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Top 10 Power 100

The wines in this list represent the 10 most powerful fine wine brands in the world this year.

The full list, which ranks the 100 most powerful wine estates around the world each year, is compiled by Liv-ex. The position of each wine is dependent upon five criteria.

First of all the performance of the five most recent vintages of the estate on the Liv-ex index over the year from August 2010 to August 2011 in terms of monetary value.

Each wine is then given a ranking according to the average scores of those five vintages either from Robert Parker for Bordeaux or Burghound from Allen Meadows for Burgundy.

Thirdly the average “best price” as based on merchants’ lists for those five vintages is compiled.

To measure performance the average price for a case of wine a year ago was compared to its current price. The bigger the increase, the higher the ranking.

The last calculation involved multiplying the average price with an average weighted production.

Finally the rank numbers for each brand were added up and the lower the overall score the higher the brand was ranked.

As will be seen from the lists, it is very easy for wines to rise and fall on the list and not being the top ranked in every category is no barrier to a high placement on the list. It must also be stressed that this is only the list for this year. Fluctuations in markets, changing consumer tastes and interest in other brands between now and next year could present us with a very changed line up when the list is next released.

The list here is presented from number 10 to number one.

  1. 10. La Mission Haut Brion












Owner: Domaine Clarence Dillon

Appellation: Pessac-Léognan

Second wine: La Chapelle de la Mission

Hectares: 21

Average production: 100,000 bottles

Neighbouring its first growth cousin Haut Brion, the initial history of La Mission is relatively unremarkable. Owned by the Lestonnac family in the 16th century it was donated to the Lazarite fathers in 1664 and they maintained the property until the revolution.

The château has passed through several American hands. In 1821 it was bought by a shipowning family from New Orleans, the Chiapellas, and after numerous other owners it became the property of the Dillon family in 1983.

Although it appears an odd choice to be included in the top 10 over the likes of Ausone or Le Pin or Léoville Las Cases or any other one of a dozen names that could be conjured up in a moment, the fact is La Mission is a strong performer.

This July Liv-ex noted that the 2001 and 2004 vintages had risen 60% in value and the property is no doubt benefiting from the increased attention in second growths.

Total Score:

2010 – 112

2011 – 163

Rank: 10 – down two places

Trade on Liv-ex:

2010 – 1.5% – ninth

2011 – 1.4% – thirteenth

Average score:

2010 – 95.6 – twenty-fourth

2011 – 95.8 – twentieth

Average price (£/cs):

2010 – £3,167  – twentieth

2011 – £3,810 – nineteenth

1-year performance:

2010 – 8.9% – fortieth

2011 – 13.7% – eighty-seventh

Weighted production (£):

2010 – £18,999,536 – nineteenth

2011 – £22,858,800 – twenty-fourth

9. Pontet Canet












Owner: Alfred Tesseron

Appellation: Pauillac

Second wine: Les Hauts de Pontet

Hectares: 80

Average production: 480,000 bottles

A surprise climb for the fifth growth that is steadily growing in popularity. As with Cheval Blanc, recent vintages have seen quite large jumps in price for the house.

This year the en primeur campaign saw the property increase prices for its 2010 vintage by 40% over 2009. This again brought grumbling from the trade that it was going too far too fast. However, denying the critics any satisfaction the château had a storming campaign and Liv-ex reported it the second most traded wine by value and volume, second only to Lafite.

Pontet-Canet is proving that it is an estate that punches above its weight. It is the fourth property in this list that is in Pauillac and the other three, its neighbours, are all first growths – Pontet Canet is a fifth.

It illustrates quite clearly the feeling that there are a many estates now that are “first growth quality” but with a second to fifth growth label.

As such it is no surprise to see it in the line-up for Robert Parker’s “Magical 20” list at November’s WineFuture fair.

With some of the best performances and most consistent rises between 2010 and 2011, Pontet Canet is clearly one to watch.

Pontet Canet has changed hands relatively little over its existence, especially when compared to the way the other estates in this list have.

Founded in 1725 by Jean-François de Pontet, who was governor-general of the Médoc and a secretary to Louis XV, the family retained their estate despite the French Revolution and even held on to its other property Langoa, which was sold to the Barton family in 1821.

The estate was purchased by the négociant Hermann Cruse in 1865 and he set about improving the vineyards and building a new cuvier.

The Cruse family sold up in 1975 to Cognac merchant Guy Tesseron who, with his sons, has run the estate ever since.

Having stopped the use of herbicides in 2003, the vineyards are turning over to biodynamics under the watchful eye of Jean-Michel Comme, who was brought in as technical director in 1989.

Total Score:

2010 – 166

2011 – 156

Rank: 9 – up three places for one of the rising stars of the Médoc.

Trade on Liv-ex:

2010 – 1.4% – eleventh

2011 – 2.1% – ninth

Average score:

2010 – 95.8 – seventeenth

2011 – 96 – fifteenth

Average price (£/cs):

2010 – £659  – eighty-fourth

2011 – £930 – eighty-seventh

1-year performance:

2010 – 13.9% – twenty-sixth

2011 – 36.8% – twentieth

Weighted production (£):

2010 – £13,841,734 – twenty-eighth

2011 – £19,521,600 – twenty-fifth

8. Margaux











Owner: Corinne Mentzelopoulos

Appellation: Margaux

Second wine: Pavillon Rouge

Hectares: 78

Average production: 380,000 bottles

How the mighty have fallen. Last year all five of the first growths were sitting pretty at the top of the table and now only four are clinging on at the top with Liv-ex saying that recent interest in Margaux has, “dropped away to a whisper”.

One of the original four first growths from 1855, wine has been made in and around the present estate since at least the early middle ages and a proper castle was known to have stood on the site now occupied by one of the most picturesque of Bordeaux châteaux, itself built in 1811.

Like most estates in the region it has changed hands numerous times. In the 1970s the estate was in serious difficulty and owner Pierre Ginestet sold out to Greek entrepreneur André Mentzelopoulos in 1977. With his death in 1980, his widow Laure and daughter Corinne took over the running of the property.

To use the old cliché, they and technical director Paul Pontallier have returned the château to its former glory so it is a shame to see it dip so far in the rankings. Then again fellow first growth Haut-Brion used to languish some way behind its fellows until a recent spike in interest has seen it catch up considerably. Perhaps the same will happen here?

Margaux’s auction record is unremarkable but solid, however, it does have the misfortune to hold the record for the most expensive bottle ever broken. In 1989 New York wine merchant William Sokolin took his bottle of 1787 Margaux – purportedly one that belonged to Thomas Jefferson and insured for US$225,000 – to a Margaux dinner at a restaurant having failed to find a buyer who was willing to pay $500,000 for it.

At the end of the evening as everyone was readying themselves to leave a waiter bumped into the table with a coffee tray and the unfortunate bottle was smashed on the floor. At least Sokolin had it insured – which some found rather convenient.

Total Score:

2010 – 52

2011 – 138

Rank: 8 –A quiet year’s trading sees Margaux drop three places and out of the top five

Trade on Liv-ex:

2010 – 4.8% – fourth

2011 – 4.7% – sixth

Average score:

2010 – 95.8 – twentieth

2011 – 95.2 – thirty-first

Average price (£/cs):

2010 – £5,137  – ninth

2011 – £5,615 – twelfth

1-year performance:

2010 – 29.8% – thirteenth

2011 – 14.8% – eighty-third

Weighted production (£):

2010 – £85,614,128 – sixth

2011 – £93,572,924 – sixth

7. Cheval Blanc

Owner: LVMH

Appellation: Saint-Emilion

Second wine: Le Petit Cheval

Hectares: 41

Average production: 102,000 bottles

One of only two Right Bank properties on the list and one that has had a chequered rise to the top.

It is one of only two Premier Grand Cru Classé (A) in Saint-Emilion – the other being Ausone – as decided by the 1955 classification.

The estate came into being when, in 1832, now neighbour Château Figeac sold off 15ha of its vineyards to a M. Laussac-Fourcaud.

The estate gained fame through showings at the London and Paris exhibitions of 1862 and 1867, the medals of which still decorate its label.

The family retained the estate until it was bought by Bernard Arnault, chairman of the LVMH group in 1998. Pierre Lurton was installed as estate manager, a role he had previously taken at Château d’Yquem when it was bought by the group.

An imperial of the 1947 vintage holds the record for a bottle sold at that size when it was auctioned by Christie’s in Geneva on 16 November 2010. The anonymous buyer spent SFr298,500 (€219,994) on the bottle.

In general though Cheval Blanc has not given good returns at auction and when the case price shot up drastically in 2006 (at a 48% premium over Latour) in a bid to reposition itself, there were grumblings that the wine was being ludicrously over-priced at release; a gripe borne out by the losses made by subsequent vintages.

However, recent trades on Liv-ex show that it might finally be going somewhere. The vintages 2006, 2007 and 2008 have all posted yearly gains of 27% and are closing the gap on their previous losses.

Total Score:

2010 – 193

2011 – 138

Rank: 7 – up 13 places, the biggest climb of any of the top 10 risers and helping (along with Pontet Canet) to knock both Ausone and Carruades de Lafite out of the running in the top 10.

Trade on Liv-ex:

2010 – 2% – eighth

2011 – 2% – eleventh

Average score:

2010 – 95 – thirty-fourth

2011 – 95 – thirty-sixth

Average price (£/cs):

2010 – £4,416  – twelfth

2011 – £5,640 – eleventh

1-year performance:

2010 – -3.3% – one-hundred and twenty-sixth

2011 – 18.4% – sixty-eighth

Weighted production (£):

2010 – £36,801,861 – thirteenth

2011 – £47,001,453 – twelfth

6. Pétrus












Owner: Jean- François Moueix and family

Appellation: Pomerol

Second wine: n/a

Hectares: 11.5

Average production: 30,000 bottles

Pétrus began its climb to the top in 1878 when it was awarded a gold medal at the Paris Exhibition.

However, prices remained much lower than those of the Médoc first growths: 1893 Petrus – 1,200 francs, 1893 Mouton – 1,800 francs; 1925 Petrus – 6,000 francs, 1925 Margaux 12,000 francs/tonneau.

But it was not until the middle of the 20th century that the estate found real fame. In the early part of that century the family that owned Pétrus, the Arnauds, began offering shares in their company La Société Civile du Château Pétrus. A Madame Edmond Loubat began acquiring these shares and by 1945 she owned the property outright.

A committed vigneronne, Loubat was not afraid to try new things and when frost destroyed a substantial part of the vineyards in 1956, rather than replant, wherever possible she had the vines cut down to a few inches above the ground in order to maintain the average vine age.

Meanwhile, in 1945 Jean-Pierre Moueix secured the unique distribution rights for Pétrus and its fame grew. In 1947, on the occasion of the visit of the Lord Mayor of London to Pomerol, Mme Loubat gave him two magnums of the 1938 Pétrus as a wedding gift for Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip.

In the 1960s Aristotle Onassis was seen drinking the wine at Le Pavillon in New York and the house’s reputation rose yet further. Following the death of Mme Loubat in 1961 her niece and her nephew inherited the property. Jean-Pierre Moueix purchased the nephew’s shares in 1964.

In popular culture, the book Sideways had Pétrus being the treasured wine of the main character Miles Raymond. However, when permission was asked to use the brand the family declined and so Miles was left drinking Cheval Blanc from a plastic cup instead.

Today Pétrus is one of the most sought-after and expensive wines in the world. It has an extremely limited production and prices at auction regularly top £30,000 a case and last year in Hong Kong Acker Merrall & Condit sold a six pack of the 2000 vintage for HK$1,659,200 ($207,400).

Total Score:

2010 – 100

2011 – 125

Rank: 6 – up one place

Trade on Liv-ex:

2010 – 1.5% – tenth

2011 – 2.21% – eighth

Average score:

2010 – 95.4 – twenty-seventh

2011 – 95.6 – twenty-fifth

Average price (£/cs):

2010 – £18,859  – first

2011 – £20,638 – second

1-year performance:

2010 – 4.7% – fifty-fourth

2011 – 14.9% – eighty-second

Weighted production (£):

2010 – £56,576,666 – eighth

2011 – £61,912,800 – eighth

5. Domaine de la Romanée-Conti

Owner: Aubert de Villaine & Henri-Frédéric Roche

Appellation: Vosne-Romanée, Côte de Nuits & Montrachet, Côte de Beaune

Hectares: roughly 4.5ha split between seven climats

Average production: unknown but split between the seven crus

Vineyards: Romanée-Conti (monopole); La Tâche (monopole); Richebourg; Romanée-St-Vivant; Grands Echezaux; Echezaux, Montrachet

One of the most celebrated collection of vineyards in the world and the only non-Bordeaux in the top 10.

As with so many vineyards, the history of the domaine is tied to that of the church – a link that lives on with the estates famous cross among the vines. In 1232 the Abbey of Saint-Vivant in nearby Vosne bought 1.8ha of land and planted vines.

In 1631 the de Croonembourg family acquired the parcel and called it Romanée, they also bought the neighbouring parcel of La Tâche at the same time.

When the family sold their land in the 1760s the vineyards became part of a bidding war between Madame de Pompadour (appearing once again) and her courtly enemy Louis François prince de Conti. The latter won and his title was later affixed to the end of Romanée.

After the revolution the land passed from owner to owner including one of Napoleon’s generals – who added greatly to the estate’s holdings – and the local Latour family.

Now under the ownership of Aubert de Villaine and Henri-Frédéric Roche, the estate practises biodynamics and is rapidly rising in popularity at auction with cases of Romanée-Conti 1988 in particular cropping up at auctions by Sotheby’s, Bonham’s and Christie’s in London and Hong Kong this year.

Again and again it is topping the top 10 sales charts and between March last year and now average proves have risen from £40,000 to £70,000 a case.

Bonham’s recently sold a case of Romanée-Conti 1990 in London last month for £126,500.

Total Score:

2010 – 98

2011 – 105

Rank: 5 – up one place

Trade on Liv-ex:

2010 – 0.4% – thirty-first

2011 – 0.5% – still thirty-first

Average score:

2010 – 94 – fifty-first

2011 – 94.4 – fiftieth

Average price (£/cs):

2010 – £16,253  – second

2011 – £21,549 – first

1-year performance:

2010 – 34.3% – tenth

2011 – 38.1% – thirty-eighth

Weighted production (£):

2010 – £105,646,070 – fourth

2011 – £120,865,767 – fourth

4. Latour











Owner: François Pinault

Appellation: Pauillac

Second wine: Les Forts de Latour

Hectares: 66

Average production: 350,000

Another of the original first growths, Latour is often cited as the one with the most power, depth of flavour and presence.

A tower from the 14th century – thought to be on the site of the, now iconic, 17th century dovecote – was garrisoned by the English when Bordeaux was part of the Angevin and Plantagenet domains.

As mentioned above the estate was tied to Lafite for many years by the Ségur family, an association that ended in 1755. However, like Lafite relatives of the Ségur family owned the property at the time of the revolution. Unlike the unfortunate Lafite owner, Latour’s patrons escaped.

Latour was quick to follow Haut-Brion’s use of stainless steel and introduced their own vats in 1964 at a time when Latour was mostly British-owned by Pearsons and Harvey’s of Bristol who had a combined 78% share.

However, Pearsons were subsumed into the larger Allied-Lyons company who, after buying some of the remaining family’s shares, began to have difficulties in the recession of the early nineties.

In 1992 the château was put up for sale and snapped up by French industrialist François Pinault.

Latour has been touted as perhaps one of the next brands to truly take off in Asia but success is yet to truly appear. Following Lafite’s hugely successful ex-cellar auction last year, Latour tried a similar sale but results were mixed.

Although the lots of 1961 and 1945 sold extremely well, which was unsurprising given their fame, most of the other lots did rather averagely and Liv-ex pointed out at the time that many of the lots were sold well below trading prices on the index.

This was simply not the case with Lafite but Latour may also have timed their sale poorly. Global auction prices on average have decreased by as much as 40% since the end of last year.

Total Score:

2010 – 43

2011 – 79

Rank: 4 – after jumping three places last year, Latour falls two to be overtaken by its first growth counterparts

Trade on Liv-ex:

2010 – 7.3% – third

2011 – 6.58% – still third

Average score:

2010 – 95.8 – eighteenth

2011 – 96 – fifteenth

Average price (£/cs):

2010 – £6,700  – eighth

2011 – £8,103 – seventh

1-year performance:

2010 – 41.8% – ninth

2011 – 22.4% – forty-ninth

Weighted production (£):

2010 – £97,820,000 – fifth

2011 – £118,306,720 – fifth

3. Haut-Brion












Owner: Domaine Clarence Dillon

Appellation: Pessac-Léognan

Second wine: Clarence de Haut Brion

Hectares: 48

Average production: 160,000 bottles

Haut-Brion has wine heritage dating back to Roman times but the original château was founded in 1525, when Jean de Pontac married Jeanne de Bellon and the estate was given as part of her dowry.

Jean added to the estate and died at 101 years of age. No mean feat in such times. His descendants established possibly the first sponsored bar in London called “the Pontack’s Head”. It made Haut-Brion the most well known label in England nearly a century before Lafite or Margaux began to be unloaded on English docks.

Records of Haut Brion, or “Ho Bryan” as diarist Samuel Peyps called it, have been found in the cellar ledgers of King Charles II.

Situated in what was then Graves, it was the only first growth of the 1855 classification not to be in the Médoc.

The Dillon family purchased the estate in May 1935 for 2.3 million francs. In 1961, Haut-Brion became the first major estate to begin vinifying in stainless steel tanks designed by estate manager Jean-Bernard Delmas.

Haut-Brion appeared to be languishing for a good many years behind its fellow first growths in both return and recognition.

Further acquisitions by the Dillon family led to several estates all with the name Haut Brion somewhere in the title, all with interchangeable names for their second wines and, as current owner Prince Robert of Luxembourg admits: “Not even my family knew what was going on.”

A radical overhaul and stream-lining of the names, reinvestment in winemaking and quality has led to a great deal of momentum being generated for the properties.

Haut-Brion has been one of the biggest and most successful estates over this year, with volume and value sales regularly outperforming the likes of Lafite and Latour.

Liv-ex’s evaluation in February of this year showed an average price movement of 27.7% when considering the last 10 physical vintages between 31 July 2010 and 31 January 2011.

Total Score:

2010 – 56

2011 – 74

Rank: 3 – up two places

Trade on Liv-ex:

2010 – 4% – sixth

2011 – 5.95% – fourth

Average score:

2010 – 96.2 – eleventh

2011 – 96.4 – eleventh

Average price (£/cs):

2010 – £4,259  – thirteenth

2011 – £5,188 – thirteenth

1-year performance:

2010 – 24.1% – sixteenth

2011 – 25.6% – thirty-seventh

Weighted production (£):

2010 – £46,849,000 – tenth

2011 – £57,065,800 – ninth

2. Mouton-Rothschild











Owner: Baroness Philippine de Rothschild

Appellation: Pauillac

Second wine: Le Petit Mouton

Hectares: 82

Average production: 320,000 bottles

“Château Mouton Rothschild is a claret,” quips James Bond as he outwits his would-be assassins Messrs Witt and Kidd in Diamonds are Forever.

However, Mouton is most famous for its labels and one of the great characters of the wine world, Baron Philippe de Rothschild.

Baron Philippe began the tradition of having a contemporary artist design the label in 1924 when he hired Jean Carlu to design something different to decorate the bottle for that vintage.

However, it was not until 1945 and “L’Année de la Victoire” that the hiring of an artist became a yearly occurrence.

Following Lafite’s lead, the 2008 label featured artwork by Chinese artist Xu Lei, a move which boosted prices from £4,000 to over £6,000 a case within a month as rumours circulated and raised prices by 15% between November and December.

Baron Philippe is also justly famous for being the only person to have ever overturned one of the rulings of the 1855 classification.

Arguing that anti-semitism was behind his family estate’s relegation to second growth status, the baron campaigned tirelessly to have the classification overturned and in 1973 it was elevated to a first growth.

Incidentally the “Mouton” in the name has nothing to do with the ram that the estate uses as its symbol. “Mouton” does in fact refer to “motte”, a mound or small hill upon which castles or manor houses were often placed for greater security. A great many of the châteaux in the Médoc are built on such promontories. The “fite” in Lafite is from an old Médocain word for “motte” too.

The ram motif refers to Baron Philippe’s star sign, Aries. Baron Philippe died in 1988 and was succeeded by his daughter, Philippine.

At auction Mouton has consistently performed well. A number of high-profile verticals have been sold by both Christie’s and Sotheby’s this decade.

Above all others in the 1945 vintage, Mouton is perhaps the one that is the most sought after, in large part due to its labelling. Two of Christie’s biggest sales involved cases from the vintage.

The highest lot was a case of magnums sold in Los Angeles on 28 September 2006. At $345,000 (£183,511) it is a record for a case of wine.

The following year in New York, Sotheby’s sold a Jeroboam for $310,700.

Total Score:

2010 – 49

2011 – 69

Rank: 2 – up one place from last year

Trade on Liv-ex:

2010 – 10.4% – second in the rankings

2011 – 11.50% – still second

Average score:

2010 – 95.63 – twenty-second

2011 – 95.90 – seventeenth

Average price (£/cs):

2010 – £4,632  – eleventh

2011 – £5,923 – ninth

1-year performance:

2010 – 34% – eleventh

2011 – 25.4% – thirty-eighth

Weighted production (£):

2010 – £115,792,162 – third

2011 – £148,080,000 – third

1. Lafite






Owner: Rothschild family

Appellation: Pauillac

Second wine: Carruades de Lafite

Hectares: 100

Average production: 480,000 bottles

With a history dating back to the 13th century the château’s truly formative winemaking years began in the 17th century when the Ségur family took charge.

One particularly influential family member, Nicolas-Alexandre was well known for his attention to detail in his winemaking, gaining fans such as Louis XV’s mistress Madame de Pompadour, British prime minister Sir Robert Walpole and US president Thomas Jefferson.

The Jefferson association would of course famously return to haunt the name in the 1980s with the sale of the “Jefferson bottles”.

Not only did the initial sale set a new record for a wine sold at auction, over £100,000 for a single bottle, subsequent sales gradually exposed them as fakes and has led to several acrimonious court cases. See the top 10 wine scandals for the whole story.

Nicolas-Alexandre was known as the “prince of vines” due to his ownership of Lafite, Latour and Calon (Ségur) among other estates, largely due to his father’s fortuitous marriage.

Lafite and Latour were separated at his death and his son proved inept at keeping the property in order so sold it. After a succession of owners a relative of the Ségur family acquired it but was sadly executed soon afterwards during the “social levelling” of the French Revolution.

After once again being sold and resold to various buyers the estate was finally bought by the de Rothschild family in 1868 when baron James spent five million francs buying the house and grounds and back supply of recent vintages.

Immovable at the top of the list and Asia’s perennial favourite, Lafite will take some beating. Clever marketing to the Chinese market, such as the addition of the lucky number eight symbol to its 2008 vintage bottles has done it no harm either.

The story so far for Lafite has been one of near unchallenged success. Pétrus and Latour were both tipped to be contenders but – so far at least – have failed to do so. The pinnacle of Lafite’s success came last October in Hong Kong when Sotheby’s auctioned over 2,000 bottles of Lafite that came straight from the château’s cellar.

Prices were high and three bottles of 1869 set a new auction record when they were sold for £151,250 apiece.

However, many warned that prices were artificially inflated due to the excitement of the occasion and indeed Lafite has yet to recapture that moment again quite so spectacularly.

Lafite has slipped slightly in the ratings with the percentage of trade on Liv-ex and yearly performance letting its fellow first growths catch up.

Total Score:

2010 – 15

2011 – 62

Rank: 1 – no change from last year

Trade on Liv-ex:

2010 – 34.7% – first in the rankings

2011 – 23.82% – still first

Average score:

2010 – 97 – second

2011 – 97.4 – fourth

Average price (£/cs):

2010 – £8,657  – sixth

2011 – £10,047 – fifth

1-year performance:

2010 – 79.5% – fifth

2011 – 21.9% – fifty-first

Weighted production (£):

2010 – £164,480,987 – first

2011 – £175,815, 500 – first

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