Cult Insider

EDITION 018 | APRIL 2024

Bordeaux 2023 En Primeur: Early Insights & Market Dynamics

Written by - Connor Adams, Relationship Manager - Cult Wines

As the Bordeaux 2023 En Primeur campaign unfolds, early discussions and analyses have highlighted its unique position compared to previous vintages. Despite being early in the campaign, significant attention has been drawn to the potential market dynamics, particularly considering recent shifts in the wine investment landscape.

The Liv-ex 100, a crucial benchmark for fine wine, showed an uptick in March for the first time in twelve months, hinting at a possible resurgence in demand. This index, which has about 40% exposure to Bordeaux, indicates that high-end Bordeaux wines have faced considerable pressure.

Notably, the First Growths of Bordeaux have seen significant price reductions as investors liquidated holdings, leading to potentially attractive valuations for certain back vintages. These back vintages are now positioned as the main competition for the 2023 offerings, with some, such as various vintages of Lafite, experiencing price decreases of 16-20% within the last year. This sets a competitive backdrop, especially as discounts are anticipated for the 2023 vintage.

Expert Reviews and Growing Conditions Shape Bordeaux 2023 Quality

James Suckling, the first major critic to publish his views on the 2023 Bordeaux vintage, expressed enthusiasm about its quality, particularly praising its quintessential Bordeaux characteristics, such as structured tannins and vibrant finishes. This positive early reception from critics may be pivotal in shaping market perceptions and influencing buyer decisions.

Detailed weather and crop reports by experts like Jancis Robinson have underscored the unique growing conditions of the 2023 vintage. A mild winter followed by a challenging spring and subsequently favourable summer conditions have all contributed to the grape quality and the potential excellence of this vintage.

"The 2023 Bordeaux vintage marks a return to classicism, characterised by more restrained alcohol levels of 13-14%, underscoring its freshness and elegance. This year's growing season commenced early and extended longer than usual, though it was challenging. The vineyards faced significant mildew pressure during a notably tropical-like spring, with high humidity and warmth. However, a moderate summer with considerable cloud cover provided a reprieve from previous years' scorching heat and drought conditions, bringing slightly higher than average rainfall. A timely heatwave at the end of August proved beneficial, accelerating the ripening process and setting the stage for a prolonged harvest. Winemakers were tasked with meticulously timing their picking dates to achieve optimal phenolic ripeness, which varied the vintage across different appellations. Despite these variances, the best wines of 2023 stand out for their classical style — lower in alcohol yet marked by a refined purity of fruit that integrates beautifully to create wines of freshness, balance, and sophisticated elegance. While not opulent, the 2023 vintage attracts with its classic Bordeaux character, particularly in how the finest wines and terroirs manifest their elegance and complexity." — Tom Gearing, Co-Founder & CEO of Cult Wines

Critical Reception Influences Market Trends and Investor Strategies

The anticipation of critic scores and their subsequent impact on market dynamics cannot be overstated. High scores could support a premium pricing strategy by chateaus, whereas mixed reviews might necessitate more aggressive pricing adjustments to attract buyers, especially in a fluctuating market. The critical reception, therefore, holds substantial weight in determining the economic landscape of the 2023 vintage.

The landscape presents challenges and opportunities for investors and enthusiasts considering Bordeaux 2023. With potential price reductions—suggested up to 35%—chateaus are poised to recalibrate after a subdued 2022 campaign. This adjustment, coupled with the vintage’s quality and market conditions, will be crucial for making informed investment decisions.

As Bordeaux 2023 EP develops, stakeholders will need to stay informed through market analysis, expert commentary, and vintage reports. This understanding will help elucidate the broader implications of the vintage's reception and its place within Bordeaux wines' historical and future context.

Read the full article


News in brief

News 1


AI Revolutionises Vineyard Management and Winemaking

Kara Maraden, director of viticulture at Foley Family Farms, is using AI technology to revolutionise wine production across vast vineyards in California and Oregon. Through sensors from Tule Technologies, the AI assesses environmental conditions to optimise irrigation, improving grape quality and consistency. The technology also extends to winemaking, with Tastry’s AI app helping to tailor wines to consumer preferences by analysing chemical profiles. Despite these advancements, some experts and traditionalists caution against over-reliance on AI, highlighting the artistry and nuanced understanding of winemaking that technology cannot replicate.

News 1


Chapel Down Eyes Further Growth with New £32m Winery

Chapel Down, a prominent UK winemaker, has reported strong financial results for 2023, with a 16% increase in gross profit to £8.9 million and a 15% rise in revenues reaching £17.9 million. Following a record harvest, the company is steadfast in its anticipation of double-digit sales growth in 2024. A new £32m winery near Canterbury, set to open for the 2026 harvest, aims to enhance production capabilities and tourism offerings. This significant expansion underscores Chapel Down's unwavering commitment to growth and solidifying its market position.

News 1


Electronic Tongue Detects Wine Faults Early

Researchers at Washington State University have developed an 'electronic tongue' capable of detecting spoilage in white wine faster than human sensory panels. In recent experiments, this technology identified signs of microbial contamination within a week—four weeks before human detection. Published in the Journal of Food Science, the study highlights the e-tongue's potential to improve early fault detection in wine, complementing traditional sensory analysis. The innovation promises broader applications in wine quality control and has garnered support from notable research funds.


Aarash Ghatineh, CRO - Cult Wines - Stéphane Bernaudeau's Les Nourrissons 2016

What we’re drinking

Stéphane Bernaudeau's Les Nourrissons 2016

Aarash Ghatineh, CRO - Cult Wines

Stéphane Bernaudeau's comes from the Loire Valley's Anjou region, renowned for its unique terroir. The vineyard is established on a schist plateau near the Lys river, incorporating rare 3% Verdelho into its predominant 1910-planted Chenin Blanc, enhancing its saline notes.

Adopting organic and biodynamic practices, Bernaudeau crafts this wine with a blend of tradition and innovation. The vineyard's storied past, enriched by its acquisition from a notable vigneron-artiste, contributes to the creation of a wine that is both a reflection of its historical roots and a testament to meticulous winemaking.

On the nose, expect enticing aromas of ripe orchard fruits, honeyed notes, and a hint of floral complexity. On the palate, the wine is elegant and lively, with refreshing acidity and a long, mineral-driven finish. Best decanted when young, it is recommended for drinking now to 2028.

What sets Stéphane Bernaudeau's Les Nourrissons 2016 apart is its small-scale production, focusing on quality over quantity. Aged in older oak barrels, the wine gains a dense texture and longevity that harmonises beautifully with its vibrant orchard fruit flavours and pronounced mineral character. This meticulous crafting process underscores its exclusivity and establishes Les Nourrissons as a standout among France’s prestigious dry whites.


Our fine wine feature

Exploring the Appeal of Brut Nature Champagne

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

Champagne’s popularity has been unwavering throughout history, but the character of this sparkling wine is not set in stone. It is ever evolving with the industry and consumer tastes. The style of Champagne itself is not universal, more of an umbrella term for a category.

An easy way to split up the category is by how much sweetness there is in the final wine; some sugar is added to the Champagne at the end of the winemaking process in most instances which is referred to as ‘Dosage’.

This sugar softens the edges of the crisp, high-acid wine but is hardly detectable in the most common style labelled as ‘Brut’ (which has only around 7g of sugar in the bottle, a scant spoonful.) In the early days of Champagne, the popular style was incredibly sweet, with 200 grams of sugar per litre, as sweet as Sauternes nowadays.

The style of Champagne which has notably increased in popularity over the past few years is the bone-dry Brut Nature (also known as Zero Dosage or Brut Zero) with 0 to 3 grams sugar added per litre. It started as a trend in the 1970s amongst the independent, artisanal ‘Grower’ producers like Jacques Selosse as this extremely dry style allows greater expression from the wine, terroir, and house-style.

Exploring the Appeal of Brut Nature Champagne

The significant upwards spike in the trend began a decade ago with Brut Nature exports increasing at 3 times the rate of Brut over that time. The increase in popularity is in line with consumers seeking more authentic, natural wines which have been made with minimal intervention.

This style has moved away from its artisanal roots and has become significantly more mainstream, with many of the Grandes Marques (the big production houses in Champagne) having jumped on the Brut Nature wagon. Louis Roederer’s Starck, in collaboration with artist Philippe Starck, is one of the finest; it is fresh, pure, and vibrant.

‘Stripped back’, ‘essential’, ‘minimalist’ and ‘naked’ are the way these wines are marketed and often sit to the side of the main range in the portfolio, sometimes feeling a little bit like an odd one out.

This bone-dry style sits at one end of the spectrum, which doesn’t align with some of the Houses’ styles. Those which lie on the richer, more generous side where a little touch of sweetness really suits the style are the likes of Bollinger, Henri Guiraud and Krug.

The Brut Nature Champagnes are wonderfully versatile, offering a myriad of possibilities for enjoyment. They are lovely when enjoyed well-chilled on their own, or with a few Gordal olives, as an aperitif. These Champagnes are not to be overlooked as just an aperitif and are very food-friendly, they sit perfectly next to shellfish, lighter chicken dishes and cut through rich, creamy sauces beautifully. This versatility is a testament to the craftsmanship and quality of Brut Nature Champagne.

My recommendations

Independent ‘Growers’

  • Champagne Jacquesson Cuvée 747
  • Champagne Roger Coulon, Esprit De Vrigny, Brut Nature
  • Vouette Et Sorbée 'Fidèle' Brut Nature

Grandes Marques

  • Louis Roederer’s - Starck
  • Pol Roger’s Pure
  • Laurent-Perrier Blanc de Blancs Brut Nature


Explore & travel

Challenges & Triumphs of the Azorean Wine Industry

Written by - Marlena Wieczorek, Logistics Manager - Cult Wines

Nestled amidst the endless expanse of the Atlantic lies an alluring archipelago of the Azores - a land of rugged volcanic terrains, hot springs, breathtaking waterfalls, and... vineyards! While the Azores might not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of wine, these islands hold a secret – a unique wine industry waiting to be discovered.

Join me in Sao Miguel, the largest island in this Atlantic paradise, where together with Nuno Rainha, son of the owner of the family-run winery, Manuel Francisco Simas Rainha, we uncover the charm of Azorean wines and the challenges faced by the wineries of Sao Miguel.

The Challenges of Azorean Winemaking

Life on Sao Miguel's vineyards isn't all sunshine and rainbows. Azorean wineries confront a storm of challenges, each one testing their resilience. The capricious climate, marked by high humidity and erratic weather patterns, casts a shadow of uncertainty over grape cultivation.

Persistent rainfall and salty, moisture-laden air pose a constant threat, fostering mildew and rot that can decimate crops in the blink of an eye. And when Mother Nature unleashes her fury in the form of storms and hurricanes, vineyards bear the brunt, enduring crop losses and vine damage that set back years of hard work.

Challenges & Triumphs of the Azorean Wine Industry

Yet, the challenges continue. Limited land availability and rugged terrain restrict the expansion of vineyards, forcing growers to make do with marginal areas. It's a delicate dance between environmental preservation and viticultural pursuits.

Economically speaking, Azorean wineries are navigating turbulent waters, too. With small-scale production and limited market access, profitability remains elusive. Navigating the regulatory frameworks governing viticulture and wine production is no easy feat. Often, mainland interests take precedence, leaving Azorean winemakers feeling somewhat second-class.

But from behind the storm clouds, there shines a ray of hope. Across Sao Miguel's unforgiving terrain, traditional wineries are beacons of resilience, where growers confront these challenges with unwavering determination. Through unconventional cultivation techniques and diversification of products, they navigate the storms, emerging stronger and more resilient.

The Mysteries of Azorean Wine Production

Located among the landscapes of southern Sao Miguel lies Manuel Francisco Simas Rainha, a family-owned winery that embodies the spirit of resilience and innovation. Established in 1983, this quaint vineyard in Vila Franca do Campo boasts a diverse portfolio, including wines, beers, and spirits. With only 2,500m2 of land at their disposal, Manuel Rainha has become a cornerstone of quality and craftsmanship.

As I stepped foot onto Manuel Rainha’s sun-kissed vineyards, I was greeted by Nuno whose passion for wine and spirits was contagious. His enthusiasm bubbled over during the tour as he shared tales of the industry’s history.

Nuno has devised ingenious methods to overcome the obstacles that plague the industry. With limited sunshine jeopardising cultivation, Nuno has adopted innovative techniques to maximise the potential of his vineyard. Positioning the vines horizontally, he shields them from the ferocious salty winds sweeping across the island.

As I listened to Nuno's plans for the future, it became clear that Azorean wineries are ready for a remarkable revival despite recent years’ misfortunes. With a keen eye for innovation and a steadfast commitment to quality, Nuno is paving the way for a bright future in the industry.

The Last Sips of Sao Miguel’s Iconic Vinho

Among the array of wines sampled during Nuno’s tasting, one stood out as a poignant reminder of the island's vinicultural heritage: Vinho de Cheiro (‘wine of the nose’) Terras de Bruma, a cherished relic of Sao Miguel, and the wine with which Manuel Rainha started his winemaking history with.

This aromatic, low-alcohol (only 9-9.5%) wine that was once a staple of the island’s culture is now facing extinction. Made from naturally resilient Vitis Labrusca species (‘the fox grape’), despite the EU-wide ban, it remains a nostalgic memory for older generations of islanders. It’s still widely used in gastronomy, adding aroma and a splash of colour to local delicacies like octopus and red meat. Nuno sadly acknowledges its impending demise, marking the end of an era.

The tasting also featured a delightful array of liquors crafted from islands-grown fruit, including tangerines, wild berries, pineapples, and Nuno's personal favourite, passion fruit, alongside honey-based liqueurs, showcasing the diverse bounty of the Azores.

We concluded the tasting with a unique Portuguese experience: um cafe con cheirinho – an espresso with a splash of aguardente. Sipping on this aromatic blend of robust coffee and a subtle kick of the spirit was a perfect finale to an evening of celebrating Sao Miguel’s traditions.

A Toast to the Azores

As I (only slightly tipsy) bid farewell to Nuno and his picturesque vineyard, one thing becomes clear – the Azorean wine industry may face its fair share of challenges. Still, it's a story of passion and ingenuity. So, the next time you raise a glass of wine, why not make it an Azorean one? After all, there's nothing quite like sipping on a taste of paradise. Cheers to that!


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