by Wine Owners
Posted on 2021-07-11
Will Cheval Blanc and Ausone no longer be Grand Cru Classé ‘A’ as from the 2021 vintage?
If so, it won’t be because of the Commission de Classement. The closing of the Saint-Emilion classification applications took place on June 30 and neither Cheval Blanc nor Ausone returned their copies.
Unlike the left bank classification system of 1855 that is pretty much immutable (with the exception of Mouton’s promotion to Premier Cru in 1973), the St Emilion classification is reviewed approximately once every 10 years, permitting a periodic revaluation of quality and performance. It’s not all been plain sailing; the 2006 reclassification was plagued by accusations of impropriety and was eventually annulled. Consequently, tastings conducted for the 2012 reclassification were outsourced to independent groups from across France to rehabilitate the process.
Cheval Blanc and Ausone, the first St Emilion producers to be awarded Classé A classification in 1954 when it was created, are effectively leaving the classification system.
The Classé A incumbents evidently concluded that the system is no longer sufficiently discriminating to reflect the ranking of their respective properties compared to their peers.
This bombshell threatens to undermine the kudos and financial benefits of promotion to Classé A, and in turn the market pricing potential of those that are elevated. Not to mention it raises questions of the credibility of the St Emilion classification system more broadly.
So what does the two colossus’s departure say about the process of decennial review? How does this reflect on the composition and process of the Commission de Classement?
Is Grand Cru Classé A about to lose its lustre; devalued by ambitious properties busy erecting glitzy edifices? Concrete and stone, some say, matter more than they ought to compared to the brilliance of the wines and their track record.
Or, is Classé A promotion a reflection of the qualitative transformation we see taking place in St Emilion - given the strongly weighted preconditions of a sustained track record of exceptional results and market recognition - and therefore are not elevations thoroughly deserved?
Let’s see what happens over the coming weeks. Can Cheval Blanc and Ausone be courted back into the fold, or is their departure (by omission of submission) a fait accompli? Assuming the latter, perhaps we'll see more promotions next year than we might have otherwise. What effect this all has economically on those producers who attain Classé A classification is now more uncertain than ever.
by Wine Owners
Posted on 2021-06-30
As mentioned in our recent and well received offer of the incredibly well priced Montepeloso Eneo 2010 (there are a few left), we promised a closer look into the relative value of Italian wines. I know I have been banging on about Italy for quite a while now but there is every reason for it – there is some terrific value to be had, and so on will I bang!
The facts are that there are only a handful of Italian wines that trade at, what we are going to call here, ‘silly money’ compared to vast swathes of wines from their rather posher neighbour - namely La Belle France. It is true that the same can be said for Spain, and for most of the New World. The U.S. is an exception, as like France, it has many an offering at ‘silly money’. But for my pound, I say sweepingly, these regions do not offer such a vast variety of quality wines that appeal in quite the same way (I should qualify at this point I am really talking about top quality red wines).
What Italy offers, unlike everywhere else, is a multitude of wines at relatively affordable prices with absolutely massive ratings. There are two variables here, the prices and the ratings; the simplest explanation for the comparatively lower pricing is that Italian wines have not yet been recognised, and accordingly priced, as truly international brands. Put another way, Asia has not got to grips with it yet. Other than a few ‘Super Tuscans’ and the top labels from the likes of Giacomo Conterno, Bruno Giacosa and Gaja from Piedmont, very little starts life close to £100 a bottle. There have been half a dozen EP releases every day last week from Bordeaux that qualify for that prize! In Burgundy a hefty percentage of premier crus start there and for some more sought-after growers, your £100 only buys you a taste of a lowly village wine.
The ratings are, rather obviously, dished out by the critics. It is worth remembering that each region is scored on its merits in a peer group fashion. The wines, as are the vintages, are reviewed in the context of that individual region or vintage. What has happened, however, is that tones have been set for different areas which do seem to vary from each other. Burgundy, for example, tends to harbour rather conservative scoring where anything over 95 is a massive achievement. Prices for these trophies are also massive. It is different in Italy. There are countless Brunelli with huge scores and even people in the trade ask, ‘how come there are so many 100 pointers we’ve never heard of’?
A possible explanation is that the bar has been set so high, and for so long, by the likes of DRC and Rousseau that a mere premier cru from someone like Dujac or Roumier is only worthy of 90/91 points. So, perhaps a cleaner canvas for the critics to assess has led to some more generous brushstrokes? Or perhaps it is a more generational thing; France has long been understood, consumed, and pontificated upon by the old guard, who might not quite understand the Italian way? An old friend of mine, an experienced wine merchant recently said to me “I don’t really get Italian wine” (Burgundy and Sauternes are more his bag!) and then confused me further by saying “except I couldn’t possibly eat Italian food without Italian wine”. I understand exactly what he means with the latter statement (but not the first), and this goes from pizza level all the way to Piazza Duomo, a three star Michelin in Alba – quite good by the way! Either way, some of the scores in recent times and particularly for the amazing ’16 vintage, in all of Italy, and the ’15 vintage in Tuscany, have drawn truly flamboyant landscapes from the young masters – and for not many Lira either!
The other thing to remember is that the critics live and die by their reputations, so if they are going to award high nineties or even the magical triple digits, you know the wines are going to be very good indeed – within the context of their peer group.
Obviously, we would love to hear from you to discuss the opportunities further and there will be offers to follow based on this theme. In the meantime, you may want to engage with the ‘Advanced Search’ button or take in some of these names which spring to mind:
Piedmont: Alessandria, Cavallotto, Grasso, Sandrone, Scavino, Vajra
Tuscany: Fontodi, Fuligni, Grattamacco, Il Poggione, Isole e Olena, Pertimali, Montepeloso
Ciao for now! Miles 07798 732 543
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Luke MacWilliam, December 2020
Banner Image: http://www.domainedechevalier.com
by Wine Owners
Posted on 2020-12-09
Miles Davis, Wine Owners December 2020
As we head into the final phase of this extraordinary year, the world of wine investment is a calm and beautiful little side water, gently ebbing and flowing with that serene feeling it knows where it is going.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. You cannot even hold, let alone drink, a bitcoin, a share, a derivative, an option or a future and a bottle feels good, especially in lockdown!
Demand from Asia has increased and merchants trading the big names have been pleased with activity levels in recent weeks. There is almost a feeling there is an element of restocking going on after a quieter than usual period (in Asia) over the preceding months. This has happened in a period when the currency has gone against dollar buyers, although only marginally. Buying is very specific but certain names have moved up considerably since the middle of the year, Mouton ’09 and ’10, for example, are both up c.10%, the controversial ’03 c.14%. There does not appear to be any thematic buying, however, so it is not possible to call a vintage, or a certain Chateau or producer. Keep looking for the relative value is my suggestion and do not forget to make use of the useful tools we provide. See below for an example (if anyone would like a demo on how to use this, please ask):
In Burgundy, especially in the trophy sector, if it is not in its original packaging it is not going anywhere and vice versa. We have seen big ticket items in Leroy and Cathiard sell well recently. Provenance is key and is proving valuable.
Piedmont, Super Tuscans and Champagne remain firm, as does my conviction as areas for further purchasing.
We have had a lot of demand for Penfolds products; whether that continues given the newly slapped Chinese tax on Aussie wine imports will be interesting to observe but, in the meantime, we have plenty of two-way activity.
Personally, I have never been able to compute the prices of some of the ‘Cult Californian’ wines but, in fairness, I have rarely tasted them. Not so for that wonderful producer that is Ridge; the wines are lovely and the prices reasonable, in normal fine wine language, and a total give away compared to some of the ‘cult’ counterparts. We have offers of the flagship, Monte Bello, on the platform of the ’10, ’13 and ’17 that I would happily recommend, to anyone!
We have been busy at Wine Owners, with a lot more trades going through, spread amongst an ever-increasing group of followers. We are at record levels of new subscribers and have £300k of fresh offers in the last week alone. Notwithstanding the difficulties of some warehouse operations presented, our back office is working well, and our post trade analytics improve all the time.
On that bullish note, the team and I would like to thank everyone for their ongoing support. For those who have not yet fully engaged, we look forward to welcoming you soon.
Have a very happy Christmas, a wonderful new year, and drink as well as you can!
Miles Davis, 8th December 2020
by Wine Owners
Posted on 2020-11-23
Krug is, surely, a Champagne that needs no introduction.
In all likelihood it is the first name to enter one’s head when considering the top names in the prestige Champagne bracket. It was the first thing I sought out on receipt of my first proper bonus! There are others obviously but Krug has carved itself a special niche of its own.
Krug, founded in 1843 produce a range of different cuvées ranging from the Grande Cuvée for everyday drinking (!) to the Clos d’Ambonnay for that very, very special occasion (at £2k+ per bottle it should be at least a very good excuse!). Here we are looking at Krug’s Vintage Champagne over some of the best vintages of the last two decades.
First, the market prices and scores:
And now the relative value score:
The mega vintage that is 2008 has not yet been released, so in the meantime I have no hesitation in recommending both the ’04 and the ’06 as very solid buys for the long term.
Banner Image: www.krug.com/the-house-krug
by Wine Owners
Posted on 2020-11-12
Miles Davis, Wine Owners November 2020
There is not much to report on for October. The market continues to be very steady, gently rising in fact, and lacking in volatility – we are leaving that for the traditional asset classes and for those with a strong constitution!
The Covid related news had been sending shivers down the spines of stock markets as we here in the UK were heading into our second full lockdown of the year, only for that to turn around swiftly on the good news on vaccines.
The platform was busy in October, however, with good demand from Asia. Bordeaux indices have even been positive although overall market share remains weak. Sterling had been a little weaker during the month and this normally speedily converts into demand for Bordeaux blue chips from Asia. We have seen continued demand for Italian wines and Champagne with red Burgundy more mixed. Top end white Burgundy priced sensibly soon disappears from the platform and liquidity in this sector is perhaps stronger than it has ever been.
Champagne is the focus of the month and there could even be unprecedented Christmas demand this year if lockdowns ease and families and friends are once again allowed to socialise!
The recent release of Taittinger’s Comtes de Champagne 2008, which receives a fabulous write up from William Kelley of the Wine Advocate and 98 points, was met with great interest. There’s plenty of supply right now but given time there is plenty of room for price upside given the level of the ’02 now. Here is the relative value chart:
Obviously ’06 is the cheapest here but that, nor the ’04 vintage, quite carries the same stature of the fabulous ’02 and ’08 vintages. Having said that and given the quality of the juice we are talking about, Relative Value Scores at 30 or above look good in any book!
Generally speaking, I like the lower production levels of Pol Roger’s Winston Churchill Cuvée. In fine wine terms, Dom Perignon and Cristal produce vast quantities but are truly international brands and therefore trade at premiums to other names. Comtes falls somewhere in between.
Here are some price and point comparisons of the names discussed here, from really good to excellent vintages.
Overall, I would not put anybody off buying these wonderful wines for the medium to long term, they have years of life ahead and plenty of upside potential as they become rarer and rarer – and more golden!
| || Vintage || Price || WA Score || Price/Point (WA) || VINOUS Score || Price/Point (VINOUS)|
| Dom Perignon Champagne || 2002 || £127 || 96 || 1.32 || 97 || 1.31|
| Dom Perignon Champagne || 2004 || £107 || 92 || 1.16 || 95 || 1.13|
| Dom Perignon Champagne || 2006 || £108 || 96 || 1.13 || 95 || 1.14|
| Dom Perignon Champagne || 2008 || £110 || 95.5 || 1.15 || 98 || 1.12|
| || || || || || || |
| Louis Roederer Cristal Brut || 2002 || £213 || 98 || 2.17 || 94 || 2.27|
| Louis Roederer Cristal Brut || 2004 || £160 || 97 || 1.65 || 96 || 1.67|
| Louis Roederer Cristal Brut || 2006 || £130 || 95 || 1.37 || 95 || 1.37|
| Louis Roederer Cristal Brut || 2008 || £158 || 97 || 1.63 || 98 || 1.61|
| || || || || || || |
| Pol Roger Cuvee Sir Winston Churchill || 2002 || £167 || 96 || 1.74 || 96 || 1.74|
| Pol Roger Cuvee Sir Winston Churchill || 2004 || £127 || 95.5 || 1.33 || 93 || 1.37|
| Pol Roger Cuvee Sir Winston Churchill || 2006 || £117 || 95 || 1.23 || 96 || 1.22|
| Pol Roger Cuvee Sir Winston Churchill || 2008 || £140 || 97 || 1.44 || 95.5 || 1.47|
| || || || || || || |
| Taittinger Comtes Champagne Blanc de Blancs || 2002 || £166 || 98 || 1.7 || 97 || 1.71|
| Taittinger Comtes Champagne Blanc de Blancs || 2004 || £96 || 96 || 1 || 96 || 1|
| Taittinger Comtes Champagne Blanc de Blancs || 2006 || £73 || 96 || 0.76 || 95 || 0.77|
| Taittinger Comtes Champagne Blanc de Blancs || 2008 || £117 || 98 || 1.19 || 96 || 1.22|
by Wine Owners
Posted on 2020-10-06
Miles Davis, October 2020.
Given the lack of relatively significant news in the wine market, this is the first report since early in the second quarter of the year.
In fact, it is fair to say that the world of fine wine has been relatively boring, and in this world, boring is good! The lack of volatility has been impressive. The WO 150 index has (rather surprisingly) posted a gain of c.%5 this year but that should come with the caveat that the constituents are older vintages and not the most liquid.
In the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, the major wine indices (predominantly Bordeaux led) fell sharply (c.25%) as market players and stockholders marked down prices, desperately trying to reduce inventory. The relative newcomer, China, was busy buying all the Bordeaux it could at the time and was presumably a little surprised by this sudden easing of prices – after all, what did wine have to do with the financial markets??
Anyway, Bordeaux prices rebounded quickly and from early 2009 to mid- 2011 witnessed one of the biggest rises in prices this market has ever seen, followed by a sustained bull run for, the recently discovered by China, red Burgundy. Unlike 2008, the Covid-19 infested world of 2020 is yet to lead to a global banking crisis, but the economic effects will surely be felt for some time and some easing of prices would not be surprising; yet in the world of fine wine prices are not being marked down, and the indices are largely flat. There is no panic and this is good. As you would expect, liquidity isn’t great, spreads are wider, and there aren’t many merchants buying for stock. Overall, the volume of wine (number of bottles) traded has increased although there are widespread reports of the value being lower – hardly surprising.
Here’s the WO 150 vs. the FTSE in the last ten years:
Other than a reasonably successful 2019 en primeur campaign, of which more later, Bordeaux has maintained its trend of recent years - its market share continues to slide. In August it hit a new all-time low of 35%, according to our friends at Liv-ex. Ten years ago that number was 95%! It is still easily the most liquid market, however, and that should not be forgotten in times of stress. Lafite and Mouton Rothschild still dominate Asian demand but long gone are the days when the prices just kept on rising; they are flat.
The 2019 Bordeaux en primeur campaign was highly unusual, in many respects. Not only did it happen in lockdown, it happened, apart from the locals, without any but the top wine journalists tasting any of the wines – unheard of! We decided to listen more to Jane Anson (Decanter) and James Lawther (jancisrobinson.com), both based locally, than other international critics after reports of samples being abandoned on melting driveways and being flown around the world in a rush; it just seemed more prudent. The consensus, however, or whatever, was that it was another fabulous vintage and even came out with the highest average scores in fifteen years – no mean feat. The other strange thing that happened was that some Chateaux priced the wine attractively. Prices needed to be 20-30% below 2018 prices to sell through and some were. The leading names for relative value and quality were the Lafite (including L’Evangile) and Mouton stables, Pontet Canet, Palmer, Canon and Rauzan Segla. The campaign came as a much-needed boost to Bordeaux’s flailing reputation, but it took some extreme circumstances to bring it about. In terms of wine, Bordeaux is doing nothing wrong, it is the pricing that is the issue.
The super-fabulous-amazing 2016 Piedmont vintage has been dribbling into the market, some via the grey market European trade and some from agent releases. Given the general mood, these have been easier to accumulate than in a non-virus savaged world and without an organised primeur release. Who knows how well these wines would sell if you had all the merchants shouting their virtues from the rooftops at the same time? Three wines, all with 98 points from Monica Larner that make sense and that I have bought are: Cavallotto Bricco Boschis (£260 per 6), Elio Grasso Gavarini Chiniera (£375) and G.D. Vajra Bricco delle Viole (£360). Luciano Sandrone’s Le Vigne 2016 was awarded the magical three-digit score (ML also) which sent the price from c. £550 to £1,250 before settling at around £1,100 now. From the same estate, Aleste (formerly Cannubi Boschis), with a mere 98 points, makes sense at £650. The official U.K. release from Roberto Conterno will be in October and although they are not yet scored, I have been accumulating in the grey market. They have decided not to make Monfortino in ’16 as it’s not the right style (!!??), which can only leave Cascina Francia as one of the buys of the decade, but what do I know?
As readers know, I am a keen fan of Italian wines for the portfolio, particularly Piedmont and Tuscany and wines from here can easily take greater supporting roles. The lead roles of Bordeaux and Burgundy have never felt more questioned. Super Tuscans are well developed in terms of the market and continue to do well, other Tuscan wines to a lesser degree. 2015 and 2016 were epic years in Tuscany, as we already know, but the ‘16 releases of Brunello are still to come and there will be opportunities ahead.
This interplays with the theme of new areas becoming more accessible and more interesting. The rise of the new world continues gradually as the depth of this market grows. Wine knowledge is on the up, price transparency and trading channels are ever more abundant, so competition from other areas is bound to increase. Quality from everywhere is on the up and the international market is flourishing.
The Champagne market deserves more on the limelight too. Here is the ten-year chart of the WO Champagne 60 index, a smooth 9% annualised, with barely a bump in the road:
Burgundy is in a funny place right now. The froth has definitely been blown off the top end of the market, even before the pandemic struck and the usual suspects do not just fly out of the door anymore. There is still demand for DRC, but it needs to be in OWC. Buying is to order, not for stock, and prices need to be sharp to attain a sale. The performance of collectable white Burgundies has been greater than their red counterparts recently and this is a very interesting area. Buy top quality producers at an early stage and do not hold on too long – the fear of premox has not disappeared entirely!
Keep an eye out for South African wines, mainly for the drinking cellar at the moment, but quality and media coverage are on the rise.
Any questions, please let me know.
by Wine Owners
Posted on 2020-06-04
Chevalier is out this morning at £247 per 6, a perennial favourite and on the back of a seemingly great success in 2018. Hopefully in 2019 they’ll have tamed the merlot alcohols which hit 15 degrees in 2018. Bordeaux being blends saved the day and early pickings of Cabernet brought the assemblage down to under 14 degrees. Still, that kind of inherent excessiveness does make you wonder. Chevalier does age with unusually consistent grace no matter the kind of vintage.
Relative value analysis points to 2014 as being a rather decent pick of an excellent run of recent vintages. 2019 is fairly priced for collectors of this lovely estate but not to attract the short term profiteers.
Banner Image: http://www.domainedechevalier.com
by Wine Owners
Posted on 2020-06-03
Cos d’Estournel is out £684 per 6. -23% down on 2018. Great wine they say but is the price reduction enough?
The magisterial 2016 is hovering 10% above this release price, which is among the greatest young Bordeaux Lisa Perotti-Brown has ever tasted, it’s in bottle and widely available, so we think they needed to do a little more to make this really attractive. However good the 2019 proves to be, it does not prompt the same compulsion to buy this year as Pontet Canet and Palmer.
Prices and points (we have allocated 98 points)
Banner Image: www.estournel.com
by Wine Owners
Posted on 2020-06-02
Palmer was released this morning at £999 per 6, a 31% reduction from the (pumped-up) pricing levels of 2016 and 2018. We are back into rational release pricing territory.
Does it work? Absolutely. Note we have put in a placeholder of 18 points but it works at 17 points too.
At this rate, if the whole of Bordeaux rallies around the reduction level of -30% to -35% set by Pontet Canet and now Palmer (and rumoured to be the level of reduction that Lafite will apply), this’ll be the first en primeur campaign since 2014 where it would make sense to buy more broadly than the very specific, narrow range that we’ve suggested makes any sense at all in the last 3 campaigns.
Here’s the analysis of Palmer.
First pricing and scores:
And the relative value calculation. Note how much longer, and therefore better value, the 2019 bar is than any of the comparative vintages used for the analysis:
Banner Image: www.chateau-palmer.com