by Wine Owners
Posted on 2017-02-13
Romance and wine are irrevocably linked for the simple reason that alcohol reduces our inhibitions and allows the true poetry in our souls to bubble to the surface. And if we're not quite as lyrical as we'd hoped, it gives us a very good excuse the next day. So here are 10 tips to help you navigate the wine pitfalls of Valentine's Day. (But that is all. We can't guarantee love).
1. Order a couple of glasses of champagne whilst you're looking at the menu. And let your date have one of them. Champagne shows you have class and you care.
2. Try Italian. Any Italian wine will enable chaps to pretend they're Casanova, whilst ladies can dream they're in Venice or Florence.
3. Women like pinot noir. Yes, it's expensive, but is she not worth it? Try one from Russian River or Oregan or go wild with a Nuits St Georges or Chambolle from Burgundy. Speak like Louis Garrel and she'll have shivers down her spine.
4. The Spanish are arguably more passionate than the French or Italians. Lively whites from Verdejo, Godello and Albarino and intense reds from the Rioja and Ribera del Duero. You can get all emotional and wear a cape and tight trousers, but girls, avoid the moustache.
5. Look into your dates' eyes as you sip red wine. It will light your face with a rosy tint and make you even more attractive. Yates wrote "Wine enters through the mouth, Love (through) the eyes." Make sure you get it the right way round.
6. Spice up your relationship with a peppery little shiraz or grenache. Try wines from the untamed landscapes of the Southern Rhone and Languedoc. Think Wuthering Heights with grapes. Adding pepper to a glass of house red may not have the same effect.
7. If you're nervous and tongue-tied, splash out on some proper claret. You will feel like a Scottish Laird and talk like Sean Connery.
8. Sweeten the mood. Try dessert wine. Perhaps have it instead of dessert, if you're watching the waistline. Sauternes, Coteaux du Layon or great German Riesling will inspire all manner of affectionate language like honey and sweetie, but we suggest you avoid calling anyone pudding.
9. Beware the rugby club humour of buying wines with names that talk for you. "Flowers" and "Fairytale" are just cheesy. "Flirt", "Menage a Trois" and "Fourplay" (an Italian red) may leave you facing an empty seat.
10. Finally, however well it goes, bear in mind Rosalind's words in As You Like it. " I pray you do not fall in love with me, for I am falser than vows made in wine."
by Wine Owners
Posted on 2017-02-06
Let me first put my hand up and say I’m a fan of 2014 as a Burgundy vintage. It seems to me to be a year of rather lovely balance across the board. No doubt with exceptions, it’s a vintage to buy as high up the qualitative tree as you can afford, quite unlike 2015 where the hot summer provided a metaphorical leg up to wines on cooler, less exposed sites and colder soils.
Adam Brett-Smith, Managing Director of Corney & Barrow the UK exclusive agent for DRC, describes 2014 as the ‘happy vintage’ but warns that it’s easily underestimated. I do agree. The wines may be ‘on the fruit’ and correspondingly expressive, but there’s sufficient fine-grained structure, dry extract and acidity to see the wines develop over the medium to longer term.
The ability of Burgundies to age from classic or un-showy vintages seems consistently under-called by wine critics, especially where there’s a degree of natural concentration through moderate or normal yields, which seems to make a big difference to the finickety nature of Pinot Noir. 2014 should age effortlessly for 15-20 years.
Warm, red fruited nose. An expressive, spiced attack with nice energy and a twist of licorice. A degree of firmness merely hints at the character of the archetypal Corton appellation (although there is huge variation between the various Corton soils) and leads into a giving, fruity finish.
An inviting yeasty nose, in turn earthy and creamy. Once again, a degree of firmness that’s overridden by open, expressive, croquant fruit. It’s a wine that pinotents – delivering the essence of Pinot Noir, into a finish that’s framed with an orange citrus cut.
A fresher nose, vinous and earthy. There’s greater complexity, finely balanced with a bit more structure, more defined and an elemental, vinous character. On its reserve for now, with a freshness and depth that tempts a prediction of a great GE.
Sweet pastille fruit on entry, less evident grip, more expressive with greater mid palate volume. Super upfront fruit with a fine grained back palate. Freshness kicks in on the finish with good persistence.
Liquory aromas rise from the glass. Power comes through on the nose but paradoxically there’s a balancing restraint to it. Greater intensity than preceding wines, much less up-front fruit but with a bit more torque - progressive, earthy and very complex. Flashes of fruit push through, towards a grainy back palate with building intensity. Real grip and substance with old vine character.
Another step up, right now it presents as a more chiselled form of the Richebourg, a rather elegant and cushioned expression of La Tâche at this early stage. There’s lots of latent power and a sense of reserve on the back palate with a long and persistent finale.
Expressive nose of fruit, earth, and a greater sense of minerality. Powerful yet very refined. Darker character, with a brightly illuminated outline to the dark fruit. A controlled finish with fine-grained grip and a sense of penetrating depth.
by Wine Owners
Posted on 2017-01-30
This report is written on the back of 3 days of tasting cask samples and back vintages chez producers in Burgundy, hot on the heels of the London tastings.
We visited 13 small producers and tasted well over 100 wines in cellars, tasting rooms and producers’ homes, evenly split between the Cote de Nuits and Cote de Beaune.
The London en primeur tastings showed open wines with plenty of fruit. Those that were bursting with energy stood out, with some showing somewhat mute: a little flat or lacking in definition. Such are the challenges of transporting samples directly from barrel and expecting them to perform. Sometimes they do, often they don’t.
Barrel tastings in situ are a much better opportunity to judge wines individually and form a view on the vintage overall. Unsurprisingly the wines showed much more consistently than they had done in London.
If you can taste alongside prior vintages, as we did on a few occasions, that’s all the better as it provides useful context.
Comparisons have been drawn with previous vintages by commentators, notably 2005 and 2009 (presumably due to the hot summers they all have in common).
The producers don’t agree. 2009s show in a bigger, atypical mould. 2005s are considerably more tannic, built for the very long term, and most will need a good while yet. A few producers see 2005 as the greatest vintage of their generation, but many more look to 1999 as their benchmark.
2015 has the fruit and accessibility of 2012, with more volume and structure, and seemingly similar PHs. It’s an alluring vintage without the generally slacker character of 2009. Most of the successes were picked early, before the rains on 10th September. But some held off and still produced lovely wine. Others who harvested after the 10th have wines that seem to me to be too sweet, perceptibly lower in acidity and have less fine tannins. For the majority that were successful, the watchword was very little or no punching down, almost everyone opting for gentle extractions.
Some producers went for a high proportion of whole bunch fermentation. Those practising the inclusion of whole bunches do so to add an extra sense of freshness and complexity. It’s worth pointing out that stems actually slightly increase the PH, so lowering acidity in the finished wine. But they also contribute different, plant-derived flavours such as eucalyptus and mint, and it’s possibly this that gives the impression of making the wine feel light-footed. Perhaps the marginal lowering of acidity also contributes to a silkier mouth feel. Theoretically whole bunches also add a bit of structure, but I’d guess it depends on what percentage is used and often you don’t sense it.
Having tasted plenty of wines with and without whole bunches, it does seem that a common aspect of the vintage character is the silkiness of the tannins that are present irrespective of these types of winemaking decisions.
Another facet of 2015 is its lovely concentration. Pinot Noir excels in vintages that aren’t bountiful. Yields in 2015 were generally lower than in 2014, 1990 or 1999. This was especially true of the Cote de Beaune because the vines hadn’t fully recovered from the stressing effects of hail in the preceding years.
2015s are fruity, rich, with good density and show definition. On balance I personally preferred cooler sites – due to location, aspect or being in a windy spot. But others will favour out-and-out richness and a broad-shouldered character from the warmer sites. We all have our palate preferences and that’s as it should be. In any case there are no universal rules to successful buying in 2015 since the different vineyard characters shine through.
The greatest relative successes are the lesser appellations. There are some truly superb Bourgogne rouge and village level wines. You’d be seriously missing out if you just focus on trophy wines.
Village wines in 2015 are priced similarly to the levels of Premier Crus from just 2 vintages ago. Grand Crus are up by a third in many cases. If you go long on 2015 now and choose to rationalise in a few years’ time, there are no guarantees that you’ll get your money back.
If you ask which were my favourite communes in 2015 that especially shone, I’d plump for Pommard, Aloxe-Corton, Chambolle-Musigny, Morey-St-Denis and Gevrey-Chambertin.
Nevertheless, I was delighted by lovely wines from Auxey-Duresses, Santenay and Volnay. I thought Nuits-St-Georges and Vosne-Romanée were stunning successes in 2014, and it was no surprise that they showed at least as superbly in 2015.
By now you’ll have formed the impression that 2015 is a great vintage across-the board. Indeed it is. Yet not everyone is happy.
A proportion of long-term collectors are refusing their allocations this year for the first time, which may tell us something about the sustainability of these levels. Some of those ‘given up’ allocations are going to overseas buyers who spend vast annual sums with the big London merchants. But Burgundy producers are well aware of the grey market of en primeur releases originating out of the UK. For now, they are tolerant of it, but for how much longer?
Many merchants are concentrating allocations in the hands of their wealthiest buyers who spend by far the most throughout the rest of the year. And when I say spend, I mean spend. Their dependence on wine investors or wine accumulators makes it harder for them to allocate widely, and correspondingly difficult for Burgundy lovers to gain access to many Grand Crus and Premier Crus. In that fundamental sense the market has changed out of all proportion.
Overall takings at the 2016 annual Hospices auction were down 25% on the previous year (although it’s worth remembering the historic 2015 auction record was in aid of the Paris victims of the IS-inspired atrocities). There is less of 2016 to go around due to the catastrophic late April frosts from the tip to almost the toe of the Cote D’Or, but the quality of what was made is very good and it’s another warm vintage.
If you’re UK based, one other thing to consider is that the Sterling Euro exchange rate will be volatile over the next couple of years, and many will be betting against the Euro during this timeframe. Presidential election results in France in 2017 could have a major impact on the Euro’s relative strength or weakness.
With this in mind, and given the extremely high release prices in the UK for 2015 Burgundy, it’s worth revisiting 2014 for all those who held back.
With a few months or more in bottle, the red wines are showing superbly, with dark, ripe fruit, excellent minerality and sufficient structure to assure medium to longer term drinking.
2014 is a good vintage. It’s a more classic red Burgundy vintage than 2015, majoring on its lovely balance. Based on these tastings, I am delighted to have bought so much of it.
2014 white wines have wonderful intensity, and though enjoyable for their terrific concentration already, are going to age beautifully. I’ll be laying down my best bottles for 15 or more years, but will surely be tempted to dip in regularly along the way.
2013 was plagued by miserable weather. Producers needed to battle the elements, along with mildew and rot. They had to work assiduously all the way through. Perhaps because of this the best producers are proud of their achievements. Reds 'pinottent', that is to say they show fine, overt varietal expression in a really fresh, lifted mid-weight style, with one proviso: just so long as vineyard husbandry was top notch the wines were able to draw energy from the life of the soil and yields were managed to concentrate the berries.
2013 reds may be mid-weight, but the best have a lovely ethereal intensity, and village wines are starting to drink already; they have none of the hardness and excoriating acidity of 1996, or the sharpness of 2006. Tasted 2 years ago as barrel samples 2013s were particularly taciturn, rather dry and mute, as you might imagine the product of such filthy weather. Today they are transformed.
However much the 2015 white wines are being talked up as being fresher than one could have imagined given the heat of the year (and they are), they are simply not in the same class as 2014. They lack the same degree of definition, intensity and breeding with which that vintage is blessed.
With prices increasing for whites too, there’s really very little reason to go long on them this year, and it’s noticeable that recent merchant emails contain a lot more white wines still on offer compared with the mostly sold-out reds. I’ve only bought a few affordable cases for nearer term drinking, and thought the best vineyard sites of Mercurey in the Cote Challonaise showed particularly well. But I’ll be drinking them well before my 2014s.
As a parting footnote, don't overlook Moulin-a-vent in the Beaujolais. From the red granite soils of the appellation’s best terroirs and in the able hands of top Cote D’Or producers, Gamay shows what it can create: truly a noble grape.
by Wine Owners
Posted on 2017-01-06
With the highly touted 2015 Burgundy campaign upon us, we can be sure of two things: it is a superb vintage, and prices will rise.
Let’s be honest, Burgundy is for wine lovers. Although we may have more Bordeaux in our cellars - steady, consistent, blended excellence - it is fickle, flirtatious Burgundy which steals our hearts. And the whole world is now falling in love with Burgundy, courting the tiny quantities and ready to take our place in the queue.
The pure, ripe fruit of the 2015s will tempt early drinking, but if we want to experience the extraordinary range of flavours, textures and sensations that fine burgundy can produce, we must be prepared to wait. Or to seek out mature wines from great producers in other vintages. Remember, in Burgundy more than anywhere, it is the producer who matters more than the vineyard or the year.
So rather than bet the whole house on the latest vintage, now might be the time to review the Burgundies that your fellow collectors have offered for sale on the fine wine exchange.
There is a dazzling range of beautiful wines available, from the most humble appellations to the greatest of Grand Crus. Some are for drinking now, others for keeping for the future, whatever that may bring. Some are in bond and some are duty paid, but DP prices are never more than their In Bond case equivalents and there is no VAT for exchange buyers. All were bought when the pound was much stronger and prices were lower. Prices of Burgundy’s back vintages may never be this low again.
So where would you start?
Chardonnay is arguably easier to enjoy across the board in youth than Pinot Noir. 2014 whites have greater precision and zest than their 2015 counterparts and it is probably the best vintage since 2001. 2014s are only just starting to appear as offers for sale on the secondary market and they are unquestionably worth having in any cellar.
As long as yields of this naturally exuberant varietal are constrained, there is plenty to pick from: 2013, 2012, 2010, 2007 were all very good, whilst there are some terrific 2006s with nerve and energy, in contrast to lush and giving 2008s. Very late malolactic fermentations in 2001 lent plenty of substance to the best wines; they had longer to feed off their nourishing lees. When looking at 2005 and earlier fears of premature oxidation (premox) have really hurt the market. But there are still old bones that are simply thrilling.
Looking to red Burgundy, consider 2005 - considered one of the great vintages and should make fine old bones, but there's tannins aplenty, some more puckering than others depending on extraction, that suggests another 10-20 years will be required. Indeed they may be drinking in the same window as 2015 or later!
Consider 2010, a vintage with the nerve and intensity of 2008 married to the flesh of a vintage like 1995.
If you want to buy into a vintage that was overlooked when released but that has evolved into one of the most exciting we’ve tasted look to 2002, a lesson if ever there was one in how pinot noir loves luminosity more than heat. These are wines with fine intensity and great purity.
Talking of which, if you’re a classicist and enjoy form over flattery, 2001 is starting to climb the upward slope of maturity with wines that are sappy and crystalline but may have yet to reach their peaks.
The truly great 1999s are lusciously fleshy, sweetly spiced and dense, but at the same time so coiled, that most Grand Crus will surely need another 5-10 years. Many premier crus and village wine are gorgeous now.
2012 is a successful recent vintage that had really low yields (a very good thing for Pinot Noir) but will be cheaper than 2015. Producers love 2012 thanks to their fabulous balance and flattering ripe fruit, which nonetheless blankets an underlying structure for mid term appreciation.
The top tips for 2015s (whatever we say, we know you’ll want to buy some!) are that the lesser appellations, cooler climates and colder soils will excel. You don't need to stretch to the top of the tree to find great Pinot Noir in 2015 to drink over the next 15 years, which is great news for Burgundy lovers and something to be thankful for in a very expensive vintage.
Buying back vintages vs new releases
Other than exceptionally hard to find Grand Crus and Holy Grail producers’ best wines – that you’re either allocated or you’re not – it’s worth looking to premier crus from producers with good reputations for quality and value-hunting.
Take Beaune Grèves L’Enfant Jésus from Bouchard Père et Fils. Whilst back vintages were much cheaper at release than they are today, there isn’t much between the release price of 2015 or any number of superb back vintages.
As the chart below shows, the superb 1999 vintage is still cheaper today than the release price of 2015, the equally acclaimed 2010 is the same price, but you can drink it in 10 years instead of having to wait until the 2030s for the 2015; and only the 2005 and 2002 are a little more expensive – but not hideously so.
by Wine Owners
Posted on 2016-12-22
Christmas is perhaps the only time of year where families embrace our passion for wine, but just occasionally we may get a bit carried away. So in the warmest of Christmas’ spirits, we offer you ten tips to keep everyone merry over the next few days.
Champagne shows you’re trying. People see the magic word and relax in the knowledge that everything’s going to be all right. You do not want to start the festivities having to explain how rare and expensive your alternative sparkler is.
Your mother-in-law must have her usual. Whatever it is. It is not about good manners; it is about world peace. (And it will cut off at the pass any attempt to open your bottle of Louis XIII brandy).
The cook’s glass must never be empty. Def Con is at level 5 over the festive season, primarily due to the cook’s fear of missing out.
Extraordinarily, some people may feel the food is more important than the wine. Once you have carefully laid out glasses for champagne, white burgundy, red burgundy, claret, pudding wine and port, you may just want to check where the plates will go.
Beer shows you’re a man of the people and not some wine snob. Don’t stint on the quality or quantity - if Uncle Tom were drinking your Chambolle, it would be a darn sight more distressing.
There is a reason the waiter uses the simple lever corkscrew. Proudly bringing out the dual-powered, multi-functional Super Deluxe digitised Wine Opener for that magnum of Leoville-Barton '61 is at the very least reckless.
Plan ahead. Your gently slumbering 1963 Quinta do Noval will need to stand upright for a couple of days to allow the sediment to settle.
Decanting is not always showing off. Crunchy is not a wine descriptor you want applied to 50 year old port.
Everyone loves chocolate. Don’t fight it. And don’t try to match a wine with it, unless you’re into aged Sake. Champagne is the universal panacea.
Finally, whilst wine lovers know that great wine will never give you a hangover, some people are in denial. Do not blame the food. Remember the cook is not just for Christmas.
WE WISH YOU AND YOURS A VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS!
by Wine Owners
Posted on 2016-12-14
Two pieces of news caught my attention in December.
The first was Martin Brown, CEO of Wine-Searcher, speaking at a conference in California, noting that increased pricing transparency had not caused market prices of wine to fall.
He wasn’t referring to just fine wine or collectible wine, but rather the effect of his price comparison site on retail prices and the wine market as a whole. I’m paraphrasing, and you can read the whole of the discussion on their blog.
The second was the news that Stanley Gibbons, the stamp specialist and now owner of a group encompassing antiques specialist Malletts and auctioneer Drewetts, has seen it share price tank over the last year (see chart).
Let’s begin with Stanley Gibbons and the stamp market.
STANLEY GIBBONS GROUP PLC ORD 1P
The share price tanked in part because of how it reported revenues from the sale of ‘plans’ in investment grade stamps.
Like fine wine, stamps are a collectible. Unlike fine wine, there is a great deal less price transparency in the stamp market.
As a consequence, Stanley Gibbons used to offer collectible stamp buyers a buy back scheme, whereby the company itself guaranteed the purchaser 75% of their original investment back if the value of the stamps purchased through their Capital Protected Growth Plan fell over a 5-10 year period.
Since the repurchase scheme booked stamps onto their balance sheet at a discounted rate to their own retail catalogue rather than at cost, its auditor has estimated the potential balance sheet liability (and asset write-downs) to be £64M.
Collectible markets are relatively illiquid, in large part because the things that people collect are rarely fungible*.
But just because a market isn’t fungible or liquid doesn’t mean it can’t benefit from price and market transparency. Not to mention direct market access.
The nature of a trading collectible market, as the Stanley Gibbons example highlights, is that very rare examples are quite hard to estimate, whilst more liquid collectibles will tend to sell within or just below the lowest cluster of available market offers for sale.
Onto Martin Brown’s speech on price transparency
Wine-Searcher has done a great job of price comparison and substantially improving price transparency, so that no matter where in the world you are, it’s easy to get a price for and find the wine you want.
The key point is that price transparency has not driven down retail wine pricing, contrary to economic theory, but it has substantially reduced price outliers, both high and low.
Wine Owners works with Wine-Searcher, receiving tens of millions of price point as the building blocks of our Market Level price – the price at which it’s likely a wine will find ready buyers (or the approximate point of market liquidity). That data is combined with traded wine prices and for the rarest wines in the world we’ll be cross-referencing with auction data from the biggest Houses.
Blue chip fine wine behaves like collectible markets, not like CPG markets. Production and therefore supply is limited. Where there is no demand prices fall or stagnate, but where there is a ready market of buyers, prices rise. Just as you’d expect.
In fact, price discovery is the underpinning of all successful and proper-functioning trading markets.
Reliable, actionable pricing data supports buy and sell decisions. It informs counter parties. It breeds confidence, and confidence boosts sentiment.
Direct market access
Combine market transparency based on realistic selling prices with direct market access that allows all market participants to buy and sell on a peer-to-peer basis, and the effect is entirely beneficial. Consumers get the opportunity to sell through their wines across the entire spectrum from interesting drinking bottles to desirable blue chips. Buyers can buy the wines they love to drink or to accumulate as a store of value from fellow wine lovers and collectors with little added market friction due to modest commissions. Counter parties’ confidence to trade is assisted by price transparency and all the settlement and logistics support we offer through the platform.
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* The word fungible is used in relation to a category of asset that is indivisible from each other. Pure gold and shocks and shares are indivisible. One of each is the exactly the same as the next. Collectibles are not fungible. In wine the things that make a difference are storage, fill levels, the condition of labels, capsules, and where the wine has been (wine that’s made the journey from Bordeaux to London to Hong Kong and back again doesn’t give buyers the same quality of juice as Bordeaux to Octavian for example).
by Wine Owners
Posted on 2016-12-13
2015 is the best Northern Rhone vintage in 55 years, according to this article on JancisRobinson.com. That’s some statement given the quality of vintages over the last 15 years or so, including the superb 1999, which at the top end is just coming into its drinking window.
Great though 2015 is, it isn’t going to satisfy drinking requirements in the short term, even at more modest levels, whereas my bottle of Chave Offerus (St. Joseph) 1999 is melt-in-the-mouth gorgeous now.
Outside of the Rhone elite and their blue chip labels that can appreciate markedly in value over the medium-to-longer term, along with some of the region’s special cuvees and bottlings, these are not wines to use as a store of value. They do not appreciate in value. They are wines to enjoy. But they need time to come around. As impressive as new vintages are, they express in youth only a general sense of the wine they will become.
In our estimation these are wines that are depressingly under-appreciated. As you’d expect from such a large region of production, styles vary enormously. They variously show varietal character, complexity, precision, texture, and depth of flavour with more than just a touch of minerality.
If you’ve not tasted mature white Rhone recently, you could well find the waxy texture, floral and white peach character refreshingly braided with acidity an exciting experience. For the quality and complexity these great wines offer, many are cheap. Not a word I use lightly, but they really are terrific value and hold their own in the company of any of the world’s great whites.
Though it’s tempting to buy into great new releases, and potentially worthwhile at the top of the tree, there’s no kudos in hanging onto cases of wine and paying a decade or two’s worth of storage, when you can drink the real thing without playing stockholder.
There really is something for everyone.
View Rhone offers on the exchange
by Wine Owners
Posted on 2016-11-09
Is wine an effective safe haven?
With markets braced for a correction following a Trump victory, in anticipation of a more protectionist United States and slower global growth, will wine continue to do a good job of preserving and being a sound store of value?
The fine wine market is up well over 24% this year, building on last year's single digit rises and is currently seeing very strong levels of trading activity as more and more private individuals with discretionary wealth seek to diversify and enjoy the fruits of their hard-earned cash.
Scarcity driven markets such as Burgundy, Northern Italy and California have seen consecutive annual rises in each of the last 10 years that we’ve tracked the market. Burgundy is up 327% over that period.
Liquidity driven markets, principally Bordeaux, has gone through its correction following the Chinese-inspired bubble of 2009-2011, and secondary market sentiment is once again positive.
Collectors who have bought fine wine in the UK are at a particular advantage thanks to the devaluation of Sterling. The very large body of fine wine stored in the UK - estimated at £6bn - ensures that secondary market prices in the UK are favourable.
Whether you are looking to sell or build, wine increasingly looks like a safe bet in an increasingly uncertain world.
To discuss your next step, contact us now or call us on +44 (0)20 7278 4377.
by Wine Owners
Posted on 2016-10-24
Market context and performance since June 24th
Serving as a general fine wine market tracker, the WO 150 gained 6% in the year to June (6.5% in the previous 12 months) but is now up 19.8% YTD.
Focusing on the all-important Bordeaux market, the world’s single largest region of fine wine production, the WO First Growth Index was up 8.7% year to date on 24th June, but is now up 23%.
As regards Bordeaux Firsts, this performance is on the back of 4 years of decline, following the bursting of a Chinese-inspired bubble in late 2011. The market in these blue chip Bordeaux bottomed in Q3 of 2015, and has soared since. Chateau Latour, released at £11,400 per case of 12 bottles, is now back within £100 per bottle of that release price.
The rest of the Bordeaux market had tested its lows the previous year, and so its performance year to June 2016 was a slightly higher 10.25%, reflecting the additional momentum gathered over the previous 18 months. Looking at all classified growths, the market is now up 22.5% YTD.
Whereas Bordeaux is a market driven by liquidity and large production volumes, scarcity-driven markets such as Burgundy, Piedmont and cult Californians, have enjoyed a long-term run stretching back 20+ years, and these wine markets have not suffered the roller coaster ride of Bordeaux.
The WO Northern Italy index is up 171% over the last 10 years, the WO Blue Chip Burgundy Index is up 311% over the same period, and the WO California index is up a whopping 427%.
What’s going to be the effect on new releases?
New releases are already more expensive to buy due to the pound buying less euros or dollars.
Brexit will cause new releases of two sought after vintages (Burgundy 2015 and Bordeaux 2016) to rise by 30%+, caused by producer increases of, say, around 10% compounded by the 20% effect of devaluation.
First in line: the impending 2015 Burgundies are due for UK release as futures in January 2017. With a compromised 2016 vintage assuring small production volumes, 2015s from some addresses will rocket to compensate for next years’ lower production.
Bordeaux will follow in April 2017.
Given the UK’s preeminent role in global fine wine trading, Brexit has turbo-charged market performance, and given the relatively recent recovery of Bordeaux markets a boost after a prolonged period of decline.
As the pound falls, assuming a rising fine wine market (key as it means there's strong global demand), the price of secondary market wines will rise since they are cheaper to buy for buyers holding currencies such as HKD or dollars.
This increases the value of collectors' current stock since the market is global. London is still one of the most important global trading hubs for fine wine, if not the most important.
Could price rises kill demand?
Because top burgundy from the best producers can double after first release it is unlikely to dampen initial demand – by much. And if it does there’s always the USA, Japan and other markets that’ll mop up the relatively small volumes.
Secondary market prices of older vintages may rise, pulled up by the higher new release prices. But as they rise, the number of potential secondary market buyers may decrease, causing these scarcity driven markets to become less liquid. As a result, it may take longer to sell your wines at these higher prices. The moral of the story is that scarcity driven markets are not for the impatient seller who needs cash tomorrow. These are better seen as long-term holds.
Bordeaux prices of the new vintage (2016) will also rise when they are released next year. Whether the UK Market chooses to buy or sits this one out remains to be seen.
However, the USA is more or less certain to be buying these futures aided by vintage character of ripe, powerful wines from a hot summer that will suit their palates.
As a consequence, enduring weakness of the pound will place further upward pressure on back vintages.
We predict that recent back vintages will increase sooner than is normally the case (1-2 years instead of the more common 5-7 years), as top Bordeaux producers are becoming principal stockholders in an attempt to capture more of the downstream value of their wines and increase the value of their balance sheet assets.
by Wine Owners
Posted on 2016-10-17
Guests gathered for a rather special evening of rare, older Rioja vintages at the Portland restaurant, a one-star Michelin restaurant serving food in an informal style of family-service.
The plates were delicious, and although a couple of the starters - buttermilk and smoked cod’s roe - worried the table in light of the venerable bottles, there was no arguing with the deliciousness of every plate served. The main course of beef was simply outstanding, served with melt-in-the-mouth heritage carrots and brown buttered cauliflower.
The wines were opened 90 minutes in advance, and with so many crumbling corks, insecurity got the better of us and we held off decanting until the last minute in most cases.
Starter course 1
Ygay Etiqueta Blanca 1970
2 bottles were served, one of which opened with a musty nose, the other was much more energetic with purer character.
It’s always worth leaving old bones some time in the glass to recover from the shock of opening, and sure enough, the musty character blew off, but without the zest and purity of the second bottle.
Marques de Murrieta Castillo Ygay Rioja Gran Reserva Especial 1970
By comparison the Castillo Ygay, bottled we think in the late 1990s or 2000s, and with a fresh cork to prove it, seemed rather clunky and thick. It was as if the extended barrel ageing has rubbed out its finer lines, leaving it smudged.
There was no arguing with the richer fruit, but where was the definition or class?
Starter course 2
Berberana Rioja Gran Reserva 1950
From a private cellar in Richmond, this wine was served from a decanter, having been filtered through muslin to strain a few pieces of crumbly cork that the operator of the Westmark cork puller had failed to pull out cleanly.
Arguably the star of the show, this ethereal wine showed intensity allied to a sense of weightlessness. It improved in the decanter over 2 hours and wowed the entire table.
Rioja GR Honorable Gomez Cruzado 1964
Similarly to the Ygay Etiqueta Blanca, a dustiness blew off with time in the glass to reveal pear drops and an earthy, more savoury character.
Bodegas Bilbainas 1964
Fruity and balanced with an alluring freshness and utterly delicious. A surprise since no one had encountered the producer. One to seek out and is very good value.
Vina Real CVNE 1964
This was the other wine that vied for wine of the night along with the Berberana.
Energetic, deep and pure. Burgundian texture with a brilliant complexity of fruit that carried though into a long and deeply satisfying finish.
CVNE Imperial Gran Reserva 1964
An absolute dog of a bottle, sadly. Devil’s juice.
Rioja Alta 904 Reserva 1964
A comparatively rich fruit profile on this wine compared to the other wines of the flight, but perhaps somewhat lacking in definition if we were to be critical. This less developed – perhaps worth revisiting in the future?
Corral Reserva 1987
Perhaps a touch of rusticity here, but with plenty to like, with a pungent, rose petal quality to the nose.
Corral Reserva 1991
Richer and less evolved than the 1987, this made an interesting comparison. Tasted on its own this would no doubt have seemed excellent, but slightly overshadowed by the context here I fear.
Plus a mystery wine served blind – 1988 Valbuena 5
Elegant and pleasantly evolved with remarkable balance between richness of the Douro fruit and a dry, firm structure reminiscent of cool climate claret, even down to a persistent saline note on the palate lending freshness. Certainly supports the reputation of the producer.
What we learned
1. The dinner challenged the blanket reputation of 1964 as immortal - it isn’t. Delicious though several were, they are not destined to remain so.
2. A common understanding is that Gran Reserva is better than Reserva, that is better than Consecha. Price follows the length of description it seems. Based on this tasting, the length of time aged in wooden vats does not necessarily improve the quality of the wine. The Etiqueta Blanco vs Gran Reserva Especial, both 1970, certainly supports this thinking. Th Etiqueta Blanco was the finer wine, by far.
It doesn’t help that definitions seems to have changed over the years. Our 904 1964 was a Reserva, and possibly all the better for it, whilst other bottlings of the same year are described (in a Bid for Wine auction a year ago) as Gran Reserva. More recent vintages of 904 are described as Gran Reserva.
3. You don’t need to just follow the wines of the biggest Rioja operations, such as Rioja Alta, Marques de Murrieta and CVNE. The least well known producers on this showing delivered very good value for such old wines.