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Bordeaux 2017 - Wine Owners' Proto-prices

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2018-04-19


Wine Owners created proto-prices (first published in this Jancis Robinson article) to help consumers identify value among en primeur offers. The prices support consumers when buying en primeur, by providing a consistent baseline from which to make purchasing decisions. Confidence in en primeur has been damaged in recent years, by over-inflated release prices and by fraudsters posing as brokers (always check the data, and always check the broker!), so we saw a clear need for a remedy. Each proto-price is the price at which Wine Owners believes a wine should be released in order to make its en primeur offer attractive and worthwhile for the consumer. 


Wine Owners Bordeaux 2017 en primeur;
©Jonathan Reeve / Wine Owners


Symbiotic EP

En Primeur must be symbiotic to continue thriving; it must benefit both chateau and consumer. Chateau benefits from smoother cash-flow and up-front guaranteed sales. Consumer benefits from a better price – significantly lower than buying two years later at general release. The symbiosis has lost balance slightly in recent years, with release prices rising apparently out of control. We created our proto-prices to help restore some of that balance, by creating informed consumers and collectors. We can't (and shouldn't try to) control the chateaux; they must release their new wine at the price they think best reflects the market, and their position within the market. What we can do, though, is give consumers the data they need to make informed purchasing decisions.


Not If But Which

Proto-prices address each wine individually. The decision is not if to buy wines en primeur, but which ones. If wine X doesn't look like good value, move to wine Y (no, that isn't an encoded hint to buy premier grand cru Sauternes!). And if none of your favourite wines look like good value this year, see below...


Back Vintages to the Future

Proto-prices support en primeur purchasing, and will hopefully help the tradition continue (on a stable path which benefits everyone involved). But if the new vintage of your preferred wine doesn't offer good value this year, adjust your gaze slightly. Caught up in the excitement of buying the new vintage en primeur, many of us forget to check availability and price of back-vintages. The Wine Owners Exchange is brimming with back-vintages you can buy instead. And hopefully, next year, you'll find the 2018 vintage at a more attractive en primeur price (the likelihood of which will significantly increase if enough consumers follow the buying advice in this article).

Proto-prices are based on a combination of solid wine market data and fine-grained knowledge. Last week in Bordeaux, one half of our team tasted tirelessly (well, almost tirelessly) through hundreds of 2017 Bordeaux wines, while at London HQ the other half was busy crunching market data. The combined result of these two efforts is the below table of 2017 proto-prices, featuring the seventy(ish) Bordeaux wines most commonly bought en primeur.

Happy en primeur purchasing, and...let the games begin!


WINE NAME

2017 PROTO-PRICE 2016 EP (IB) btl % CHANGE 17 Vs. 16 V-AVG * Actual release price
Alter Ego de Palmer46.6£46.600%£53.00
Angelus232.05£298.00-22%£238.00
Ausone 423.5 £590.83 -28% £385.00
Beausejour Becot 39.1 £52.00 -25% £34.00
Beausejour Duffau-Lagarrosse 55.58 £85.50 -35% £57.00
Belair-Monange 71.4 £115.83 -38% £51.00
Beychevelle 56.3 £56.30 0% £68.00
Calon-Segur 71.5 £78.30 -9% £65.00
Canon 65 £90.80 -28% £50.00
Canon La Gaffeliere 44.85 £64.17 -30% £46.00
Cheval Blanc 344.3 £533.30 -35% £313.00
Clerc Milon 49.16 £49.16 0% £52.00
Clinet Pomerol 49.73 £72.00 -31% £51.00
Clos Fourtet 60.5 £91.67 -34% £55.00
Conseillante 96 £155.00 -38% £80.00
Cos d'Estournel 79 £110.00 -28% £79.00
de Valandraud 87.75 £129.15 -32% £90.00
Domaine de Chevalier 36.08 £53.50 -33% £37.00
Ducru-Beaucaillou 92 £140.00 -34% £92.00
Duhart-Milon 47.775 £53.30 -10% £49.00
Durfort Vivens 34.65 £40.33 -14% £33.00
Figeac Saint Emilion 113.4 £155.00 -27% £81.00
Gazin 44.85 £60.50 -26% £46.00
Grand Puy Lacoste 40 £60.83 -34% £40.00
Gruaud Larose 40.95 £51.67 -21% £42.00
Haut Bailly 52 £87.50 -41% £52.00
Haut-Brion 310.2 £400.00 -22% £282.00
Haut-Brion Blanc 583.33 £583.33 0% £557.00
La Chapelle de La Mission Haut Brion 48.4 £63.33 -24% £44.00
La Fleur Petrus 129.68 £165.83 -22% £133.00
La Mission Haut-Brion 184.6 £324.16 -43% £142.00
La Mission Haut-Brion Blanc 451.425 £466.67 -3% £463.00
La Mondotte 126.75 £199.00 -36% £130.00
Lafite Rothschild 398.72 £491.66 -19% £498.40
Lafleur 348.075 £430.00 -19% £357.00
Lagrange 29.25 £35.00 -16% £30.00
L'Aile d'Argent Blanc 54.17 £54.17 0% £53.00
Lascombes 47.775 £56.67 -16% £49.00
Le Petit Mouton Rothschild 133.3 £133.30 0% £171.00
Le Pin 1574.63 £2,083.00 -24% £1,615.00
L'Eglise-Clinet 115.5 £216.67 -47% £105.00
Leoville Barton 48.75 £62.50 -22% £50.00
Leoville Las Cases 113.3 £175.00 -35% £103.00
Leoville Poyferre 49.725 £67.00 -26% £51.00
Les Carruades de Lafite 125 £125.00 0% £215.00
l'Evangile 82.88 £131.67 -37% £85.00
L'If 147.23 £175.00 -16% £151.00
Lynch Bages 74.1 £95.80 -23% £76.00
Malartic-Lagraviere 33.6 £40.00 -16% £28.00
Malartic-Lagraviere Blanc 41 £41.00 0% £32.00
Margaux 351.9 £428.60 -18% £306.00
Monbousquet 33.15 £36.67 -10% £34.00
Montrose 72.6 £95.00 -24% £66.00
Mouton Rothschild 334.43 £411.60 -19% £343.00
Palmer Margaux 171.6 £236.60 -27% £156.00
Pape Clement 88.73 £129.16 -31% £91.00
Pape Clement Blanc 98.33 £98.33 0% £68.00
Pavie Macquin 39.98 £58.33 -31% £41.00
Pavie Saint Emilion 194.03 £298.00 -35% £199.00
Pavillon Blanc 145.83 £145.83 0% £150.00
Pavillon Rouge 133.58 £115.00 16% £137.00
Petrus 1642.88 £2,666.00 -38% £1,685.00
Pichon Baron 79.2 £115.60 -31% £72.00
Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande 84.7 £122.50 -31% £77.00
Pontet Canet 68.4 £111.67 -39% £57.00
Quintus 58.5 £95.80 -39% £60.00
Rauzan Segla 46.8 £61.30 -24% £48.00
Smith Haut Lafitte 50 £78.00 -36% £50.00
Smith Haut Lafitte Blanc 73 £73.00 0% £57.00
Troplong Mondot 66 £100.00 -34% £55.00
Trotanoy 119.93 £193.33 -38% £123.00
Vieux Chateau Certan 128.75 £196.67 -35% £103.00
AVERAGE REDUCTION FOR A SUCCESSFUL CAMPAIGN -23%


* V-AVG: avg current mkt value 04,06,08,12,14



En Primeur - DAY FOUR: A Pine for Sore Eyes

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2018-04-13


Slightly weary after several busy days of tasting and driving, we were very happy to start today with a blissful treat; Jacques Thienpont hosting us to taste his 2017 Le Pin. Well-tailored and welcoming, Jacques greeted us with his son Georges, and took time to explain a little of the history behind the two wines we were about to taste: L'If and Le Pin. Both wines were stunning, and L'If - one of the newer additions to the Thienpont collection - shows a clear family resemblance to its legendary big brother. (It's upwards price trajectory does, too). What stood out most in both wines (beyond elegant fruit aromas and a cool-silk mouthfeel) were the feather light, super-ripe tannins. When we asked Jacques how he achieved these, he modestly gave all credit to the vineyard, saying “Fiona (Jacques' wife Fiona Morrison MW) can't believe how little I do to the wine”. Whatever the case, we have seen tannins like these at only one other winery (Cheval Blanc) in all of our tastings this week. ‘Extremely svelte, no hint of excess', say Nick's 2017 Le Pin tasting notes.


©Jonathan Reeve / Wine Owners

The Right Wine for the Job

The Le Pin tasting highlighted a really basic wine investment tip - one which may easily be overlooked. In the excitement of buying a super-expensive wine like this, an investor may well neglect to factor how many years the wine will actually last. Expensive wine is not necessarily long-lived wine. The world's most expensive wines cost so much because they're excellent and sought-after, not because they take forever to mature. Jacques estimates that the Le Pin 2017 is a wine to drink within ten to fifteen years. That's great if you can get hold of it en primeur and turn it around within a few years, but that really isn't particularly long in investment terms. At the opposite end of the spectrum are two wines of similar stature: Chateau Haut-Brion and Chateau Latour. These two are completely different in style - both from Le Pin and from one another. They are chalk and cheese stylistically, but they are clearly similar in how long-lived they are. The longer the maturation period, the more time there is for speculation and anticipation, and the more time you have to find that well-heeled and motivated buyer.


©Jonathan Reeve / Wine Owners


En Primeur Alive and Kicking

From up-close here in Bordeaux, En Primeur as a buying mechanism (with all its associated practices and processes) seems alive and well. The tasting rooms here are packed and buzzing, all the traditional conversations are happening (again), and tannin-battered tongues are wagging as always. Hopefully this energy will be complemented by sensible release prices in a few weeks' time, and by a decent level of commitment from consumers. And investors...

Watch this space in coming weeks for our thoughts on hot buys, once the producers begin to announce their prices.


Wine Owners 2017 Bordeaux En Primeur Week - DAY ONE

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2018-04-10


Starting early, we hit the Monday-morning Bordeaux commuter congestion armed with laptops, phones and an excellent pain au chocolat. Day one launched us headlong into the Medoc grand crus, starting at Lafite, then moving through Mouton, Cos d'Estournel, Pontet-Canet, Calon-Segur, Montrose, finishing at Chateau Margaux.


©Jonathan Reeve / Wine Owners


Tongues still tingling from untamed tannins, we are now reviewing the day from the wine-free environs of our rented loft- conversion apartment. There is blue sky peeping through the skylights.

Three main themes emerged from today's en primeur 2017 tastings:


Cabernet Cornucopia

The most obvious pattern is that 2017 was clearly a Cabernet vintage in Pauillac and Saint-Estephe. Almost all of the wines we tried have a higher proportion of Cabernet Sauvignon in their blends than in 2016. The particular weather patterns of the 2017 growing season meant that Merlot was tricker in 2017, and Cabernet performed well. Lafite, Montrose and Calon-Segur particularly exemplified this - their wines glowing from the healthy Cabernet. The Calon tasting demonstrated this most clearly; comparing side-by-side the Marquis de Calon and the Calon-Segur (Cabernet was particularly higher in the latter) it became clear how a higher percentage of Cabernet has worked wonders in 2017. The Calon is fresher, brighter and more defined than the Marquis, has more-focused acidity, and will be by far the longer-lived wine.

A noteworthy exception to this pattern is the grand vin at Chateau Margaux, where the team are obviously very happy with their Merlot this year. In fact, their Merlot was apparently so good that it was used worthy of a greater dose in the grand vin this year - a move which brought production levels of the grand vin up to almost 2015 levels (impressive from the smaller 2017 vintage). This is an unusual moment of glory for Merlot, which is typically the ‘insurance policy' grape.


House Styles

One obvious pattern showing in day one's tastings was house styles. These are very much in evidence in 2017, and most obvious at the Mouton stable, where d'Armailhac, Petit Mouton, Mouton and Aile d'Argent all shared the house's exuberent, borderline-exotic richesse. This continues right down to the house's entry-level Baronarques brand from Limoux, which we were also warmly invited to taste. The four Cos d'Estournel wines also had a family feel about them, being clean, bright and focused, without being overly ‘new world'. The pattern was most pleasing, perhaps, at Montrose, where both the Dame de Montrose and the grand vin showed brilliantly, and shared a distinctive style; cool, fresh wines (yes, high Cabernet content) with lots of tightly wound potential, and a whiff of something herbal (along the lies of nettles and lavender) marking them out from the crowd.


©Jonathan Reeve / Wine Owners
Past and present

References to the past, as a means of promoting the present, were frequent in the presentations today.

Lafite's new director, Jean-Guillaume Prats (previously of Cos d'Estournel), pointed to technology as being significant in the quality of this 2017 vintage. Thirty years ago, he said, given the same vintage conditions, it would have been 'very tricky' to make a wine of such high quality as they have managed this vintage with both the Carruades and grand vin. Of course, his job is to say such things, but his demeanour was very real, honest and open. And the wines spoke for themselves; the Lafite was its usual elegant, impressive self even at this early stage in its life.


©Jonathan Reeve / Wine Owners


Also illustrating progress by pointing to the past was Thibault Pontalier of Chateau Margaux, who highlighted that the blend of Pavillon Rouge today is exactly the blend of the grand vin thirty years ago. A strong part of his reasoning for this was the ever- increasing quality of Cabernet Sauvignon that Margaux is able to produce, thanks to investment in technique and technology. This was in evidence for more than just the reds, however; Margaux's stunning Pavillon Blanc 2017 ended today with a refreshing flourish of beautifully concentrated, linear Sauvignon.

©Jonathan Reeve / Wine Owners


Comparing 2017 with 2016, the majority of wines from day one appear to be a notch less intense and refined than 2016. We're interested to see if this continues on the right bank.

Tomorrow we visit Nenin, Vieux Chateau Certan, Cheval Blanc, Gazin, La Couspade, Canon and Pavie. Watch this space tomorrow, for reflections on the right bank.



Knight Frank Fine Wine Index Update Q1 2018

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2018-03-23


The KFFWII is up 9.6% over the year to March 2018, with a 2% gain in the last quarter.

Knight Frank Fine Wine Index

Consolidation of the market at current valuation levels is on the back of the 24 months to December 2017, seeing gains of 38%.

The top of the market is significantly influenced by Asian demand, where a weak dollar is causing bid prices to fall. Changes within secondary market wine distribution into China may create a degree of uncertainty not seen since 2014.

The outlook for the rest of 2018 is one of subdued growth, with the Sterling-denominated index at risk of downward pressure as the currency appreciates against the US Dollar and Euro.

Bordeaux

First Growths are up just 3.8% over the last 12 months, half of which can be accounted for by the last 3 months. This broadly reflects the rest of the Bordeaux fine wine market (classified growths and equivalents). However, this subdued performance ought not to detract from 3-year performance (43% price growth) in First Growths, and 55% appreciation in the classified growths and equivalents over the same period.

Risers substantially outnumber fallers in Bordeaux, reflecting the market's continued overall growth. Less new wine is being released from chateaux than ever before, and quality is increasingly consistent. These factors point to continued growth during 2018, although it will remain in single figures, as orderly trading patterns continue.

Burgundy

Burgundy values continue to appreciate, with increases of 21% to March 2018, and 4.6% over the last quarter. To date there are no signs of a let-up in the upward trajectory of top producers' Burgundy prices. We’re about to see Burgundy price appreciation break through the 100% mark over the last 5 years, and reach 257% over 10 years.

Northern Italy

Northern Italy (represented in the KFFWII exclusively by Piedmont and Tuscany), is up 9.5% over the last 12 months, of which 2.7% is within the last quarter. The leaderboard is dominated by Monfortino, the standout Italian performer of the last 4 years which is consolidating its position as one of the most investible wines in the world.

Expectations for Northern Italy - Barolo in particular - are that prices will continue to increase into double digits over the remainder of 2018.

Champagne

Vintage champagne has performed well over the year, up a full 10%, and has kicked up 3% in the last quarter.

The best performers are rarer cuvees from such stalwarts as Selosse, Bollinger, Krug and Pol Roger. Over 10 years Champagne has performed even better than Burgundy, up 283%: demonstrating the liquidity that volume can drive, brand values and early consumption patterns.

USA

California’s moderated growth continues, with annual performance to March 2018 of 6.3%, and is up 2% within the last quarter. After years of bewilderingly strong growth (385% over 10 years), fallers are as numerous as risers within the California index, implying further downsides or a relatively flat outlook.

Spain

Top Spanish wines dominated by iconic and traditional large estates in Rioja and Ribero del Douro still represent good value, have good ageing potential, and are produced in large volumes.

These positive trading fundamentals support a market up 8.25% in the last year, and a healthy 3% in the last quarter.

A related effect is that Spanish blue-chips (particularly Vega Sicilia's top wines) are increasingly being traded on exchanges, and markets are being made for these wines through the usual offer and bid mechanisms used by market-makers.

The Spanish index is up 155% in the last 10 years. 45% of that growth has taken place in the last 3 years. The timing of that resurgence coincides with the inflection point in Bordeaux markets in the winter of 2015, when they rebounded from cyclical lows. 


Knight Frank Fine Wine Index breakdown by region


Vintages in the Shadows

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2018-03-05


We would like to echo the sentiments of Lisa Perotti-Brown – the new face of Bordeaux at The Wine Advocate – who revels in reviewing great wines from vintages less hyped than the universally celebrated ones.

A review of past vintages is so much more pleasurable than one of a current vintage. It can be pursued at leisure, far from the madding crowd of en primeur set-piece campaigns. The wines have been in bottle for some years, and have grown into their skins, allowing them to express themselves and harmonise. There is none of the guesswork required when evaluating young wines. And it is not done as part of a tasting Megathon favouring the most obvious, richest wines…

Here follows a spotlight of vintages which hide truly great wines, many of which still represent good value.

Burgundy 2013

Let's start with 2013, the worst climatic year Burgundy has experienced in a long time, characterized by a dreadful summer of cold, sodden weather. But that’s the thing with Burgundy; its growers refused to give up. They never do. They spent the summer in their Aigle wellies desperately battling the filthy elements and sticky, sucking mud. Coaxing what they could out of their precious vines - their livelihood - trying to make the best of a seemingly bad lot. The coaxing process involved leaf thinning, and sacrificing bunches to give the rest a chance at maturing properly. And that is the thing with Pinot Noir; it responds exceptionally favourably to low yields.

Now, if you like dense, sweet fruit with generous alcohols, 2013 may not be the vintage for you. But if you enjoy intensity of flavour without the weight of a hot year, red Burgundies from 2013 will positively surprise you. All the more so if you first tasted barrel samples back in January 2015; the wines are now positively transformed from that first recalcitrant showing.

It’s well known that a warm, accommodating, crisis-free growing season will result in wines that are generous and velvety-textured in their youth. But these aren’t always the wines that develop into fine, complex maturity. Take 1999 for example, lauded as one of the greatest Burgundy vintages of all time. Indeed, some of the wines are astoundingly good. But just as many others are really quite average. Why is that? Over-generous yields. It’s a fine line with Pinot, between harvesting as much ripe fruit as nature provides and allowing the fecund vine to produce as much as it’s wont.

Back to low-yielding 2013, and the best wines are beautifully crystalline, intense and transparent. Think a cornucopia of red fruits, blackberries and gooseberries: the essential ingredients of a refreshing summer pudding – a balancing mélange of sweet and sharp. Add characteristic Burgundy high notes of salinity (and a mineral-tinged, geological nod-in-the-glass to the inland sea of which the Cote d’Or was once a part) and hopefully you’ve formed a fair mental image of 2013 red Burgundy.

It’s no coincidence that blue chip stalwarts such as Eric Rousseau and Christophe Roumier love their 2013s. Aubert de Villaine sees his Domaine de la Romanée 2013s as long distance runners (in contrast to his more ‘forward’ 2014s). And they are delightful.

2013 is also one of the last sensibly priced vintages before Burgundy prices became vertiginous.

Burgundy 2006

Wines from cooler Burgundy vintages often start out rather awkward, and out of kilter. Their acidity may add definition and length, but can also close the wine down, or conspire with tannins to suppress the essential grape characteristics in a wine.

2006 was one such vintage. Its wines were initially hard to taste, and broadly speaking, unlovely. Many of us viewed 2006 Burgundies as unwelcome magpies in our collector’s nest of more comely vintages.

But now, after a decade in bottle, the wines are starting to show very well. They exhibit well-defined fruit, great length and energy. Next to the 2005s, they may lack heft and powerful tannin structure, but they are nonetheless serious, intense wines. And they are beginning to drink well now. You’ll have to wait at least another decade for your 2005s to come around, but 2006 is a fine emerging vintage that will give pleasure now and for the foreseeable future.

Bordeaux 2011

For Bordeaux, 2011 was always going to be a tough sell. On release, the wines seemed scrawny and mean in comparison with the monumental 2009s and 2010s.

Yet a recent dinner event hosted by Wine Owners showed how dangerous it is to tar a whole vintage with the same presumptive brush, or to judge a more classic vintage too early. The highlights of that tasting were Vieux Chateau Certan 2011 and La Mission Haut-Brion 2011. They were both easily the equal of their counterparts from better-regarded vintages, and represent great value compared with any more recent vintage.

Bordeaux 2006

In Bordeaux, 2006 was a vintage that attracted more than its fair share of negative press, the effects of which are still in evidence today, judging by the affordability of 2006 Bordeaux on the Wine Owners Exchange. The success of a Bordeaux vintage depends on sentiment, and in 2006 combination of negative factors came into play.

First, it came on the heels of stellar 2005. Second, Bob Parker’s favourable rating of the vintage attracted criticism from many pundits, attracting further negative attention. Third, the release prices were too expensive– due at least partly to the high Parker scores. Why else would La Mission Haut-Brion be ready to trade at £1,550 per 12x75cl, yet be overlooked?

[ Top tip: buy La Mission Haut-Brion at this level – half of its opening (mis)price. It is considered a ‘wine of the vintage’, rivalled for this accolade only by the (much more expensive) Mouton. ]

We are fans of the Bordeaux 2006 wines we’ve tasted. They don’t have the powdery tannins and powerful black fruit of the 2005s, but they do have superb energy, and a sappy character that compels you to take the next sip. We see many wines from 2006 as more interesting than their counterparts from 2004 or 2008. Notable examples include Mouton, Pontet-Canet, Leoville Barton, Leoville Las Cases, La Conseillante (just a sampled tip of the iceberg). Whenever tasted comparatively, these showed extremely well alongside relative other vintages.

In our experience, where 2006 performs particularly well is its consistency. Simply put, we’ve never had a poor one. Other low-rated back-vintages produced a number of successes (such as 2007, 2011), but none are as consistent as 2006.

Bordeaux 2002

2002 is another Bordeaux vintage which suffered from poor reputation. The year’s poor weather consigned the vintage to the status of ‘restaurant wine’ before any of the wines were even bottled. But it’s easy to forget that the wines were very well priced; first growths were released at around £800 per case (just one-sixth of their 2015 release prices). If you had invested in 2002 Bordeaux 15 years ago, you would be feeling rather smug right now. 2002 is the vintage for the contrarian that lurks inside every wine enthusiast!

While they were never going to be the most profound expressions of Bordeaux (in the light of the meteorological conditions), the 2002s have consistently tasted savoury, fruity, and sweetly spiced with cloves, cinnamon sticks and liquorice root. At all levels of classification, we’ve yet to stumble across a disappointing example.

Piedmont 2002

In 2002 Piedmont, like Bordeaux, suffered from rotten summer weather. Wine commentators have described 2002 in Piedmont in such terms as ‘wiped out’, ‘disastrous’, ‘severely compromised’, ‘a washout’.

But despite all of this, one wine survived the vintage’s humid gloom (and the hailstorms which repeatedly strafed Barolo) with enough salvaged bunches to benefit from perfect autumnal conditions. This is a wine made with such severe selection that yields were just 12 hl/ ha, and which epitomises viticultural triumph against the odds. The wine in question is, of course, the now-mythical Barolo Riserva Monfortino 2002.

Take a moment to consider the sacrifice involved in making wine with yields as low as 12 hl/ ha. Burgundy considers 25 hl/ ha to be painfully low, and in Bordeaux anything under 40 hl/ha is a very short harvest.

Giovanni Conterno – Roberto Conterno’s late father – called 2002 the greatest Monfortino of his lifetime.

The last word must surely go to Antonio Galloni, whose tasting note and review of this wine encapsulates why it’s so rewarding to seek out the greatest wines within those vintages in the shadows:

“…the 2002 Barolo Riserva Monfortino, a wine that may very well turn into a modern-day legend… 2002 was a cold, rainy year that in many parts of Barolo culminated with violent hailstorms in early September. The weather then turned picture-perfect for the rest of the growing season, but by that time most vineyards were severely damaged. The late-ripening Cascina Francia was an exception. Conterno green-harvested aggressively, which gave the fruit a chance to ripen. …The Conternos were so upset by the poor early press reaction to the vintage they announced they would let no one taste their 2002 Barolo. Conterno has fashioned an old-style, massive Monfortino that pays homage to the great wines of decades past. …It is a deeply-colored, imposing Monfortino loaded with dense dark fruit that today is held in check by a massive wall of tannins…classic, old-style Barolo the likes of which we aren’t likely to see again any time soon. Antonio Galloni, October 2008.

Wine Owners - Vintages in the shadows Barolo Riserva Monfortino Conterno


Looking Forward to the Knight Frank Wealth Report 2018

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2018-03-01


Next Wednesday the annual Knight Frank Wealth Report 2018 will be published. As always, the report's primary focus will be on prime real estate, wealth, investments and luxury lifestyle. The latter pair are of particular interest to Wine Owners users, and the team here at HQ.

We have specific interest in the report's wine investment section, of course. This section rests strongly on data from the Knight Frank Fine Wine Investment Index (KFFWII), a custom-built index created by Wine Owners for Knight Frank in 2015. This index of 200 investment-grade wines has provided Knight Frank with detailed market data for the past three Wealth Reports. Last year, the index really came into its own; the Wealth Report 2017 showed wine clearly out-performing all other passion assets.

Of course, we at Wine Owners HQ have a pretty fair idea of what the upcoming 2018 Wealth Report will say about the wine investment market performance. But if anything, that knowledge piques our interest even further. We are very much looking forward to seeing the report live next Wednesday.

The report can be acquired here, and we will report back here in a couple of weeks' time with the key messages, and an update on the KFFWII.





A Beautiful Coincidence

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2018-02-09


Today’s post comes from Jonathan Reeve, Wine Owners’ newest team member. Jonathan joined us in January, after eight busy years at Wine-Searcher.com. You can reach him, if you feel so inclined, at Wine Owners HQ: +44 (0)2072784377

Yes ladies and gentlemen, V-day is imminent, but no we are not going to feed you a regurgitated list of the ‘best Valentines wines to buy for your loved one’. We are instead devoting this post to a quick look at Passion Assets. Topical and actually interesting. And profitable.

They’re big news, and we’re hearing about them more and more. They’re becoming more…well, passionable. So what are passion assets? And why is wine the best passion asset?

Quick definition: Passion assets are essentially high-value luxury products such as fine wine, vintage watches, classic cars and antiques, which can be invested in for profit. Although originally created for some practical or aesthetic function, over time these products acquire a purely abstract financial value, born of a shared appreciation among the collective group of x lovers (wine lovers, watch lovers, car lovers etc.).

Passion assets are purchased initially because they have an emotional attachment, and are attractive in some way; they’re beautiful to taste, hold or look at. But because their value is simultaneously concrete and abstract, they are both a good store of wealth and a profitable investment. In truth, their investment performance is almost a coincidence. But what a beautiful coincidence that is. And there’s your answer; that’s why they’re quite so popular;

Since 2008 interest in tangible assets has grown massively. Rock-bottom interest rates and fears of market volatility have led investors to switch to investments which they can actually hold or touch, whose reality is more than just zeros and ones of stock market computer code. And what do those investors turn to when selecting these tangible assets? Things that they’re passionate about. Passion assets. Wine tops the list.

“Wine is the best passion asset.” Well, I would say that – I have wine passion. But genuinely, I mean it. I also have watch passion, and car passion, but I don’t invest in either of those. Investment wines may well be the only passion asset whose investment value begins from day one. Cars don’t become classics, watches don’t become ‘vintage’, and antiques don’t become antique until years after the initial purchase. Top-end investment wines, however, begin acquiring value from day one, as they leave the winery forecourt. If only cars did that…

It isn’t just me saying all this, either. Knight Frank say it too. Their Wealth Report 2017 confirmed wine as the world’s best-performing passion asset. Have a look at the Knight Frank Fine Wine Icons Index.

And here’s another reason. Which other passion asset gives you the opportunity to create such a diverse, romantic collection as wine? Not to mention flavourful. Every vintage brings several hundred products to select from and obsess over. Most collectors have their personal favourite producers, on top of the core handful which are mutually agreed by all as the ‘blue chip’ investment wines. And laid over this is the added dimension of the vintages themselves, dating back many decades, and even centuries in some exceptional cases. It’s hard to understate the power of a good vintage to spark adrenaline in wine collectors and investors.

And one last reason. Wine is more than the world’s most profitable passion asset; it’s also the most widely collected, and therefore one of the most stable. Win, win, win.

You get the picture. I think wine is a pretty excellent investment. If none of my points above have swayed you to my point of view, consider the following. If it all goes wrong, and the world pulls itself to pieces, as the warheads soar overhead and the bullets whizz past, would you rather sit in an antique chair counting down the seconds on an old watch, or would you rather pour and enjoy a glass of fantastic wine. Think about it. Happy Valentines Day.

P.S. If you really must hunt out a Valentine-themed wine, try Calon Ségur. It has a heart on the label, and happens to be performing very well as a passion asset.

Wine Owners Valentine's day Calon Segur




Burgundy market 2018

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2018-01-10


Burgundy has produced an unprecedented string of excellent vintages during the last couple of decades.

2016 was the third in a trio of such vintages, which complement each other beautifully.

The intense 2016s tend to have an extremely focused core of fruit, and are threaded with acidity that infuses the vintage with notes of blood orange, redcurrants, cassis and spice.

2015 produced deep and richly expressive reds which are now beginning to close down, suggesting a long and glorious future. They are reminiscent of the 1999s with (in some cases) a touch more concentration.

The 2014 reds are very under-rated given how balanced, expressive and subtle they are, with sufficient stuffing to last the course. This is a vintage to satisfy the most ardent Burgundy lover through a very wide drinking window.

The 2014 whites are something else: a mythical vintage that every white Burgundy lover should own. While they didn’t show enormous typicity early on, that was precisely because they were so concentrated and bright. They are now evolving beautifully, with most endowed for the long-term.

2013 produced some excellent top-end reds, and very fine whites for those who like freshness and definition. Although a challenging vintage weather-wise, quality abounds at the top of the tree, among vignerons who respected quality and fought the filthy weather with heavy-handed use of secateurs. Roumier and Rousseau adore their 2013s.

Burgundy’s run of strong vintages began well before 2013, however. 2012, 2010, 2005, 2002 and 2001 all delivered great quality, and there are also some great wines (of both colours) to be had from 2008, 2007. Many 2006 wines are showing better and better as time passes, and the 2011s, which showed a certain hardness in youth, are softening into wines of substance. Once-maligned 2004 is even starting to develop now; the wines are gradually dropping those hard coal-tar flavours that were attributed to pyrazines from a ladybird plague, but which may well be simply a characteristic of a firm, robust vintage in the first 14 years of life: a late developer and an ugly duckling.

Success among the 2003s is very much dependent on producer; look for those who picked early, used refrigerated vans to protect their grapes from searing heat during transit, and employed light-touch winemaking. Great wines were made in 2003, and served blind can fool the drinker into imagining 2005, albeit with a little less structure.


Wine Owners - Burgundy market - Romanee Conti vineyard


The Burgundy market

Although Burgundy has had a great run of quality, the same is not true of quantity. Most vintages since 2009 have come up short, and 2016 was the worst of the lot, with some villages experiencing reductions of 70%.

Upward price pressure is the natural result of these smaller quantities, yet in context producers have showed admirable constraint; increases over the last 5 years are up by a ‘mere’ 94%. Contrast that with the 10-year picture, which shows price increases among the blue chips of 428%!

Further down the pecking order, back-vintages of Premier Crus have not caught up, except for the best-known blue chip producers.

The outlook for Grand Crus remains solid, in our view, in spite of the elevated prices. Nevertheless, traditional Burgundy buyers are trading down appellations in search of value, which will surely elevate Premier Cru prices over the next 24 months. There are plenty of excellent maturing or fully mature wines on the market, whose prices prove extremely attractive prices when compared with new releases – even more so if you factor in 10 years of storage fees and inflation. If you are interested in investigating, contact us to discuss the options, or check out the Burgundy offers on the fine wine exchange.

Steen Öhman – the new Burgundy critic on the block – wrote a piece on Burgundy wine investment for Wine Owners last year. Everything he said then holds true today. It’s a must-read for the discerning Burgundy buyer, and I urge you to do so.

In days gone by, it took the best part of a decade for a hot new Burgundy producer to become recognised. But times have changed, with buyers more actively hunting out wines with a good quality/price ratio. These days, new discoveries rapidly increase in price over the first 4 to 5 years. Identifying these rising stars early is a great way of buying into Burgundy in a way which guarantees future returns should you choose not to drink everything you have purchased. You might end up with vintages that are ‘works in progress’ compared with more recent vintages, but you can always trade up.

Looking ahead, the 2017 wines will provide generously in both quantity and quality. Stylistically, the vintage will be more akin to 2014 than to the intense, concentrated wines of 2015 and 2016. Thankfully, the prospect of a good-sized campaign for the 2017s has kept 2016 prices in check; and just as well, given current price levels. How successful 2017 will be across the board remains to be seen.




FINE WINE PREDICTIONS 2018 - get your free report





2017 - the year in wine that was

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2017-12-21


Broadening interest

2017 was a fascinating year for the wine market: a year of solid growth, consolidation and even a flash of speculation!

It was also a year of broader consumer interest reignited.

Knight Frank’s global Wealth Report includes analysis of the fine wine market provided by Wine Owners. Wine was by far the best-performing collectible asset of 2016, up 24%. As a result, lots of positive press in 2017 brought plenty of new interest into the market.

Health

After the sharp price increases of 2016, when the Bordeaux market leapt as it rebounded off its 2014 lows following a couple of years of ticking up, 2017 was always going to be a less dramatic year for the classified and blue chip Bordeaux market.

It was encouraging to see a successful 2016 en primeur campaign that saw generally modest increases over 2015 in Euros, even if increases were more substantial for UK buyers due to the weakened currency. Overall gains in 2017 were low single-digit for First Growths (after the 30% readjustment seen in the previous year). Other Classified growths and Right Banks rose an average of 7%.

Such moderation was less evident in the primary or secondary Burgundy market, the latter up 14.5%. What happens next is anyone’s guess, but the top of the market is holding onto 5-year gains of 100%, thanks in part to enduring Asian interest.

Hard luck stories

Burgundy was really hard hit by frosts in 2016. It’s a super vintage, but with many producer cellars that are 2/3rds empty. Only Vosne-Romanée and parts of Morey-St.-Denis and Gevrey-Chambertin escaped the April ‘gel’. Pretty much everywhere else was heavily hit. The night-time freeze hit the Grand Crus and vineyards high up, the morning sun burned the buds of other premier crus and villages plots.

That big reduction in volume does add something to the intensity of the reds most noticeably. They are balanced, intensely redcurrant or blackcurrant in character, saline and fresh, with a vein of blood orange pulsing through them. The whites are fine but don’t quite have the extraordinary rich, bright core of the 2014s, although in their favour the whites show more site specific character at this very early stage.

In 2017 Burgundy narrowly missed a second successive year of April misery, with an abundant vintage of good quality. Instead, Bordeaux was badly affected by freezing night-time temperatures in the last week of April, after a warm spring had encouraged early growth. Some areas on the Right Bank, Graves and parts of the Medoc away from the warming waters of the Gironde were devastated. Chateaux de Fieuzel in Pessac isn’t making any wine in 2017.

What that will do to en primeur pricing next year remains to be seen, but widespread rises are on the cards, probably even those properties who emerged unscathed.

Notable winning regions

Champagne extended its run with top back vintages (where relative scarcity starts to play) racing ahead, up 13% in 2017. The world’s appetite for Champagne remains insatiable.

It was gratifying to see Northern Italy in rude health, with interest for Barolo Crus broadening significantly and prices of the best producers very sharply up this year on the back of a string of good vintages culminating in the highly sought after 2013s.

Speculation

Talking of that flash of speculation, Margaux 2015 announced in November that Margaux would release their 2015 as a special edition in honour of Paul Pontallier, the managing director of the estate who died in March 2016.

We saw the first release from the chateau, offered in individual single wooden cases, at a significant premium to the release price.

Based on the Chateau’s announcement, we saw speculative trading in the wine between EP club members rise and rise, with bids climbing from under £6,000 to £12,000, representing more than a 130% increase compared to the release price to UK consumers of £4,650.

The limited edition black bottles with a variation on the classic Margaux label in gold invited comparison with the 2000 Mouton Rothschild, which attracts a significant market following based on collectability, despite not being in the top flight of Mouton vintages or even one of the best wines of the vintage.

Looking ahead to 2018

If you're interested to learn more about the health of the fine wine market and are interested in our predictions for 2018, you can now download our Fine Wine Predictions 2018 report, a must-read for collectors, wine lovers looking for value, and investors searching for opportunities.


DOWNLOAD PREDICTIONS 2018 REPORT


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We wish you all a very enjoyable festive season, and much vinous pleasure as you open great wine bottles to celebrate and see in 2018.

Best wishes for health and happiness from the Wine Owners team!




Correlation

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





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