Read around, inform your choices, act decisively

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2021-03-24


Luke MacWilliam, March 2021

When buying wine with half (or even a full) eye on investment, there is a sea of information and misinformation out there. Often authors have an agenda or a producer to push, they want you to buy the wine they are selling. I recently had a call from an importer who was telling me how “Producer X” (that they imported) is going to be a great investment wine and would we want to promote that “fact” to our members. The lines between marketing, and genuine insight and opinion can become blurred.

I politely declined, explaining that Wine Owners is here to facilitate trading between collectors and that when we do publish opinions regarding the investment market, it is based on a combination of data, observations and personal experience.

How you then choose to use this information is up to you; my number one piece of advice is to read broadly. Do not exclusively read what we put out or content from other trade members and don't solely listen to your account manager who has a target to hit. Combine all three and when you see things repeated by people with different agendas (or no agenda) there may just be something to it.

For example, back in January, Wine Owners’ very own Miles Davis wrote the following unassuming paragraph in his annual investment report.

“The Rhone is solid but unexciting yet provides immense drinking pleasure at a relatively cheap price point. Back on solid form, I think (Jaboulet) Hermitage La Chapelle ’09 and ’10s are under-priced (the ’78 remains the best wine I have ever drunk).” Miles Davis/Wine Owners 2020 Wine Investment Report and a look ahead at 2021

Totally independently, Bordeaux Index released their own report with a similarly passive but very honest insight on Rhone:

“Rhone: If Piedmont can be frustrating from the stop-start nature of investment potential delivering results, Rhone is perhaps tougher still. Rising En Primeur prices have not helped as they tend to snuff out broader interest in the region rather than fan the flames. We see the potential this year as being in the Northern Rhone primarily and focused more on the classical names: Guigal, Chave, Jaboulet.” Bordeaux Index’s 2020 Market Review & 2021 Outlook

Two unassuming and easily overlooked comments resonated with me. I read both within a few days and I love the wines of Northern Rhone as a consumer. I checked out the trading platform, there was an offer for Jaboulet Hermitage 2010, and a bid, that's another tick in the box, the wine is liquid, others want it too.

Then, as I was cleaning up my inbox I spotted the offer. A regular offer from a trade client that I often overlook, but there it was, jumping out at me like a jack-in-a-box. Jaboulet Hermitage 2010 at 10% discount to market.

That was it, I was not missing out on this, and I didn’t (Miles might have, despite me telling him immediately…sorry Miles!).

It’s unlikely that I would have bought this as a modest investment punt based on just a single one of those events. I might have bought some to drink based on Miles’ comment about the ‘78 and other reviews, but all 3 events together added up and it made sense. I have no regrets (except maybe I should have bought more!). Previously trading at just over £600 per 6 the last trade on Wine Owners was £715, and that still feels like a good buy... I’ll be holding mine for a little while longer (unless Miles bids me for one!).


How can cellar management software help you unlock your collection?

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2021-03-17


For just a moment, imagine no longer having to depend on a tedious cellar spreadsheet and instead being able to view your entire wine collection all in one place in an interactive way, bringing your portfolio to life?

Spreadsheets can be dull and relentless at the best of times. By consolidating piles of paper, spreadsheets, emails and invoices all into a well organised online portfolio, you can pull other valuable pieces of information together that lend a new dimension of enjoyment to organising your collection. Contrary to what you may think, managing your collection end to end, ensuring that all your wine acquisitions are accounted for, can be a fun process!

Cellar management software enables you to achieve this in 3 steps:

Step 1) Getting your collection organised.

Figuring out what wine you have may sound simple but it often isn’t. Wines are sourced from multiple merchants and stored in numerous locations. Although the majority of merchants are organised, not all can be relied on to remind you of your purchases.

An online cellar management platform enables you to track your entire wine collection in one place, both your professionally stored wines and those at home. Wine Owners’ home cellar functionality enables you to track the exact location of each bottle down to hole in a bottle rack, so that no bottle will be forgotten and ensures wines will be consumed within their drinking window (a window that you can edit according to taste).


Wine Owners - Organising-my-collection


Having been built by a fellow wine enthusiast, all functionality has been developed taking every part of the wine journey into consideration. All important information can be recorded: the wine name, vintage, format, where it was bought, purchase price, condition, quantity or a shipment date if it is incoming stock.

When you join, you have instant access to a pool of valuable information including drinking dates, critic stores, producer profiles and up to date pricing information and more, enough to keep any wine collector happy. Optimised for mobile and tablet access, you can access your collection wherever you are, whether on public transport, at work or abroad.

2) Rediscovering your collection.

Now that you have catalogued your portfolio and you know what you have and where it is, Wine Owners can help you make well-informed decisions around a) which wines to drink next and b) what you have too much of thanks to overzealous purchasing or a very good relationship with your account manager!

Lots of fun is to be had exploring the integrated analytical tools which include sophisticated pricing graphs and relative value score analysis. You can also review your portfolio by a range of filters, view values per category, total value and category performance over different periods of time. Latest perspectives of the critics are also helpful to appreciate the quality of the wines you have bought, and you can add your own tasting notes as well.

Wine Owners - Percentage breakdown per country


3) Shaping your collection.

Once you’re clear on your inventory, it’s time to take key decisions around your collection. You may wish to sell surplus stock back to the merchant who initially sold you the wine or, if they refuse, you’re only a few clicks from being able to offer your wine for sale in a vibrant secondary market, with trading desk experts available to help.

An easy to navigate, comprehensive digital overview makes it a lot easier to make decisions around which wines in your collection you’ll want to keep and the ones that are ballast. You’ll also be less likely to miss a drinking window. As a wine collector, the satisfaction of enjoying that glass of wine that has appreciated 10-fold since the date of purchase cannot be understated!

For those members who want to buy and sell, it’s super simple.

As it is integrated with a peer-to-peer trading exchange, you are joining a vibrant ecosystem of like-minded collectors as soon as you upload your collection.

In addition, by making purchases through the platform, every part of the settlement process is looked after by our logistics team.

If you are ready to upgrade your cellar management experience, we’re here to help. You can start by creating a free account HERE to organise, value and monitor price changes on up to 30 wines. If you have over 30 wines, our premium plans offer all the tools you will ever need to easily and successfully manage your collection.



Fine Wine Investment Report 2020 and a look ahead at 2021

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2021-03-04


Miles Davis, March 2021

In early December I wrote the following:

‘Traditional assets continue to bounce around, no doubt causing palpitations and stress. More than ever, this year has been about timing in the capital markets, and if you got that wrong, the chances are you got it expensively wrong. Not so for vino! Unlike after the global financial crisis, the wine market has held its nerve, merchants did not mark down prices and the market has been stable. Investors are about, and even Bordeaux prices feel like they are firming up. Collectible assets are in vogue and it is easy to see why given these circumstances.’

Not too much has changed since then although there has been plenty more talk about inflation, with the UK’s November numbers coming through much higher than anticipated. This can be viewed as a positive. There has also been the small matter of a new American President. This, in itself, should not have a direct influence on the wine market (!?) but a $1.9 trillion stimulus package and a clear signal that money is going to keep being pumped into the system might be!

So, the macro factors are looking stable and the index performances from last year are also looking sensible. There is no massive ‘feel good factor’ about, which often brings about a more boom-and-bust style dynamic, so this is beginning to feel like an old-fashioned wine market, steady as she goes, nice little earner, thanks very much.

Bordeaux First Growths continue to be the fly in the ointment, underperforming all the other regions with +2.8%, save California with -2%, and generally Bordeaux’s market share continues to slide and is now less than 40% (95% ten years ago!). Pricing from a few of the Chateaux meant the 2019 en primeur campaign awoke the old beast for a moment but otherwise, the top end wine market of Bordeaux continues to struggle. Interestingly, the much broader Bordeaux 750 fared far better with a nearly 10% rise.

Italy was the star of the wine market show in 2020, with Tuscany posting nearly 20% gains and Piedmont 6.4%, followed by Champagne with 12.7%. It is more than coincidence that these markets have been exempt from US tariffs in recent times. Italy has long lived in the shadows of France in terms of reputation and price in the fine wine world, but the gap is still vast, certainly pricewise. The super recognizable names of the Super Tuscans, which have recently benefited from the mega vintages of ’15 and ’16, consistently receive incredibly high scores.

The 2016 Sassicaia (100 points WA, 97 VM), one of the most expensive Sassicaias of all time, is £230 a bottle, Lafite Rothschild 2016 (99 WA, 97 VM) is £530 a bottle, and production levels are roughly twice as much at Lafite. Maybe this is not a fair comparison but given the price differential and the tariffs in place, I know which one I would be backing:

Wine Owners - Relative Value Analysis

This is a short excerpt from Miles Davis' 'Wine Owners 2020 Wine Investment Report and a look ahead at 2021'. CLICK HERE to read the full report.



What is in a label?

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2020-12-16


Luke Macwilliam, December 2020

At the beginning of December, Mouton Rothschild announced that Chinese artist Xu Bing had been chosen to design the latest installment in their famous long running series. The label itself features the words Mouton Rothschild styled to resemble Chinese characters. Visually it’s attractive enough, it’s certainly quite clever and effective in the way you are compelled to look beyond the characters and see the recognisable letters hidden in the design.

                                                                                                                      Mouton Rothschild 2008 - label


Predictably the price jumped around 12% after the announcement, Mouton Rothschild, Chinese artist, good vintage, it's a banker! Isn’t it?

The last time Mouton entrusted the honour of designing their label to a Chinese artist was a decade ago in 2010, on the release of the 2008 Vintage. Now the market was very different back then, and the Chinese market was the main driver of the wine market as it grew and grew despite the financial crisis of 2008. Upon announcing the label design, prices skyrocketed.

The excitement was short lived, however. The Chinese bubble burst in the summer of 2011 and prices came tumbling down.


Mouton vs other wines


If we compare the big five from 2008 (nb. Lafite also included a Chinese Symbol on their 2008 label), you can clearly see the over inflation the hype caused compared to the other 1st growths. Those who bought Mouton and Lafite 2008 between Nov 2010 and June 2012 will have been licking their wounds for some time, destined to never recoup their losses. If you bought in 2014 however, you will have seen Mouton 2008 perform in a much more sensible manner.


Mouton-last 5 years


The last 5 years performance is a much healthier representation of the Bordeaux market in general, steady growth between 2015-2018, a flat 2018-19 (read THIS market report from Sept 2019 for the explanation) and finally strong resilience in a really difficult 2020 for markets of any kind. Has Mouton 2008 performed in this way because of it’s label or because it’s a top wine?

All of the 1st growths have tracked steadily, but more recently, Mouton and Lafite 2008 have begun to diverge in price once more showing that continued demand for these special labels does still exist.

In 20 years time when supplies of these vintages become more scarce, will Chinese demand for a label outrun the global demand for the greatest vintages (2010, 2016 etc)? That is the million dollar question.

Let’s look at the example of Mouton 2000, we have a golden combination of a special wine from a special vintage in a special bottle (not just for the Chinese Market, but for the world). The result? Steady increase in value over time as demand remains high and stocks steadily run down. The troubles of 2011 did not affect Mouton 2000 in the way they did affect Lafite and Mouton 2008.


Mouton 2000


If you buy into a Chinese label, you are buying into the notion that China is, and will continue to be the main driver of the top end of the fine wine market. If you buy into a wine, then the whole world will potentially be after what you have.

Wine is a long game, and snap reactionary decisions based on hype come with great risk. If you are looking to make a quick buck then you are likely to come unstuck. Call me boring, but I find trends more compelling than one-off anomalies. There is a place for special editions in your portfolio, they do tend perform well over time, so long as the wine is up to the task as well.

Oh, and if you fancy picking up a case of Mouton 2008 BID or BUY here.


                                                                                                                               Mouton Rothschild 2008 - label


Luke MacWilliam, December 2020



Banner Image: http://www.domainedechevalier.com


Italian wines - ripe for investment

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2019-11-15


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

The Italians are not only the largest wine producing country in the world, they have been making wine for over four thousand years and cultivate over two thousand grape varieties on a multitude of different soils in twenty different regions! They are not bad at food either. Their climate seems to suit most of the finer things in life.

Italian wine being recommended is nothing new, but having it recommended as a collectable asset bearing an investment case is another matter. Ten years or so ago, a few canny collectors realised some of the ‘Super Tuscans’ (red wines typically made of a Bordeaux blend in Tuscany) such as Masseto, Ornellaia, Sassicaia (recent blog) and Solaia were ripe for decent returns. Traditionalists were a bit put out by these glossy new pretenders turning up on the Italian wine scene with their fancy French grape varieties and lots of marketing but it is fair to say they have helped the overall attention given to Italy and, as a result, the ‘Bs’ are blossoming – namely, Barolo, Barbaresco and, to a lesser extent, Brunello.

Wines from the best producers of Italy’s most venerable regions have been collected by the cognoscenti for years but now their appeal is becoming more widespread. The problems of Bordeaux, following an explosive China-driven period, have been well documented in the last decade and in its place, the smaller top-quality regions have been profiting. The indices for the last five years show Burgundy +120%, California +79%, Piedmont +76%, Tuscany +62% and First Growth Bordeaux +47%, the broad base WO 150 is +55% (all nice numbers!).



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

The complex nature of Burgundy, California and Piedmont with their tiny (compared to Bordeaux) vineyards is attractive. This adds to the aesthetics, spurring on both the well-seasoned and newcomers alike, keen to learn more and invest time and money accordingly. More of the written word is more easily accessible to interested folk, and with platforms such as Wine Owners to trade on, the visibility of the product and the liquidity of the commodity has increased.

Grand Nebbiolo from Piedmont is yet to hit the big time, apart from a special few producers, but the word is spreading and there are ‘new’ names coming through; dedicated collectors and the inquisitive are homing in. It is a Burgundian-like network of vineyards, producers, families and reputations and you need to know what you are doing. Famous names like Conterno, for example, have six listings in my favourite reference book: Aldo, Diego, Fantino, Franco, Giacomo (the big one) and Paolo.


Some of the bigger names like Giacomo Conterno famed for his Montfortino vineyard, Giuseppe Rinaldi, Bartolo Mascarello, Bruno Giacosa and Gaja are already highly sought after superstars, with prices to match, but there are a host of others with reputations and demand beginning to swell; Brovia, Cappellano, Fratelli Alessandria, Sandrone, Voerzio and Vietti to name a few.

The ‘Super Tuscans’ of Bolgheri are much simpler to understand, like Bordeaux versus Burgundy, and are produced in larger numbers. The names mentioned earlier are virtually household names (in wine terms!), are less exciting right now overall but tend to deliver very steady returns.

Brunello di Montalcino, made from Sangiovese, is also comparatively easy to piece together in relation to Piedmont. Biondi Santi, Poggio di Sotto, Salvioni and Soldera are the big names with the fancy price tags. The secondary market for Brunello has not yet developed so, for now at least, it is a case of keeping a watchful eye although Soldera has been added to several portfolios already. There are many other less well-known names that have been attracting huge plaudits from the top critics that remain under the radar. This group haven’t matured into the darlings of the market, so far, and back vintages are cheap and well worth consideration.

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

Most of all, however, these wines are barely scratching the Asian surface as yet and we all know what happens when that changes!

Miles Davis 15th November 2019



Wine Market Investment Report August 2019

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2019-09-09


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

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

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

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


Wine Market Investment Report July 2019

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2019-08-20


A brief and holiday interrupted report for activity in July

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

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

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

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

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


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


The Wine Market Investment Report - June 2019

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2019-07-08


The highlight in June for the wine world was clearly the Daily Telegraph event ‘Wine; for profit or pleasure?’. A sell out crowd witnessed excellent talks from four leading experts from the wine world, including two of us from Wine Owners (Miles and Nick). Please contact us for a copy of the presentation.

Otherwise June was again tranquil with trade bobbing along just fine but with no particular surges or dips anywhere. Global stock markets enjoyed a rise after Messrs. Trump and Xi found some accord but this doesn’t seem to have inspired the wine market as yet! Wine stock levels are healthy amongst Asian traders so not even a continuing depressed sterling is bringing about much marginal demand from that corner although most indices are in positive territory in June.

The Bordeaux en primeur campaign came to an end with an almighty whimper. En primeur gets under the skin of the wine trade and all involved spend far too much time talking, writing and moaning about it…yet even so, I shall continue! Within the wine market(s) it has represented very poor relative value for a decade, prices are just too high, yet merchants don’t dare turn their back on this once great provider. It was a great system for all involved, including the man on the street. Now only a very few wines ‘work’ each year (whereby they make sense to the supply chain and the end buyer). And now, to compound the problems of high prices, the Chateaux have decided to retain more and more of their own stock. How this comes to market, when and at what price will fuel debate but based on the evidence of the mighty Chateau Latour, the market may just turn its back. The feeling of stock overhang may easily outweigh the feeling of short supply and it’s not as if the world is going to go thirsty, there will always be alternative choices.

If only our Italian friends came together with a synchronised offering, we could have a proper old school primeur market again. All the market players would have to be involved at the same time, jostling for position, scrapping over every six pack and would still be able to sell at a price that would make everyone happy. The hype that the merchants used to create in Bordeaux primeur markets, that we are still hungover from, could be regenerated. We all miss the hype and the excitement which created such fear amongst the white-faced, panic-stricken collectors and consumers who couldn’t possibly stand even the faintest whiff of FOMO (fear of missing out). 

As it is, Italian releases come to market in no organised way and importers and merchants release when they feel like it. It’s all very Italian really but it does make buying easier. We have been acquiring some 2015 Barolo new releases from Fratelli Alessandria, whose reputation is markedly on the up. Prices are very reasonable for these high scoring wines, ranging from c.£35 per bottle for their basic Barolo (94 Wine Advocate points) to nearer £60 for their top cru, Monvigliero (96+). Outside of the very top group, Luciano Sandrone is another producer worth mentioning - consistently high scores at affordable prices. Their equivalents in quality in either Bordeaux or Burgundy would be far more expensive.

Piedmont is easily our favourite region at the moment, due to the demand/supply equation and the blue chips remain well bid. Whilst Bordeaux and Burgundy remain lacklustre, Champagne and Rhone have attracted some attention. There is no question we would recommend the brilliant 2008 vintage in Champagne and the recently released Sir Winston Churchill looks a good bet with the ’96 being double the price.

Please see the Blog for more articles about the wine investment market.

Miles Davis

8th July 2019

miles.davis@wineowners.com


Focus on: Italia!

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2019-04-16


Italia! From the the country that has given us espresso and cappuccino, ciabatta and focaccia, minestrone and spaghetti, Maldini and Rossi, Pavarotti and Verdi, Canaletto and Leonardo da Vinci, Ferraris and Maseratis, Bunga Bunga, the Mafia and the Pope, we now have… un'opportunità di investimento – nel mondo del vino!!

Market price versus score

The Italians are not only the largest wine producing country in the world, they have been making wine for over four thousand years and cultivate over two thousand grape varieties on a multitude of different soils in twenty different regions! They are not bad at food either. Their climate seems to suit most of the finer things in life.

Italian wine being recommended is nothing new, but having it recommended as a collectable asset bearing an investment case is another matter. Ten years or so ago, a few canny collectors realised some of the ‘Super Tuscans’ (red wines typically made of a Bordeaux blend in Tuscany) such as Masseto, Ornellaia, Sassicaia (see recent blog post) and Solaia were ripe for decent returns. Traditionalists were a bit put out by these glossy new pretenders turning up on the Italian wine scene with their fancy French grape varieties and lots of marketing but it is fair to say they have helped the overall attention given to Italy and, as a result, the ‘Bs’ are blossoming – namely, Barolo, Barbaresco and, to a lesser extent, Brunello.

Wines from the best producers of Italy’s most venerable regions have been collected by the cognoscenti for years but now their appeal is becoming more widespread. The problems of Bordeaux, following an explosive China-driven period, have been well documented in the last decade and although we are quietly confident on a comeback from the sleeping giant, the smaller top-quality regions have been profiting. The indices for cult Californian (+98%) and beautiful Burgundy (+135%) have both gone berserk in the last five years, whilst Piedmont has gained a more modest 78%, with Tuscany posting +50%.

WO Piedmont 60 Indice

The reason for Burgundy and California’s performance is that old tried and tested wine world fundamental of demand outstripping supply - who knew!?? Both these regions produce tiny quantities in comparison to the number of people looking to access these markets and gain exposure. The complex nature of these regions with tiny vineyards, often co-owned by different families and winemakers, has added to the gloss and mystery, spurring on newcomers to learn more and invest time and money accordingly. More of the written word is more easily accessible to interested folk, and with platforms such as Wine Owners to trade on, the visibility of the product and the liquidity of the commodity has increased.

Grand Nebbiolo from Piedmont is yet to hit the big time, apart from a few, but there are more than rumblings in other names; dedicated collectors and the inquisitive are homing in. It is a Burgundian-like network of vineyards, producers, families and reputations and you need to know what you are doing. Famous names like Conterno, for example, have six listings in my favourite reference book: Aldo, Diego, Fantino, Franco, Giacomo (the big one) and Paolo.

Barolo MGA

Some of the bigger names like Giacomo Conterno famed for his Montfortino vineyard, Giuseppe Rinaldi, famed for Brunate and Tre Tine, Bartolo Mascarello and Gaja are already highly sought after superstars with prices to match but there are a host of others with reputations and demand beginning to swell; Brovia, Cappellano, Fratelli Alessandria, Sandrone, Voerzio and Vietti to name a few.

The ‘Super Tuscans’ of Bolgheri are much simpler to understand, like Bordeaux versus Burgundy, and are produced in larger numbers. The names mentioned earlier are virtually household names (in wine terms!) and are less exciting right now overall. Brunello di Montalcino, made from Sangiovese, is also comparatively easy to piece together in relation to Piedmont. Biondi Santi, Poggio di Sotto, Salvioni and Soldera are the big names with the fancy price tags. The secondary market for Brunello has not yet developed so, for now at least, it is a case of keeping a watchful eye.

There have been some excellent vintages in the last decade or so, attracting fantastic media coverage and battle-weary Bordeaux buyers. Another reason for favouring Italian wines in the current climate is that the U.S. and Germany are the biggest export markets, so unlikely to be affected by any potential fallout from Brexit. Most of all, however, these wines are barely scratching the Asian surface as yet and we all know what happens when that changes!

Italian flag


Why invest in wine? A potted history of the wine investment market part 1 (Feb. 2015)

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2019-03-25


The basic premise for investing in fine wine is a very simple one; you buy a truly great wine that is produced in a finite quantity and store it, carefully. So, whilst others are enjoying/drinking theirs, thereby reducing the supply of that wine, you enjoy the price appreciation that naturally results from the increased rarity value. The growth in global wealth and newly discovered riches help fuel the desire for these wines for added benefit. For example, Chateau Latour 1982 was released in 1983 at c. £400 per case of 12 bottles. That case could today be sold for £16,000, implying an annual growth rate of a little over 12% per annum over the course of its life (and it will continue to be enjoyable for another 50+ years).

So, it is easy then?

First a bit of background.

The investment market is dominated by the red wines of Bordeaux where production levels of top-quality wine far exceeds any other area of note. Other areas which spark interest include the finest wines of Burgundy, Champagne, Tuscany and Piedmont and to a lesser extent some of the trophy wines from the new world.

For decades, centuries even, ‘gentlemen’ have been investing in wine, maybe unintentionally, but certainly filling their cellars with good Bordeaux and Burgundy, Port and Madeira and the like. Auction houses commenced wine sales in England in the middle of the last century and now there are all manner of brokers, merchants, exchanges and on-line auctions in existence. The internet has lent transparency to what was an opaque market, brought an endless flow of information and with it various offerings from a wide range of ‘investment specialists’. Investing in wine has become a more commonplace activity. Very few of these specialists, however, are authorised by the FCA or an equivalent and, thanks to the great bull market of 2005-2011 a proliferation of new companies designed to take advantage of this phenomenon were formed.

Like all markets the wine market continues to evolve although the last decade has proved to be probably the most turbulent period in its history. Previously, wine price performance was generally very steady with long term returns going back to the seventies averaging just over double figures. Once a decade or so, a global crisis would cause a healthy reality check (the oil crisis of ’73, the stock market crash of ’87, the Asian currency crisis of ’97 and the Lehman debacle of ’08, although the latter turned out to be very short lived) and then things would revert to normal.

The great bull run that begun in 2005 was created by exceedingly high and new demand emanating from mainland China. The fast expanding Chinese economy created easy money that flowed through the hands of the relatively experienced Hong Kong based merchants all the way to London, the global centre of secondary market wine trading (the primary markets being located at the point of production). Prices were pushed higher and higher, no one wanted to sell as the value kept on going up, until one day it all stopped.

What had not been appreciated at the time, by either the market or its participants was that this money was not just coming from the newly wealthy and aspirational individual but mainly from officials and employees of state owned enterprises.

Their ostentatious extravagance was legendary – lavish dining in top class restaurants and hotels accompanied by lashings of fine first growth wines, the corporate gifting of wine that oiled the wheels of business and the need to be seen only drinking the very best.

The government had lost control – and that was not going to wash with the incoming new President, Xi Jinping. In mid-2011 all luxury items and their markets were knocked back as the new environment of anti-graft measures were introduced and these measures remain firmly in place today. Having risen c. 260% from ’05 to mid-2011, the Liv-ex 100 index, the leading market indicator, then fell by 36% between mid-2011 and mid-2014. Since then the market has stabilised and in recent weeks has started to appreciate once again. The natural order is returning, and the madness of this extraordinary period has receded, the river of cash from China has dried up and a lot of the new, often dubious, players have been washed up on that river’s banks.

Another major factor that came into play during this period of flux was the stratospheric pricing of two Bordeaux vintages of outstanding quality, 2009 and 2010. Not wishing to miss the party the Bordelais lost their heads; 2009 sold but the market just couldn’t stomach the prices from 2010. Subsequent vintages were not reduced to commercial levels and have also failed to sell.

Some readers will be familiar with en primeur, meaning the first release, which is the first opportunity to purchase wine from the new vintage. In the good old days this was the opportunity to get in on the ground floor and the majority of investors and consumers benefitted. That game is long gone and arguably the market has split between the recent vintages where the release price still influences and the older vintages where the secondary market controls pricing. The market for older wines is, in any case, more compelling as pricing is more logical, there is greater assurance of quality and the dwindling of supply has begun.

Opportunities abound, especially now we are ‘ex-China’. Pricing has never been more competitive and the information available have never been so sophisticated. So, yes, it is easy – if you know what you are doing!


Miles Davis, February 2015


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