A flying visit to Burgundy, November 2021

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2021-11-22

For a couple of days at least the world felt normal again as the English wine trade returned en masse to Burgundy for the first time in two years. How wonderful it was to be back was the most prevalent sentiment and ‘ooh, aren’t the wines good’ the most repeated phrase. The Burgundians are a little more patient than their counterparts from Bordeaux and wait for a little over a year, as opposed to a few months, after harvest to show their wines to the world, making en primeur tastings that much more informative, and pleasant, so here’s a quick review of Burgundy 2020.

2020 was another very warm and dry year but the range in temperatures between night and day and the ongoing improvement and knowledge of how to handle the heat meant the vintage is a good one, a very good one. The whole winemaking process is more scientific and exacting than ever before and the attention to detail demonstrated by some winemakers is incredible. Whether it is more work in the vineyard, including the lighting of candles in the vineyards at four o’clock in the morning to stave off potential frost (or not as it turned out for Cyprien Arlaud of the eponymous domain in spring this year), harvesting earlier, new technology and/or machinery including a million-euro bottle washer machine (at Domaine Lorenzon in Mercurey), or organic or even bio dynamic farming these guys are giving themselves every chance of making great wine whatever mother nature throws their way. It was noticeable that bio dynamic farmers reported less loss of crop due to frost than others as their plants are healthier – at least that is what they say! Another technique favoured by some to avoid frost damage is to prune closer to springtime whereas traditionally pruning of the vines took place in November. This means they can control budding more closely and not leave the new buds exposed for longer. This has helped some growers enormously.

The devastating frosts of earlier this year (2021), particularly for Chardonnay, will be discussed repeatedly during the impending 2020 campaign in January, as growers will be factoring their lack of supply for next year into prices for this. Apart from the odd pause for breath Burgundy prices have been on the rise significantly for well over a decade now and there is no reason to suggest this will cease anytime soon.

There is just something very special about Burgundy; it appears there are just more aficionados plugged into this region than any other. Perhaps it is because it offers so many world class wines in both red and white, from two of the world’s favourite grape varieties, that no other region can compete with it in quite the same way. Release prices are going up and wines in the secondary market will continue to rise. Demand for all top end Burgundy is insane but the supply shortages of white coming up are going to impact prices heavily.

In brief, the whites from 2020 were picked early and characterised by mineral driven intensity and focus, not quite as fleshy as ‘17s, but fresh and zippy and generous too. Red berries were smaller than usual, with thick skins producing wines of good concentration and structure, bursting with fruit flavour and with early picking acidity was maintained.

Producers visited: Domaine Sauzet, Domaine Lorenzon, Domaine Chavy-Chouet, Domaine Ballot-Millot, Domaine Launay-Horiot, Domaine Duroché, Domaine Henri Magnien, Domaine Georges Noellat, Domaine Thibault Liger-Belair, Domaine Arlaud Pere et Fils, Domaine Marchand Tawse

For me the standouts were Sauzet, Duroché and Arlaud.

Bottle of the trip: Chambolle Musigny, Domaine G. Roumier 2017

Take aways from the trip: The quality of Thibault Ligier-Belair’s Morgon and how few people in the wine trade have ever been to Beaujolais!

The epic combination of Epoisses and red Burgundy (apparently, it’s ‘a thing’ but we didn’t know).

Many thanks to Flint Wines for organising the itinerary and to Cuchet and Co. for driving. Nice to see Albany Vintners, Brunswick, Decorum Vintners, FMV, IG Wines and Uncorked.

Bordeaux Grands Crus Classés Tasting 2017-2020

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2021-10-25

On Wednesday Luke and I attended the Bordeaux Grands Crus Classés tasting, a group of Bordeaux Châteaux showing their 2017-2020 vintages in Dean’s Yard in sunny Westminster. Like most tastings there were more wines than I could do justice to, so I decided to taste the much hyped 2019 vintage from each Château rather than covering a range of vintages. Also I had tasted the 18s in situ and found them (massive generalisation coming...) too over blown and/or hot for my taste.

For those who need a quick reminder, 2019 was released in Lockdown 1 when fear was gripping the globe and the end of the world was nigh! It took a global pandemic for the Bordelais to offer us their wine en primeur at an attractive price and some discounts were in the region of 20-30% compared to the 2018 release prices. This brought about one of the busiest campaigns in a decade. The 2020 campaign was far less interesting as prices were largely back to normal and made it difficult to justify an en primeur purchase, especially when compared to 2019.

Samples were dispatched in little bottles to critics in all corners, some didn’t arrive and there were even reports of wines sitting on tarmac in the sunshine as delivery men kept their distance. Although there were issues that Covid had brought us, the resounding message was clear: it was a very good vintage.

And I am very pleased to report that it is indeed a very good vintage, in my opinion. Canon, Pontet Canet and Montrose all received ‘very well polished’ notes in my book. Mondotte was extremely good too, as was Branaire Ducru, Canon La Gaffeliere less so. Pavillon de Leoville Poyferre is a tidy second wine as is L’Hospitalet de Gazin.

Luke was more diligent than me, tasting across the vintages and he reported that 19s shone out in this peer group. More research is required but there must be some really good value 2019s out there and becoming physical in the next few months.

Side note: Montrose ‘05 disappointed, not for the first time. My views were supported by a prominent Bordelais character as we tasted side by side a couple of years ago.

Smith Haut Lafitte Blanc 2017 - very refreshing!

We are looking forward to tasting a wider range of 2019s at the larger Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux 2019 Vintage Tasting in a couple of weeks time, and shall report back with our findings.

Miles 07798 732 543

Full list of Châteaux

Château Branaire-Ducru

Château Canon

Château Canon La Gaffeliere

Château d’Aiguilhe

Château Gazin

Château Guiraud

Château Le Crock

Château Leoville Poyferre

Château Montrose

Château Moulin Riche

Château Pontet Canet

Château Rauzan Segla

Château Smith Haut Lafitte

Clos de L’Oratoire

La Mondotte

Wine Market Investment Report Third Quarter 2021 - A look at the bigger picture

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2021-10-13

By Miles Davis

Welcome back, I hope you all had a lovely summer. I did not; being confined to UK holidays this year, I was devoid of any real sunshine, so thank the heavens for the wine market! The climate in the wine market is just about perfect at the moment; not too hot, but nice and warm with the odd blistering day. No storms around too, it’s just lovely, so we wonder how long this can last?

Wine Owners

For this question, we turn to our history books; the major corrections in the wine market have come on the back of macro events. In the 70s it was the oil crisis (when the brewer Bass Charrington dumped hundreds of cases (of 12) of Mouton Rothschild at sub £100 a case, apparently), in the 80s it was the ’87 stock market crash, the 90s the Asian currency crisis in ’97, and in the noughties of course it was the ‘Credit crunch’, as we call it in the UK, the global financial crisis in other quarters. When these events happened, obviously long before screen prices were commonplace, panic selling ensued, and prices were marked down. In reverse order:

Wine Owners

Some may notice I haven’t included the great sell off that commenced in 2011, lasting until 2016, the market falling c.30% in the meantime. That is because it was not a market wide phenomenon, it only applied to the red wines of Bordeaux, which admittedly, had been over 90% of the market back then. It is now 35-40%. Neither had it been caused by a macro event, but by the anti-graft campaign led by the new Chinese President Xi Jinping. This was also why it was a very long and drawn-out correction which, in my view, we are only coming out of now, a decade later. The ‘Red Obsession’ (did anyone see the film? A most enjoyable trailer can be enjoyed here. It could have been called ‘Top of the market’!) became the ‘Red Depression’ and Bordeaux was left languishing, casting a long shadow over the industry.

Wine Owners

That depression had been caused by hyper price inflation (c.2005-2011), and a massive imbalance of supply over genuine demand. The explosion of one-tracked dodgy ‘investment specialists’ compounded this problem also. I am pleased to report that this market is not burdened with either of these same elements today.

There is a new wave of investor about, however, but a far more sophisticated breed. The type that conducts research, employs science, looks further afield than just the obvious and is making more and more of the market investible by helping to create a sturdier secondary market. The greater breadth and depth of the market is to be welcomed as this lends itself to a greater number of opportunities with a more diversified risk profile.

So, without the over-inflated price levels, except for Burgundy perhaps (but that is another story), without the cold calling clan, and with a more diversified market it will take a global crisis to slow this tanker down.

The old-fashioned tenet prevalent in the world of fine wine of limited supply set against ever increasing demand is back, and it is working well.

It is also worth noting that recent negative events, particularly the outbreak of Covid 19, only caused the market to draw breath rather than correct. I read this as another pointer to the market maturing; overpriced wines still go down but there is no need for sharp mark downs.

The Knight Frank Luxury Investment Index* received a lot of media coverage recently, reaching the national press; Decanter covered it here. Fine wine (+13%) outperformed other luxury assets such as watches (+5%), cars (+4%), art and jewellery but none of these numbers are overly demanding.

On a less macro level, Burgundy and Champagne are currently leading the charge but the Rhone, Bordeaux, most of Italy and the Rest of the World are all travelling nicely.

If you would like to discuss this, your own portfolio or anything else related, please feel free to call me.

Miles Davis, 07798 732 543

*Wine price data supplied by Wine Owners

Super Sass and Top Tig!

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2021-10-06

By Miles Davis

Our Super Tuscan 80 index is up 8.4% over the last year and has proved to be a lovely warm place to be over the last five years, +67%. Before that it was largely flat as the graph below demonstrates. This is yet further evidence of how the wine market has broadened out as consumers and investors become more savvy.

Wine Owners

In the last few years Sassicaia and Tignanello have been bomb proof. As discussed in our report at the beginning of 2020, they are brands that just ‘work’; they have a huge following in the U.S. and just about everywhere these days, the wines are investable, collectible and downright drinkable. They appear on a lot of restaurant wine lists too. Immediately recognisable, not too cheap (importantly) and not too expensive, they are very high scoring and offer sumptuous early drinking pleasure but can mature magnificently also. Masseto too, ‘the Petrus’ of Italy, being 100% Merlot, has performed brilliantly, the 2015 and ’16 both up c.20% over the last year despite its £500+ a bottle price.

Wine Owners

Ornellaia, Solaia and Guado al Tasso have been no slouches either, but the crown currently belongs to the aforementioned Sass and Tig, as they are known to their friends!

Wine Owners

These names are the royalty of the Super Tuscan landscape, but some attention needs to be turned to the likes of Cepparello, Galatrona, Grattamacco, Redigaffi, Testamatta, and Tua Rita, amongst others… to be continued….

As always, please feel free to call to discuss.

Miles Davis, 07798 732 543

The Northern Rhone – is now the time? (Only red wines under review)

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2021-08-18

By Miles Davis

From time to time in the past, wine merchants and market observers have pointed to the Northern Rhone and proclaimed that its time has come, it is arriving, it is time to load up – this is with the view to making a few quid, of course. Always lagging the more powerful Bordeaux and Burgundy regions, I think this extraordinary piece of France where Syrah flourishes on the steep riverside slopes, has always been considered to be of a slightly lower, more rustic class. Certainly us Brits tend to be educated in the ways of Bordeaux first and foremost, then Burgundy, and then the likes the Rhone, Champagne, Tuscany and Piedmont etc. follow along in no particular order. As Bordeaux, then Burgundy prices headed skywards, people noticed, from time to time, that the Rhone was being left behind. Surely the clever money should have some of that? It has never quite happened. Sure, some producers have developed close followings from astute collectors and the likes of Jean Louis Chave, Jamet, Auguste Clape and Thierry Allemand to name a few have all seen demand for their wines shoot up and secondary market prices have reacted accordingly. But a lot of the bigger names, the biggest being Chapoutier, Guigal and Jaboulet just have not done very much price wise.

                                       Wine Owners

Randomly selected, I compared three vintages of La Landonne from the Côte Rôtie Guigal powerhouse, ’90, ‘05 and ’10, over the last five years and price increases have been +14%, +27% and +14% respectively. These numbers do not include any trading and logistic costs, and in the context of a decent wine market, are disappointing.

                                                  Wine Owners

So, the question is, is this all about to change? Liv-ex recently reported their Rhone 100 sub-index is the second-best performing sub index (which covers both Northern and Southern Rhone) in their stable, trailing only Champagne, over the last eighteen months. That is quite some achievement and not to be overlooked. I have been commenting for some time how the wine market is broadening, ‘lesser’ regions becoming more liquid in the secondary market, making them more tradeable and easier to value – all important factors when considering investment. There’s no question there are a lot of critic’s points available for relatively little money and ironically, this most historic of regions offers the cheapest entry point into the ‘fine wine’ market. So, I do believe this is changing and I would certainly recommend having some Northern Rhone in a portfolio or collection. For investment purposes I would not risk really big ticket items such as Guigal’s La Las or even Jean-Louis Chave’s Hermitage as they are already relatively expensive and until we are fully convinced these are really investable items and/or Asia takes to the area more than in the past. For immediate consumption purposes I have had multiple buying successes on the Wine Owners platform in recent times, snapping up Chapoutier’s Hermitage Sizeranne from ’96 and ’99 for £30-33 per bottle (before tax), Côte Rôties from Gilles Barge (very fair value) from ’00 and ‘05, René Rostaing (prices have been moving), Clusel Roch (good value) and La Petite Chapelle from Jaboulet, all of which have given great pleasure.

And finally, you may have read this here before (!!), I think Hermitage La Chapelle from Paul Jaboulet Ainé (to give the full name) is one of the best bets around right now, and there are plenty of vintages to choose from, from 2009 onwards! Ship it in! Here are some relative value scores for some very high scoring La Chapelles. Remember you never see a first growth Bordeaux or a grand cru Burgundy in double figures, let alone in the 20s.

                                            Wine Owners

Some of the most notable names to remember:

Hermitage: Chapoutier, Chave, Delas, Jaboulet

Cote Rotie: Chapoutier, Guigal, Jamet, Jasmin, Rostaing

Cornas: Allemand, Clape

St. Joseph: Chave

Compare your notes to the critics

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2021-08-12

Did you know that when you use Wine Owners to track and manage your wine collection, you have the option to add your own tasting notes and scores when consuming a wine?

You have the option to anonymously share these notes with the wider community, or keep them private for your own future reference, adding drink dates or scores as you see fit (and according to your own personal preferences!)

When you come back at a later date to revisit said wine, your notes will appear alongside those of your linked critic accounts giving you the fullest picture possible!

If you have accounts with Vinous, Jancis Robinson or Robert Parker, you can link these to your Wine Owners account and view their reviews on WO for everything. A free Robert Parker subscription is included when you take out Wine Owners premium plan (along with lower selling fees and a host of other benefits) so even more reason to upgrade your account.

You can view your entire catalogue of tasting notes via the “My Tasting Notes” option under the “Manage” drop down menu, or view notes individually under the “reviews & scores” tab within a wine entry (see below)

Wine Owners

Wine Owners

Question: white Burgundy – is it investable? Answer: absolument!

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2021-08-06

The problems with white Burgundy in the past have been well documented; namely premature oxidisation, or premox for short. In a former job spec, managing FCA grade wine investment funds, the problems were enough for us to have one simple discipline when it came to white Burgundy – do not invest. Although I have seen thousands of pounds worth of Grand Crus literally poured down the sink from vintages past, these problems are behind us now and there is more belief in this area than possibly ever before. The grandest Crus stand head and shoulders above their peers in much the same way as their red counterparts do, and they always will. After all, they have been growing grapes in them there hills since 150 B.C. according to Neal Martin’s excellent recent piece for Vinous Media, so they know a thing or two about the land and how to achieve the best results.

Again, like the reds, the vineyard areas are small, so production levels are low. There are less than half the number of white Grand Crus compared to red however, and the famed village of Meursault is not even deemed worthy of having a single one! There are two that do both, namely Corton and Musigny. The very top producers have been sold by allocation only for some time now, but are still behind the reds in that regard, and on average price too. Buyers should not only look at Grand Crus as there are many superb Premier Crus too that can deliver – even some in lowly Meursault! Also, it is not necessary just to stick to names with ‘Montrachet’ in them, there are some viable options from other villages and Chablis of course. The Côtes of Maconnais and Chalonnaise are not made of quite enough stuffing to qualify for ‘investment grade’ but there’s no doubting the quality of these wines continues to rise.

White Burgundies tend to disappear off the market after a few years of age as global demand far outstrips supply. This makes valuations and therefore performance numbers hard to measure accurately so you’ll just have to believe me that they really can perform. Here’s one example of a young wine since release (c.50% annualised ROI!):

Wine Owners

I happen to think that this wine has not stopped motoring yet, and there are only but a couple of cases (six packs) currently on the market. Why do I say this? Because prices for white Burgundies are still a fraction of their equivalent red counterparts, there is less of it, and there is vast burgeoning demand, and it is global. There is also the threat that global warming may mean there’s even less of this stuff to go around in the future, and perhaps not as well balanced, classical and chiselled as we are used to.

Wine Owners

As a rough guide, village wines should probably be drunk between three and ten years of their life, Premier Crus five to fifteen and Grand Crus ten years plus, they can last for decades. My advice would be, if you are buying into this rationale, is to invest primarily in good producers, most Grand Crus (if they haven’t already tripled!), and then in highly rated premier crus (particularly from the ’14 and ’17 vintages). Obviously, the vineyards are important too and the ‘jewel in the crown’ sites of producers can often produce an extra bit of uplift.

Some of the names to look out for, amongst others:

  • Boillot, Henri
  • Bonneau du Martray
  • Coche Dury (‘silly money’!)
  • Comtes Lafon
  • Dauvissat DRC (‘silly money’!)
  • Leflaive
  • Moreau, Bernard
  • Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey
  • Ramonet
  • Raveneau
  • Roulot

A report on Vintage Champagne July 2021

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2021-07-27

(in which we discuss why this is such a good idea!)

Miles Davis, July 2021

WO Champagne 60 Index

Vintage Champagne has been a sound investment for the last ten years, with our index annualising a return of 8.6%. The index is comprised of all the top cuveés from the giants of this most celebrated of wine regions, Dom Perignon, Krug, Louis Roderer Cristal, Pol Roger, Salon, Taittinger et cetera, et cetera. Indices never contain costs but that is not something many people bother to point out!

Champagne is, quite rightly, associated with luxury, celebrations, and fun, and is a genuine mood lifter. It is sprayed across crowds, associated with brazen displays of wealth in society hot spots, served at all manner of celebratory events, whilst also being adored by genuine connoisseurs – it finds a home across multiple layers of society and across the globe. Most of us are introduced to it at quite an early age through Bond, James Bond. In ‘Goldfinger’ Bond drinks Dom Perignon ’53, and that is what did it for me, I was hooked, although it took a fair few years after that to get my hands on the stuff! Vintage Champagne can age for decades and as supply runs down, so the price goes up (see below). It is probably the steadiest performer of all the sub sections of the fine wine market and some Champagne should be in every single cellar, collection, or portfolio always and forever! Champagne has not really been treated as an investment staple within the wine world until relatively recently. The performance of famous brands and now the turnover in the secondary market makes it qualify for that description with consummate ease.

I have looked at these five vintage champagnes, based on their overall quality and their liquidity in the secondary market, from only the best vintages of modern times. Here are their prices (per bottle):

Vintage 1990 1996 2000 2002 2004 2006 2008 Average
Current prices
Comtes de Champagne 462 376 156 225 104 90 125 220
Cristal 374 371 209 221 165 137 208 241
Dom Perignon 269 317 200 167 124 119 130 189
Krug 508 350 225 281 189 171 - 287
Winston Churchill 393 319 192 175 132 132 165 215

Comtes is made by Taittinger, Cristal by Louis Roderer, Dom Perignon by Moet Hennessy and Winston Churchill is Pol Roger’s top cuvée.

What is quite amazing is how similarly these are all scored, (using WO aggregated methodology):

Vintage 1990 1996 2000 2002 2004 2006 2008 Average
WO Points
Comtes de Champagne 95 94 96 97 96 95 96 95.6
Cristal 96 95 93 94 96 95 98 95.3
Dom Perignon 94 95 93 97 95 95 98 95.3
Krug 96 97 94 96 97 97 - 96.2
Winston Churchill 96 94 95 96 93 96 96 95.1

Here are the PPP (price per point) scores, to establish what is good value:

Vintage 1990 1996 2000 2002 2004 2006 2008 Average
PPP (Price per point)
Comtes de Champagne 4.9 4 1.6 2.3 1.1 0.9 1.3 2.3
Cristal 3.9 3.9 2.2 2.4 1.7 1.4 2.1 2.5
Dom Perignon 2.9 3.3 2.2 1.7 1.3 1.3 1.3 2
Krug 5.3 3.6 2.4 2.9 1.9 1.8 - 3
Winston Churchill 4.1 3.4 2 1.8 1.4 1.4 1.7 2.3

Although Vinous Media only has a range of between 93 points (2000 vintage, easily the weakest of this selection) and 97+ (2008) for the different vintages, those in the know realise that ’08 is a mega vintage with ’02 breathing down its neck, which is on a par with ’96, and all of those slightly better than ’04 and ’06 and this is already reflected in the prices. The wines are all superb, but some more superb than others. If the PPP is way below the average (in red) for any of the wines, I have little hesitation in recommending them. When thinking about possible returns I have compared prices from the ’02, ’04, ’06 and ’08 vintages relative to the ’96 price and adjusted for time (10 years for the ’06, 12 for the ’08) for example and have come up with the following numbers (obviously this is just a simplistic exercise but interesting nonetheless):

Vintage 2002 2004 2006 2008
Annualised ROI benchmarked to '96 price*
Comtes de Champagne 8.90% 17.40% 15.30% 9.60%
Cristal 9.00% 10.60% 10.50% 7.00%
Dom Perignon 8.30% 10.20% 8.50% 6.30%
Krug 3.70% 13.90% 7.40% -
Winston Churchill 10.50% 11.70% 9.20% 5.70%

*No dealing, logistics or storage costs factored in

And lastly, a look at the production levels; the Champagne houses are notorious for keeping their levels of productions under wraps, but I have gleaned some information (not necessarily 100% accurate):

Production levels (across all top cuvées, white and rosé) Bottles
Comtes de Champagne 140,000 2002 = 60,000
Cristal 400,000 2009 = 800,000
Dom Perignon 1 mill
Krug 200,000
Winston Churchill 120,000

Of these names, Krug is on top of the pile in reputation, stature and price, Cristal and Dom Perignon are next, are truly international (and are made in huge quantities) and Comtes and Winston Churchill are more the sensible man’s choice for the price/quality ratio. I think they all make sense in their own different ways. Obviously, there are many more choices out there and grower Champagne is becoming ever more popular, but these names are dependable and highly liquid. And taste just so darn good… in case we forget!

Wine Owners - Winston Churchill

The Wine Market Investment Report 2nd Quarter 2021 (in which we discuss how boring the wine market is, and why boring is good!)

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2021-07-19

Miles Davis, July 2021

If you are a regular reader, I would not be offended if you stop here as I am only likely to be repeating myself. The overall market is dull, unexciting, but mainly just plain boring. Sure, there are excitements here and there, an attractively priced en primeur release for example, see a snapshot report of that here, but let us stick to boring. What I mean by boring is that the market continues to be slow and steady and gently rising, not booming and busting, peaking and troughing etc. etc. It is calm, well underpinned by global demand - and a good place to be. To date, my two best investments (not including fine wine obviously!) have been in businesses that, could possibly have been described as boring: pensions administration and company records management - what a snore! They never shot up, or plunged, they just gently attracted more clients and more revenue, month by month, year by year, and have both done very well indeed. So, as you can see, I like boring.

Obviously, I jest but the message is clear. Recently I have even found myself telling clients desperate to sell something to hold on – what sort of a salesman does that!? And of course, I could turn out to be wrong. But… I happen to think the market has had its shock absorbers tested to the max and has survived and prospered in this low interest rate environment. In the last couple of years, we have had political turmoil in Hong Kong, the madness of Trump and his trade tariffs (now all lifted), Brexit and the dreaded C word. Clearly people are still drinking fine wine, perhaps possibly finer wine than normal, as less hard-earned cash is being spent in restaurants. The undercurrent to the whole market is firm, blue chip Bordeaux is well bid and is enjoying its best time for quite a while, and all of this is being achieved in an unfriendly exchange rate environment. GBP strength normally stifles wine prices in the secondary market, and vice versa.  

Wine Owners

Champagne continues to attract a lot of interest and we have traded significant chunks of Krug ‘04, and Bollinger Grand Année Rosé ’12 recently. As I have written before, I very much like Pol Roger’s Winston Churchill cuvée as it not only delivers on the great price/quality ratio, but it is made in tiny quantities compared to its peers. The ’08 has done very well indeed for followers in recent months, up 20% in the last year (price is 12x75cl):

Wine Owners

The 2006 now looks good value in comparison at c.£800 per 6 with stocks dwindling, and I have no hesitation in recommending that. I drank the ’02 recently and it was sensationnel! (C. £1,050 per 6). The ’04 also looks to offer value.

It would appear Rosé Champagne is having a great time of it, with Sainsburys reporting sales growth of nearly 200% recently. I mused on the subject a few weeks back (read the article here), and fear I have been missing out over the years!

Highly priced trophy Burgundy has been selling well again after a bit of a lay off through ’19 and ’20 and sensibly priced DRC, Rousseau etc. do not remain on the platform for long. The gap between the very top level of superstars and the middle tier seems to be widening again, surely pointing to value in the more mid division?

White Burgundy deserves another mention, especially given some reasonably heavy frost damage in the region earlier this year. This will lead to lower supply levels and therefore higher pricing. Load up on 2017s from the best stables if you can find them! The best stables continue to outrun the pack, but can this continue for ever? I doubt it.

Wine Owners

Highly priced Piedmont has been slightly disappointing of late, whereas lesser money bets in the area have been rewarding. Surprisingly, superb releases from 2016 from some of the biggest names in the region are still available to buy at release price levels, notably Giacomo Conterno’s Cascina Francia and Bruno Giacosa’s Falletto. The former is extraordinary given Conterno declined to make a Monfortino in 2016 due to ‘stylistic’ matters, seems weird to me! Monfortino, acclaimed as Italy’s greatest and certainly most expensive wine, is made from vines within the Francia vineyard and the latest release from 2014 is offered at £750 a bottle, the Cascina Francia ’16 (an epic vintage in case anyone needs reminding!) at £200. I understand that it will never be a Monfortino, but still…There is still a lot of relative value in Italy, as described herewith mega points for little money readily available. For more money and mega points, the Super Tuscans keep  travelling well.

Wine Owners

 Faring much better in recent months is the performance of wine prices from the Rhone Valley, not surprising given that wines from this region have a lot in common with the Italian theme I mention. There are some mega stars, Guigal’s single vineyard Cote Roties, producers such as Rayas and Bonneau (both Chateauneuf du Pape) Jean Louis Chave (Hermitage), Allemand (Cornas), and Jamet (Cote Rotie) to name a few that trade for big money, but otherwise there are some very affordable high scoring monsters that come (very) relatively cheaply. Even the big money wines trade at a massive discount to their Bordeaux and Burgundy equivalents. The one wine that really sticks out for me is Hermitage La Chapelle from Jaboulet. This extraordinary terroir is capable of producing the very finest wines ever made, the ’61 and ’78 for example (discuss). The last eleven vintages have averaged 97 points and are offered at an average price of £125 per bottle, an absolute snip in fine wine terms!! They also offer a fine second wine, La Petite Chapelle, for those who want a gentle introduction. Seasoned investors have had the Rhone pushed at them before and it has not really worked for them, but I think we live in different times now.

Wine Owners

Having said that, the last part of the quarter was stifled by an uninspiring 2020 Bordeaux en primeur campaign and most merchants seemed relieved when it was over. The Covid induced price cuts of 2019 genuinely sparked interest in the old dog, but it was largely back to business as usual from the Bordelais and the bashing started all over again. The campaign started well with a great release from Cheval Blanc but by the end the crowd were throwing fruit and veg onto the stage. As diversity spreads there are more and more stages to consider, and good returns are derived from proper opportunity. I am very pleased to see the grand vins of Bordeaux performing well in the secondary market as it lifts the market as a whole but the slavish obsession that the wine industry pays en primeur saddens me – so, it’s back to other business!

As always, please feel free to call to discuss, or bowl me some fast balls. And have a very lovely summer!

Miles 07798 732 543

Shock news torpedoes St Emilion classification system?

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2021-07-11

Will Cheval Blanc and Ausone no longer be Grand Cru Classé ‘A’ as from the 2021 vintage?

If so, it won’t be because of the Commission de Classement. The closing of the Saint-Emilion classification applications took place on June 30 and neither Cheval Blanc nor Ausone returned their copies.

Unlike the left bank classification system of 1855 that is pretty much immutable (with the exception of Mouton’s promotion to Premier Cru in 1973), the St Emilion classification is reviewed approximately once every 10 years, permitting a periodic revaluation of quality and performance. It’s not all been plain sailing; the 2006 reclassification was plagued by accusations of impropriety and was eventually annulled. Consequently, tastings conducted for the 2012 reclassification were outsourced to independent groups from across France to rehabilitate the process.

Cheval Blanc and Ausone, the first St Emilion producers to be awarded Classé A classification in 1954 when it was created, are effectively leaving the classification system.

The Classé A incumbents evidently concluded that the system is no longer sufficiently discriminating to reflect the ranking of their respective properties compared to their peers.

This bombshell threatens to undermine the kudos and financial benefits of promotion to Classé A, and in turn the market pricing potential of those that are elevated. Not to mention it raises questions of the credibility of the St Emilion classification system more broadly.

So what does the two colossus’s departure say about the process of decennial review? How does this reflect on the composition and process of the Commission de Classement?

Is Grand Cru Classé A about to lose its lustre; devalued by ambitious properties busy erecting glitzy edifices? Concrete and stone, some say, matter more than they ought to compared to the brilliance of the wines and their track record.

Or, is Classé A promotion a reflection of the qualitative transformation we see taking place in St Emilion - given the strongly weighted preconditions of a sustained track record of exceptional results and market recognition - and therefore are not elevations thoroughly deserved?

Let’s see what happens over the coming weeks. Can Cheval Blanc and Ausone be courted back into the fold, or is their departure (by omission of submission) a fait accompli? Assuming the latter, perhaps we'll see more promotions next year than we might have otherwise. What effect this all has economically on those producers who attain Classé A classification is now more uncertain than ever.

284 records

Blog Search

Get a fully inclusive Robert Parker subscription

Robert Parker’s insights are an essential information resource if you have an interest in wine. We are thrilled to share that content with our Premium members, and offer the most complete experience for the collector and wine lover.

Normally $99/y, it is available free as part of the Wine Owners’ premium plans.


Subscribe to The Collector

Get market insight delivered directly to your mailbox by subscribing to our newsletter. Please complete the form below to request our free email newsletter.

Processing label...

Sorry, we could not process your request.

Try again Enter manually

Take Snapshot Cancel Cannot see an image?
If you cannot see an image coming up, please check your security settings of your browser. Blocking of the webcam can also be indicated by a red icon in your address bar.
Processing upload...