 27.95 || Carrefour
-4 || Carbonnieux blanc 2007 || 25.45 || 24.50 || Auchan
-4 || de Fieuzal blanc 2007 || 35.90 || 34.50 || Auchan
-1 || Domaine de la Solitude blanc 2009 || 14.11 || 13.95 || Magasins u
-1 || Latour-Martillac blanc 2008 || 23.68 || 23.50 || Carrefour
1 || Le Thil Comte Clary blanc 2008 || 11.84 || 11.95 || Auchan
4 || Domaine de Chevalier blanc 2007 || 62.46 || 65.00 || Auchan
7 || Bouscaut blanc 2008 || 25.16 || 26.90 || Carrefour
9 || de Fieuzal blanc 2007 || 35.90 || 39.00 || Savourclub
33 || Pape Clément blanc 2005 || 131.21 || 175.00 || Chateauonline
57 || Couhins-Lurton blanc 2008 || 17.15 || 26.95 || Geant Casino
82 || Haut-Brion blanc 2004 || 234.60 || 427.00 || Cavissima

Most of these are marginal and wouldn't justifiy the outlay some 2 years earlier, with a few exceptions.

Conclusions

Most of these wines are cheaper to buy after bottling rather than at en primeur, especially during the Foire aux Vins (see Table 5). Even the very top wines are cheaper at auction a few years following their release. However, my outlook is rather tempered by the unknown future demand that may materialise from the Far East. In my opinion, these superb white wines, which are particularly suited to the diet of Japan, China, Thailand etc will find eager buyers once discovered. Given the small quantities in which they are produced I would not be surprised to find that their values may increase in the future. Look for the better value (e.g. Olivier - which has spent a small fortune on improving the estate) and excellent estates such as Larrivet Haut-Brion. There is no doubt that the wines from the stable of Haut-Brion are already highly prized but it is hard to see these going higher at the present time. The change in name of Laville Haut-Brion to La Mission Haut Brion blanc may well do something to bring the former up and help the prices of the latter.

Previously restricted content on finewinemagazine.com. This content was derestricted on 17 June, 2014.

References   [ + ]

1. where no year given this is the standard assemblage or capability
2. where no year given this is the average expectation
3. Too much water may lead to dense foliage which restricts fruit exposure and larger more dilute fruit, compact clusters and unsanitary conditions e.g. mildew, grey rot. Good drainage counteracts some of the problems caused by heavy rainfall. Too little water and vine growth is stunted and maturity delayed. Non-functioning leaves (no photosynthesis) can also inhibit ripening. Whilst sugar can increase this is only as a percentage of the juice which is already lower in volume. Late stress can affect the flavours too. Excessive stress tends to produce wines which are of lower flavour which are less complex, less ripe, lower volume and with less aging potential.
4. Rapport du millésime proposé par la Faculté d'oenologie de Bordeaux
5. Release prices from Leguern.fr
6. Sales dates for wines sold at auction
7. 7/11/2010
8, 9. 23/06/2010
10. 05/11/2010
11. 5/6/2010
12. based on records up until the end of April 2011
13. Foire aux vins
14. https://bleguern.fr/blg/primeur/

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