Focus on: Luciano Sandrone, Le Vigne - Barolo

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2019-07-09


The reputation of Luciano Sandrone continues to grow and grow, in keeping with the popularity of Barolo. Not as famous as the very top tier of Bruno Giacosa, Giacomo Conterno or Giuseppe Rinaldi but nestling just in behind, at a far more attractive price point.

Here we consider Le Vigne cru although the story is much the same for the slightly more expensive Cannubi Boschis (renamed Aleste in 2013 – in classic, designed to confuse, Piemonte style!).The consistency of the scores is incredible - through a mixture of very varied vintages from ’06-’15 the average is 95.3 points (Wine Advocate). Very significantly, the estate releases a small amount of the exact wines (under the labels Le Vigne Sibi et Paucis and Cannubi Boschis Sibi et Paucis) after ten years of age and they consistently achieve greater acclaim at that point, the ’07 going from 96 to 99 points (WA) for example. The range of points scored would indicate these are very fine wines indeed and given the rarity, must be only affordable to only the mega rich. Not so, prices start at c. £60 a bottle, rising to c. £170 for the stonking 2010 vintage.

For comparison sake I looked at some other fine wines from Burgundy and Bordeaux over the same ten year time period. Obviously these comparisons will never be exactly like for like but the differentials are not that great either; brilliant producers from the top tier of their respective regions, producing internationally acclaimed wines from the best local grape varieties designed to take advantage of their particular terroirs and climates to the full. We have a decent premier cru Burgundy, Domaine Dujac Aux Combottes, a sensational Pomerol on top of its game, Vieux Chateau Certan, and the king, Chateau Petrus (just for fun):


Comparisons between ‘06-‘15 vintages:

Av. points

Av. Price

Highest price


Luciano Sandrone Le Vigne Barolo DOCG

95.3

£98

£170

Domaine Dujac Gevrey Chambertin Aux Combottes Premier Cru

91.6

£170

£234

Vieux Chateau Certan

94.1

£134

£220

Petrus

96.1

£2,200

£3,250


I suggest there is room for significant upside for this Barolo. And I am going to start selling the Combottes I own, the differential is absurd and further illuminates how crazy Burgundy prices have become. Production of fine wine in Barolo (and Barbaresco) is tiny compared to even Burgundy and completely miniscule in what we could consider the ‘investable’ candidates.

Please see charts for Market Price and Relative Value Scores for available vintage comparison.

Le Vigne Sandrone RVS

Le Vigne Sandrone MPS

Miles Davis

9th July 2019


The Wine Market Investment Report - June 2019

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2019-07-08


The highlight in June for the wine world was clearly the Daily Telegraph event ‘Wine; for profit or pleasure?’. A sell out crowd witnessed excellent talks from four leading experts from the wine world, including two of us from Wine Owners (Miles and Nick). Please contact us for a copy of the presentation.

Otherwise June was again tranquil with trade bobbing along just fine but with no particular surges or dips anywhere. Global stock markets enjoyed a rise after Messrs. Trump and Xi found some accord but this doesn’t seem to have inspired the wine market as yet! Wine stock levels are healthy amongst Asian traders so not even a continuing depressed sterling is bringing about much marginal demand from that corner although most indices are in positive territory in June.

The Bordeaux en primeur campaign came to an end with an almighty whimper. En primeur gets under the skin of the wine trade and all involved spend far too much time talking, writing and moaning about it…yet even so, I shall continue! Within the wine market(s) it has represented very poor relative value for a decade, prices are just too high, yet merchants don’t dare turn their back on this once great provider. It was a great system for all involved, including the man on the street. Now only a very few wines ‘work’ each year (whereby they make sense to the supply chain and the end buyer). And now, to compound the problems of high prices, the Chateaux have decided to retain more and more of their own stock. How this comes to market, when and at what price will fuel debate but based on the evidence of the mighty Chateau Latour, the market may just turn its back. The feeling of stock overhang may easily outweigh the feeling of short supply and it’s not as if the world is going to go thirsty, there will always be alternative choices.

If only our Italian friends came together with a synchronised offering, we could have a proper old school primeur market again. All the market players would have to be involved at the same time, jostling for position, scrapping over every six pack and would still be able to sell at a price that would make everyone happy. The hype that the merchants used to create in Bordeaux primeur markets, that we are still hungover from, could be regenerated. We all miss the hype and the excitement which created such fear amongst the white-faced, panic-stricken collectors and consumers who couldn’t possibly stand even the faintest whiff of FOMO (fear of missing out). 

As it is, Italian releases come to market in no organised way and importers and merchants release when they feel like it. It’s all very Italian really but it does make buying easier. We have been acquiring some 2015 Barolo new releases from Fratelli Alessandria, whose reputation is markedly on the up. Prices are very reasonable for these high scoring wines, ranging from c.£35 per bottle for their basic Barolo (94 Wine Advocate points) to nearer £60 for their top cru, Monvigliero (96+). Outside of the very top group, Luciano Sandrone is another producer worth mentioning - consistently high scores at affordable prices. Their equivalents in quality in either Bordeaux or Burgundy would be far more expensive.

Piedmont is easily our favourite region at the moment, due to the demand/supply equation and the blue chips remain well bid. Whilst Bordeaux and Burgundy remain lacklustre, Champagne and Rhone have attracted some attention. There is no question we would recommend the brilliant 2008 vintage in Champagne and the recently released Sir Winston Churchill looks a good bet with the ’96 being double the price.

Please see the Blog for more articles about the wine investment market.

Also, any enquiries about my Professional Portfolio Management services are most welcome.

Miles Davis

8th July 2019

miles.davis@wineowners.com


The May 2019 Wine Investment Market Report

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2019-06-07


The wine market in May was completely dominated by Bordeaux en primeur. Overall the market is steady but lacklustre, ongoing concerns over U.S. and China trade wars and boring old Brexit rumble on and even a weaker GBP hasn’t managed to inspire substantially more marginal demand from USD based buyers. The secondary blue chip Bordeaux market is solid but a little stodgy. The bids are there but nothing much is moving north. As a result it is little surprise that merchants’ 2018 Bordeaux offers, backed by some exuberant critic’s reports and scores, have been flooding the inbox.

For our Bordeaux 2018 ‘in a nutshell’ report on the 2018 vintage, please click here.

Obviously the more exuberant critic reports and scores, of which there are (too?) many, have been the ones used by merchants and their sales teams. Julia Harding MW, of JancisRobinson.com, provided the reviews most in common with our own team’s appraisal and her scores are more subdued than others. She lends perspective to a vintage that we do not regard as highly as 2016 and one that may turn out to be overblown in some quarters. Antonio Galloni of Vinous Media is another commentator in the less exuberant camp and we look forward to his colleague Neal Martin’s commentary when it arrives (Neal did not taste en primeur this year due to ill health – we wish him a full and speedy recovery).

A very important point regarding the ’18 vintage, largely ignored by the salesmen and one I would like to repeat, is that whilst certain wines are very impressive, incredibly concentrated yet well balanced, they are really, really BIG. Nearly all of the alcohol numbers are between 14 and 15%. The poor unsuspecting punters may get quite a shock when they sit down, sometime from now, to enjoy their excellent claret only to discover they have something they weren’t quite expecting in their glass!

It'll be fascinating to see how the wines from 2018 develop as wines, but also from a market perspective. The Chateaux are holding back more and more wine every year and in some cases, releases are up to 50% lower than last year. Will this drive some scarcity seekers to market or will it have the opposite effect of creating a nervy overhang? It is fair to say that so far, Latour has not exactly flourished since retreating from the age old system. En primeur to my mind, apart from a certain few every year, has not made clear financial sense for years and few releases have come close to our ‘proto-prices’ (where the price needs to be to make clear financial sense to buyers), more here on JancisRobinson.com.

Successful releases so far include: Calon Segur, Canon, Carmes Haut Brion, Lafleur, La Mission Haut Brion, Leoville Las Cases, Pichon Lalande, Pontet Canet and Rauzan Segla. The majority of releases have not sold through.

In other areas there is still plenty of demand for high end Burgundy, it’s just that the prices that are being achieved by sellers are well below advertised levels. Piedmont is in good health but in low supply, a good thing for holders! Champagne holds firm, so do Super Tuscans.


The April 2019 Wine Investment Market Report

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2019-05-13


This time of year in the wine trade is always dominated by the Bordeaux en primeur circus. Please see our 2018 ‘In a nutshell' report here. It’s strange really, as en primeur has not made commercial sense for the legions of the swirling and spitting wine trade, let alone the man on the street, for very nearly a decade. En primeur business has shrivelled like a drought savaged grape over the years and there are only a handful of opportunities each year that really make sense. At the time of writing only a few releases have made sense according to our ‘proto-pricing’ (please see jancisrobinson.com), Branaire Ducru, Duhart Milon and Quinault L’Enclos. Palmer sold out quickly (at 2,880 per 12), partly due its rarity (see blog), but also because they have built their brand so brilliantly under the guidance of Thomas Duroux. As a result, Palmer has a strong en primeur following.

In general, the Chateaux are releasing less than ever this year which makes this game ever more senseless. According to one highly experienced trade legend EP is all about building the client base for merchants and clearly the avalanche of similarly persuasive e-mails work to some extent. Experienced wine players are highly selective in the EP arena and returns in the short to medium term are very far and few between. Real scarcity is where it’s at, if you’re hoping for rising prices, and that doesn’t come from en primeur.


Level Month YTD 1 Year 5 Year 10 Year
WO 150 Index 303 -0.6% -2.0% 6.4% 57.4% 83.3%
WO Champagne 60 Index 462.61 0.9% -1.3% 5.0% 68.4% 154.9%
WO Burgundy 80 Index 691.36 3.7% -2.0% 25.7% 142.1% 233.2%
WO First Growth Index 75 Index 276.71 -0.5% -2.0% 2.6% 45.5% 71.2%
WO Bordeaux 750 Index 340.71 1.0% 1.7% 6.3% 57.5% 100.3%
WO California 85 index 669.86 -0.1% -0.4% 15.4% 106.4% 309.9%
WO Piedmont 60 Index 318.83 -0.3% 0.9% 9.2% 75.6% 126.4%


There were no new themes detected over the month and scarcity is still the biggest driver. Interest in Piedmont is still firm although the monthly movement of the index would suggest otherwise. The same can be said of Burgundy, which is still active but is trading below advertised offer levels, with buyers negotiating harder.

Brexit concerns seem to have been put on hold for now, more through ennui than anything else, which led to some increased activity from U.K. private clients but overall the market trundles along rather than powering up. It’s a time for gentle accumulation on the bid side of the market.

As an aside; several collectors have approached us about reviewing their cellars, mainly to consider what holdings are investment grade and which are not. This has led to most people making the realisation their collections lack structure. The combination of our expertise and the technological support from the platform is proving to be very valuable.


Focus on: Krug 2004

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2019-04-30


Research does not come any easier than looking at Krug 2004. Vintage Krug is an investment stalwart and the long-term numbers tell us it is a consistent performer. So, you key in the various available vintages into Wine Owners ‘Relative Value Analysis’ and ’04 comes out as THE pick of the bunch:

Krug Relative Value Analysis Wine Owners

Then you read the tasting note from Antoni Galloni:

Krug's 2004 Vintage is absolutely mesmerizing. Layers of bright, chiseled fruit open up effortlessly as the wine fleshes out with time in the glass. Persistent and beautifully focused, with a translucent sense of energy, the 2004 captures all the best qualities of the year. Moreover, the 2004 is clearly superior to the consistently underwhelming 2002 and the best Krug Vintage since 1996. Readers who can find it should not hesitate, as it is a magical bottle. 97+

Simples! But, as ever, it is not quite as simple as that; if we compare the returns over the last twelve months, performance across the vintages is far from consistent:


1996 7.50%
1998 -0.90%
2000 19.80%
2002 2.30%
2003 12.50%
2004 -6.00%

Krug price graph Wine Owners

It is difficult to explain the variances, especially the ‘98 but I take heart that the 2004 is yet to perform positively. It was a decent size crop and clearly there are plenty of merchants still holding their allocation but this means there is still time to accumulate before it starts appreciating – and it most certainly will! This is a buy on a long term basis.


The March 2019 Market Report

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2019-04-04


In the same way the media in March was completely dominated by Brexit, so was the wine market. Instead of permanent squabbling and jostling for position, however, the main players in the house of wine commons continued to sit on their hands. Fortunately, there was no squabbling, but U.K. merchants continued to be, unsurprisingly, risk averse; some are just not buying anything for stock currently, so the market has continued to ease. The good news is this easing is a result of apathy rather than volumes of stock hitting the market. There is nothing worse for markets than uncertainty and it feels like we are in the epicentre of that storm right now.


MTD YTD 1 Year 5 Year 10 Year
WO 150 Index 306 -0.25% -1.75% 6.93% 58.95% 89.23%
WO Burgundy Index 654 -2.81% -6.54% 21.66% 128.83% 220.77%
WO Bordeaux Index 336 0.27% -0.34% 5.14% 55.61% 103.50%
WO California Index 670 1.51% -1.59% 14.15% 98.52% 316.53%
WO Champagne Index 459 -0.29% -1.47% 4.50% 67.02% 160.82%
WO First Growth Index 278 2.79% 0.38% 3.03% 45.16% 74.95%


The Burgundy Index continues to slide from its Himalayan style peaks, unsurprisingly, but what is really interesting (to me at least!) is the performance of Bordeaux, especially the First Growths. This sub index gained 2.8% in March and is the only one of the indices above to be positive in 2019. Other than the post Brexit referendum and the weak sterling inspired rally of 2016, the First Growths have been in the doldrums for nearly a decade – is this the turning point we wonder? Market commentators have been saying that Burgundy was making First Growths look cheap again for a while now, yet so far there has been little stirring of the sleeping giant.

We have just returned from Bordeaux, having tasted some, but not all, of the 2018 vintage - more on that here separately and soon. A bad outbreak of mildew and a drought later in the growing season led to severely reduced yields in some properties (two thirds in the case of Pontet Canet) which could easily mean some aggressive pricing in some quarters – yes, again!

As usual, les Bordelais were not to be found suffering from modesty or understatement, many to be claiming another incredible success. The heat from the end of July onwards resulted in small, thick skinned berries delivering highly concentrated juice, resulting in well above average alcohol levels. There are few wines coming in at less than 14% alcohol by volume - Mr. Parker must be punching the air! It almost goes without saying but those who managed the vineyard well, picked in time and maintained acidity have performed the best. At a time when winemakers and consumers are reverting to fresher, more elegant styles the timing of this vintage is somewhat ironic. If Mr. Parker’s influence was still intact we may have been looking at Bordeaux ’18 being declared as the first ever Port vintage outside of Portugal!

Overall the 2018 vintage is patchy although there are undoubtedly some very impressive wines. Some prices may work, most will not, and it could just be that our favourite vintage of modern times, the 2016, is about to be made even more compelling than it already is!


Wine Owners wine market report


The February 2019 Market Report

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2019-03-07


February was a relatively quiet month for the wine market. The month started with the Chinese New Year celebrations which meant Asia was quiet and it also contained a European half term break. Sentiment towards Brexit turned, meaning GBP strengthened towards the end of the month, which is never good for the wine market as US$ based bids (U.S. and Asia) automatically adjust downwards. The broad base WO 150 index fell by 2.4%, as did our Blue Chip Burgundy index. In fact, all the indices for the major wine producing regions came off by c.3%.

If recent discussions with the finance and new venture folk surrounding wine as an alternative asset class were anything to go by, this is beginning to look like a good time to buy. Following the Brexit inspired rise of USD and Euro against GBP in 2016, the Bordeaux market has done nothing for almost a decade. ‘Bordeaux bashing’ peaked years ago too - just resentful shrugging goes on these days! En primeur looms but is largely a dead duck, so that is unlikely to provide stimulus to the market but a wall of money certainly might do the trick… watch this space!

We were busy trading 2009 red Bordeaux following various reports published after ‘ten year on tastings’. We blogged about these in general and focussed on one wine separately, Cos d’Estournel. We concluded that, as it continues to split opinion, and received some pretty low scores (93 from Jane Anson of Decanter for example), coupled with challenging price levels why take the risk when there are so many less controversial and comparatively cheaper wines available? There are many names still available on the exchange, from the excellent Cantemerle at c.£300 to Haut Brion and Mouton Rothschild at the cheapest in the market prices.

If you’re looking for decent ‘drinking’ claret buying en primeur made very little sense even back in 2009 which blew apart every previous record ever held for wine sales, anywhere on the planet. Factoring in the cost of storage and capital and the effect of inflation, the very respectable names of Cantemerle, Capbern Gasqueton, Haut Bergey, Lafon Rochet, Ormes de Pez and Potensac are all better value today than they were then! All these names are available on the platform today.

Sassicaia was in focus with the release of the much admired 2016 vintage, Monica Larner of the Wine Advocate awarding the full 100 points and meaning Armit, the UK agent sold out in seconds.

Screaming Eagle ’16 was released and is now offered at £7,250 per 3 bottles in the U.K. market. Not altogether surprisingly, this is making some older vintages looking relatively cheap! The ’17 will not be sold under the usual label due to smoke taint from the Californian wildfires.

And finally, we learnt the sad news that Gianfranco Soldera passed away in the middle of the month. We are planning to honour the magician of Montalcino with a memorial dinner later in the year, possibly in May.



The January 2019 Market Report

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2019-02-07


The broad-based WO 150 Index was flat for the month, as were nearly all the indices. The only real note of interest was the Burgundy Index, dropping by 0.7%. As you can see from the graph below it has been the stellar performer amongst the great wine producing regions of the world. It’s far too early to start calling a general cooling off period but as I have been arguing here it feels right to top slice some of the better performing names and start looking for some laggards.

The numbers in the box below are performance numbers over a five-year period, so all very respectable but nothing comes close to Burgundy. The consistency and lack of volatility must surely be a thing of beauty to the investor and connoisseur alike?


WO 150 index


January is a busy month in the wine world when the latest Burgundy vintage is sold ‘en primeur’. 2017 was a decent vintage (See WO Blog) and has sold through pretty well given another year of testing prices.

The ‘Southwold group’ met in January to review the now in bottle Bordeaux 2015 vintage and there are two excellent reports on the three day session to be found on Vinolent.net and FarrVintners.com. In brief summary, ’15 is maybe not quite the excellent vintage that was first pronounced, certainly when judged by ‘English’ palates but still pretty damn good with some show stoppers therein. At the end of the Farr report there is an interesting table of recent vintages in order of perceived quality.

Here at Wine Owners we are betting more heavily on the ’16 vintage (not yet included in the Farr report) which we believe will move very close to the top of the leader board. Messrs Martin and Galloni of Vinous Media have recently reviewed the 16s in bottle and are waxing lyrical. Our very own meteorology and Bordeaux expert called the ’16 vintage some time back - pre the en primeur tastings even! All subsequent tastings and encounters of the vintage have confirmed our views and we are confident enough to shout BUY. What and when is a much more interesting question - so please get in touch to hear our thoughts.


Focus on: Haut Brion 1990-2006

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2019-01-24


Haut Brion has always been referred to the connoisseur’s choice amongst the upper echelon and indeed it averages the highest scores across multiple vintages within its peer group. Yet strangely, and more often than not, it trades at a discount to its peers.

Looking at this Relative Value Score the 2006 (£3,500 per 12) stands out but good investment rationale can be argued for the ’90, ’95, ’96, and ’01 also.

The case for the ’90 (£8,900) is that it is currently trading at its widest ever discount to its chart-topping sibling of ’89 (£25,000) and the scarcity force is strong!

1995 (£4,300) because it’s getting on a bit now, is not that challenging in price terms and is drinking very nicely, as personally witnessed at Thanksgiving.

Last week the ’96 (£4,200), in my view a better wine than the ‘95, gave an effortless history lesson in classicism and has a long and charming life ahead. It was allowed five hours in the decanter which was richly rewarded and is a stupendous wine albeit not so overtly fruit driven as Mouton ’96, but that wine is £1,000 more per case at a similar rating level.

The ’01 is £3,700, so very low for a first growth and has been drinking well for some time. Its relative value score above 8 makes it look interesting.

The giants of ’05, ’09 and ’10 are exactly that and deserve to trade in another price bracket altogether. This commentator’s view, however, is that’s where they will stay for the time being and price performance in the short to medium term will evade them, as it has done in recent times:

Buy: Haut Brion ’90, ’95, ’96, ’01 and ‘06

Sell: Haut Brion ’05, ’09 and ‘10

Haut Brion 2000 will be included in a separate post.


Focus on: Haut Brion 2006

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2019-01-23


WO Score: 96

Price: £3,500 per 12

Haut Brion 2006 is cheap, working relatively on a vertical basis by comparing it to other similarly rated vintages of Haut Brion and also on a horizontal basis, comparing it to its first growth peers. Its absolute relative score of very close to 10 is a leading indicator - anything in double figures for a first growth positively screams a buy. This falls marginally short of that magical figure but its consistent notes and firm scoring of 96 gives it a buy recommendation.


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