by Wine Owners
Posted on 2020-05-20
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.” Charles Dickens.
18th May 2020 kicks off the Bordeaux 2019 en primeur campaign with the release of Chateau Angludet. They’ve partially gone down the amphora route to gain purity. It’s a great success, a very great Angludet, according to a number of merchant emails received today. Those same emails belie one small issue - that the wine has yet to be tasted. A reminder of the impact of Covid-19, the anxieties and emotions over this year’s releases dominated by hope and despair. So we have to take the Bordelais at their word that it’s a great vintage, fresher than 2018, in the same mould as 2016 or 2010. I’m sure producers are excited by what they have in cask or tank or whatever receptacle the juice is in these days. But it’s not unjustified to say that local opinion isn’t always entirely objective. So bring on those Chronopost and UPS samples and let us all taste...
We have to be honest, we’d have much preferred a deferral of the campaign to October after the harvest. We don’t agree that would have caused any issues with other regions’ releases. There is something very strange about releasing a futures campaign whilst so much of our economy is in deep purdah. But the die has been cast and June it is (for the 60-odd releases that the market chooses to focus on).
The choice of timing of the releases is significant. It is quite obvious that, just like the 2008 vintage release, there will have to be a very significant reduction in release prices for 2019 to find a market. Those properties who have tended to use en primeur more as a marketing opportunity than a selling one will have to think about what it means to them: the prospect of a marketing campaign has more or less evaporated. For those properties who expect or need to sell a sizeable percentage of the harvest, only one one of the four marketing ‘P’s matter. It can be the best vintage in the world, it can garner (in the fullness of time) more 100 pointers than any of the last 40 years, but success will boil down to one thing and one thing only: price.
That decision will have ramifications on the whole of the Bordeaux global secondary market. A significant reduction of 30%-40% can ignite interest in the region’s great wines. It can draw in a new generation that has largely ignored the region, or doesn’t see the point of purchasing new releases two years before shipping. It can reward buyers of the last vintages who are under water and likely to remain so. A compromise that shows intent but brings us back to the levels of 2015 will consign Bordeaux to another year in the shallow quicksands of a secondary market lacking direction, fearful of the future, unwilling to commit cash, failing to see the point anymore.
Ah, I hear you say, but the world is awash with cash desperately looking for a home, just as it was post-Lehmann - when the fine wine market benefitted royally. I disagree. We are entering uncharted waters and cash in the bank trumps FOMO, the fear of missing out. Warren Buffet can be wrong sometimes, but not all the time, and moving to an underinvested position does not seem completely crazy.
So let’s say that 2019 is the equal of 2016, increasingly recognised as the greatest classic Bordeaux vintage in a generation. 2019 is likely not its older sibling’s equal (probably, but who knows) but let’s pretend it is for a second. Even on this most optimistic reading of the new vintage, would you rather buy into a vintage that has been tasted, re-tasted, evaluated ad infinitum and has withstood the scrutiny of the entire market, or roll the dice with a vintage that will be narrowly evaluated based on posted samples? Add to that 2016 prices that have barely moved or drifted down, and the comparative case for 2016 is about as strong as it gets.
Bring on June, and a prediction: either the most successful en primeur campaign since 2016 (notwithstanding Covid-19) or a non-event, determined purely by one variable - price.
20th May 2020
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!
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
by Wine Owners
Posted on 2019-04-05
Weather-wise the 2018 growing season was a game of two halves; the first half was excessively wet and was followed by a hot drought through to harvest.
As well as the drought, mildew pressure affected the left bank and Graves, in some cases wiping out 60-80% of the potential crop. The right bank fared better on this front as the clay soils had the upper hand on fighting the drought due to higher levels of water retention.
Merlot was always most likely to be affected by the vintage’s heat, with some properties seeing alcohols rise quickly through fermentation, topping out at 15-16 degrees. Because of this it is assumed that this is a left bank vintage. But merlot came in with the highest alcohols off warmer gravel beds of the left bank than it did on the predominantly cooler clay soils of the right bank.
2018 has produced a singular vintage and one of the most heterogeneous we have tasted en primeur. Estates that tamed the heat, sugar, pHs and tannins resulted in bold expressive wines with massive aging potential, the very best of which may well become legends. Concentration was the word most employed by scribes.
Maybe more than ever, it’s a year where terroir appears to have played a significant part in cutting the grade. However unfair this may seem, the best soils and expositions tended to deliver the best wines and the 1855 classification played out well. As such it’s a year in which Petrus, the First Growths and the best bit of the St. Emilion plateau (Canon, Cheval Blanc, Clos Fourtet) all excelled.
As usual, there were plenty of superlatives being thrown around; Monsieur Tesseron of Pontet Canet claimed “this is clearly the best modern day vintage we have produced, better than ’16 which was better than ’10”. There is little doubt there will be some huge scores from the naturally ebullient.
There are also great disappointments and plenty to avoid. Margaux, Graves and St. Estephe were probably the most inconsistent appellations whilst the others all had their ups and downs.
It’s a hot vintage with big, bold and powerful wines: an absolute joy for some palates but maybe just too much for others. We look forward to the in-bottle tastings but in the meantime let us wait, with bated breath, for the prices!
Top picks by appellation followed by the ‘ones for the notebook’ wines:
St. Estephe: Cos d’Estournel, Montrose, Lafon Rochet
Pauillac: Grand Puy Lacoste, Lafite, Latour, Pedesclaux, Pichon Baron
St. Julien: Branaire Ducru, Gruaud Larose, Lagrange, Leoville Barton, Leoville Las Cases, Talbot
Margaux: Malescot St. Exupery, Margaux, Pavilion Rouge, Rauzan Segla
Graves: Carmes Haut Brion, Clarence de Haut Brion, Domaine de Chevalier, Haut Bailly
St. Emilion: Canon, Cheval Blanc, Clos Fourtet, Petit Cheval, Quinault L’Enclos, Villemaurine
Pomerol: Gazin, Rouget, Petrus, Vieux Chateau Certan
And ‘ones for the notebook’ (good value and/or under the radar): Chantegrive, Chateau de Pez, Croizet-Bages, La Dominique, Lagrange, Langoa Barton, Monbrison, Segla
by Wine Owners
Posted on 2019-04-04
In the same way the media in March was completely dominated by Brexit, so was the wine market. Instead of permanent squabbling and jostling for position, however, the main players in the house of wine commons continued to sit on their hands. Fortunately, there was no squabbling, but U.K. merchants continued to be, unsurprisingly, risk averse; some are just not buying anything for stock currently, so the market has continued to ease. The good news is this easing is a result of apathy rather than volumes of stock hitting the market. There is nothing worse for markets than uncertainty and it feels like we are in the epicentre of that storm right now.
|| 1 Year
|| 5 Year
|| 10 Year
| WO 150 Index
| WO Burgundy Index
| WO Bordeaux Index
| WO California Index
| WO Champagne Index
| WO First Growth Index
The Burgundy Index continues to slide from its Himalayan style peaks, unsurprisingly, but what is really interesting (to me at least!) is the performance of Bordeaux, especially the First Growths. This sub index gained 2.8% in March and is the only one of the indices above to be positive in 2019. Other than the post Brexit referendum and the weak sterling inspired rally of 2016, the First Growths have been in the doldrums for nearly a decade – is this the turning point we wonder? Market commentators have been saying that Burgundy was making First Growths look cheap again for a while now, yet so far there has been little stirring of the sleeping giant.
We have just returned from Bordeaux, having tasted some, but not all, of the 2018 vintage - more on that here separately and soon. A bad outbreak of mildew and a drought later in the growing season led to severely reduced yields in some properties (two thirds in the case of Pontet Canet) which could easily mean some aggressive pricing in some quarters – yes, again!
As usual, les Bordelais were not to be found suffering from modesty or understatement, many to be claiming another incredible success. The heat from the end of July onwards resulted in small, thick skinned berries delivering highly concentrated juice, resulting in well above average alcohol levels. There are few wines coming in at less than 14% alcohol by volume - Mr. Parker must be punching the air! It almost goes without saying but those who managed First floor well, picked in time and maintained acidity have performed the best. At a time when winemakers and consumers are reverting to fresher, more elegant styles the timing of this vintage is somewhat ironic. If Mr. Parker’s influence was still intact we may have been looking at Bordeaux ’18 being declared as the first ever Port vintage outside of Portugal!
Overall the 2018 vintage is patchy although there are undoubtedly some very impressive wines. Some prices may work, most will not, and it could just be that our favourite vintage of modern times, the 2016, is about to be made even more compelling than it already is!
by Wine Owners
Posted on 2019-03-07
February was a relatively quiet month for the wine market. The month started with the Chinese New Year celebrations which meant Asia was quiet and it also contained a European half term break. Sentiment towards Brexit turned, meaning GBP strengthened towards the end of the month, which is never good for the wine market as US$ based bids (U.S. and Asia) automatically adjust downwards. The broad base WO 150 index fell by 2.4%, as did our Blue Chip Burgundy index. In fact, all the indices for the major wine producing regions came off by c.3%.
If recent discussions with the finance and new venture folk surrounding wine as an alternative asset class were anything to go by, this is beginning to look like a good time to buy. Following the Brexit inspired rise of USD and Euro against GBP in 2016, the Bordeaux market has done nothing for almost a decade. ‘Bordeaux bashing’ peaked years ago too - just resentful shrugging goes on these days! En primeur looms but is largely a dead duck, so that is unlikely to provide stimulus to the market but a wall of money certainly might do the trick… watch this space!
We were busy trading 2009 red Bordeaux following various reports published after ‘ten year on tastings’. We blogged about these in general and focussed on one wine separately, Cos d’Estournel. We concluded that, as it continues to split opinion, and received some pretty low scores (93 from Jane Anson of Decanter for example), coupled with challenging price levels why take the risk when there are so many less controversial and comparatively cheaper wines available? There are many names still available on the exchange, from the excellent Cantemerle at c.£300 to Haut Brion and Mouton Rothschild at the cheapest in the market prices.
If you’re looking for decent ‘drinking’ claret buying en primeur made very little sense even back in 2009 which blew apart every previous record ever held for wine sales, anywhere on the planet. Factoring in the cost of storage and capital and the effect of inflation, the very respectable names of Cantemerle, Capbern Gasqueton, Haut Bergey, Lafon Rochet, Ormes de Pez and Potensac are all better value today than they were then! All these names are available on the platform today.
Sassicaia was in focus with the release of the much admired 2016 vintage, Monica Larner of the Wine Advocate awarding the full 100 points and meaning Armit, the UK agent sold out in seconds.
Screaming Eagle ’16 was released and is now offered at £7,250 per 3 bottles in the U.K. market. Not altogether surprisingly, this is making some older vintages looking relatively cheap! The ’17 will not be sold under the usual label due to smoke taint from the Californian wildfires.
And finally, we learnt the sad news that Gianfranco Soldera passed away in the middle of the month. We are planning to honour the magician of Montalcino with a memorial dinner later in the year, possibly in May.
by Wine Owners
Posted on 2019-02-07
The broad-based WO 150 Index was flat for the month, as were nearly all the indices. The only real note of interest was the Burgundy Index, dropping by 0.7%. As you can see from the graph below it has been the stellar performer amongst the great wine producing regions of the world. It’s far too early to start calling a general cooling off period but as I have been arguing here it feels right to top slice some of the better performing names and start looking for some laggards.
The numbers in the box below are performance numbers over a five-year period, so all very respectable but nothing comes close to Burgundy. The consistency and lack of volatility must surely be a thing of beauty to the investor and connoisseur alike?
January is a busy month in the wine world when the latest Burgundy vintage is sold ‘en primeur’. 2017 was a decent vintage (See WO Blog) and has sold through pretty well given another year of testing prices.
The ‘Southwold group’ met in January to review the now in bottle Bordeaux 2015 vintage and there are two excellent reports on the three day session to be found on Vinolent.net and FarrVintners.com. In brief summary, ’15 is maybe not quite the excellent vintage that was first pronounced, certainly when judged by ‘English’ palates but still pretty damn good with some show stoppers therein. At the end of the Farr report there is an interesting table of recent vintages in order of perceived quality.
Here at Wine Owners we are betting more heavily on the ’16 vintage (not yet included in the Farr report) which we believe will move very close to the top of the leader board. Messrs Martin and Galloni of Vinous Media have recently reviewed the 16s in bottle and are waxing lyrical. Our very own meteorology and Bordeaux expert called the ’16 vintage some time back - pre the en primeur tastings even! All subsequent tastings and encounters of the vintage have confirmed our views and we are confident enough to shout BUY. What and when is a much more interesting question - so please get in touch to hear our thoughts.
by Wine Owners
Posted on 2017-11-28
Although wine markets have generally appeared not to correlate with the global economy over the last decade, we would not be surprised if this has changed from 2016 onwards and for the next 5-10 years.
Look back in time to the recession of the early 1990s, the Asian Crisis of 1997, the dotcom bust following Y2K, and the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 2003; and you will see that all these events that negatively affected global sentiment and equity markets also affected the fine wine market.
Go back further to the oil crisis of the 1970s, and wine plunged then too. But that was a different epoch.
Whilst the fine wine market has further globalized and broadened since the mid 2000s, people are still people: with the same human response to economic positives and negatives; that in turn reflects in levels of investment, spending and so on.
The fact that this is a discussion at all is down to the banking crisis and what happened in the period 2009-2015. Initially as stock markets tanked, the wine market rose, then rocketed in line with commodities and safe haven assets such as gold bullion.
But it was counter-intuitive. The response of the Bordelais in April 2009 was rational, to cut release prices to levels not seen for several years.
This was largely due a discontinuous, one-off event, namely China’s rapid industrialization, and what that did to commodity prices. In our opinion this does not mean that fine wine correlates with commodities. Or gold. As variously has been posited. You could just as easily correlate corruption, grafting and the adoption of fine wine as an alternative store of value for various indirect purposes within China during that period.
Wine is not a commodity. It happens to be one of the most commodity-like luxury collectibles, but that is not the same thing.
Wine is not a safe haven asset like gold bullion. When the world goes south wine warehouses do not fill up.
The basic question is whether wine is a hedge against the economic cycle? Historically it wasn’t. Recently it appeared to be but discontinuities are just that, so it’s not a reliable period upon which to form an opinion. Is the broader base upon which we now sit a game changer, where the laws of supply and demand, and the effect upon that of greater consumption, take over?
Scarcity has relentlessly driven Burgundy and cult Californians to new undreamt of heights, with top Baroli in hot pursuit. Will relative scarcity do the same for Bordeaux, or has the global base broadened at the same time as traditional markets, USA included, have shrunk?
And irrespective of all of the above, will the market continue to punish excessive pricing when things get out of hand?
FINE WINE PREDICTIONS 2018 - get your free report
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…
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.