Bordeaux vintage rescores test Parker against successor Neal Martin

The responsibility for the Wine Advocate’s perspective on Bordeaux was passed last year from the wine world’s most influential critic, Robert Parker Jnr, to his appointed successor, Neal Martin. Much was made of the fact that the 2015 vintage en primeur tastings this Spring were the first without Parker and since then the market has pondered the “Parker effect” and whether Martin will naturally fill the “old master’s boots”.

The recent rescores, therefore, of wines from the 1996, 2012 and the 2013 vintages provide an opportunity to see how the market reacts to new scores from the Wine Advocate that AREN’T from Parker. Neal Martin is noted as a Bordeaux specialist and was in fact Parker’s recommended choice of successor so he is recognized as been ably qualified to take on the role but what is unknown is whether he will have similar sway over market prices as his former mentor.

Martin’s previous rescores of Bordeaux back vintages came under his “Wine Journal” brand, albeit featuring on the Wine Advocate’s website. But what is different about these tastings is, this is the first time he’s rescored a Parker reviewed vintage under a Wine Advocate byline. How much more notice will the market take from this positioning and how will it accept any change in view, albeit recognising wines evolve as they mature and don’t always fulfill earlier indications of potential? Of course no individual palate exactly matches another – only time will tell the longer-term value of Neal Martin’s.

The 1996 vintage is the smallest rescore (43 wines) of probably the greatest vintage of the 1990’s. Although overall not quite what we would call “prime”, because the Right Bank quality really wasn’t all that good, the real importance of this rescore is to test the impact of Neal Martin on the market. Is it the Wine Advocate brand that people react to or the Robert Parker brand?

Significantly Martin has rescored Margaux 1996 from 99-100 points, and the price HAS moved, but liquidity isn’t all that good, understandable due to the age of the wines. Montrose has been re-rated from 95=>96 however, he has changed the trajectory of Lafite which has gone from 100=>98 and Latour from 99=>95.

Traditionally the market pays MUCH more attention to upgrades than downgrades and I would expect this to continue to be the case, with demand for the highest score available.

The 2012 review was undertaken by Martin from Southwold at a large, mass, blind tasting that happened early in the year. These scores have now been published, confirming the vintage as good but not exceptional. Risers included Margaux 2012 moves from 95 => 96 and Mouton 2012 moves from 94 => 96. Parker had scored Haut Brion 2012 at 98, Martin moves this to 96+.

The 2013 rescore is perhaps less significant in terms of how we analyse the market going forward, but interesting nonetheless. The whites are decent, as they tend to be when the reds are not. The highest scoring red is Eglise Clinet at 94, with the best First Growths being Haut Brion and Mouton Rothschild at 92 points.

While we advocate mixing your exposure to vintages of various qualities, Prime, Mid and Off-vintage to optimise portfolio performance, our view is that there are better options among Off-Prime vintages. Although those clients who bought Lafite 2013 at our advice last summer have done very well, we think that there are other vintages that are more attractive purchases in the current climate.

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