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Restaurant tips

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2016-08-19



It has been said by some wise sage that 1% of people care way too much about wine and 99% of people don’t care enough. This rings true, and I thought it would be interesting to investigate why this is.

Most of my friends and peers drink wine. With sufficient regularity to alarm the British Medical Council in many cases. And most of them drink rubbish. Seriously – any £5 bottle will do the trick normally, and the second cheapest wine on the restaurant wine list is pretty much as far as they go.

This baffles me.

OK, so not everyone is going to spend a fortune on a wine collection, or consult Parker or Robinson for every wine buying decision, but it is really simple to drink more interesting wines without breaking the bank or having to do hours of painstaking research.Here are a few rules of thumb, aimed at buying wine in a restaurant (assuming it isn’t one of the growing numbers that allow you to BYO for a modest corkage).

1) The cheapest wines normally have the highest % mark-ups, and the second cheapest wine normally has the highest mark-up. Restaurateurs know how people make buying decisions, so be aware of the relative lack of value.

2) The first few wines on a list will have tendency to be ‘neutral’ in style, as they are likely to be bought to match all foods. One size fits all is not the best way to approach buying wine – think about what you are going to order.

3) Don’t be afraid to buy by the glass. Technology such as Coravin means a far wider array of wines can be sampled, so you can avoid just plumping for a bottle of NZ Sauvignon Blanc, or a bog standard Rioja, and narrowing your options. Why not order a suitable wine for every course of you meal?

4) Look for exotic grape varieties or little known regions – these are likely to be the sommelier’s attempts to stamp their expertise and personality on the wine list, and will likely be good value and interesting. Think Greece, Portugal, Austria, or regions like Swartland in South Africa or Salta in Argentina.

5) Embrace the joys of dessert wines. Seriously, sweet wines are amazing things that are criminally overlooked. A little bit of ‘sticky’ at the end of your meal is always a good thing!

6) If the restaurant has a sommelier, get their opinion. Don’t be afraid to ask seemingly silly questions. These guys are there to ensure you get the most enjoyment from your meal.


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A few thoughts on Champagne

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2016-08-09



From an investment perspective champagne has delivered solid if unspectacular gains year on year, as the chart below shows. Since the start of 2011, the WO Champagne Index (pale blue line) has steadily moved up, displaying little of the volatility of the wine market at large, as represented by the WO 150 Index (purple). A 5 year increase of 55% is pretty impressive by anyone’s reckoning in this day and age.



Ask most champagne lovers to name the three most important champagne marques, and the vast majority would plump for Dom Perignon, Krug and Cristal – let’s call them the Three Musketeers. These are by far the most likely to be found in collections, and have international standing as the benchmark for top quality, premium fizz. My question is that if we assume most collectors will hold at least one, if not all three, of these in their cellars if they are champagne followers, which champagne is best placed to play the role of d’Artagnan to their Porthos, Aramis and Athos?

There are several pretenders to the throne. Bollinger RD, Perrier Jouet Belle Epoque, Pol Roger Winston Churchill, Armand de Brignac Ace of Spades – these and a host of others are a match for the quality and cachet of the Three Musketeers, but there is one name that I think stands out, and one whose financial performance and quality cannot easily be overlooked.

That wine is Salon ‘Cuvee S’ Le Mesnil. Despite its relative anonymity – there are many better known marques – this champagne is viewed as the apogee of champagne making by those in the know. Ruthlessly (almost self-defeatingly!) small production quantities and a quality control regime that makes North Korea look like a hippy commune have enabled Salon ‘Cuvee S’ to reach prices that are eye-wateringly expensive across the board. Despite this its prices have moved up more dramatically that most champagnes for vintages from the 1990s, and even more recent vintages from the 2000s have shown growth despite much higher release prices.

So, if you can find it at the right price, Salon ‘Cuvee S’ is perfectly placed to play the role of the Fourth Musketeer. All for one, and one for all…


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The Battle of the Bottle

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2016-08-02


Will it be Bordeaux or Burgundy where the smart money goes in 2017?

It is well known that over the last few years the wines of Burgundy have substantially out-performed their Bordeaux cousins. The chart below vividly represents this:

Since the start of 2012 the Blue Chip wines of Burgundy (purple) have risen consistently year on year to now sit around 50% up in 4.5 years, whilst First Growth Bordeaux (green) has fallen nearly 20% in the same period . An astonishing disparity accounted for by the Bordeaux bubble of 2009-2012 caused by the market discontinuity of early Chinese demand and trade speculation that accompanied it. Even the Bordeaux Medoc Classed Growths (light blue), that withstood the crash in Bordeaux prices far better in general than First Growth royalty, only managed an increase in value of 15% since the start 2012, but this is entirely down to the last 15 months.



So, what do we think of the potential of these three vital segments of the market in terms of future performance? Will Burgundy continue to rise regardless, or will Bordeaux be resuscitated?

This next chart might help put things in context. It is of the same three indices above, but within a timeframe of the last 9 months only:



All indices are over 10% up over this 9 month period. Excellent news. You should also notice the similarities in their trajectories, showing growth in both regions. Again, good news. You should then discern that it is the two Bordeaux indices that are leading the way. To be precise, The Bordeaux Medoc Classed Growth index is up 16.6%, First Growths are up 13.5% and Blue Chip Burgundies are up 11.3%.

Now, of course, these time-frames are arbitrarily chosen, and it could be possible to draw other conclusions by choosing different representations of the same data. But that misses the point. We do believe that the improvement in fortunes of Bordeaux is likely to be a major theme of the next 18 months, and it is reasonable to suggest that increased interest, and resurgent sentiment, in this pre-eminent region may mean Bordeaux prices rising more steeply than Burgundy prices.

The Burgundy market is unlikely to fall prey to the same rapid boom and bust cycles that affected Bordeaux between 1991 and 2014, but we think it is a fair and proportionate response when looking at the prices and bid/offer spreads available to think that the very top of the Blue Chip Burgundy market may have run its course for now, and that to risk increased exposure to Burgundy might not be the best idea if short-term return on investment is your primary motivator.

Yet it's notoriously difficult to call the top of any market, and this viewpoint needs to be set against the severely reduced yields in 2016 in certain parts of the Cote D'Or that will push up 2016 release prices in 18 months' time, and may inflate the very good 2015 releases next January. What effect this has on back vintages remains to be seen.



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