by Wine Owners
Posted on 2018-04-19
Wine Owners created proto-prices (first published in this JancisRobinson.com article) to help consumers identify value among en primeur offers. The prices support consumers when buying en primeur, by providing a consistent baseline from which to make purchasing decisions. Confidence in en primeur has been damaged in recent years, by over-inflated release prices and by fraudsters posing as brokers (always check the data, and always check the broker!), so we saw a clear need for a remedy. Each proto-price is the price at which Wine Owners believes a wine should be released in order to make its en primeur offer attractive and worthwhile for the consumer.
©Jonathan Reeve / Wine Owners
En Primeur must be symbiotic to continue thriving; it must benefit both chateau and consumer. Chateau benefits from smoother cash-flow and up-front guaranteed sales. Consumer benefits from a better price – significantly lower than buying two years later at general release. The symbiosis has lost balance slightly in recent years, with release prices rising apparently out of control. We created our proto-prices to help restore some of that balance, by creating informed consumers and collectors. We can't (and shouldn't try to) control the chateaux; they must release their new wine at the price they think best reflects the market, and their position within the market. What we can do, though, is give consumers the data they need to make informed purchasing decisions.
Not If But Which
Proto-prices address each wine individually. The decision is not if to buy wines en primeur, but which ones. If wine X doesn't look like good value, move to wine Y (no, that isn't an encoded hint to buy premier grand cru Sauternes!). And if none of your favourite wines look like good value this year, see below...
Back Vintages to the Future
Proto-prices support en primeur purchasing, and will hopefully help the tradition continue (on a stable path which benefits everyone involved). But if the new vintage of your preferred wine doesn't offer good value this year, adjust your gaze slightly. Caught up in the excitement of buying the new vintage en primeur, many of us forget to check availability and price of back-vintages. The Wine Owners Exchange is brimming with back-vintages you can buy instead. And hopefully, next year, you'll find the 2018 vintage at a more attractive en primeur price (the likelihood of which will significantly increase if enough consumers follow the buying advice in this article).
Proto-prices are based on a combination of solid wine market data and fine-grained knowledge. Last week in Bordeaux, one half of our team tasted tirelessly (well, almost tirelessly) through hundreds of 2017 Bordeaux wines, while at London HQ the other half was busy crunching market data. The combined result of these two efforts is the below table of 2017 proto-prices, featuring the seventy(ish) Bordeaux wines most commonly bought en primeur.
Happy en primeur purchasing, and...let the games begin!
| 2017 PROTO-PRICE || 2016 EP (IB) btl || % CHANGE 17 Vs. 16 || V-AVG * || Actual release price |
|Alter Ego de Palmer||£46.6||£46.60||0%||£53.00||£48.75|
| Ausone ||£423.5 || £590.83 || -28% || £385.00 || |
| Beausejour Becot ||£39.1 || £52.00 || -25% || £34.00 || |
| Beausejour Duffau-Lagarrosse ||£55.58 || £85.50 || -35% || £57.00 || |
| Belair-Monange ||£71.4 || £115.83 || -38% || £51.00 || |
| Beychevelle ||£56.3 || £56.30 || 0% || £68.00 || |
| Calon-Segur ||£71.5 || £78.30 || -9% || £65.00 || |
| Canon ||£65 || £90.80 || -28% || £50.00 || |
| Canon La Gaffeliere ||£44.85 || £64.17 || -30% || £46.00 || |
| Cheval Blanc ||£344.3 || £533.30 || -35% || £313.00 || |
| Clerc Milon ||£49.16 || £49.16 || 0% || £52.00 || |
| Clinet Pomerol ||£49.73 || £72.00 || -31% || £51.00 || |
| Clos Fourtet ||£60.5 || £91.67 || -34% || £55.00 || |
| Conseillante ||£96 || £155.00 || -38% || £80.00 || |
| Cos d'Estournel ||£79 || £110.00 || -28% || £79.00 || |
| de Valandraud ||£87.75 || £129.15 || -32% || £90.00 ||£100|
| Domaine de Chevalier ||£36.08|| £53.50 || -33% || £37.00 || |
| Ducru-Beaucaillou ||£92 || £140.00 || -34% || £92.00 || |
| Duhart-Milon ||£47.78 || £53.30 || -10% || £49.00 || |
| Durfort Vivens ||£34.65 || £40.33 || -14% || £33.00 || |
| Figeac Saint Emilion ||£113.4 || £155.00 || -27% || £81.00 || |
| Gazin ||£44.85 || £60.50 || -26% || £46.00 || |
| Grand Puy Lacoste ||£40 || £60.83 || -34% || £40.00 || |
| Gruaud Larose ||£40.95 || £51.67 || -21% || £42.00 || |
| Haut Bailly ||£52 || £87.50 || -41% || £52.00 || |
| Haut-Brion ||£310.2 || £400.00 || -22% || £282.00 || |
| Haut-Brion Blanc ||£583.33|| £583.33 || 0% || £557.00 || |
| La Chapelle de La Mission Haut Brion ||£48.4 || £63.33 || -24% || £44.00 || |
| La Fleur Petrus ||£129.68 || £165.83 || -22% || £133.00 || |
| La Mission Haut-Brion ||£184.6 || £324.16 || -43% || £142.00 || |
| La Mission Haut-Brion Blanc ||£451.43 || £466.67 || -3% || £463.00 || |
| La Mondotte ||£126.75 || £199.00 || -36% || £130.00 || |
| Lafite Rothschild ||£398.72 || £491.66 || -19% || £498.40 || |
| Lafleur ||£348.075 || £430.00 || -19% || £357.00 || |
| Lagrange ||£29.25 || £35.00 || -16% || £30.00 || |
| L'Aile d'Argent Blanc ||£54.17|| £54.17 || 0% || £53.00 || |
| Lascombes ||£47.78 || £56.67 || -16% || £49.00 || |
| Le Petit Mouton Rothschild ||£133.3 || £133.30 || 0% || £171.00 || |
| Le Pin ||£1574.63 || £2,083.00 || -24% || £1,615.00 || |
| L'Eglise-Clinet ||£115.5 || £216.67 || -47% || £105.00 || |
| Leoville Barton ||£48.75 || £62.50 || -22% || £50.00 || |
| Leoville Las Cases ||£113.3 || £175.00 || -35% || £103.00 || |
| Leoville Poyferre ||£49.73 || £67.00 || -26% || £51.00 || |
| Les Carruades de Lafite ||£125 || £125.00 || 0% || £215.00 || |
| l'Evangile ||£82.88 || £131.67 || -37% || £85.00 || |
| L'If ||£147.23 || £175.00 || -16% || £151.00 || |
| Lynch Bages ||£74.1 || £95.80 || -23% || £76.00 || |
| Malartic-Lagraviere ||£33.6 || £40.00 || -16% || £28.00 || |
| Malartic-Lagraviere Blanc ||£41 || £41.00 || 0% || £32.00 || |
| Margaux ||£351.9 || £428.60 || -18% || £306.00 || |
| Monbousquet ||£33.15 || £36.67 || -10% || £34.00 || |
| Montrose ||£72.6 || £95.00 || -24% || £66.00 || |
| Mouton Rothschild ||£334.43 || £411.60 || -19% || £343.00 || |
| Palmer Margaux ||£171.6 || £236.60 || -27% || £156.00 ||£195.75|
| Pape Clement ||£88.73 || £129.16 || -31% || £91.00 || |
| Pape Clement Blanc ||£98.33|| £98.33 || 0% || £68.00 || |
| Pavie Macquin ||£39.98|| £58.33 || -31% || £41.00 || |
| Pavie Saint Emilion ||£194.03 || £298.00 || -35% || £199.00 || |
| Pavillon Blanc ||£145.83|| £145.83 || 0% || £150.00 || |
| Pavillon Rouge ||£133.58 || £115.00 || 16% || £137.00 || |
| Petrus ||£1642.88|| £2,666.00 || -38% || £1,685.00 || |
| Pichon Baron ||£79.2 || £115.60 || -31% || £72.00 || |
| Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande ||£84.7 || £122.50 || -31% || £77.00 || |
| Pontet Canet ||£68.4|| £111.67 || -39% || £57.00 || |
| Quintus ||£58.5 || £95.80 || -39% || £60.00 || |
| Rauzan Segla ||£46.8 || £61.30 || -24% || £48.00 || |
| Smith Haut Lafitte ||£50 || £78.00 || -36% || £50.00 || |
| Smith Haut Lafitte Blanc ||£73 || £73.00 || 0% || £57.00 || |
| Troplong Mondot ||£66 || £100.00 || -34% || £55.00 || |
| Trotanoy ||£119.93 || £193.33 || -38% || £123.00 || |
| Vieux Chateau Certan ||£128.75 || £196.67 || -35% || £103.00 || |
| AVERAGE REDUCTION FOR A SUCCESSFUL CAMPAIGN || || || -23% || || |
* V-AVG: avg current mkt value 04,06,08,12,14
by Wine Owners
Posted on 2018-04-13
Slightly weary after several busy days of tasting and driving, we were very happy to start today with a blissful treat; Jacques Thienpont hosting us to taste his 2017 Le Pin. Well-tailored and welcoming, Jacques greeted us with his son Georges, and took time to explain a little of the history behind the two wines we were about to taste: L'If and Le Pin. Both wines were stunning, and L'If - one of the newer additions to the Thienpont collection - shows a clear family resemblance to its legendary big brother. (It's upwards price trajectory does, too). What stood out most in both wines (beyond elegant fruit aromas and a cool-silk mouthfeel) were the feather light, super-ripe tannins. When we asked Jacques how he achieved these, he modestly gave all credit to the vineyard, saying “Fiona (Jacques' wife Fiona Morrison MW) can't believe how little I do to the wine”. Whatever the case, we have seen tannins like these at only one other winery (Cheval Blanc) in all of our tastings this week. ‘Extremely svelte, no hint of excess', say Nick's 2017 Le Pin tasting notes.
©Jonathan Reeve / Wine Owners
The Right Wine for the Job
The Le Pin tasting highlighted a really basic wine investment tip - one which may easily be overlooked. In the excitement of buying a super-expensive wine like this, an investor may well neglect to factor how many years the wine will actually last. Expensive wine is not necessarily long-lived wine. The world's most expensive wines cost so much because they're excellent and sought-after, not because they take forever to mature. Jacques estimates that the Le Pin 2017 is a wine to drink within ten to fifteen years. That's great if you can get hold of it en primeur and turn it around within a few years, but that really isn't particularly long in investment terms. At the opposite end of the spectrum are two wines of similar stature: Chateau Haut-Brion and Chateau Latour. These two are completely different in style - both from Le Pin and from one another. They are chalk and cheese stylistically, but they are clearly similar in how long-lived they are. The longer the maturation period, the more time there is for speculation and anticipation, and the more time you have to find that well-heeled and motivated buyer.
©Jonathan Reeve / Wine Owners
En Primeur Alive and Kicking
From up-close here in Bordeaux, En Primeur as a buying mechanism (with all its associated practices and processes) seems alive and well. The tasting rooms here are packed and buzzing, all the traditional conversations are happening (again), and tannin-battered tongues are wagging as always. Hopefully this energy will be complemented by sensible release prices in a few weeks' time, and by a decent level of commitment from consumers. And investors...
Watch this space in coming weeks for our thoughts on hot buys, once the producers begin to announce their prices.
by Wine Owners
Posted on 2018-04-12
A late return tonight (past midnight) and a long day, waking at 05:00. But there's still gas left in the tank, so to speak. Over the course of the day we gathered thoughts in advance for the below.
JR has been looking for patterns all week - some form of shape around which to build recommendations for wise en primeur purchases. Until this afternoon we failed to find anything solid, but then...Saint-Julien delivered. At the UGC (Union des Grands Crus) Saint-Julien tasting hosted by Chateau Beychevelle at its modern-looking new winery, we noticed a clear consistency in the wines; there wasn't a dud among them. Well, maybe there was one, but we don't need to talk about that as it wasn't really that bad. Either way, this was the first appellation we'd seen where quality was reliably high in these en primeur tastings. Everywhere else had required dedicated tasting to work out what was hot and what was not. So thank you Saint-Julien, and bravo!
Of course, as soon as this pattern had been spotted, we remembered another that we wanted to talk about yesterday(but ran out of time). It's the incredible purity to the whites this year, all around Bordeaux - not just in Graves where we were today (starting with Haut-Brion, Pape Clement and Smith Haut-Lafitte) but everywhere. Lovely balanced wines great concentration and acidity, and pithy, chalky tannins. Our tasting notes are full of descriptors like kaffir lime leaves, sweet sage, gooseberry, sherbet and candied lemon. Even lemon verbena made it in there. 2017 looks like a really great year for Bordeaux whites.
©Nick Martin / Wine Owners
The Cold Shoulder
Frost - the running theme of conversations all around Bordeaux this week - was as much as issue in Graves as it was in the right bank. The frost pattern here in the Graves seems to have been much more black and white than over in Saint-Emilion and Pomerol. For some producers, there is a glittering silver lining to this rather painful situation, in that they adapted to it by significantly changing their blend and have come out smiling. Larrivet Haut-Brion is a gleaming example of this; the team there turned their blend around to use three times the usual amount of Cabernet Franc, and one third the amount of Merlot (which got severely hit by the frost). Les Carmes de Haut Brion is a similar story, and a similar success.
We have been focusing a lot on the frost topic (both here in the blog, and in our conversations with producers), but in fact a key point we'd like to make is that the frost is not something that consumers and investors should really focus on. What really matters, ultimately, is what each of the producers has managed to create. There are no strong patterns that consumers can reliably follow with regard to the frost.
Softly Softly Catchy Monkey
After a morning on the right bank, we returned to the Medoc, to the UGC tasting at Lafon Rochet. There, Basil Tesseron told us that 2017 was a vintage where it was extremely important not to over-extract, not being a super-ripe or sunny vintage. Over-extraction would just lead to mean, green bitter compounds leaching into the wine. This echoed a sentiment raised earlier in the day at Smith Haut-Lafitte, where the team did 4 pigeages per day, but no pumperovers, in order to keep the winemaking relatively gentle. 2017 was a year to be patient for picking and gentle in the winery.
©Jonathan Reeve / Wine Owners
Less (Wine) Does Not Necessarily Mean More (Money)
Despite indications given by some chateaux that smaller harvests will mean higher release prices, we see no justification for this. Traditionally, in vintages which are not 'stellar' -particularly those which followed relatively good vintages (as 2016 was) vintages, prices have tended to drop or remain roughly stable. Even in 2006 prices didn't significantly rise; they stayed roughly the same as 2005 even though the vintage clearly wasn't quite as impressive.
Tomorrow is a final look at the top producers we've not yet visited, all around the region. Lots of driving, between Le Pin, Angelus, La Conseillante, Eglise-Clinet and then back over the river to Latour, Leoville Barton and Palmer. Here's hoping for good driving conditions!
by Wine Owners
Posted on 2018-04-11
Reflecting on day two, with the heady aromas of Pavie and co still flickering around our mouths, and a hard day's tasting behind us, we searched for patterns and rules. But, on reflection, there really is no rule that we can suggest.
©Jonathan Reeve / Wine Owners
An Unexpected Guest
Cabernet Sauvignon made an larger-than-usual appearance in several top wines we tried today, most noticeably Vieux Chateau Certan and Cheval Blanc. Typically, VCC contains just 1% Cabernet Sauvignon, but in 2017 that was increased to 5%. Although there was no overt Cabernet Sauvignon aroma profile in the wine, its freshness and focus almost certainly added to the completeness of the mouthfeel. Cheval Blanc is a quite different story; 2017 is the first vintage in many years that the wine will contain Cabernet Sauvignon.
©Jonathan Reeve / Wine Owners
Shining Examples of Franc
Cabernet Franc is absolutely not in the dog house in 2017, despite the general impression that it had a tough vintage. Three stand-out wines from today's line-up contained substantial levels of Cabernet Franc; Chateau Troplong- Mondot, Chateau Canon and Cheval Blanc's Petit Cheval. The former pair included around 25% Cab Franc, and Le Petit Cheval put on a blinding performance with a relatively massive 48%. So, while the variety may have had a very tough vintage in some parts of the right bank, it is showing admirably in others.
There is a lot of emphasis this week on The Frost (27th and 28th April 2017), and rightly so; it was absolutely devastating from some producers, and has had clear repercussions in their 2017 wines. But not all vineyards were affected, and some seem to have escaped entirely unscathed. Chateau Canon, for example, was almost completely untouched by frost. The wines are suitably excellent - refined, bright, tight and focused. Vieux Chateau Certan - our second tasting of the day - is another example of a winery seemingly undaunted by the frost. It tasted magnificent, silky and balanced this morning, all those tannins ago. But many of those right bank producers who did experience frost have found ways to produce good, and even excellent wines. Some adjusted the blend of grapes they use. Soutard is a fantastic and successful example of this; their 2017 is very good, and will be a great value buy when released. Their 2017 blend was 90% Merlot (significantly higher than the 65% normally used), with Cabernet Franc, Cab Sauvignon and Malbec making up the remaining 10%.
Chateau Gazin was untouched by frost, but the team there nonetheless felt that their Cab Franc wasn't quite up to scratch. They took the decision to boost their blend up to a fat 95% Merlot, resulting in a 2017 grand vin with a silky mouthfeel, great balance, and an enticing touch of kirsch dancing around on the nose.
On the left bank yesterday, the story was quite different. The frost was relatively indiscriminate there, affecting most vineyards to some extent. But here in the right bank, the hillier landscape allowed the freezing air to drain away from some places...and to gather catastrophically in others. Thus the distribution of frost damage was much more patchy here. Clay-based areas and lower-lying sites were obviously hit very hard by the frost. We do feel for those producers hit hardest - it was clearly not an easy vintage for them, and they face challenges ahead when the wines are released to market.
©Jonathan Reeve / Wine Owners
So the rule really is that there is no rule here. Which makes exhaustive primeurs tasting all the more valuable. Tomorrow (Wednesday) we head to Graves and Pessac-Leognon in the morning, to taste the Haut-Brion wines, and then on to Pape Clement and Malartic Lagraviere. We shall see if, and to what extent, the gravel soils helped mitigate the frost impact here...
by Wine Owners
Posted on 2018-04-10
Starting early, we hit the Monday-morning Bordeaux commuter congestion armed with laptops, phones and an excellent pain au chocolat. Day one launched us headlong into the Medoc grand crus, starting at Lafite, then moving through Mouton, Cos d'Estournel, Pontet-Canet, Calon-Segur, Montrose, finishing at Chateau Margaux.
©Jonathan Reeve / Wine Owners
Tongues still tingling from untamed tannins, we are now reviewing the day from the wine-free environs of our rented loft- conversion apartment. There is blue sky peeping through the skylights.
Three main themes emerged from today's en primeur 2017 tastings:
The most obvious pattern is that 2017 was clearly a Cabernet vintage in Pauillac and Saint-Estephe. Almost all of the wines we tried have a higher proportion of Cabernet Sauvignon in their blends than in 2016. The particular weather patterns of the 2017 growing season meant that Merlot was tricker in 2017, and Cabernet performed well. Lafite, Montrose and Calon-Segur particularly exemplified this - their wines glowing from the healthy Cabernet. The Calon tasting demonstrated this most clearly; comparing side-by-side the Marquis de Calon and the Calon-Segur (Cabernet was particularly higher in the latter) it became clear how a higher percentage of Cabernet has worked wonders in 2017. The Calon is fresher, brighter and more defined than the Marquis, has more-focused acidity, and will be by far the longer-lived wine.
A noteworthy exception to this pattern is the grand vin at Chateau Margaux, where the team are obviously very happy with their Merlot this year. In fact, their Merlot was apparently so good that it was used worthy of a greater dose in the grand vin this year - a move which brought production levels of the grand vin up to almost 2015 levels (impressive from the smaller 2017 vintage). This is an unusual moment of glory for Merlot, which is typically the ‘insurance policy' grape.
One obvious pattern showing in day one's tastings was house styles. These are very much in evidence in 2017, and most obvious at the Mouton stable, where d'Armailhac, Petit Mouton, Mouton and Aile d'Argent all shared the house's exuberent, borderline-exotic richesse. This continues right down to the house's entry-level Baronarques brand from Limoux, which we were also warmly invited to taste. The four Cos d'Estournel wines also had a family feel about them, being clean, bright and focused, without being overly ‘new world'. The pattern was most pleasing, perhaps, at Montrose, where both the Dame de Montrose and the grand vin showed brilliantly, and shared a distinctive style; cool, fresh wines (yes, high Cabernet content) with lots of tightly wound potential, and a whiff of something herbal (along the lies of nettles and lavender) marking them out from the crowd.
©Jonathan Reeve / Wine Owners
Past and present
References to the past, as a means of promoting the present, were frequent in the presentations today.
Lafite's new director, Jean-Guillaume Prats (previously of Cos d'Estournel), pointed to technology as being significant in the quality of this 2017 vintage. Thirty years ago, he said, given the same vintage conditions, it would have been 'very tricky' to make a wine of such high quality as they have managed this vintage with both the Carruades and grand vin. Of course, his job is to say such things, but his demeanour was very real, honest and open. And the wines spoke for themselves; the Lafite was its usual elegant, impressive self even at this early stage in its life.
©Jonathan Reeve / Wine Owners
Also illustrating progress by pointing to the past was Thibault Pontalier of Chateau Margaux, who highlighted that the blend of Pavillon Rouge today is exactly the blend of the grand vin thirty years ago. A strong part of his reasoning for this was the ever- increasing quality of Cabernet Sauvignon that Margaux is able to produce, thanks to investment in technique and technology. This was in evidence for more than just the reds, however; Margaux's stunning Pavillon Blanc 2017 ended today with a refreshing flourish of beautifully concentrated, linear Sauvignon.
©Jonathan Reeve / Wine Owners
Comparing 2017 with 2016, the majority of wines from day one appear to be a notch less intense and refined than 2016. We're interested to see if this continues on the right bank.
Tomorrow we visit Nenin, Vieux Chateau Certan, Cheval Blanc, Gazin, La Couspade, Canon and Pavie. Watch this space tomorrow, for reflections on the right bank.
by Wine Owners
Posted on 2018-04-04
Follow us on Twitter and Instagram next week as our team will be sharing their first impression and analysis on the new vintage live from le Bordelais.
Here's a taste of our week:
Château de Ferrand
Smith Haut Laffite
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.
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.
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 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 (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.
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.
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.
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.
by Wine Owners
Posted on 2018-03-05
We would like to echo the sentiments of Lisa Perotti-Brown – the new face of Bordeaux at The Wine Advocate – who revels in reviewing great wines from vintages less hyped than the universally celebrated ones.
A review of past vintages is so much more pleasurable than one of a current vintage. It can be pursued at leisure, far from the madding crowd of en primeur set-piece campaigns. The wines have been in bottle for some years, and have grown into their skins, allowing them to express themselves and harmonise. There is none of the guesswork required when evaluating young wines. And it is not done as part of a tasting Megathon favouring the most obvious, richest wines…
Here follows a spotlight of vintages which hide truly great wines, many of which still represent good value.
Let's start with 2013, the worst climatic year Burgundy has experienced in a long time, characterized by a dreadful summer of cold, sodden weather. But that’s the thing with Burgundy; its growers refused to give up. They never do. They spent the summer in their Aigle wellies desperately battling the filthy elements and sticky, sucking mud. Coaxing what they could out of their precious vines - their livelihood - trying to make the best of a seemingly bad lot. The coaxing process involved leaf thinning, and sacrificing bunches to give the rest a chance at maturing properly. And that is the thing with Pinot Noir; it responds exceptionally favourably to low yields.
Now, if you like dense, sweet fruit with generous alcohols, 2013 may not be the vintage for you. But if you enjoy intensity of flavour without the weight of a hot year, red Burgundies from 2013 will positively surprise you. All the more so if you first tasted barrel samples back in January 2015; the wines are now positively transformed from that first recalcitrant showing.
It’s well known that a warm, accommodating, crisis-free growing season will result in wines that are generous and velvety-textured in their youth. But these aren’t always the wines that develop into fine, complex maturity. Take 1999 for example, lauded as one of the greatest Burgundy vintages of all time. Indeed, some of the wines are astoundingly good. But just as many others are really quite average. Why is that? Over-generous yields. It’s a fine line with Pinot, between harvesting as much ripe fruit as nature provides and allowing the fecund vine to produce as much as it’s wont.
Back to low-yielding 2013, and the best wines are beautifully crystalline, intense and transparent. Think a cornucopia of red fruits, blackberries and gooseberries: the essential ingredients of a refreshing summer pudding – a balancing mélange of sweet and sharp. Add characteristic Burgundy high notes of salinity (and a mineral-tinged, geological nod-in-the-glass to the inland sea of which the Cote d’Or was once a part) and hopefully you’ve formed a fair mental image of 2013 red Burgundy.
It’s no coincidence that blue chip stalwarts such as Eric Rousseau and Christophe Roumier love their 2013s. Aubert de Villaine sees his Domaine de la Romanée 2013s as long distance runners (in contrast to his more ‘forward’ 2014s). And they are delightful.
2013 is also one of the last sensibly priced vintages before Burgundy prices became vertiginous.
Wines from cooler Burgundy vintages often start out rather awkward, and out of kilter. Their acidity may add definition and length, but can also close the wine down, or conspire with tannins to suppress the essential grape characteristics in a wine.
2006 was one such vintage. Its wines were initially hard to taste, and broadly speaking, unlovely. Many of us viewed 2006 Burgundies as unwelcome magpies in our collector’s nest of more comely vintages.
But now, after a decade in bottle, the wines are starting to show very well. They exhibit well-defined fruit, great length and energy. Next to the 2005s, they may lack heft and powerful tannin structure, but they are nonetheless serious, intense wines. And they are beginning to drink well now. You’ll have to wait at least another decade for your 2005s to come around, but 2006 is a fine emerging vintage that will give pleasure now and for the foreseeable future.
For Bordeaux, 2011 was always going to be a tough sell. On release, the wines seemed scrawny and mean in comparison with the monumental 2009s and 2010s.
Yet a recent dinner event hosted by Wine Owners showed how dangerous it is to tar a whole vintage with the same presumptive brush, or to judge a more classic vintage too early. The highlights of that tasting were Vieux Chateau Certan 2011 and La Mission Haut-Brion 2011. They were both easily the equal of their counterparts from better-regarded vintages, and represent great value compared with any more recent vintage.
In Bordeaux, 2006 was a vintage that attracted more than its fair share of negative press, the effects of which are still in evidence today, judging by the affordability of 2006 Bordeaux on the Wine Owners Exchange. The success of a Bordeaux vintage depends on sentiment, and in 2006 combination of negative factors came into play.
First, it came on the heels of stellar 2005. Second, Bob Parker’s favourable rating of the vintage attracted criticism from many pundits, attracting further negative attention. Third, the release prices were too expensive– due at least partly to the high Parker scores. Why else would La Mission Haut-Brion be ready to trade at £1,550 per 12x75cl, yet be overlooked?
[ Top tip: buy La Mission Haut-Brion at this level – half of its opening (mis)price. It is considered a ‘wine of the vintage’, rivalled for this accolade only by the (much more expensive) Mouton. ]
We are fans of the Bordeaux 2006 wines we’ve tasted. They don’t have the powdery tannins and powerful black fruit of the 2005s, but they do have superb energy, and a sappy character that compels you to take the next sip. We see many wines from 2006 as more interesting than their counterparts from 2004 or 2008. Notable examples include Mouton, Pontet-Canet, Leoville Barton, Leoville Las Cases, La Conseillante (just a sampled tip of the iceberg). Whenever tasted comparatively, these showed extremely well alongside relative other vintages.
In our experience, where 2006 performs particularly well is its consistency. Simply put, we’ve never had a poor one. Other low-rated back-vintages produced a number of successes (such as 2007, 2011), but none are as consistent as 2006.
2002 is another Bordeaux vintage which suffered from poor reputation. The year’s poor weather consigned the vintage to the status of ‘restaurant wine’ before any of the wines were even bottled. But it’s easy to forget that the wines were very well priced; first growths were released at around £800 per case (just one-sixth of their 2015 release prices). If you had invested in 2002 Bordeaux 15 years ago, you would be feeling rather smug right now. 2002 is the vintage for the contrarian that lurks inside every wine enthusiast!
While they were never going to be the most profound expressions of Bordeaux (in the light of the meteorological conditions), the 2002s have consistently tasted savoury, fruity, and sweetly spiced with cloves, cinnamon sticks and liquorice root. At all levels of classification, we’ve yet to stumble across a disappointing example.
In 2002 Piedmont, like Bordeaux, suffered from rotten summer weather. Wine commentators have described 2002 in Piedmont in such terms as ‘wiped out’, ‘disastrous’, ‘severely compromised’, ‘a washout’.
But despite all of this, one wine survived the vintage’s humid gloom (and the hailstorms which repeatedly strafed Barolo) with enough salvaged bunches to benefit from perfect autumnal conditions. This is a wine made with such severe selection that yields were just 12 hl/ ha, and which epitomises viticultural triumph against the odds. The wine in question is, of course, the now-mythical Barolo Riserva Monfortino 2002.
Take a moment to consider the sacrifice involved in making wine with yields as low as 12 hl/ ha. Burgundy considers 25 hl/ ha to be painfully low, and in Bordeaux anything under 40 hl/ha is a very short harvest.
Giovanni Conterno – Roberto Conterno’s late father – called 2002 the greatest Monfortino of his lifetime.
The last word must surely go to Antonio Galloni, whose tasting note and review of this wine encapsulates why it’s so rewarding to seek out the greatest wines within those vintages in the shadows:
“…the 2002 Barolo Riserva Monfortino, a wine that may very well turn into a modern-day legend… 2002 was a cold, rainy year that in many parts of Barolo culminated with violent hailstorms in early September. The weather then turned picture-perfect for the rest of the growing season, but by that time most vineyards were severely damaged. The late-ripening Cascina Francia was an exception. Conterno green-harvested aggressively, which gave the fruit a chance to ripen. …The Conternos were so upset by the poor early press reaction to the vintage they announced they would let no one taste their 2002 Barolo. Conterno has fashioned an old-style, massive Monfortino that pays homage to the great wines of decades past. …It is a deeply-colored, imposing Monfortino loaded with dense dark fruit that today is held in check by a massive wall of tannins…classic, old-style Barolo the likes of which we aren’t likely to see again any time soon. Antonio Galloni, October 2008.
by Wine Owners
Posted on 2018-03-01
Next Wednesday the annual Knight Frank Wealth Report 2018 will be published. As always, the report's primary focus will be on prime real estate, wealth, investments and luxury lifestyle. The latter pair are of particular interest to Wine Owners users, and the team here at HQ.
We have specific interest in the report's wine investment section, of course. This section rests strongly on data from the Knight Frank Fine Wine Investment Index (KFFWII), a custom-built index created by Wine Owners for Knight Frank in 2015. This index of 200 investment-grade wines has provided Knight Frank with detailed market data for the past three Wealth Reports. Last year, the index really came into its own; the Wealth Report 2017 showed wine clearly out-performing all other passion assets.
Of course, we at Wine Owners HQ have a pretty fair idea of what the upcoming 2018 Wealth Report will say about the wine investment market performance. But if anything, that knowledge piques our interest even further. We are very much looking forward to seeing the report live next Wednesday.
The report can be acquired here, and we will report back here in a couple of weeks' time with the key messages, and an update on the KFFWII.
by Wine Owners
Posted on 2018-02-09
Today’s post comes from Jonathan Reeve, Wine Owners’ newest team member. Jonathan joined us in January, after eight busy years at Wine-Searcher.com. You can reach him, if you feel so inclined, at Wine Owners HQ: +44 (0)2072784377
Yes ladies and gentlemen, V-day is imminent, but no we are not going to feed you a regurgitated list of the ‘best Valentines wines to buy for your loved one’. We are instead devoting this post to a quick look at Passion Assets. Topical and actually interesting. And profitable.
They’re big news, and we’re hearing about them more and more. They’re becoming more…well, passionable. So what are passion assets? And why is wine the best passion asset?
Quick definition: Passion assets are essentially high-value luxury products such as fine wine, vintage watches, classic cars and antiques, which can be invested in for profit. Although originally created for some practical or aesthetic function, over time these products acquire a purely abstract financial value, born of a shared appreciation among the collective group of x lovers (wine lovers, watch lovers, car lovers etc.).
Passion assets are purchased initially because they have an emotional attachment, and are attractive in some way; they’re beautiful to taste, hold or look at. But because their value is simultaneously concrete and abstract, they are both a good store of wealth and a profitable investment. In truth, their investment performance is almost a coincidence. But what a beautiful coincidence that is. And there’s your answer; that’s why they’re quite so popular;
Since 2008 interest in tangible assets has grown massively. Rock-bottom interest rates and fears of market volatility have led investors to switch to investments which they can actually hold or touch, whose reality is more than just zeros and ones of stock market computer code. And what do those investors turn to when selecting these tangible assets? Things that they’re passionate about. Passion assets. Wine tops the list.
“Wine is the best passion asset.” Well, I would say that – I have wine passion. But genuinely, I mean it. I also have watch passion, and car passion, but I don’t invest in either of those. Investment wines may well be the only passion asset whose investment value begins from day one. Cars don’t become classics, watches don’t become ‘vintage’, and antiques don’t become antique until years after the initial purchase. Top-end investment wines, however, begin acquiring value from day one, as they leave the winery forecourt. If only cars did that…
It isn’t just me saying all this, either. Knight Frank say it too. Their Wealth Report 2017 confirmed wine as the world’s best-performing passion asset. Have a look at the Knight Frank Fine Wine Icons Index.
And here’s another reason. Which other passion asset gives you the opportunity to create such a diverse, romantic collection as wine? Not to mention flavourful. Every vintage brings several hundred products to select from and obsess over. Most collectors have their personal favourite producers, on top of the core handful which are mutually agreed by all as the ‘blue chip’ investment wines. And laid over this is the added dimension of the vintages themselves, dating back many decades, and even centuries in some exceptional cases. It’s hard to understate the power of a good vintage to spark adrenaline in wine collectors and investors.
And one last reason. Wine is more than the world’s most profitable passion asset; it’s also the most widely collected, and therefore one of the most stable. Win, win, win.
You get the picture. I think wine is a pretty excellent investment. If none of my points above have swayed you to my point of view, consider the following. If it all goes wrong, and the world pulls itself to pieces, as the warheads soar overhead and the bullets whizz past, would you rather sit in an antique chair counting down the seconds on an old watch, or would you rather pour and enjoy a glass of fantastic wine. Think about it. Happy Valentines Day.
P.S. If you really must hunt out a Valentine-themed wine, try Calon Ségur. It has a heart on the label, and happens to be performing very well as a passion asset.