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.
8th July 2019
by Wine Owners
Posted on 2019-04-16
Italia! From the the country that has given us espresso and cappuccino, ciabatta and focaccia, minestrone and spaghetti, Maldini and Rossi, Pavarotti and Verdi, Canaletto and Leonardo da Vinci, Ferraris and Maseratis, Bunga Bunga, the Mafia and the Pope, we now have… un'opportunità di investimento – nel mondo del vino!!
The Italians are not only the largest wine producing country in the world, they have been making wine for over four thousand years and cultivate over two thousand grape varieties on a multitude of different soils in twenty different regions! They are not bad at food either. Their climate seems to suit most of the finer things in life.
Italian wine being recommended is nothing new, but having it recommended as a collectable asset bearing an investment case is another matter. Ten years or so ago, a few canny collectors realised some of the ‘Super Tuscans’ (red wines typically made of a Bordeaux blend in Tuscany) such as Masseto, Ornellaia, Sassicaia (see recent blog post) and Solaia were ripe for decent returns. Traditionalists were a bit put out by these glossy new pretenders turning up on the Italian wine scene with their fancy French grape varieties and lots of marketing but it is fair to say they have helped the overall attention given to Italy and, as a result, the ‘Bs’ are blossoming – namely, Barolo, Barbaresco and, to a lesser extent, Brunello.
Wines from the best producers of Italy’s most venerable regions have been collected by the cognoscenti for years but now their appeal is becoming more widespread. The problems of Bordeaux, following an explosive China-driven period, have been well documented in the last decade and although we are quietly confident on a comeback from the sleeping giant, the smaller top-quality regions have been profiting. The indices for cult Californian (+98%) and beautiful Burgundy (+135%) have both gone berserk in the last five years, whilst Piedmont has gained a more modest 78%, with Tuscany posting +50%.
The reason for Burgundy and California’s performance is that old tried and tested wine world fundamental of demand outstripping supply - who knew!?? Both these regions produce tiny quantities in comparison to the number of people looking to access these markets and gain exposure. The complex nature of these regions with tiny vineyards, often co-owned by different families and winemakers, has added to the gloss and mystery, spurring on newcomers to learn more and invest time and money accordingly. More of the written word is more easily accessible to interested folk, and with platforms such as Wine Owners to trade on, the visibility of the product and the liquidity of the commodity has increased.
Grand Nebbiolo from Piedmont is yet to hit the big time, apart from a few, but there are more than rumblings in other names; dedicated collectors and the inquisitive are homing in. It is a Burgundian-like network of vineyards, producers, families and reputations and you need to know what you are doing. Famous names like Conterno, for example, have six listings in my favourite reference book: Aldo, Diego, Fantino, Franco, Giacomo (the big one) and Paolo.
Some of the bigger names like Giacomo Conterno famed for his Montfortino vineyard, Giuseppe Rinaldi, famed for Brunate and Tre Tine, Bartolo Mascarello and Gaja are already highly sought after superstars with prices to match but there are a host of others with reputations and demand beginning to swell; Brovia, Cappellano, Fratelli Alessandria, Sandrone, Voerzio and Vietti to name a few.
The ‘Super Tuscans’ of Bolgheri are much simpler to understand, like Bordeaux versus Burgundy, and are produced in larger numbers. The names mentioned earlier are virtually household names (in wine terms!) and are less exciting right now overall. Brunello di Montalcino, made from Sangiovese, is also comparatively easy to piece together in relation to Piedmont. Biondi Santi, Poggio di Sotto, Salvioni and Soldera are the big names with the fancy price tags. The secondary market for Brunello has not yet developed so, for now at least, it is a case of keeping a watchful eye.
There have been some excellent vintages in the last decade or so, attracting fantastic media coverage and battle-weary Bordeaux buyers. Another reason for favouring Italian wines in the current climate is that the U.S. and Germany are the biggest export markets, so unlikely to be affected by any potential fallout from Brexit. Most of all, however, these wines are barely scratching the Asian surface as yet and we all know what happens when that changes!
by Wine Owners
Posted on 2019-03-25
The basic premise for investing in fine wine is a very simple one; you buy a truly great wine that is produced in a finite quantity and store it, carefully. So, whilst others are enjoying/drinking theirs, thereby reducing the supply of that wine, you enjoy the price appreciation that naturally results from the increased rarity value. The growth in global wealth and newly discovered riches help fuel the desire for these wines for added benefit. For example, Chateau Latour 1982 was released in 1983 at c. £400 per case of 12 bottles. That case could today be sold for £16,000, implying an annual growth rate of a little over 12% per annum over the course of its life (and it will continue to be enjoyable for another 50+ years).
So, it is easy then?
First a bit of background.
The investment market is dominated by the red wines of Bordeaux where production levels of top-quality wine far exceeds any other area of note. Other areas which spark interest include the finest wines of Burgundy, Champagne, Tuscany and Piedmont and to a lesser extent some of the trophy wines from the new world.
For decades, centuries even, ‘gentlemen’ have been investing in wine, maybe unintentionally, but certainly filling their cellars with good Bordeaux and Burgundy, Port and Madeira and the like. Auction houses commenced wine sales in England in the middle of the last century and now there are all manner of brokers, merchants, exchanges and on-line auctions in existence. The internet has lent transparency to what was an opaque market, brought an endless flow of information and with it various offerings from a wide range of ‘investment specialists’. Investing in wine has become a more commonplace activity. Very few of these specialists, however, are authorised by the FCA or an equivalent and, thanks to the great bull market of 2005-2011 a proliferation of new companies designed to take advantage of this phenomenon were formed.
Like all markets the wine market continues to evolve although the last decade has proved to be probably the most turbulent period in its history. Previously, wine price performance was generally very steady with long term returns going back to the seventies averaging just over double figures. Once a decade or so, a global crisis would cause a healthy reality check (the oil crisis of ’73, the stock market crash of ’87, the Asian currency crisis of ’97 and the Lehman debacle of ’08, although the latter turned out to be very short lived) and then things would revert to normal.
The great bull run that begun in 2005 was created by exceedingly high and new demand emanating from mainland China. The fast expanding Chinese economy created easy money that flowed through the hands of the relatively experienced Hong Kong based merchants all the way to London, the global centre of secondary market wine trading (the primary markets being located at the point of production). Prices were pushed higher and higher, no one wanted to sell as the value kept on going up, until one day it all stopped.
What had not been appreciated at the time, by either the market or its participants was that this money was not just coming from the newly wealthy and aspirational individual but mainly from officials and employees of state owned enterprises.
Their ostentatious extravagance was legendary – lavish dining in top class restaurants and hotels accompanied by lashings of fine first growth wines, the corporate gifting of wine that oiled the wheels of business and the need to be seen only drinking the very best.
The government had lost control – and that was not going to wash with the incoming new President, Xi Jinping. In mid-2011 all luxury items and their markets were knocked back as the new environment of anti-graft measures were introduced and these measures remain firmly in place today. Having risen c. 260% from ’05 to mid-2011, the Liv-ex 100 index, the leading market indicator, then fell by 36% between mid-2011 and mid-2014. Since then the market has stabilised and in recent weeks has started to appreciate once again. The natural order is returning, and the madness of this extraordinary period has receded, the river of cash from China has dried up and a lot of the new, often dubious, players have been washed up on that river’s banks.
Another major factor that came into play during this period of flux was the stratospheric pricing of two Bordeaux vintages of outstanding quality, 2009 and 2010. Not wishing to miss the party the Bordelais lost their heads; 2009 sold but the market just couldn’t stomach the prices from 2010. Subsequent vintages were not reduced to commercial levels and have also failed to sell.
Some readers will be familiar with en primeur, meaning the first release, which is the first opportunity to purchase wine from the new vintage. In the good old days this was the opportunity to get in on the ground floor and the majority of investors and consumers benefitted. That game is long gone and arguably the market has split between the recent vintages where the release price still influences and the older vintages where the secondary market controls pricing. The market for older wines is, in any case, more compelling as pricing is more logical, there is greater assurance of quality and the dwindling of supply has begun.
Opportunities abound, especially now we are ‘ex-China’. Pricing has never been more competitive and the information available have never been so sophisticated. So, yes, it is easy – if you know what you are doing!
Miles Davis, February 2015
by Wine Owners
Posted on 2019-02-19
Price: £32,000 per 12
WO average score: 97
Robert Parker: 98
Neal Martin: 98+
There is a compelling case to be made for Petrus ’98. Petrus is Petrus and trades in a rarefied right bank bracket, with the only other occupant being Le Pin. Their following is immense, with prices to match yet these have now been sustained for decades. These are properly premium wines.
’98 was very much a right bank vintage and only 2,400 cases of Petrus were produced compared the normal 4,000. The wine is now approaching its prime and satisfies the most important of current investment criteria, namely scarcity, in spades.
Some of Neal Martin’s (admittedly more exuberant) notes:
"The 1998 Petrus is the best Right Bank of the decade and here, against the 2000 and 2001, there is no contest. The aromatics are a masterclass of control and precision, yet it is also one of the most intense bouquets that has ever been produced at the estate. This is a "complete" Petrus that is magnificent in every department."
It makes one wonder why it has not been accredited the full 100 points but maybe Neal has reverted to being more conservative in his scoring having left WA? Parker and Robinson are equally effusive about the wine at various points over the course of its development, but Martin’s notes are by far the most recent. The slightly ridiculous premium that the 2000 vintage enjoys means that Petrus ’00 currently trades at £45,000 per 12. It is interesting to note that since the summer of last year the ’98 has begun to outperform the ’00 and both the WO150 Index and the WO Bordeaux Index. We think this is set to continue.
The tasting notes and the scarcity together with the more regular analysis of MPS (market price versus score) and RVS (relative value score), as viewed in the charts above and below, further the investment case.
by Wine Owners
Posted on 2019-02-05
Pichon Lalande 2010
WO Score: 94
Price: £1,300 per 12
Probably our most popular and current investment theme, derived from the outperformance generated by Burgundy in the last few years, is scarcity. This recommendation has not been generated as a result of scarcity, it comes from the old-fashioned premise that good old-fashioned merchants used to be famed for – this is bloody good stuff, it’s under-priced and it’s going up - trust us!
Looking at the chart below the relative value doesn’t appear out of kilter relative to its peer group but that is using a WO generated averaged score (of current ratings) of 94 points. Based on various tastings since the Wine Advocate et al rated this wine, members of the team here have consistently and with conviction rated this wine above its peer group and above its current critic scores. To be fair Mr. Parker, back in February ’13, allowed himself some room for improvement with a 95+. The WO team would apply the plus sign very happily.
For the sake of argument if we were to award the Pichon Lalande a score of 97 and run that number through the relative value equation, the score would be a far more enticing 30, almost as cheap as Leoville Barton – and Pichon Lalande is never as cheap as Leoville Barton!
On top of this, 2010 is becoming widely accepted as the greatest vintage of the modern era. The five first growths from 2010 currently average £7,500 per 12 and Pichon Lalande ‘82, possibly the greatest vintage the estate has produced until this one, is £7,800 per 12, so there seems plenty of room for upside!
by Wine Owners
Posted on 2019-02-04
As a couple of recent posts have alluded to, we think some of the really top end Burgundy has reached heights that might not be sustainable in the short to medium term. Over the last decade or so the Burgundy market has been the star performer:
But in the last year it has gone into interstellar overdrive:
Obviously Burgundy, and particularly the greatest names, are in short supply and the desire to have a slice of the action has had a dramatic impact on prices. But can this continue - THAT is the question!? This commentator has already sold some of the spectacularly performing big names and is reallocating the assets lower down the ladder, especially where prices are yet to move.
Last week we compared values of Clos de Beze 2010 from the Domaines of Rousseau, (Bruno) Clair and Drouhin-Laroze, all very closely rated, to find their respective price ratios to be 1 Rousseau for 13 Clair for 28 Drouhin-Laroze. This highlights the incredible disparity between certain growers and of course there will always be premia for certain names. However, the gaps have widened and some of the differentials are unjustified - opportunities abound, inter Burgundy and elsewhere. This quick comparison of a few random names suggests the currently less fashionable 1st Growth Bordeaux and even serious Rhone could be worth a look:
Please get in touch if you would like to discuss the Burgundian Conundrium and see if we can make sense of it!?
by Wine Owners
Posted on 2019-01-31
Domaine Bruno Clair, Chambertin, Clos de Beze 2010
WO Score: 94
Price: £3,120 per 12
Note from Burghound (93-96 points):
A spicy, pure and admirably refined nose offers up notes of cool, layered and an impressively broad mix of wild red berries, stone and underbrush hints. The textured and almost painfully intense broad-shouldered flavors possess deep reserves of tannin-buffering dry extract as well as the same extraordinary finishing depth that the nose hints at. A knock-out but this is expressly built to age and the flavors and tannic spine are so tightly wound that it's pointless to buy this if you do not intend to age it for at least 10 to 12 years first.
Domaine Drouhin-Laroze, Chambertin, Clos de Beze 2010
WO Score 96
Price: £1,410 per 12
Note from Burghound (93-95):
A spicy, ripe, elegant and admirably pure nose offers up notes of anise, sandalwood and clove that add breadth to the floral, earth and stone-suffused aromas. There is the same superb breadth to the rich, intense and tension-filled full-bodied flavors that possess excellent power and drive on the seductively textured, muscular and classy finish.
Both the Drouhin-Laroze and the Bruno Clair expressions of Clos de Beze from the blockbuster 2010 look attractive at current levels with the less fashionable Drouhin-Laroze really standing out - there are a few cases in the market too. Both get great scores across the board from the critics and have not kept pace with the sizzling Burgundy index (Drouhin-Laroze in light blue) over the last three years:
Whilst seeking high quality wines that have lagged the Burgundy market, these two have popped up as good candidates. More and more market watchers will be searching for this type of opportunity, so some catch up is expected. Neither have hit their drinking stride yet but when the scarcity kicks in, will it be possible to source them when they do? I doubt it.
Although it is not comparing like with like, Rousseau’s take on this famous piece of dirt, (rated at 94-97) at £40,000 per 12, is probably fully valued and I for one would be making a switch! Putting it another way you can buy 28.5 bottles of the Drouhin-Laroze product for one of dear Monsieur Rousseau’s! The Clair to Rousseau ratio a more modest 1:13, but still!?
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.
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.
by Wine Owners
Posted on 2019-01-21
Latour ’82, Mouton Rothschild ’82, Mouton Rothschild ’82, ’86, Haut Brion ’89, La Mission Haut Brion ’89, Margaux ’90, Cheval Blanc ’90 and Pichon Baron ‘90
When managing two wine investment funds (2006-2016) we referred to this subsection of the portfolio as ‘the legends‘. They all received cast iron reviews from all the major critics and rock solid and multiple 100s from Big Bob. Cheval Blanc ’90 “unequivocally a brilliant wine” (Neal Martin) has slipped a little to a 98+, but otherwise these wines are confirmed as truly great – legendary in fact! As such, they don’t come cheap (prices in GBP per bottle in graphic below).
Latour and Mouton ’82, +46% and 38% in 2018 respectively, Haut Brion and La Mission ’89 +35% and +52% respectively and Margaux ’90 +35% have all broken out and have massively outperformed the index in the last few months. I believe they can continue to yield positive returns.
Scarcity has been the big driver of price rises in the last couple of years as demonstrated most ably by Burgundy (WO Burgundy Index +33% for 2018, +16% in 2017). This is a prime example of how the principle of good demand versus limited supply in the wine market can work. As a region Burgundy has thrashed others as production is so much smaller, especially with Bordeaux in comparison. Where Bordeaux has been able to compete is in these older vintages of legendary wines, where consumption has driven a scarcity of supply. Each case that is now opened will have a direct impact on that side of the equation.
Cheval ’90 has been volatile but is generally on the up and is well worth considering. I have included Pichon Baron ’90, only a 98+ according to Neal Martin but a Steven Spurrier legend, as it is so relatively cheap and has not broken out at all, so watch this space. The really obvious choice, however, is Mouton ’86. This wine at 32+ years is still a baby in terms of maturity but has an exciting life ahead. Its backwardness has had an impact on the wine’s supply but that will change. As ever good provenance is extremely important and as this is a wine that has been traded more than most so beware - we have seen many examples of poor condition. If this can be found in good nick, do not hesitate in acquiring it - it’s a legend!
Buy: Mouton ’86, Cheval Blanc ’90, Pichon Baron ‘90
Hold: if it’s a legend, continue to hold, for now at least…
N.B. Petrus ’89 and ’90 fall into the ‘legend’ definition but they are so expensive (c.£45,000 per 12) and rare, they have been excluded here.
Miles Davis - professional wine consultant working in the fine wine market. He has been a wine collector for thirty years and managed wine investment funds between 2006-17 for Wine Asset Managers LLP.