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.


Wine market report Q4 and review of 2018

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2019-01-11


In a year, and particularly the last quarter, of great uncertainty the wine market has proved to be a place of great refuge - the WO 150 increased by 10.3%. The wine market performance during the fourth quarter of 2018 was flat, having been gently on the rise until December when indices, including the red-hot WO Burgundy Index, came off a little, in line with a noticeable drop off in turnover throughout the market. In the context of all asset classes, this is another demonstration of the low correlation with more conventional investments the wine market enjoys. Ongoing trade wars between China and the U.S. continued to damage confidence across the board, hitting stock markets, both developed and emerging and depreciating the Yuan – a significant factor as we estimate 40% of fine wine by value lands there. As global markets faltered the wine traders of London, the epicentre of the fine wine trading world, were and still are, gripped in the throes of Mrs. May’s desperate attempts to pass her Brexit bill.

The main story of 2018, like 2017, was Burgundy, the index posting a gain of 33%. A combination of Asian-led demand and real scarcity is a powerful dynamic. The biggest names amongst the producers and the grandest crus still dominate; the usual suspects of DRC and Rousseau are still out in front and may always stay that way but Coche-Dury, Dujac, Leroy, Mugnier, Roumier, and Rouget, are some of the names that are hot on their heels and we suspect there are plenty more sitting in behind. Prices of some wines have skyrocketed and are, some may argue, fast becoming the preserve of the insane (or very brave) as they rush headlong into unknown territory! A lot of serious collectors we know have been taking profit in these sorts of examples and are looking for value elsewhere.

The WO Champagne index rose by 8.8% on a feeling of increased interest from investors. Italy and the Rhone both performed respectably. More for reference, as it is so difficulty to source efficiently in the U.K., but the California index was more than respectable with +17.2%




Wine Owners Indices

Dec-17 Dec-18 +%
Wine Owners 150 282 311 10.3%
WO Bordeaux 315 339 7.6%
WO Burgundy 528 701 32.8%
WO Champagne 429 468 9.1%
WO Italy 307 336 9.4%
WO Northern Rhone 300 320 6.7%
WO Southern Rhone 400 452 13.0%
WO California 580 680 17.2%



Knight Frank Fine Wine Index Update Q1 2018

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2018-03-23


The KFFWII is up 9.6% over the year to March 2018, with a 2% gain in the last quarter.

Knight Frank Fine Wine Index

Consolidation of the market at current valuation levels is on the back of the 24 months to December 2017, seeing gains of 38%.

The top of the market is significantly influenced by Asian demand, where a weak dollar is causing bid prices to fall. Changes within secondary market wine distribution into China may create a degree of uncertainty not seen since 2014.

The outlook for the rest of 2018 is one of subdued growth, with the Sterling-denominated index at risk of downward pressure as the currency appreciates against the US Dollar and Euro.

Bordeaux

First Growths are up just 3.8% over the last 12 months, half of which can be accounted for by the last 3 months. This broadly reflects the rest of the Bordeaux fine wine market (classified growths and equivalents). However, this subdued performance ought not to detract from 3-year performance (43% price growth) in First Growths, and 55% appreciation in the classified growths and equivalents over the same period.

Risers substantially outnumber fallers in Bordeaux, reflecting the market's continued overall growth. Less new wine is being released from chateaux than ever before, and quality is increasingly consistent. These factors point to continued growth during 2018, although it will remain in single figures, as orderly trading patterns continue.

Burgundy

Burgundy values continue to appreciate, with increases of 21% to March 2018, and 4.6% over the last quarter. To date there are no signs of a let-up in the upward trajectory of top producers' Burgundy prices. We’re about to see Burgundy price appreciation break through the 100% mark over the last 5 years, and reach 257% over 10 years.

Northern Italy

Northern Italy (represented in the KFFWII exclusively by Piedmont and Tuscany), is up 9.5% over the last 12 months, of which 2.7% is within the last quarter. The leaderboard is dominated by Monfortino, the standout Italian performer of the last 4 years which is consolidating its position as one of the most investible wines in the world.

Expectations for Northern Italy - Barolo in particular - are that prices will continue to increase into double digits over the remainder of 2018.

Champagne

Vintage champagne has performed well over the year, up a full 10%, and has kicked up 3% in the last quarter.

The best performers are rarer cuvees from such stalwarts as Selosse, Bollinger, Krug and Pol Roger. Over 10 years Champagne has performed even better than Burgundy, up 283%: demonstrating the liquidity that volume can drive, brand values and early consumption patterns.

USA

California’s moderated growth continues, with annual performance to March 2018 of 6.3%, and is up 2% within the last quarter. After years of bewilderingly strong growth (385% over 10 years), fallers are as numerous as risers within the California index, implying further downsides or a relatively flat outlook.

Spain

Top Spanish wines dominated by iconic and traditional large estates in Rioja and Ribero del Douro still represent good value, have good ageing potential, and are produced in large volumes.

These positive trading fundamentals support a market up 8.25% in the last year, and a healthy 3% in the last quarter.

A related effect is that Spanish blue-chips (particularly Vega Sicilia's top wines) are increasingly being traded on exchanges, and markets are being made for these wines through the usual offer and bid mechanisms used by market-makers.

The Spanish index is up 155% in the last 10 years. 45% of that growth has taken place in the last 3 years. The timing of that resurgence coincides with the inflection point in Bordeaux markets in the winter of 2015, when they rebounded from cyclical lows. 


Knight Frank Fine Wine Index breakdown by region


2017 - the year in wine that was

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2017-12-21


Broadening interest

2017 was a fascinating year for the wine market: a year of solid growth, consolidation and even a flash of speculation!

It was also a year of broader consumer interest reignited.

Knight Frank’s global Wealth Report includes analysis of the fine wine market provided by Wine Owners. Wine was by far the best-performing collectible asset of 2016, up 24%. As a result, lots of positive press in 2017 brought plenty of new interest into the market.

Health

After the sharp price increases of 2016, when the Bordeaux market leapt as it rebounded off its 2014 lows following a couple of years of ticking up, 2017 was always going to be a less dramatic year for the classified and blue chip Bordeaux market.

It was encouraging to see a successful 2016 en primeur campaign that saw generally modest increases over 2015 in Euros, even if increases were more substantial for UK buyers due to the weakened currency. Overall gains in 2017 were low single-digit for First Growths (after the 30% readjustment seen in the previous year). Other Classified growths and Right Banks rose an average of 7%.

Such moderation was less evident in the primary or secondary Burgundy market, the latter up 14.5%. What happens next is anyone’s guess, but the top of the market is holding onto 5-year gains of 100%, thanks in part to enduring Asian interest.

Hard luck stories

Burgundy was really hard hit by frosts in 2016. It’s a super vintage, but with many producer cellars that are 2/3rds empty. Only Vosne-Romanée and parts of Morey-St.-Denis and Gevrey-Chambertin escaped the April ‘gel’. Pretty much everywhere else was heavily hit. The night-time freeze hit the Grand Crus and vineyards high up, the morning sun burned the buds of other premier crus and villages plots.

That big reduction in volume does add something to the intensity of the reds most noticeably. They are balanced, intensely redcurrant or blackcurrant in character, saline and fresh, with a vein of blood orange pulsing through them. The whites are fine but don’t quite have the extraordinary rich, bright core of the 2014s, although in their favour the whites show more site specific character at this very early stage.

In 2017 Burgundy narrowly missed a second successive year of April misery, with an abundant vintage of good quality. Instead, Bordeaux was badly affected by freezing night-time temperatures in the last week of April, after a warm spring had encouraged early growth. Some areas on the Right Bank, Graves and parts of the Medoc away from the warming waters of the Gironde were devastated. Chateaux de Fieuzel in Pessac isn’t making any wine in 2017.

What that will do to en primeur pricing next year remains to be seen, but widespread rises are on the cards, probably even those properties who emerged unscathed.

Notable winning regions

Champagne extended its run with top back vintages (where relative scarcity starts to play) racing ahead, up 13% in 2017. The world’s appetite for Champagne remains insatiable.

It was gratifying to see Northern Italy in rude health, with interest for Barolo Crus broadening significantly and prices of the best producers very sharply up this year on the back of a string of good vintages culminating in the highly sought after 2013s.

Speculation

Talking of that flash of speculation, Margaux 2015 announced in November that Margaux would release their 2015 as a special edition in honour of Paul Pontallier, the managing director of the estate who died in March 2016.

We saw the first release from the chateau, offered in individual single wooden cases, at a significant premium to the release price.

Based on the Chateau’s announcement, we saw speculative trading in the wine between EP club members rise and rise, with bids climbing from under £6,000 to £12,000, representing more than a 130% increase compared to the release price to UK consumers of £4,650.

The limited edition black bottles with a variation on the classic Margaux label in gold invited comparison with the 2000 Mouton Rothschild, which attracts a significant market following based on collectability, despite not being in the top flight of Mouton vintages or even one of the best wines of the vintage.

Looking ahead to 2018

If you're interested to learn more about the health of the fine wine market and are interested in our predictions for 2018, you can now download our Fine Wine Predictions 2018 report, a must-read for collectors, wine lovers looking for value, and investors searching for opportunities.


DOWNLOAD PREDICTIONS 2018 REPORT


* * *

We wish you all a very enjoyable festive season, and much vinous pleasure as you open great wine bottles to celebrate and see in 2018.

Best wishes for health and happiness from the Wine Owners team!




Correlation

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2017-11-28


Although wine markets have generally appeared not to correlate with the global economy over the last decade, we would not be surprised if this has changed from 2016 onwards and for the next 5-10 years.

Look back in time to the recession of the early 1990s, the Asian Crisis of 1997, the dotcom bust following Y2K, and the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 2003; and you will see that all these events that negatively affected global sentiment and equity markets also affected the fine wine market.

Go back further to the oil crisis of the 1970s, and wine plunged then too. But that was a different epoch.

Whilst the fine wine market has further globalized and broadened since the mid 2000s, people are still people: with the same human response to economic positives and negatives; that in turn reflects in levels of investment, spending and so on.

The fact that this is a discussion at all is down to the banking crisis and what happened in the period 2009-2015. Initially as stock markets tanked, the wine market rose, then rocketed in line with commodities and safe haven assets such as gold bullion.

But it was counter-intuitive. The response of the Bordelais in April 2009 was rational, to cut release prices to levels not seen for several years.

This was largely due a discontinuous, one-off event, namely China’s rapid industrialization, and what that did to commodity prices. In our opinion this does not mean that fine wine correlates with commodities. Or gold. As variously has been posited. You could just as easily correlate corruption, grafting and the adoption of fine wine as an alternative store of value for various indirect purposes within China during that period.

Wine is not a commodity. It happens to be one of the most commodity-like luxury collectibles, but that is not the same thing.

Wine is not a safe haven asset like gold bullion. When the world goes south wine warehouses do not fill up.

The basic question is whether wine is a hedge against the economic cycle? Historically it wasn’t. Recently it appeared to be but discontinuities are just that, so it’s not a reliable period upon which to form an opinion. Is the broader base upon which we now sit a game changer, where the laws of supply and demand, and the effect upon that of greater consumption, take over?

Scarcity has relentlessly driven Burgundy and cult Californians to new undreamt of heights, with top Baroli in hot pursuit. Will relative scarcity do the same for Bordeaux, or has the global base broadened at the same time as traditional markets, USA included, have shrunk?

And irrespective of all of the above, will the market continue to punish excessive pricing when things get out of hand?



FINE WINE PREDICTIONS 2018 - get your free report





Trading roundup - Summer '17

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2017-09-13


After a busy summer including in August our most productive trading month to date, we thought it would be instructive to run some analysis of trading trends and movements, compared to the same quarter in 2016.

Market share between regions remains relatively stable despite a large increase in trading value overall, with Bordeaux holding first place with a 75.14% share of market compared to 78.15% in the same quarter of 2016. That there is a drop is interesting in its own right, perhaps pointing to greater diversity in wines offered for sale, as well as to diversifying demand in export markets.

Burgundy is the major winner in market share, extending from 11.78% in summer 2016 to 17.10% over the same period in 2017, and we’ve certainly seen an increase in Burgundy purchases from Far East markets, showing a 17% increase on 2016 numbers by value.

Other regions remain very much minority sports, with Rhone up to 2.03% from 1.8% and Italy, surprisingly, down from 4.85% to 2.5%.

Within Bordeaux, the share of the market taken up by First Growths has grown from 28.26% in 2016 to 44.05%, perhaps reflecting heightened interest in the top wines, though the real interest is in how the First Growths compare within their own category.

Haut Brion is the major winner amongst the Firsts, increasing its share of the Bordeaux market to 13.35% from 3.2%. As a proportion of the First Growth market, the share increased from11.31% to 30.3%, putting Haut Brion at the head of the market alongside Lafite.

Lafite moved up to a 13.34% share of the Bordeaux market from 11.62%, but lost ground against the other First Growths, slipping to 30.29% from 41.12%, exchanging a clear lead in the class for an almost dead heat with the progressive Haut Brion.

Mouton showed a similar fall-off in share, dropping from an 8.63% share of Bordeaux to 7%, and a 30.54% share of the First Growth market dropping to a 15.89% share. Market and trading values for Lafite and Mouton remain robust however, so this feels more like a positive story about Haut Brion than a negative for the two Rothschild properties.

Latour has benefited too here, growing a very small share of Bordeaux (1.18%) to 5.07%, and increasing its share of the First Growth market from 4.18% to 11.05%.

Margaux has the least movement to comment on, increasing its share of the Bordeaux market marginally to 5.29% from 3.6%, and falling from 12.84% to 12.01% in its share of the First Growths.



What does Brexit mean for the wine lover and collector?

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2016-10-24


Market context and performance since June 24th

Serving as a general fine wine market tracker, the WO 150 gained 6% in the year to June (6.5% in the previous 12 months) but is now up 19.8% YTD.


Focusing on the all-important Bordeaux market, the world’s single largest region of fine wine production, the WO First Growth Index was up 8.7% year to date on 24th June, but is now up 23%.

As regards Bordeaux Firsts, this performance is on the back of 4 years of decline, following the bursting of a Chinese-inspired bubble in late 2011. The market in these blue chip Bordeaux bottomed in Q3 of 2015, and has soared since. Chateau Latour, released at £11,400 per case of 12 bottles, is now back within £100 per bottle of that release price.

The rest of the Bordeaux market had tested its lows the previous year, and so its performance year to June 2016 was a slightly higher 10.25%, reflecting the additional momentum gathered over the previous 18 months. Looking at all classified growths, the market is now up 22.5% YTD.


Whereas Bordeaux is a market driven by liquidity and large production volumes, scarcity-driven markets such as Burgundy, Piedmont and cult Californians, have enjoyed a long-term run stretching back 20+ years, and these wine markets have not suffered the roller coaster ride of Bordeaux.

The WO Northern Italy index is up 171% over the last 10 years, the WO Blue Chip Burgundy Index is up 311% over the same period, and the WO California index is up a whopping 427%.




What’s going to be the effect on new releases?

New releases are already more expensive to buy due to the pound buying less euros or dollars.

Brexit will cause new releases of two sought after vintages (Burgundy 2015 and Bordeaux 2016) to rise by 30%+, caused by producer increases of, say, around 10% compounded by the 20% effect of devaluation.

First in line: the impending 2015 Burgundies are due for UK release as futures in January 2017. With a compromised 2016 vintage assuring small production volumes, 2015s from some addresses will rocket to compensate for next years’ lower production.

Bordeaux will follow in April 2017.

Given the UK’s preeminent role in global fine wine trading, Brexit has turbo-charged market performance, and given the relatively recent recovery of Bordeaux markets a boost after a prolonged period of decline.

As the pound falls, assuming a rising fine wine market (key as it means there's strong global demand), the price of secondary market wines will rise since they are cheaper to buy for buyers holding currencies such as HKD or dollars.

This increases the value of collectors' current stock since the market is global. London is still one of the most important global trading hubs for fine wine, if not the most important.

Could price rises kill demand?

Because top burgundy from the best producers can double after first release it is unlikely to dampen initial demand – by much. And if it does there’s always the USA, Japan and other markets that’ll mop up the relatively small volumes.

Secondary market prices of older vintages may rise, pulled up by the higher new release prices. But as they rise, the number of potential secondary market buyers may decrease, causing these scarcity driven markets to become less liquid. As a result, it may take longer to sell your wines at these higher prices. The moral of the story is that scarcity driven markets are not for the impatient seller who needs cash tomorrow. These are better seen as long-term holds.

Bordeaux prices of the new vintage (2016) will also rise when they are released next year. Whether the UK Market chooses to buy or sits this one out remains to be seen.

However, the USA is more or less certain to be buying these futures aided by vintage character of ripe, powerful wines from a hot summer that will suit their palates.

As a consequence, enduring weakness of the pound will place further upward pressure on back vintages.

We predict that recent back vintages will increase sooner than is normally the case (1-2 years instead of the more common 5-7 years), as top Bordeaux producers are becoming principal stockholders in an attempt to capture more of the downstream value of their wines and increase the value of their balance sheet assets.

 


The Battle of the Bottle

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2016-08-02


Will it be Bordeaux or Burgundy where the smart money goes in 2017?

It is well known that over the last few years the wines of Burgundy have substantially out-performed their Bordeaux cousins. The chart below vividly represents this:

Since the start of 2012 the Blue Chip wines of Burgundy (purple) have risen consistently year on year to now sit around 50% up in 4.5 years, whilst First Growth Bordeaux (green) has fallen nearly 20% in the same period . An astonishing disparity accounted for by the Bordeaux bubble of 2009-2012 caused by the market discontinuity of early Chinese demand and trade speculation that accompanied it. Even the Bordeaux Medoc Classed Growths (light blue), that withstood the crash in Bordeaux prices far better in general than First Growth royalty, only managed an increase in value of 15% since the start 2012, but this is entirely down to the last 15 months.



So, what do we think of the potential of these three vital segments of the market in terms of future performance? Will Burgundy continue to rise regardless, or will Bordeaux be resuscitated?

This next chart might help put things in context. It is of the same three indices above, but within a timeframe of the last 9 months only:



All indices are over 10% up over this 9 month period. Excellent news. You should also notice the similarities in their trajectories, showing growth in both regions. Again, good news. You should then discern that it is the two Bordeaux indices that are leading the way. To be precise, The Bordeaux Medoc Classed Growth index is up 16.6%, First Growths are up 13.5% and Blue Chip Burgundies are up 11.3%.

Now, of course, these time-frames are arbitrarily chosen, and it could be possible to draw other conclusions by choosing different representations of the same data. But that misses the point. We do believe that the improvement in fortunes of Bordeaux is likely to be a major theme of the next 18 months, and it is reasonable to suggest that increased interest, and resurgent sentiment, in this pre-eminent region may mean Bordeaux prices rising more steeply than Burgundy prices.

The Burgundy market is unlikely to fall prey to the same rapid boom and bust cycles that affected Bordeaux between 1991 and 2014, but we think it is a fair and proportionate response when looking at the prices and bid/offer spreads available to think that the very top of the Blue Chip Burgundy market may have run its course for now, and that to risk increased exposure to Burgundy might not be the best idea if short-term return on investment is your primary motivator.

Yet it's notoriously difficult to call the top of any market, and this viewpoint needs to be set against the severely reduced yields in 2016 in certain parts of the Cote D'Or that will push up 2016 release prices in 18 months' time, and may inflate the very good 2015 releases next January. What effect this has on back vintages remains to be seen.



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Sometimes it pays to take the path less travelled….

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2016-07-25


It is fair to say that in the recent improvement of fortunes in Bordeaux prices, most focus is given to the classed growths of the Medoc on the Left Bank, and the top wines of Pomerol and St Emilion on the Right Bank. The recovery over the last 12 months has been significant, as seen below, with the Medoc Classed Growth Index (the turquoise line) rising by over 23%  and the Libournais Index (purple line) up over 18%. Great news for all those people who have experienced the huge price correction of 2011 to 2014.



But, when looking at Bordeaux as a whole the focus should perhaps swing further south. See what happens when I add the Graves Classed Growth Index (the purple line in the chart, below) into the mix. Over the same time frame the wines of Graves, headlined by Haut Brion and la Mission Haut-Brion, have leapt up by over 30%, outstripping their neighbouring appelations. 

Even when you take into account the Brexit effect, which has seen a weak pound in the past month provide a boost from sterling denominated stock as HK and US buyers pile in, this still represents a huge return to form. The lesson here is to realise that the 1855 classification (which ignores Graves, with the notable exception of Haut-Brion) and finest wines north of the Garonne are not the be all and end all. Look south, towards Graves, and you will find a raft of excellent wines that have improved dramatically in the last few years in many instances (think Smith Haut Lafitte, Haut-Bailly, Pape Clement), and which represent both great quality and great value. It is perhaps important that the gravelly, smoky, pencil lead and pencil shaving notes which characterise the best wines of Graves have few, if any, imitations around the world. Bordeaux blends from other continents tend to mimic the Medoc or the Libourne, and so the terroir-specific nature of Graves wines perhaps gives them a uniqueness that collectors ascribe value to in the same way as they do in Burgundy.



Sometimes it pays to take the path less travelled…. 





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