It was not that long ago the custom that the châteaux and domaines sold all or part of their wines by the cask to the trade, who in turn bottled the wines themselves. The first châteaux that started to exclusively bottle at the property were, in the 1920s, Mouton, Lafite, Latour, Haut Brion and Yquem. Many other top growths like Châteaux Margaux, Cheval Blanc and Pétrus sold part of their wine in cask as late as the 1950s and 1960s. It is only since 1972 that château-bottlings is obligatory for Cru Classés in Bordeaux. In Burgundy it was even rarer to find domaine-bottlings before the 1970s.
The quality compared to the château-bottlings vary greatly depending on who the bottlers were - there were admittedly a few black sheep who added inferior wine to make more money, but this was the exception and these bottles are rarely seen today. There were however a group of winemerchants whose bottlings not only were as good as, but often better than the château-bottlings. The reason for this was first that the buyers from the good winehouses tasted the wines cask by cask, and then bought the best casks after having negociated the price for that particular cask (at this time it was customary to bottle from cask to cask instead of first blending the wines in the large fermentation tanks). Secondly, the winemerchants were mostly better financially situated than the winegrowers, and could hence afford more new barriques, better corks and were able to bottle under cleaner and more controlled conditions. The wines were also bottled at the optimum time, whereas the growers mostly bottled when there was nothing else to do in the vineyards. This could lead to bottlings taking place over several months and then cask by cask, explaining the sometimes large bottle variations.
Some of the most reliable négociant-bottlings come from renowned houses such as Berry Brothers, Van-der-Meulen, Barrière, Hanappier, Barton & Gustier, Thienpont, Sanders, Grafé-Lecocq, Avery's, Reidemeister & Ullrich, Justerini & Brooks but to name a few. You will be able to find excellent value for your money here as these bottlings often cost much less than the château-bottlings. We will be able to advice you from our long experience with négociant bottlings.