The top wines produced in the cellars of the big wholesale merchants are hard to fault. Their winemakers have access to the best fruit, the best viticultural support and the best technology. If they want to make something to rival the flagship wine of a midsize or even boutique cellar, they are unlikely to be constrained by any of the obvious limitations.

If their winery processes 40,000-50,000 tonnes and their objective is a showstopper available in minuscule quantities, it’s the easiest thing to redirect five tonnes of grapes. They have access to the best barrels, an on-site laboratory and an army of assistants to do the hand-crafting. If their wines lack for anything, it might be personality — lost to high-gloss polish...

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