Cult Insider

EDITION 007 | MAY 2023

Bordeaux 2022 – What the critics are saying

Written by - Aaron Rowlands, Research Editor - Cult Wines

The opinions of wine critics are among the most influential on the Bordeaux market. Overall vintage views as well as individual scores can make significant impacts on how well EP releases sell, especially from estates outside the top tiers.

This influence is not without controversy. Many (including critics themselves) disagree that a single number can accurately capture something as complex as wine. Others express concern over the outsized influence of critics on the perception of a wine and, in turn, its price. Palates and preferences are subjective; why should one person drive the market for a wine?

These concerns have merit; scores are reductive and shouldn’t substitute for personal preference. However, they also provide a useful reference point. Few will be able to try each wine (especially during EP) so trusted, reputable critics can help people understand and navigate the vast Bordeaux market. There is also an element of fun in comparing critics’ views with your own. Here, we highlight a few of the critics we believe are the most useful for Bordeaux 2022.

William Kelley is one of the most impactful voices as the lead Bordeaux critic for The Wine Advocate. Robert Parker, probably the most influential critic of all-time, set up this publication as a newsletter back in 1978, pioneering the 100-point rating system. Parker is now retired but The Wine Advocate scores still carry great weight. Kelley became the lead Bordeaux critic just before the 2021 EP campaign last year.

For the most part, Kelley confirmed the hype that 2022 qualifies as great ‘surprise’ vintage for Bordeaux. While he did acknowledge some estates made overly jammy wines, the experience gleaned from recent hot vintages helped many estates thrive. As he said in March this year, “Bordeaux is producing the best wines in its modern history.”

Favourites: Chateau Canon (St Emilion), Les Carmes Haut Brion (Pessac Leognan), Montrose (St Estephe) - all 99-100pts.


Jancis Robinson MW is a well-known British writer who has been reviewing wine for over two decades. Her website features her own scores on a 20-point scale as well as those of other experts’ including James Lawther MW who co-reviewed the 2022 Bordeaux wines.

Again, the word ‘surprising’ featured heavily in Robinson’s roundup of an ‘extremely impressive’ set of wines even if some exhibited overly high alcohol levels. One of the biggest surprises was that ‘Merlot shone’ on both sides of the Gironde in 2022. “So winemakers have learnt from previous hot vintages such as 2003 and 2018 what to do and what not to do, but so, it seems, have the vines themselves,” she explained.

Favourites of Robinson and Lawther: Chateau Mouton Rothschild (Pauillac) pulled in a 19-point score. Cheval Blanc (St Emilion), Petrus (Pomerol) and Lafite Rothschild (Pauillac) all 18.5 points.


Antonio Galloni set up Vinous Media in 2013. Both he and Neal Martin scored Bordeaux 2022 and gave an overall positive opinion. “The 2022s are some of the most memorable young wines I have ever tasted in Bordeaux,” said Galloni.

Similar to Jancis Robinson, Galloni remarked that “one of the surprises of the year is the quality of the Merlot, which is stellar in many wines on the Right Bank.” Merlot had previously been viewed as the grape most at risk during hot vintages such as 2022.

Favourites: Six tied with 98-100 point scores – Cheval Blanc, Beau-Sejour Becot, La Gaffeliere from St Emilion and then Vieux Château Certain (Pomerol), Leoville Las Cases (St Julien), Les Carmes Haut Brion (Pessac Leognan).


Neal Martin used to write for The Wine Advocate but is now with Vinous and remains one of the most respected voices about Bordeaux. He concurred with the overall view of 2022, specifying that it offers long-term ageing potential.

Martin acknowledges that not every estate navigated the extreme weather conditions but concluded: “It’s not a straightforward vintage - it’s quite complicated. Yet I find it intellectually satisfying. It’s a vintage of containment, both from the vine and the vigneron, and if you could keep a leash on all that potential energy, greatness was in the offing.”

Martin mentions that the best wines didn’t always align with Bordeaux’s traditional hierarchy. He initially preferred the left bank, but several ‘spectacular’ right bank wines led to a more even assessment.

Favourites: Three with 98-100 points: Leoville Las Cases (St Julien, which Martin singled out as his favourite appellation in 2022), Cheval Blanc (St Emilion), and L’Eglise Clinet (Pomerol).


Lisa Perrotti-Brown was The Wine Advocate’s Bordeaux reviewer until leaving last year to start her own publication, The Wine Independent. She called 2022 a ‘great, classic’ vintage but cautioned about its heterogeneity in terms of style.

Favourites: 10 wines received 98-100 point scores with many of the names from other critics listed among them, including Cheval Blanc which grabbed a top score from four of the five critics in this article. New entries on Perrotti-Brown’s list included Angelus (St Emilion), La Conseillante (Pomerol), Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande (Pauillac).


News in brief

News 1


Oldest winemaking dynasty increases Napa presence

One of the biggest names in ‘old world’ wine, Marchesi Antinori, has taken full ownership of one of the biggest new world wineries, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars. The Antinori family have been making wine in Tuscany for over 600 years and now offer a great portfolio including Solaia, Tignanello and Badia a Passignano. Meanwhile, the eponymous wine of Stag’s Leap helped put California on the map when it won the famed 1976 Judgement of Paris. Antinori had partnered with Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, a big player in Washington State wine, to acquire Stag’s Leap in 2007 but the latter sold its shares to a private equity firm in 2021. Antinori has now acquired full ownership.

News 1


LVMH claims title of Europe’s richest company

Luxury brand LVMH, which owns several top wine producers, saw its stock price hit an all-time high in late April, making it the most valuable company in Europe. Alongside its Louis Vuitton fashion brands, the company’s Moet Hennessy drinks arms boasts a portfolio that includes St Emilion icon Chateau Cheval Blanc, top Sauternes wine Chateau d’Yquem, as well as an impressive list of Champagne labels such as Moët Hennessy, Krug and Veuve Clicquot. LVMH acquired Joseph Phelps Vineyards last year, adding one of the best California wines to its holdings. Bernard Arnault, the founder, chairman and CEO of LVMH, was named as the world’s richest person by Forbes earlier this year.

News 1


New fine wine hospitality venues in Bordeaux and Napa

Two new wine-related hospitality venues have been announced recently. The private members club 67 Pall Mall will open a site in central Bordeaux in time for the 2025 En Primeur campaign. The main 67 Pall Mall location is in London, but the fine wine-focussed venue also has branches in Singapore and the Swiss ski resort Verbier. The new Bordeaux plans come alongside a planned venue in Burgundian town of Beaune. Across the Atlantic, iconic California winery Robert Mondavi announced that a new hospitality venue in downtown Napa will open late summer 2023. The Arch & Tower will feature a wine bar, restaurant, and tasting spaces.


Paul Declerck, Relationship Manager - Cult Wines - 2005 Domaine du Closel - Chateau des Vaults Savennieres Chateau des Vaults Clos du Papillon

What we’re drinking

2005 Domaine du Closel - Chateau des Vaults Savennieres Chateau des Vaults Clos du Papillon

Paul Declerck, Relationship Manager - Cult Wines

  • • Drinking Savennieres takes me back home; I grew up in this beautiful Anjou region! My first thought when this 2005 wine touched my lips was: ‘This is the living proof that dry whites from the Loire Valley can age - and age beautifully!’

  • • This 2005 is a pure expression of the winery’s incredible terroir and ‘savoir faire’ and the 17-years laying down time has only enhanced its complexity. I loved the rich, creamy sensation on the palate that still had lots of fresh white fruits along with complex nutty flavours from the age.

  • • Savennieres wines are dry whites made from probably the most versatile grape of all, Chenin Blanc (Chenin also makes fantastic sweet wines in the neighbouring village of Bonnezeaux).

  • • Clos du Papillon is the equivalent of a ‘Grand Cru’ in the region and is named after its butterfly (papillon) shape. The soils are different to other vineyards in Anjou. Large rocks composed of schist, quartz and rhyolites - the most silica-rich of volcanic rocks - gives the wine distinctive flint aromas.


Our fine wine feature

Venissa - Defying the odds on the Venetian lagoon

Written by - Neil Thorne, Portfolio Manager - Cult Wines

A mere 30-minute water-taxi from the heart of Venice and you find Venissa, one of the world’s most remarkable and unusual sources of fine wine. The vineyards rest in relative tranquillity away from the crowds of Venice on the isle of Mazzorbo in the northern section of the Venetian lagoon. Wine production typically requires some elevation or slope to help with drainage, heat and airflow. But the tiny 0.8ha Venissa sits barely a metre over the waterline within lovely quaint walled garden with a 14th century belltower.

While the atmosphere is much calmer, the threat of catastrophic flooding is something Mazzorbo does share with the rest of Venice. Many feared the Dorona grape (cross between Garganega and another local white grape) was lost forever after a major flood in 1966. Even the annual high tides present challenges that Venissa has responded to by building a channel system that preserves the vines during winter tides.

But it seems these same tides may be one of the secrets to what makes Venissa’s wines unique. The estate conducted a comprehensive viticultural assessment that concluded the vines most at risk of flooding produce the most concentrated juice. Although the reason isn’t certain, one theory posits that the higher salt content in the soil forces the vines to work harder.

Venissa - Defying the odds on the Venetian lagoon

Whatever the exact cause, Venissa primarily uses these vines on soils that see the most flooding in their flagship Venissa Bianco wine made from the indigenous Dorona grape.

Common to other whites from northeastern Italy, many would refer to these as orange wines given that production involves between one to four weeks of skin contact. After one to two years of ageing in concrete, the wines possess a deep golden hue with a somewhat hesitant nose that belies a far more expressive palate that wouldn’t be out of place in the Cote d’Or with an extra dose of salinity from the terroir. The mature wines echoed northern Rhone varietals with distinct citrus and tropical notes, especially following oxidation.

Venissa also makes a high-quality red wine sourced from vines on another island in the lagoon, St. Cristina. This Venissa Rosso lays claim to the only red wine produced in the region in a style not dissimilar to right bank Bordeaux given the Merlot-heavy blend. However, while Bordeaux blends in Tuscany and elsewhere sprang up in the mid-late 20th century, evidence of Merlot production on St Cristina dates back around 200 years! The bouquet is typically sweet balsamic and fruit forward whilst the palate balances fine tannins, red-black fruit and a firm acidity with the estate’s trademark salinity still very much present.

Evidence of viticulture in the region dates back 2,500 years, but Venissa’s modern era began when Bisol family (of Prosecco fame) acquired the estate in 2002. I had the opportunity to chart the development of the relatively young producer, trying wines from 2011-2013 and 2016-2017. Akin to much of mainland European winemaking, the contrast between optimal growing conditions in 2016 and testing ones in 2017 delivered contrasting but equally pleasing results. Venissa also makes more approachable ‘second wines’ called Venusa Bianco and Rosso.


Wine Style Blend Production Notes
Venissa Bianco White/Orange skin-contact 100% Dorona ~3,000x 50cl btls 4 weeks skin-contact, 2 years in concrete
Venusa Bianco White/Orange skin-contact 100% Dorona ~3,000x 75cl btls 1-2 weeks skin-contact, 1 year in concrete
Venissa Rosso Red 80% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon ~3,000x 50cl btls 1 year in mainly older oak. Either Venissa or Venusa produced in a vintage
Venusa Rosso Red 80% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon ~3,000x 75cl btls 1 year in mainly older oak. Either Venissa or Venusa produced in a vintage


The flagship Venissa wines are bottled in traditional 50cl bottles using glass from the famed Murano Island nearby. The white is adorned with a hand-beaten gold-leaf design whilst the red uses copper and both are adapted by a local artist to represent the growing season each vintage, adding to collectability.

Aside from the novel mode of transport and aesthetically pleasing vineyard, the estate boasts both a Michelin starred restaurant and more casual osteria which focus on local, seasonal seafood. Burano Island is a short walk over a bridge and is renowned for its charming multi-coloured houses and impossibly-leaning church tower which has somehow not toppled into the lagoon.


Explore & travel

Eat Sleep Drink - South Australia

Written by - Olivia Bodle, Global Head of Events - Cult Wines

Adelaide is a lovely, quiet city in South Australia that might seem like a long way from just about everywhere aside from the beautiful blue southern sea. But for Australian wine lovers, Adelaide couldn’t be situated any better, just a stone’s throw from three of Australia’s finest wine regions -McLaren Vale, Adelaide Hills and the Barossa Valley. Each of these regions could be a whole trip in itself but you can fit the lot into a week if you are a keen and efficient wine tourist.

Each region has a very different character, McLaren Vale is closer to the beach and with that comes a more laid-back charm. Adelaide Hills is spread out without a real focal point town but has beautiful rolling hills of vineyards with wineries scattered around. Barossa Valley’s main town of Tanunda is a bustling place with a gentrified rustic warmth to it.

Most wineries accept visitors to their cellar doors where you can taste and relax in a beautiful setting. Here are just a handful of fantastic producers to visit (either drop-in cellar doors or by appointment).

Eat Sleep Drink - South Australia


Who to visit
  • • McLaren Vale – Hugh Hamilton, Brash Higgins, Dune
  • • Adelaide Hills – Shaw + Smith, Bird in Hand, CRFT Wines, Ochota Barrels
  • • Barossa – Two Hands, Eperosa, Michael Hall, Artisans of Barossa, Torbreck, Tscharke


Where to eat

Each of these regions has more wonderful lunch spots than you could tackle in a month, let alone a week. Many wineries have small boutique restaurants serving fantastic local produce. In the towns there are wonderful restaurants with tasting menus and unbeatable wine lists. A trend in the area is towards set tasting menus so make sure before you go that you’re in the mood for a seven-course feast! Here are just a few I can recommend:

  • • McLaren Vale – Down the Rabbit Hole, The Currant Shed, McLaren Vale Hotel
  • • Adelaide Hills – Pike & Joyce, The Summertown Aristologist, Mt Lofty Ranges Vineyard
  • • Barossa – Fino, Maggie Beers Farm Eatery, FermentAsian, The Atrium at Hentley Farm, Vino Lokal


Where to stay
  • • McLaren Vale – Hahndorf, Beresford Estate, The Oxenberry Farm, The Vineyard McLaren Vale, Serafino
  • • Adelaide Hills – Sequoia Lodge
  • • Barossa - The Louise, Le Mas


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