by Wine Owners
Posted on 2017-01-06
With the highly touted 2015 Burgundy campaign upon us, we can be sure of two things: it is a superb vintage, and prices will rise.
Let’s be honest, Burgundy is for wine lovers. Although we may have more Bordeaux in our cellars - steady, consistent, blended excellence - it is fickle, flirtatious Burgundy which steals our hearts. And the whole world is now falling in love with Burgundy, courting the tiny quantities and ready to take our place in the queue.
The pure, ripe fruit of the 2015s will tempt early drinking, but if we want to experience the extraordinary range of flavours, textures and sensations that fine burgundy can produce, we must be prepared to wait. Or to seek out mature wines from great producers in other vintages. Remember, in Burgundy more than anywhere, it is the producer who matters more than the vineyard or the year.
So rather than bet the whole house on the latest vintage, now might be the time to review the Burgundies that your fellow collectors have offered for sale on the fine wine exchange.
There is a dazzling range of beautiful wines available, from the most humble appellations to the greatest of Grand Crus. Some are for drinking now, others for keeping for the future, whatever that may bring. Some are in bond and some are duty paid, but DP prices are never more than their In Bond case equivalents and there is no VAT for exchange buyers. All were bought when the pound was much stronger and prices were lower. Prices of Burgundy’s back vintages may never be this low again.
So where would you start?
Chardonnay is arguably easier to enjoy across the board in youth than Pinot Noir. 2014 whites have greater precision and zest than their 2015 counterparts and it is probably the best vintage since 2001. 2014s are only just starting to appear as offers for sale on the secondary market and they are unquestionably worth having in any cellar.
As long as yields of this naturally exuberant varietal are constrained, there is plenty to pick from: 2013, 2012, 2010, 2007 were all very good, whilst there are some terrific 2006s with nerve and energy, in contrast to lush and giving 2008s. Very late malolactic fermentations in 2001 lent plenty of substance to the best wines; they had longer to feed off their nourishing lees. When looking at 2005 and earlier fears of premature oxidation (premox) have really hurt the market. But there are still old bones that are simply thrilling.
Looking to red Burgundy, consider 2005 - considered one of the great vintages and should make fine old bones, but there's tannins aplenty, some more puckering than others depending on extraction, that suggests another 10-20 years will be required. Indeed they may be drinking in the same window as 2015 or later!
Consider 2010, a vintage with the nerve and intensity of 2008 married to the flesh of a vintage like 1995.
If you want to buy into a vintage that was overlooked when released but that has evolved into one of the most exciting we’ve tasted look to 2002, a lesson if ever there was one in how pinot noir loves luminosity more than heat. These are wines with fine intensity and great purity.
Talking of which, if you’re a classicist and enjoy form over flattery, 2001 is starting to climb the upward slope of maturity with wines that are sappy and crystalline but may have yet to reach their peaks.
The truly great 1999s are lusciously fleshy, sweetly spiced and dense, but at the same time so coiled, that most Grand Crus will surely need another 5-10 years. Many premier crus and village wine are gorgeous now.
2012 is a successful recent vintage that had really low yields (a very good thing for Pinot Noir) but will be cheaper than 2015. Producers love 2012 thanks to their fabulous balance and flattering ripe fruit, which nonetheless blankets an underlying structure for mid term appreciation.
The top tips for 2015s (whatever we say, we know you’ll want to buy some!) are that the lesser appellations, cooler climates and colder soils will excel. You don't need to stretch to the top of the tree to find great Pinot Noir in 2015 to drink over the next 15 years, which is great news for Burgundy lovers and something to be thankful for in a very expensive vintage.
Buying back vintages vs new releases
Other than exceptionally hard to find Grand Crus and Holy Grail producers’ best wines – that you’re either allocated or you’re not – it’s worth looking to premier crus from producers with good reputations for quality and value-hunting.
Take Beaune Grèves L’Enfant Jésus from Bouchard Père et Fils. Whilst back vintages were much cheaper at release than they are today, there isn’t much between the release price of 2015 or any number of superb back vintages.
As the chart below shows, the superb 1999 vintage is still cheaper today than the release price of 2015, the equally acclaimed 2010 is the same price, but you can drink it in 10 years instead of having to wait until the 2030s for the 2015; and only the 2005 and 2002 are a little more expensive – but not hideously so.
by Wine Owners
Posted on 2016-12-13
2015 is the best Northern Rhone vintage in 55 years, according to this article on JancisRobinson.com. That’s some statement given the quality of vintages over the last 15 years or so, including the superb 1999, which at the top end is just coming into its drinking window.
Great though 2015 is, it isn’t going to satisfy drinking requirements in the short term, even at more modest levels, whereas my bottle of Chave Offerus (St. Joseph) 1999 is melt-in-the-mouth gorgeous now.
Outside of the Rhone elite and their blue chip labels that can appreciate markedly in value over the medium-to-longer term, along with some of the region’s special cuvees and bottlings, these are not wines to use as a store of value. They do not appreciate in value. They are wines to enjoy. But they need time to come around. As impressive as new vintages are, they express in youth only a general sense of the wine they will become.
In our estimation these are wines that are depressingly under-appreciated. As you’d expect from such a large region of production, styles vary enormously. They variously show varietal character, complexity, precision, texture, and depth of flavour with more than just a touch of minerality.
If you’ve not tasted mature white Rhone recently, you could well find the waxy texture, floral and white peach character refreshingly braided with acidity an exciting experience. For the quality and complexity these great wines offer, many are cheap. Not a word I use lightly, but they really are terrific value and hold their own in the company of any of the world’s great whites.
Though it’s tempting to buy into great new releases, and potentially worthwhile at the top of the tree, there’s no kudos in hanging onto cases of wine and paying a decade or two’s worth of storage, when you can drink the real thing without playing stockholder.
There really is something for everyone.
View Rhone offers on the exchange
by Wine Owners
Posted on 2016-11-09
Is wine an effective safe haven?
With markets braced for a correction following a Trump victory, in anticipation of a more protectionist United States and slower global growth, will wine continue to do a good job of preserving and being a sound store of value?
The fine wine market is up well over 24% this year, building on last year's single digit rises and is currently seeing very strong levels of trading activity as more and more private individuals with discretionary wealth seek to diversify and enjoy the fruits of their hard-earned cash.
Scarcity driven markets such as Burgundy, Northern Italy and California have seen consecutive annual rises in each of the last 10 years that we’ve tracked the market. Burgundy is up 327% over that period.
Liquidity driven markets, principally Bordeaux, has gone through its correction following the Chinese-inspired bubble of 2009-2011, and secondary market sentiment is once again positive.
Collectors who have bought fine wine in the UK are at a particular advantage thanks to the devaluation of Sterling. The very large body of fine wine stored in the UK - estimated at £6bn - ensures that secondary market prices in the UK are favourable.
Whether you are looking to sell or build, wine increasingly looks like a safe bet in an increasingly uncertain world.
To discuss your next step, contact us now or call us on +44 (0)20 7278 4377.
by Wine Owners
Posted on 2016-10-24
Market context and performance since June 24th
Serving as a general fine wine market tracker, the WO 150 gained 6% in the year to June (6.5% in the previous 12 months) but is now up 19.8% YTD.
Focusing on the all-important Bordeaux market, the world’s single largest region of fine wine production, the WO First Growth Index was up 8.7% year to date on 24th June, but is now up 23%.
As regards Bordeaux Firsts, this performance is on the back of 4 years of decline, following the bursting of a Chinese-inspired bubble in late 2011. The market in these blue chip Bordeaux bottomed in Q3 of 2015, and has soared since. Chateau Latour, released at £11,400 per case of 12 bottles, is now back within £100 per bottle of that release price.
The rest of the Bordeaux market had tested its lows the previous year, and so its performance year to June 2016 was a slightly higher 10.25%, reflecting the additional momentum gathered over the previous 18 months. Looking at all classified growths, the market is now up 22.5% YTD.
Whereas Bordeaux is a market driven by liquidity and large production volumes, scarcity-driven markets such as Burgundy, Piedmont and cult Californians, have enjoyed a long-term run stretching back 20+ years, and these wine markets have not suffered the roller coaster ride of Bordeaux.
The WO Northern Italy index is up 171% over the last 10 years, the WO Blue Chip Burgundy Index is up 311% over the same period, and the WO California index is up a whopping 427%.
What’s going to be the effect on new releases?
New releases are already more expensive to buy due to the pound buying less euros or dollars.
Brexit will cause new releases of two sought after vintages (Burgundy 2015 and Bordeaux 2016) to rise by 30%+, caused by producer increases of, say, around 10% compounded by the 20% effect of devaluation.
First in line: the impending 2015 Burgundies are due for UK release as futures in January 2017. With a compromised 2016 vintage assuring small production volumes, 2015s from some addresses will rocket to compensate for next years’ lower production.
Bordeaux will follow in April 2017.
Given the UK’s preeminent role in global fine wine trading, Brexit has turbo-charged market performance, and given the relatively recent recovery of Bordeaux markets a boost after a prolonged period of decline.
As the pound falls, assuming a rising fine wine market (key as it means there's strong global demand), the price of secondary market wines will rise since they are cheaper to buy for buyers holding currencies such as HKD or dollars.
This increases the value of collectors' current stock since the market is global. London is still one of the most important global trading hubs for fine wine, if not the most important.
Could price rises kill demand?
Because top burgundy from the best producers can double after first release it is unlikely to dampen initial demand – by much. And if it does there’s always the USA, Japan and other markets that’ll mop up the relatively small volumes.
Secondary market prices of older vintages may rise, pulled up by the higher new release prices. But as they rise, the number of potential secondary market buyers may decrease, causing these scarcity driven markets to become less liquid. As a result, it may take longer to sell your wines at these higher prices. The moral of the story is that scarcity driven markets are not for the impatient seller who needs cash tomorrow. These are better seen as long-term holds.
Bordeaux prices of the new vintage (2016) will also rise when they are released next year. Whether the UK Market chooses to buy or sits this one out remains to be seen.
However, the USA is more or less certain to be buying these futures aided by vintage character of ripe, powerful wines from a hot summer that will suit their palates.
As a consequence, enduring weakness of the pound will place further upward pressure on back vintages.
We predict that recent back vintages will increase sooner than is normally the case (1-2 years instead of the more common 5-7 years), as top Bordeaux producers are becoming principal stockholders in an attempt to capture more of the downstream value of their wines and increase the value of their balance sheet assets.
by Wine Owners
Posted on 2016-09-30
We are currently in the midst of a renaissance in both interest and prices in a little known wine growing corner of France called Bordeaux. Having languished in the doldrums since mid-2011 the last 12 months has seen a resurgence of the pre-eminent fine wine producing region. Although still way short of the peaks of May 2011, prices are steadily rising, and a stellar 2015 vintage has breathed life into a moribund en primeur system. It is still some way from leaving the hospital, but at least ‘La Place’ is now out of intensive care. You may have noticed that our introduction to a piece purportedly about Piedmont has focused squarely on Bordeaux. There is a design behind this geographical madness, we assure you.
As Bordeaux has once again become flavour of the month (year?) it seems that Super-Tuscans have suffered by comparison. This is, of course, the equal and opposite reaction to the increase in interest in Super-Tuscans in the period mid-2011 to December 2014, when Tig, Sass, Masseto et al moved ahead in pricing terms as Bordeaux buyers looked for high quality wines in sufficient quantities, and with sufficient liquidity, to adequately substitute in…
(Again, where is Piedmont is all this?)
Bear with us.
The point here is that Bordeaux and Tuscany appear to have a pricing relationship based on the similarity of styles, and a similarity of production levels. They are yin and yang, and if the focus is on Bordeaux, then logically it follows there is an absence of focus on Tuscany.
So, the scene is set; now on to Piedmont. Where the Super-Tuscans are Johnny come latelies, deliberately combining the traditional virtues of Sangiovese with alien plantings like Cab Sav, Merlot and Cab Franc, the best wines of Piedmont – and we're thinking, naturally, of Barolo in particular – are a bastion of hundreds of years of mono-varietal wine making, where Nebbiolo is revered as King to the exclusion of all others. Many wine lovers would agree that the best wines of Barolo, from producers such as Conterno, Rinaldi, Giacosa et al, are a match for anything made in France in terms of complexity, balance, ageing potential and sheer quality. If, as seems to be the case, Tuscan wines are perceived as an alternative to Bordeaux, then it stands to reason Piedmont is a natural counterpoint to Burgundy. Single dominant varietal? Check. Small average production levels per producer? Check. Passionate following by hardcore wine lovers? Check. Both regions have even undergone similar improvements in quality control, with Burgundy improving through the 80s and Barolo a little later, through the 90s. But…stratospherically high prices for the best producers? We're afraid the comparison falls down on this point.
Even the best producers in Barolo can be bought for a fraction of the prices paid for DRC, Leroy, Rousseau or Roumier. Certainly they aren’t cheap, but the huge increases in values that have been seen in the Bourgogne haven’t been replicated in Barolo. But things might be beginning to change. Interest in a broader array of regions by increasingly well-educated global wine buyers has opened doors into markets that didn’t exist a decade ago. Slowly, but with gradually increasing speed, these top Piedmont wines are attracting attention, and if (as many commentators believe) Burgundy prices may beginning to slow, plateau or even fall, then there is every chance that the relationship between Tuscany and Bordeaux may be mirrored by the Burgundy and Piedmont regions. Long term buyers of Burgundy, looking for value, could well switch attention to new areas, and thereby reduce exposure to Burgundy. Piedmont could well be the major beneficiary of any such move…
by Wine Owners
Posted on 2016-09-12
The WO First Growth Index showed price appreciation over the last 12 months pushed through the 20% threshold last week.
Haut Brion’s emergence as a wine that can now rivals its peers in the secondary market is clear, with 4 vintages in the top 10 movers, namely 2000, 2003, 2006 and 2008. Will we see Haut Brion close the gap where historically it would have sold at a discount to the other Firsts? The data seems to support the likelihood of this happening.
The top 10 movers have risen 23%-32% in the last year. Furthermore there has been just one faller out of the 75 constituents of the WO First Growth Index, namely Latour 2005.
Top 10 movers over the last 12 months
For the first time in years, we see a wine from the twin peaks of 2009 and 2010 in the top 10 movers, in the shape of the exceptional Margaux 2010. Scores from Robert Parker, Neal Martin and Stephen Tanzer oscillate in the 96-99 range, but the market is indicating it thinks that this could be a perfect wine. It’s now caught up with Haut Brion and Lafite at circa £540 per bottle.
Latour’s withdrawal from the en primeur business looks like paying dividends. Although the 2010’s value is far out in front of the field at £845 a bottle, it’s still not broken through it’s retail en primeur opening offer price of £950. Nevertheless it has performed well through the worst of the Bordeaux market’s 3-4 year slide, losing just 26% of its value by November 2015 before recovering, quite a decent performance compared with Lafite considering their similarly high release prices.
Can the Firsts continue this powerful recovery? Can they recapture the heights of their 2009 and 2010 release prices? If, so which will be the first ‘First’ to do so?
Least likely is Lafite, whose 2010 release price of £983 per bottle reflects a moment in time when Lafite was practically a Chinese barter currency, not to mention the 2009’s vertiginous release of £1,000. In each case there is a loss per per bottle of £440 versus en primeur retail.
Most likely to get back to even terms, in order of proximity of current market price vs opening retail offer price, is:
Haut Brion 2010
Confidence has returned and momentum is driving the market forward. If and when the current price of the above 4 wines exceeds their opening prices, and buyers of 2009 and 2010 First Growths no longer see a sea of red loss/gain percentages in their portfolios, confidence will be given a further boost.
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 2016-07-21
The past few weeks have seen significant movements and activity within the fine wine market, with the closure of the En Primeur campaigns and the devaluation of sterling kicking the market 4-5% higher.
Whether this situation lasts following the surge remains to be seen, but combined with the upward movement of the market in the preceding few months, and 21 months of increasingly solid gains in the Bordeaux market, it makes for an interesting period.
We've put together our updated set of Fine Wine Predictions for the second half of 2016, including thoughts on the impact of Brexit, tips for collectors, and analysis of buying trends in the market.
We hope you enjoy reading the report, and would love to hear from you if you have any questions, are looking for specific guidance, or want to join the conversation.
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by Wine Owners
Posted on 2016-06-10
There’s a clear division between 2015 En Primeur releases before Vinexpo Hong Hong and those that have been announced since. It begs the question, why?
It's not just that the bigger Chateaux are the ones releasing later. After all, many important names had released well beforehand.
The answer is what happened whilst the producers were in Hong Kong.
We understand that producers were taken aback by the demand they experienced this year at Vinexpo, and they boarded the flight home with bulging order books.
For every producer who wants to sell the new wines through En Primeur and recognises the importance of providing a future upside for buyers of non-physical stock, there are others who see a new opportunity within the changing global fine wine market.
Bernard Magrez was full of the joys of spring at Vinexpo Hong Kong, confirming he had sold out of his impressive Chateau Pape Clement in 40 minutes.
He was refreshing in his analysis, saying that he knew he’d left money on the table for the merchant and En Primeur buyer, which he saw as a positive for the property’s burgeoning reputation. Surely if you’re going to be part of En Primeur that’s the way to do it: body and soul.
Many others however have been eyeing life after En Primeur for some time, but have held back from backing one horse or another by the generally morose market conditions. With green shoots appearing over the last 12 months, few were in the mood to risk seeing them wither.
But what they experienced at Vinexpo may have shifted the balance further away from genuine, tangible broad-based support for En Primeur.
The Chateaux owners were surprised by the jump in orders experienced for their back vintages. There was a realisation that the wine market in China was coming back after 4 years of austerity and Party approbation.
The politics seem to be loosening up a touch, the consumer is spending again and contributing strongly to GDP growth, imports of luxury goods are steady (and proportionately performing better than exports).
Not that the Chinese buy En Primeur, there’s still almost no market there for it there, but with physical stocks in Bordeaux being soaked up by a sharp uptick in demand, it’s hardly surprising many producers are choosing to hold onto significantly more of the new vintage, so that they can serve the Asian market further down the line.
What a relief it must be to see all those accumulated bottles sell.
If it’s all heading towards producers being the stockholders and focusing on selling back vintages at premium prices, the one thing I’d say to them is, don't confuse the issue by using the En Primeur system as purely a promotional opportunity in the marketing calendar to get press and attention, if you don't care so much if any actually sells. It creates mixed messages.
I am super-impressed by what Palmer are doing in terms of developing sales channels worldwide, focusing on selling physical stock, staging stunning auctions through their negociant shareholder, creating a brand to rival the Firsts - but the En Primeur thing just muddies the water and undermines the brilliance of everything else.
If the recent Sotheby’s auction of Chateau Palmer in Hong Kong points the way to selling En Primeur by the barrel to high rollers with privileged access thrown in, I would surely go down that route as a producer too. The equivalent of £10,800 per 9 litres (12x75cl) before seller commission is simply amazing if you can get it.
“Chapeau”. I raise my hat to the Chateaux who go the full-on brand-building route and do it this well - but why risk the negative sentiment and comments that a perceptually very high En Primeur release price creates? There are simply too many foreseeable consequences: negative comments (mea culpa); anxious merchant emails to clients warning them off; negociants dropping prices during the course of the same day the release happens in a mildly desperate attempt not to be left with expensive stock that might/ will have to be written down; and static or lower secondary market prices that will make consumer buyers feel negative about the brand due to being under water ‘x’ years down the line.
With Asian appetite for Bordeaux on the rise once again, the moment may have arrived when more and more producers will respond to the shift in demand for primary market releases of back vintages by backing the new horse. It’s a complicated decision with a brew of old allegiances, dependent market structures, local friends, brand building, rising land values and a changing global market. Watch this space.
by Wine Owners
Posted on 2016-06-08
Remember spring 2011. In Bordeaux there was an early April heatwave, that added to the feel-good factor felt by producers and merchants alike. All agreed, this was a golden age for Bordeaux.
The wealthy were getting wealthier, raiding the post–Lehmann EU Agricultural Support Fund, citing 'agriculture' status so that they could construct new chais. It seemed taking the piss had become institutionalized.
By the late summer, barely 4 months after that balmy spring, it was over. The bubble had burst, but not before the world and his wife had piled into overpriced Classed Growths.
Fast forward 5 years, and the negative market sentiment created by those purchases by traditional and new En Primeur buyers has all but dissipated. The good news is those who were deeply under water on the back of 2009 and 2010 purchases are now in the shallows and feeling rather more positive about their purchases and their outlook.
This has been helped by the fact – there, I said it, by the FACT - that there hasn’t been a vintage to touch those two monumental years since. Not 2011 and 2013 of course, neither 2012 nor 2014, and surely not 2015 either. To be a great vintage Bordeaux needs to be uniformly wonderful across its communes, and 2015 was far from uniform. It’s a very good vintage overall, but not a great one. It will not join the pantheon.
The prime reason why Bordeaux suffered so badly over the period 2011-2014 was negative sentiment, and nothing fuels negative feelings like losing money on paper.
It is for that reason 2015 may well prove to be a watershed in the history of En Primeur.
Many Chateaux released at realistic prices that made their wines sensible buys – wines like Pape Clément, Rauzan-Segla and Canon, Leoville Barton, Pontet Canet, even Lafleur and Tertre-Rotebouef.
More Chateaux than not released too high. What do we mean by “too high”? After all, it’s a relative term. Our definition of too high is a price that will prove not to give a discount against future market value or which could end up having been more expensive than the future discounted secondary market value in 2-5 years’ time.
In the last few days, a few Chateaux have pushed the boundaries of credulity, releasing wines at such a high price that there is 90%-99% downside attached to buying early.
Wines such as Pichon Baron, Lynch-Bages and Palmer. As the graphs show, none offer much by way of upside and plenty of downside risk.
None of this matters to the informed, rational fine wine buyer. They simply need to say ‘no thanks’ and move on, selecting affordable back-vintages to enjoy, lay down for future drinking, or to use as a store of value.
What does matter is when less well-informed buyers are badly advised and sold into the vintage’s more expensive releases, only to find out a few years down the line that the wine has fallen in value, those losses further exacerbated by broker commissions. If you end up with enough buyers “under water” goodwill built up painstakingly over time evaporates.
In this campaign some merchants are saying things like:
Qualitatively, 2015 has been compared to previous greats of this century - 2010, 2009, 2005 and 2000 – when looking at price compared to these greats, the wines of 2015 have broadly represented good value with most estates benchmarking against these years and releasing at lower prices – which is quite refreshing.
Not only is the premise wrong, it encourages irrational buying behavior based on unrealistic expectations and stores up future negative sentiment.
This is a shame, for Bordeaux has the greatest, largest single body of wine in the world to offer. The greatest expressions should bring the greatest joy, not deliver disappointment.