Italian wines - ripe for investment

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2019-11-15


This article is a republished version of one that appeared earlier in the year. Why? Because there’s another reason to sing about the virtues of Italian wines; the Trump administration have recently introduced a 25% tariff on all wines from France, Germany and Spain below a 14.1% alcohol level (Champagne is exempt). This has caused a loss in confidence in the French heavyweights and Bordeaux and Burgundy prices are on the slide. Italy’s cheese industry was the one selected to take the hit in this particular trade war, leaving their wine sector sitting pretty. We’ve been bullish on Italy all year, this adds further grist to the mill.

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 (recent blog) 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 in its place, the smaller top-quality regions have been profiting. The indices for the last five years show Burgundy +120%, California +79%, Piedmont +76%, Tuscany +62% and First Growth Bordeaux +47%, the broad base WO 150 is +55% (all nice numbers!).



The reason for Burgundy’s performance is that old tried and tested wine world fundamental of genuine demand outstripping supply - who knew!? I think it is fair to say prices in Burgundy have been coming off the top for nearly a year now. Californian prices were a little more ‘forced’ and are in retreat now, but both these regions produce tiny quantities in comparison to the number of people looking to access these markets and gain exposure. Very widely held Bordeaux has been steady but is beginning to slide in this difficult environment. Piedmont and Tuscany are holding firm to gently positive.

The complex nature of Burgundy, California and Piedmont with their tiny (compared to Bordeaux) vineyards is attractive. This adds to the aesthetics, spurring on both the well-seasoned and newcomers alike, keen 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 special few producers, but the word is spreading and there are ‘new’ names coming through; 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, Bartolo Mascarello, Bruno Giacosa 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!), are less exciting right now overall but tend to deliver very steady returns.

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 although Soldera has been added to several portfolios already. There are many other less well-known names that have been attracting huge plaudits from the top critics that remain under the radar. This group haven’t matured into the darlings of the market, so far, and back vintages are cheap and well worth consideration.

There have been some excellent vintages in Italy in the last decade or so, attracting fantastic media coverage and now the battle-weary Bordeaux buyers and profit takers of Burgundy are moving in. Another reason for favouring Italian wines in the current climate is that the U.S. and Germany are the biggest export markets, so the market 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!

Miles Davis 15th November 2019



Wine Market Investment Report October 2019

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2019-11-07


I wrote at the end of September that the market mood is sombre, it is a bit darker now. It is too early to be reflected in the monthly indices, but blue-chip Bordeaux prices are beginning to slide a little. The ongoing factors that have been keeping a lid on any sort of optimism, namely International trade wars, the Hong Kong political situation and Brexit have now been compounded by upcoming UK elections, in December, and therefore huge concerns over sterling, and US trade tariffs imposed by Donald Trump’s administration in retaliation on behalf of the airline industry (for Pete’s sake!). These tariffs are to the tune of 25%, added to the value of French, German and Spanish wines at 14.1% alcohol or below. Champagne is exempt - god knows why! One could argue that thanks to global warming there’s barely an investible wine made under that alcohol level these days but news like this tends to affect the market as a whole; people will not seek to differentiate one wine from another.



Current Value MTD YTD 1 Year 5 Year 10 Year
WO 150 Index 321.96 0.02% 3.46% 3.67% 67.21% 101.28%
WO Champagne 60 Index 489.4 0.07% 4.60% 6.22% 70.83% 170.94%
WO Burgundy 80 Index 748.85 0.20% 6.73% 9.37% 152.68% 254.40%
WO First Growth 75 Index 283.32 0.02% 0.41% 0.80% 54.59% 76.29%
WO Bordeaux 750 Index 374.87 0.10% 10.68% 12.29% 74.33% 123.98%
WO California 85 index 703.15 -0.55% 3.39% 6.44% 108.22% 326.72%


London based merchants have had little reason to be properly confident in the last few months and these latest two factors are enough to have toppled the balance. The same applies to private clients, be they drinkers or investors, but all players need the feel-good factor to make the wine market tick up. That is simply not around - UK consumer confidence is at its lowest point for six years, according to a recent YouGov poll. So, with the core of the market, in the form of London based merchants, cowering under their desks, the good folk of Hong Kong donning tear gas masks and fighting in the streets and with Uncle Sam’s citizens being asked for a further 25% in tax, there aren’t any hot spots of demand right now. These are all conditions that can, and will, change but for now it is tin hat time.

I have been arguing for a while that recent vintage (anything since 2005), highly expensive (albeit highly rated) wines from Bordeaux are still in huge supply. No one is drinking them as they are either far too young or just too expensive, fit only for the ‘money no object brigade’. Also, with the glut of ‘investment companies’ that existed during the glory days of the Bordeaux market, there are warehouses stuffed full of overpriced claret all over the land. Even the good guys of the wine investment world largely focus on very highly rated claret from good years, quite often without stopping to consider the price.

2009 and 10 First Growths have been my biggest sell recommendations so far this year, but I have expanded those thoughts and now, I would suggest that Bordeaux First Growths and equivalents since and including 2000 are a SELL; also, a lot of next tier down, Montrose and Pontet Canet ‘09 and ’10 for example, notwithstanding their incredible ratings. I would keep anything from 1990 and beyond due to rarity and would sit on the fence for anything in between, although I am sure that prices there will ease a little too.

I do not think the rest of the wine market will suffer to the same extent as Bordeaux, mainly because it’s not nearly so tradeable and doesn’t suffer from the over supply problem; Bordeaux is unique in this and with another great vintage around the corner (early reports suggest 2019 is going to be very good, but isn’t it always thus!) there’s another wall of stock on its way, probably much of it at the wrong price again.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Bordeaux and am very happy to accumulate and drink older vintages. For investing, I just prefer other regions right now, particularly Piedmont, Tuscany and vintage Champagne. Even in these tough trading conditions it’s actually quite difficult accumulating really good stocks of Piedmont at decent prices at the moment.

Below is a quick comparison between some great vintages of Mouton Rothschild versus Bartolo Mascarello, one of the best Barolo producers. Mascarello is not the household name that Mouton is but it is the qualitative equivalent, is produced in tiny quantities (easily less than a tenth of Mouton) and is held almost entirely by the cognoscenti who are likely to drink it themselves. Mouton, on the other hand, can be found in cellars from the cognoscenti to the cretini! The message is clear, and the relative bet to my mind is absolutely nailed on (as they say on the racetrack).

Wine Owners November wine market investment report

Even taking into account trading spreads and expenses I would happily recommend selling Bordeaux blue chips and reinvesting in other areas. The difference between the per bottle prices of equivalents elsewhere suggest there’s plenty of upside in the trade.

Miles Davis 7th November 2019


We love Vieux Château Certan

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2019-10-09


As we’ve written here before, we love Vieux Chateau Certan and we’re not the only ones. The wine has always been great, but it just seems to get better and better. The ’78 recently was sublime. It seems to be quite vintage proof too, producing a highly rated 2011 (96-8 points, Neal Martin), which we have commented on before (here). Neal’s comments on the ’04 also resonate: “this is a triumph of wine over vintage”.

So, a great wine with a limited production from 14 hectares of Pomerol, a popular family as owners, a rising reputation and prices that are manageable (in the context of very fine wine). A wine trade legend recently commented “I can’t understand why every vintage of VCC doesn’t start at £200 per bottle”.The vineyard is next to Cheval Blanc and like the St. Emilion Grand Cru Classé A powerhouse has a lot of the vineyard given over to Cabernet Franc. It is planted 60% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Franc and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and the Chateau is not scared of big selection decisions for the grand vin to achieve the best results - the ’98, for example, was 90% Merlot. For the sake of comparison, Petrus covers 11.5 hectares and is 100% Merlot.

Here are the bottle prices of various older vintages (’95 - ‘06) with WO scores:

Vieux Chateau Certan - Market Price versus Score - Wine Owners

1998 was a brilliant right bank vintage and it stands out as such. 2000 was also excellent across the board and as a result, it is more homogenous in its appeal. It is interesting to note that these older vintages are much cheaper than the (admittedly higher rated) younger versions, (’08-’16 below). Whilst on ratings, there is no doubt VCC has been achieving greater things, but wine critic’s scores have also been on the up in the last decade, meaning a modern day 97 feels more like a 93 or 94 from the noughties.

I prefer older vintages because of the faster falling supply and favour the ’98 over the ’00 for investment purposes, just. Some outright value can be found in the ’04 at a little over £100 a bottle;

NM writes: “Alexandre Thienpont having to pass through the vineyard six times in order to pick the grapes. It was worthwhile because this is one of the outstanding wines of the vintage, driven by the Cabernet Franc (30%). A delectable nose with wonderful purity and exuberant, peppery Cabernet Franc with touches of tar and roasted chestnuts inflected the black fruits. Superb. Drink 2015-2030+.”

Here are the Relative Value scores for the older selection:


Vieux Chateau Certan - Relative Value Score - Wine Owners

And now for younger vintages:

Vieux Chateau Certan - Market price VS. Score - Wine Owners

In the younger vintages, the ’11 stands out. I have edited the scores just to use Neal Martin’s 96-8 score as we believe the other critics, especially Monsieur Parker, have clearly missed the beauty of this wine which is commonly touted as the wine of the vintage. NM: “It has enormous length and it is one of the very few that could be on the same ethereal plateau as the 2009 and 2010 and perhaps one day...even better”

The other notable characteristic of 2011 is that 30% Cabernet Franc made it into the final blend, and was the last vintage that had such a high Cab Franc component prior to 2018. That means more floral and aromatic character. Given VCC can often be obdurate in youth and middle age, we like vintages like 2011.

Don’t imagine either that 2011 was a poor year climatically for VCC – the numbers tell a different story: high IPT of 83, moderate alcohol at 13.6 degrees, and a relatively low in acid PH of 3.6. All of which is borne out in the glass - plenty of stuffing for a very long drinking window, finesse, lovely balance and moderate alcohol. With LMHB the wine of the vintage.

The ’09 and ’10 receive massive scores from Mr. Parker, noticeably higher than his colleagues. ’15 and ’16 receive massive scores across the board but, as mentioned earlier, scores ain’t what they used to be! The less fashionable ’12 and ’14 vintages offer value with ’15 and ’16 looking fully priced for now although leading the way in terms of a re-rating perhaps? They are the most expensive vintages on the market.

Vieux Chateau Certan - Relative Value Score - Wine Owners

VCC does not deserve to trade at such crazy discounts to Petrus, Le Pin and Lafleur. The ’16 vintage is used as an example below.

Vieux Chateau Certan - Market Price Vs. Score - Wine Owners
On the other hand, it provides an excellent opportunity to access a top terroir of Bordeaux in some of the best wine-making hands at ‘reasonable’ prices, certainly at a fraction of Petrus and Le Pin.

The last ten vintages of Petrus average a score of 96 points and a price of £2,333 per bottle against an average of 95.9 points and £151 for VCC. Put another way, you can drink nearly fifteen and a half bottles of VCC for every one of Petrus. Surely that’s enough to get you thinking!?


Please see live offers of VCC on the platform here. Other vintages are available, so please speak to Miles or Luke MacWilliam.

N.B. A new platform feature – there is no need to type out Vieux Chateau Certan any more – typing VCC will do the job.


Miles Davis, 11th October 2019. Professional Portfolio Management.

miles.davis@wineowners.com

07798 732 543


Is it time to hit the bottle?

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2019-10-08


At the risk of sounding like a stuck record, the market mood is sombre. It does, however, remain reasonably steady amidst a turbulent sea of macro factors.

Hong Kong is an important market for wine and the ongoing protests are a concern. The original cause of complaint, an extradition agreement between the territory and the Chinese mainland, has long since been retracted but the protests continue, becoming ever more violent. This is about democracy and freedom and the eyes of the world are watching. It is an uncomfortable position for China who cannot afford to handle the situation as perhaps it might in its own provinces but in the long term, remains a very powerful parent. Already the economic effects are being felt; officially occupancy rates in Hong Kong hotels are currently running at about 20%, unofficially they are in single digits. A quick internet search found a room in the territory for US$9 a night, including breakfast!

As we know, Hong Kong, apart from having its own burgeoning wine scene, is currently the gateway to the wine market of China, legally or otherwise. We expect China will open new free ports in time, but the current troubles may just accelerate that process. We think this is a short term problem but in the meantime, trade form that corner of the world is quiet.

U.S./China trade negotiations and Brexit shenanigans continue, and emerging markets are threatened by contagion emanating from Argentina. Thrown in the unrest in various parts of the Middle East and various other more localised scenarios, it’s a right old mess. And what does well in right old messes – physical assets! Here is the Gold price performance so far this year against the WO 150 index.

WO 150 - Gold price performance

We’re not saying there is any correlation, delayed or otherwise, between wine and gold but recent financial history (since the last global financial crisis) has made physical and alternative assets increasingly popular.

We live in an era of negative real interest rates, where buyers of roughly a third of the world’s outstanding bonds will lose money if held to maturity and where even high yielding equities with strong balance sheets are not performing – all very sobering! With all this going on, is it time to hit the bottle?

Within the wine world, my investment themes remain the same; focus on regional allocation, combined with scarcity and relative value is the game.

Please contact miles.davis@wineowners.com with any questions.


Wine Market Investment Report August 2019

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2019-09-09


August was much like July with summer holidays being the prime concern for most people. The wider market has felt quiet, maybe because the Bordeaux market is still largely flat, but there are definitely pockets of excitement about and the broad-based Wine Owners Index was up 0.9%. Trade was brisk with Piedmont, Tuscany and Champagne dominating turnover at Wine Owners.

The solid, relative value investment case for the wines of Piedmont has created demand which, in turn, has led to us step up our sourcing efforts. Liquidity is tight, obviously one of the plus points in the investment case, but we have managed to unearth some lovely parcels, particularly some legendary Bartolo Mascarello vintages.

Sterling has remained weak due to the Brexit shenanigans, and this has finally translated into some positive moves for various wine indices. As we know, a weaker pound generally leads to increased demand in the sterling denominated secondary fine wine market, especially from U.S.$ based buyers. Little has come out of Asia, however, as continuing rhetoric surrounding the U.S./China trade wars rumble on and Hong Kong is still suffering from the most vocal political protests in its modern history. They (the people of Honk Kong) have even appealed to Mr. Trump to help!

The largest region within the wine market will always be Bordeaux and it is business in the wines of Bordeaux that is suffering the most from these continuing issues. Many of the other top wine regions are less affected by these global events and market conditions as the wines are less traded, and the supply and demand ratio in a different place. Bordeaux has been looking cheap versus its peers for some time now, and there’s a lot of bad news in the price but the stars need to start aligning. This can and will happen, but when is the big question!


Wine Market Investment Report July 2019

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2019-08-20


A brief and holiday interrupted report for activity in July

The wine market continues to hold its breath. Boris fulfils (what somehow now feels like) his destiny and moves into Number 10 and the pound plummets. It has since recovered a bit but even so, the wine market didn't flinch. As we know, a weaker pound generally leads to increased demand in the sterling denominated secondary fine wine market, especially from U.S.$ based buyers, but maybe not during the hot days of summer? Certainly not when the U.S./China trade wars rumble on, the rhetoric becoming ever stronger, and most definitely not when Hong Kong explodes into the most violent scenes of pro-democracy protest in its modern history. The Brexit backdrop adds to the confusion, so no wonder little happens.

The largest market within wine will always be Bordeaux and it is business in the wines of Bordeaux that is suffering the most from this continued malaise. Many of the other top wine regions are less affected by these global events and market conditions as the wines are more scarce, with the supply and demand ratio is in a different place. Bordeaux has been looking cheap versus its peers for some time now, but the stars need to start aligning. This can and will happen, but when is the big question!

Despite these almost stagnant overtones, trade has never been brisker with July setting a record level of turnover. Numbers of users, bids and offers forever grow. Collectors looking to trim positions have been well accommodated by others adding and reorganising their cellars, something we are seeing a lot more of.

Burgundy continues to look for its feet, Champagne and Super Tuscans gently hum along nicely, and we’ve seen a little demand for some of the new world too.

Here at Wine Owners, Barolo dominated trading in July. Many vintages of Bartolo Mascarello changed hands, also many Bruno Giacosas, Riservas and otherwise. Fratelli Alessandria becomes ever more popular, as does Luciano Sandrone. And there were some big-ticket trades in Monfortino and Ca d’Morissio.


Miles Davis, 20th August 2019
miles.davis@wineowners.com


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


Focus on: Vieux Chateau Certan 2011

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2019-06-17


Neal Martin Score: 96-98

Price: £1,150 per 12

Vieux Chateau Certan (VCC) needs very little introduction and in recent years it has been shooting the lights out. Its reputation as a superstar is confirmed yet it still seems to be going from strength to strength. This is clearly attributable to the stewardship of the popular and modest Alexandre Thienpont. The last ten vintages have averaged a score of 96 – that is remarkable in itself.

We have identified the 2011 as an excellent opportunity to achieve exposure to this magnificent estate at a really attractive price level (only the disastrous 2013 vintage is cheaper, and only just). The wine came to the market at £1,075 per 12 in 2012 and is now £1,150. Post release the price slid to c.£950 before moving up by c.20% between the between ’16 and ’18. The weak Brexit pound was responsible for c. 10% of that and in the last eighteen months the price has barely moved.

Vieux Chateau Certan - Wine Owners - 1


There is a reason for the cheap price, it was a difficult vintage and Mr. Parker scored the wine with a paltry 91 points. We think he’s got it wrong – and so do many others. Neal Martin scores it 96-98, James Suckling and Tim Atkin 96 and James Lawther MW 19.

Vieux Chateau Certan - Wine Owners - Market price versus score

The 2009 and 2010 vintages Parker scored 99 points and were presumably a bit more in keeping with his tastes. These vintages contained no Cabernet Franc, even though the vineyards are planted 70% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Franc and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. The 2011 contains 29% Cabernet Franc and as Neal Martin comments “this is more what I consider to be a classic VCC nose, unlike those previous vintages (’09 and ’10) that gives you everything up front, this is far more intellectual and enigmatic.... and are perhaps one day, even better ”. Not bad at half the price!

This chart uses only Neal Martin’s scores – if you believe in the critic, the data does the rest of the talking for you:

Vieux Chateau Certan - Wine Owners - Relative value score

2011 was not a great Bordeaux vintage and suffered as it came behind the (over- priced) blockbusters of ’09 and ’10. En primeur was not working at all at that time and to add to the woe, timing also coincided with the ‘Great Wall of China Corruption Clampdown’ meaning the market was already in an unusual state of flux.

Pomerol is widely regarded as the appellation of the vintage. VCC ’11 has been described by some as wine of the vintage and by others as wine of the right bank. Either way, a slice of a potentially great VCC for under £100 a bottle has plenty of upside potential. The ’10 and ’16 are both in excess of £220 a bottle.


Here are Nick Martin’s comments following a 2011 dinner last year:

Vieux Chateau Certan 2011 is the last vintage - prior to 2018 - with a substantial percentage of Cabernet Franc in the blend at a whopping 29%.


Alexandre Thienpont believes this to be a great vintage but in a less exotic, full-on style than 2010 or 2009.

Yet it remains properly intense and rich, thanks to low yields of 37 hl/ ha that contributed to a wine with a high IPT count of 83 (phenolics that give structure and colour...the guts of a wine), rivalling the IPT levels of producers’ wonderful 2016s. Furthermore it’s vibrant and mouthwatering with a conventionally fresh ph of 3.50.

Whilst initially tight, VCC 2011 unfurls with 3 hours in the decanter, has a beautifully harmonious mid palate that evolves in the glass quite dramatically, and sports a finish that goes on and on. It can be consumed with great pleasure at a leisurely pace now yet will continue to improve over the next 20 to 30 years.

Cedar, a medley of briar fruit and griottes, a vein of intensely fresh orange, mineral earthiness and background spice notes are elements of a kaleidoscopic tasting experience that segues between the myriad nuanced flavours and makes for a thril- ling experience.

Tasted comparatively with a dozen other top 2011 Crus, the only wine in the line up that got remotely close to VCC’s complexity and overall class was La Mission Haut Brion.

Neal Martin’s tasting note from the Wine Advocate:

The Vieux Chateau Certan was cropped between 6th and 7th of September and from 14th until 20th September. That's what you'll read everywhere, although I was filming Alexandre when he was picking the final Cabernet around the 29th September! Cropped at 37hl/ha, it is a blend of 70% Merlot, 1% Cabernet Sauvignon and (yay!) 29% Cabernet Franc. It delivers 13.6 degrees alcohol with a total acidity of 3.5gms/L and an IPT of 83. After the Cabernet Francless 2009 and 2010, this is more what I consider to be a classic VCC nose and as Alexandre, unlike those previous vintages that gives you everything up front, this is far more intellectual and enigmatic with hints of mineral laden fruit, limestone and small dark cherries. It is beautifully defined yet distant. The palate is succinctly balanced with crisp acidity, exceptional balance and superb backbone. There is an undercurrent of masculinity, a saline tincture, cru- shed stone and a touch of dried herbs and yet these are just fleeting hints. It has enormous length and it is one of the very few that could be on the same ethereal plateau as the 2009 and 2010 and perhaps one day...even better. Tasted April 2012.


La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 904 - A refreshing release!

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2019-06-10


Today we see the release of the 2010 La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 904. At £195 per six and with years of maturation already in the bank, this wine represents terrific value, especially when compared to some of the recent en primeur releases from further north (Bordeaux). The 2010 has an absolutely massive Wine Owner’s Relative Value Score of 111, (see chart attached). Tim Atkin awards 97 points and comments “Savoury wild herb notes segue into a palate that's focused, balanced and graceful with the concentration and backbone to age. 2019-35”.

Purely from an investment perspective these wines only appreciate in price quite some time after release, when scarcity starts to kick in as demonstrated here with the excellent 2001 vintage (attached).

Conclusion: buy with a view to drinking but see what happens!

La Rioja 2018 Bordeaux en primeur - Wine Owners - Market price versus score


La Rioja 2018 Bordeaux en primeur - Wine Owners


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