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    Black holes in the Bordeaux sky 

    Part 1: The endless race between the wine merchant and wine estate

    When a wine investor or collector wants to complement his or her cellar with a bottle of the most recent vintage of Château Pétrus, there is only one alternative: estate-made and estate-bottled Château Pétrus. If you want to purchase a Château Pétrus that is beginning to mature enough to drink, say a 1959 vintage, the situation gets more complicated. There are Pétrus wines in the market that do not carry the familiar and reliable label and whose contents have not been blended, let alone bottled, at the Pétrus estate. The labels of these strange-looking Pétruses carry names such as Van der Meulen, Lafitte or Hannappier in large lettering. The same labels also tell that the wine has been blended and bottled in places like Belgium, the Netherlands or Sweden. The prices of these wines vary widely. This strange phenomenon is not typical only for Pétrus, because there are also British Lafites, Dutch Cheval Blancs, German Moutons and Belgian Latours. Should you then dare to buy a “Belgian Pétrus”? Yes, because it may be even better and less expensive than the original French one!


    Bolshevist activity

    Up until the late 1960s, many Grand Cru estates used to sell all or part of their harvest in barrels to wholesale wine merchants who then bottled the wines. They also stuck labels on the bottles carrying their own information. This practice dates back to the 18th century, and as late as the 19th century, estate bottling was such a rare occurrence that the merchant’s name was often mentioned first on the labels of even the best-known estates, and the estate name in small letters afterwards.

                          It was not until the early 20th century that the largest and most prestigious estates started to bottle their wines at the estate. After the First World War, wine production was still a very unscientific activity; wine trade was dominated by large wholesalers instead of the estates, which made the ownership of a top-class estate in Bordeaux rather unprofitable. The most noted promoter of estate bottling was Baron Philippe de Rothschild. When he boldly bottled his entire 1924 vintage of Mouton-Rothschild himself, it was an unprecedented act. To underscore his position, the baron used works of the Cubist poster artist Carlu on his labels, which was called “Bolshevist activity” by Maurice Healy. Encouraged by de Rothschildt’s example, Château Latour, Lafite, Haut-Brion and Château d’Yquem started to bottle their own wines. Many top estates such as Château Petrus and Château Margaux, however, let the wholesalers bottle their wines until the late 60s.


    Rich merchants, poor estates

    The quality of wholesaler-bottled wine might vary a lot in comparison with estate-bottled wines, depending on who actually bottled it. The truth is that this system allowed unscrupulous merchants to increase their profits through blending unauthentic, cheaper wine in the bottles. On the other hand, several estates are guilty of this as well. Fortunately, you meet such bottles in the wine market very rarely. The other side of the coin is that there was a large group of wine merchants whose bottles were not only as good as estate bottlings, but often even better.

                          There are understandable reasons for this. The largest wholesalers with the best reputation tasted the wines barrel by barrel at the estate and then bought the best barrels. If necessary, they also blended the contents to guarantee even quality. Wholesale merchants had always made more money from the wines than the growers, which allowed them to invest more in first-class cellars. Significant operators in the market, the wholesalers also had excellent contacts with bottle and cork manufacturers who offered them their best products to guarantee the quality and preservation of the wines.

                          The wholesalers also bottled the wines at the optimal moment, whereas estates often bottled when other work at the estate gave them time for it. For example, the Château Latour 1961 bottling took a whole year at the estate.


    The New Roles

    When estate bottling was made legally mandatory for Grand Cru Classe wines in 1969, two centuries of wholesaler domination seemed to have come to an end.

                          The first half of the 1970s was a nightmare for wine wholesalers. They had made unsuccessful purchases and overloaded their warehouses with poor-quality 1972 and 1973 wines for which they could not find buyers. At the same time, the credibility of the merchants suffered because of a great wine scandal. Cruse, one of the largest and most reputed wholesalers, had bottled and marketed large quantities of AC Bordeaux classified red wine with the Cruse label. Which proved to be quite ordinary unclassified table wine. When Cruse’s forgery was revealed, the scandal erupted and the credibility of wholesalers was destroyed. The wholesalers also quickly lost their grip on the Bordeaux estates. The pricing, as well as the bottling, became the realm of the estates.

                          Not even the good-quality year of 1975 changed the situation, because it was commercially poor and the wholesalers were very cautious with their purchases. Château Mouton Rothschild and Château Lafite made a bold decision and bypassed the wholesalers altogether. They sold part of their wines in batches direct to collectors and investors through Christie’s auction house in London. This was considered a daring move and the final blow to wholesalers. There was no return to the previous situation, even if the wholesalers still sell three-quarters of Bordeaux wines. Many wholesalers -négociants- folded because of financial difficulties in 1974 and 1975.


    The best and the most reliable

    The largest and most traditional wholesalers were naturally the most reliable ones, as a good reputation was a matter of honour and the cornerstone of a successful business. The best-known are A&R Barriere, Van der Meulen, Barton&Guestier, De Luze&Fils, Sichel, Berry Brothers, Avery’s, Cuvelier&Fils, Hannappier, Calvet, Lafitte, Grafe-Lecocq, Charles Bardin and Sander’s, to name just a few.

                          Because wholesaler bottlings are often up to 20-40% cheaper than estate bottlings in the secondarymarket, they are good value for money. It is worth remembering, however, to make sure that all the external factors that affect the quality of the wine are in order. The price should also be in the correct proportion to estate-bottled wines. One should always pay attention to the the origin of the wine, because there are lots of counterfeit wines. Only few wholesalers used corks and capsules with vintage and estate information on the wine, in addition to their own data. That is why so-called easy counterfeits, bottles with changed labels, are being offered far too often.


    As a rule, excellent wines

    We have bought hundreds of wholesaler-bottled wines over the years, mostly to be enjoyed at dinners and tastings.  Our best memories are from Van Der Meulen Château d´Yquem 1921, De Luze&Fils  Château Lafite 1811 and 1900, Sichel&Fils Château Calon-Segur 1928, Van Der Meulen Château Pétrus 1947, Berry&Bros Château Palmer 1961, Sichel& Co. Château Cheval Blanc 1953, Barton&Guestier Château Margaux 1959, Lafitte&Co. Château Pétrus 1959 and Van Der Meulen Romanée-Conti 1923 and 1929. Unfortunately, we have also encountered major disappointments and hundrets of forgeries.

                          We do not recommend wholesaler-bottled wines as investments except in special cases, because one can never be quite sure about their origin or their authenticity. Uncertainty usually elicits healthy mistrust in wine investors as realising these wines may take a long time. On the other hand, the best wines from the best wholesalers can easily be recommended for enjoyment, because nine out of ten will reward the buyer, and not only through price.


Wine Moments

Here you can see wine moments from tastingbook users. or to see wine moments from your world.

Pekka Nuikki / Editor of the Fine Wine Magazines and Champagne Magazine, Wine Writer (Finland)  had a tasting of  45 Wines  from  28 Producers 

Historical tasting day - none of the champagnes we tasted received less than 90 points. Champagne Magazine have had so far 86 "The 100 Best Champagne of the Year-tasting" - days since 2009, and today was the most rewarding day ever - none of the tasters gave less than 90 points to any of the 45 champagnes we tasted:)

10d 7h ago

Dom Pérignon 2013, Moët & Chandon
Grand Vintage 2016, Moët & Chandon
Cristal 2014, Louis Roederer
Pannier rosé , Pannier
La Grande Dame 2012, Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin
La Grande Dame 2012, Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin
Vintage 2008, Krug
Blanc de Noirs NV (10's), Besserat de Bellefon
Belle Epoque Rosé 2012, Perrier-Jouët
Comtes de Champagne 2008, Taittinger
Les Folies de la Marquetterie NV (10's), Taittinger
Cuvée R. Lalou 2008, G.H. Mumm
Brut Millésimé 2015, G.H. Mumm
Essentiel Blanc de Blancs extra brut NV (10's), Piper-Heidsieck
Cuvée Brut NV (10's), Piper-Heidsieck
Essentiel Blanc de Blancs Brut NV (10's), Piper-Heidsieck
Dom Ruinart 2010, Ruinart
Meunier Vintage 2016, Cattier
Brut Rosé 2016, Deutz
Amour de Deutz 2013, Deutz
Cuvée William Deutz 2013, Deutz
Fleut de Champagne NV (10's), Duval-Leroy
Noble Cuvée 2004, Lanson
Le Blanc de Blancs NV (10's), Lanson
Green Label Organic Brut NV (10's), Lanson
Cuvée 1522 Brut Rosé 2014, Philipponnat
Cuvée 1522 Brut 2016, Philipponnat
Apanage NV (10's), Pommery
Thiénot Cuvée Alain Thiénot 2008, Thiénot
Cuvée Stanislas 2008, Thiénot
Thiénot Brut NV (10's), Thiénot
Tzarina Rosé Brut NV (10's), Tsarine
Blanc de Blancs NV (10's), Tsarine
Thienot x Penfolds Blanc de Blancs Lot 2-175 2013, Penfolds
Essentiel 2012, Collard-Picard
Rosé Brut NV (10's), Collard-Picard
Brut Rosé NV (10's), Paul Goerg
Rosé Mosaique NV (10's), Jacquart
Réserve Brut NV (10's), Guy Charlemagne
Cuvée Extra Brut Oenophile 2008, Pierre Gimonnet
Blanc de Noirs NV (10's), Gremillet
Brut Millésime 2016, Gremillet
Blanc de Blancs NV (10's), Gremillet
Cuvée Grenat 2013, Prestige des Sacres
Louis Victor NV (10's), A.D. Coutelas

Pekka Nuikki / Editor of the Fine Wine Magazines and Champagne Magazine, Wine Writer (Finland)  had a tasting of  55 Wines  from  31 Producers 

The Day 2 of the Champagne Magazine's yearly tasting: The 100 Best Champagnes 2023 - The level of champagnes is clearly better than, for example, 10 years ago - The average score has risen by more than 5 points. It is also gratifying that the number of corked bottles has dropped to almost zero, when just 10 years ago one out of ten was corked. Five more tasting days left :)

20d 6h ago

Dom Pérignon 2008, Moët & Chandon
Vintage Blanc de Blancs 2015, Louis Roederer
Exact Extra-Brut NV (10's), Pannier
Vintage Rosé 2012, Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin
La Grande Dame 2012, Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin
Vintage 2012, Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin
Krug Rosé 25ème Édition NV (10's), Krug
Joseph Perrier Rose NV (10's), Joseph Perrier
Rosé Réserve NV (10's), Charles Heidsieck
Blanc de Blancs NV (10's), Charles Heidsieck
Rosé Millésime 2012, Charles Heidsieck
Rosé NV (10's), Billecart-Salmon
Blason Rosé NV (10's), Perrier-Jouët
Vintage 2015, Taittinger
Comtes de Champagne 2008, Taittinger
Comtes de Champagne Rosé 2009, Taittinger
Nocturne NV (10's), Taittinger
Brut Prestige Rosé NV (10's), Taittinger
Brut Réserve NV (10's), Taittinger
Mumm Rosé NV (10's), G.H. Mumm
RSRV Cuvée 4.5 NV (10's), G.H. Mumm
Vintage 2014, Piper-Heidsieck
Essentiel Blanc de Blancs extra brut NV (10's), Piper-Heidsieck
Amour de Deutz 2013, Deutz
Brut Rosé NV (10's), Deutz
Rosé Prestige NV (10's), Duval-Leroy
Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Brut NV (10's), Duval-Leroy
Fleur de Champagne Brut Premier Cru NV (10's), Duval-Leroy
Grand Rosé Brut NV (10's), Gosset
Vintage Brut 2012, Lanson
Le Blanc de Blancs NV (10's), Lanson
Le Rosé NV (10's), Lanson
Noble Cuvée Blanc de Blancs 2004, Lanson
Brut NV (10's), Montaudon
Rosé Brut NV (10's), Montaudon
Cuvée 1522 Brut Rosé 2014, Philipponnat
Cuvée Louise 2006, Pommery
Cuvée Louise 2005, Pommery
Brut Royal 2009, Pommery
Thiénot Cuvée Alain Thiénot 2008, Thiénot
Cuvée Prestige Brut NV (10's), Collard-Picard
Rosé Brut NV (10's), Collard-Picard
Absolu Extra Brut NV (10's), Paul Goerg
Brut Mosaïque NV (10's), Jacquart
Brut Rosé NV (10's), Philippe Gonet
Roy Soleil Grand Cru NV (10's), Philippe Gonet
Tradition Premier Cru NV (10's), Gonet-Médeville
Extra Brut Grand Cru 2007, Gonet-Médeville
Brut Rosé NV (10's), Guy Charlemagne
Mesnillésime 2015, Guy Charlemagne
Vintage Brut 2012, Edouard Brun
Brut NV (10's), Nominé-Renard
Cuvée Dynastie Blanc de Blancs NV (10's), Prestige des Sacres
La Chouette de Champillon Brut NV (10's), Champagne Autréau
Blanc de Noirs 2014, Vincent d'Astrée

Pekka Nuikki / Editor of the Fine Wine Magazines and Champagne Magazine, Wine Writer (Finland)  had a tasting of  37 Wines  from  26 Producers 

Ruinart is one of the oldest Champagne houses, exclusively producing champagne since 1729.
“In the name of God and the Holy Virgin shall this book be opened…” It was with these words, written by Nicolas Ruinart on 1 September 1729, that the House of Ruinart was officially established. A true entrepreneur, Nicolas Ruinart fulfilled the ambition of his uncle, the Benedictine monk Dom Thierry Ruinart, a close friend of Dom Pérignon, to make Ruinart the premier Champagne house.
A resounding success was made possible by the perceptiveness of its initiator, Dom Ruinart, to whom the Ruinart House paid tribute in 1959 by creating the historic, prestigious Dom Ruinart vintage.
This beautiful Dom Ruinart 2010 was in perfect condition. Decanted 15 minutes. Very deep, clear, almost colourless. The nose is marvellously toffeed, with citrus and pure, ripe mineral-rich flavours. Beautiful, vivid, creamy and wide mousse and a mouth-filling weight of rich fruit. Lots of dense, full, exotic flavours and a touch of honey depth.  Beautifully concentrated and powerful, yet balanced and gracious. Very charming, intense  and vigorous wine. 96 points

2m 13d ago

Dom Pérignon P2 2004, Moët & Chandon
Dom Pérignon 2013, Moët & Chandon
Brut Nature Rosé 2015, Louis Roederer
Vintage Blanc de Blancs 2015, Louis Roederer
Les 7 NV (10's), Laherte Freres
Les Longues Voyes 2018, Laherte Freres
Vintage Rosé 2014, Ayala
Le Clos Saint-Hilaire 2006, Billecart-Salmon
PN TX 17 2017, Bollinger
La Côte aux Enfants 2012, Bollinger
Comtes de Champagne 2008, Taittinger
Special Club 2015, Paul Bara
Brut Millésimé 2014, Paul Bara
Annonciado 2007, Paul Bara
Dom Ruinart 2010, Ruinart
Célébris 2008, Gosset
Grand Siècle No.25 NV (10's), Laurent-Perrier
Extra-Brut Grand Blanc 2014, Philipponnat
Clos des Goisses 2013, Philipponnat
Extra-Brut Hors Série 2017, Chartogne-Taillet
Les Barres 2017, Chartogne-Taillet
Mineral Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut 2016, Agrapart & Fils
Blanc de Blancs Gastronome Brut, 2018, Pierre Gimonnet
Cuvée Extra Brut Oenophile 2008, Pierre Gimonnet
Extra Brut Blanc de Blancs Les Hauts Partas 2015, Roger Coulon
1er Cru Les Vignes de Vrigny NV (10's), Egly-Ouriet
Millésimé NV (10's), Jacques Selosse
Version Initial NV (10's), Jacques Selosse
Extra-Brut Cramant Les Gouttes d’Or 2017, Savart
L'Accomplie NV (10's), Savart
Les Maillons Extra Brut NV (10's), Ulysse Collin
Efflorescence Extra Brut 2016, Marie-Courtin
Roses de Jeanne La Bolorée Blanc de Blancs 2018, Cedric Bouchard
RiveGauche Extra Brut 2018, Bereche & Fils
La Rue des Nouers NV (10's), Benoît Déhu
Brut Nature Interlude Oger Grand Cru NV (10's), Domaine Vincey
Brut Nature Blanc de Noirs ADN de Meunier 2016, Christophe Mignon

Pekka Nuikki / Editor of the Fine Wine Magazines and Champagne Magazine, Wine Writer (Finland)  had a tasting of  10 Wines  from  7 Producers 

Château Margaux 1961 / The superb 1961 vintage begun with a spring frost and due to a cold spell that was followed by very exceptional "coulure" reducing the crop size drastically. Luckily the wonderful weather conditions with hot and dry weather during the summer enabled this small crop to reach really extraordinary ripeness and concentration. 
Dark, deep and youthful colour. The nose is very complex, elegant and fragrant bouquet with layers of ripe fruit, flowers and oak. On the palate the wine is wide open and expanding. Refined gentle tannins and soft and silky texture. A multitude of flavour nuances. Rich and harmonious wine with smooth and elegant tannins. A well-balanced and elegant wine that is mature but there is no hurry. The aftertaste is impressively persistent.  

3m 3d ago

Pekka Nuikki / Editor of the Fine Wine Magazines and Champagne Magazine, Wine Writer (Finland)  had a tasting of  8 Wines  from  8 Producers 

Exellent  birthday dinner started with Cristal and ended with 1864 Madeira.

3m 25d ago

 Cloudy Bay  has updated producer and wine information

4m 7d ago

Pekka Nuikki / Editor of the Fine Wine Magazines and Champagne Magazine, Wine Writer (Finland)  had a tasting of  12 Wines  from  12 Producers 

Château Suduiraut 1896 / Very old-looking bottle with just remains of label, but the colour and level were very promising. Original cork and capsule. Decanted one hour. Dark brown but bright colour. Fabulously rich, floral, and creamy bouquet. Very sweet, fat and concentrated. Despite its admirable age, it was filled with jammy fruit, with bags of fruit exploding in the mouth. Good balance and structure. Elegant and smooth, yet quite powerful and warm with good acidity. Will last another dacade!

4m 17d ago

Pekka Nuikki / Editor of the Fine Wine Magazines and Champagne Magazine, Wine Writer (Finland)  had a tasting of  12 Wines  from  7 Producers 

Krug Vintage Champagne 2000 / 98 points /Elegant orange-hued colour. Lively small-sized bubbles last well in the glass. The nose is fruit-driven and elegant with spicy notes and dried fruit and brioche aromas. An intensely fruity palate with a lovely silky mouth-feel and good weight. Sublime acidity refreshes the round and rich palate. The length is long and harmonious. A long and glorious future lies ahead of this already super enjoyable vintage Krug.

5m 1d ago

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