by Wine Owners
Posted on 2019-01-21
Latour ’82, Mouton Rothschild ’82, Mouton Rothschild ’82, ’86, Haut Brion ’89, La Mission Haut Brion ’89, Margaux ’90, Cheval Blanc ’90 and Pichon Baron ‘90
When managing two wine investment funds (2006-2016) we referred to this subsection of the portfolio as ‘the legends‘. They all received cast iron reviews from all the major critics and rock solid and multiple 100s from Big Bob. Cheval Blanc ’90 “unequivocally a brilliant wine” (Neal Martin) has slipped a little to a 98+, but otherwise these wines are confirmed as truly great – legendary in fact! As such, they don’t come cheap (prices in GBP per bottle in graphic below).
Latour and Mouton ’82, +46% and 38% in 2018 respectively, Haut Brion and La Mission ’89 +35% and +52% respectively and Margaux ’90 +35% have all broken out and have massively outperformed the index in the last few months. I believe they can continue to yield positive returns.
Scarcity has been the big driver of price rises in the last couple of years as demonstrated most ably by Burgundy (WO Burgundy Index +33% for 2018, +16% in 2017). This is a prime example of how the principle of good demand versus limited supply in the wine market can work. As a region Burgundy has thrashed others as production is so much smaller, especially with Bordeaux in comparison. Where Bordeaux has been able to compete is in these older vintages of legendary wines, where consumption has driven a scarcity of supply. Each case that is now opened will have a direct impact on that side of the equation.
Cheval ’90 has been volatile but is generally on the up and is well worth considering. I have included Pichon Baron ’90, only a 98+ according to Neal Martin but a Steven Spurrier legend, as it is so relatively cheap and has not broken out at all, so watch this space. The really obvious choice, however, is Mouton ’86. This wine at 32+ years is still a baby in terms of maturity but has an exciting life ahead. Its backwardness has had an impact on the wine’s supply but that will change. As ever good provenance is extremely important and as this is a wine that has been traded more than most so beware - we have seen many examples of poor condition. If this can be found in good nick, do not hesitate in acquiring it - it’s a legend!
Buy: Mouton ’86, Cheval Blanc ’90, Pichon Baron ‘90
Hold: if it’s a legend, continue to hold, for now at least…
N.B. Petrus ’89 and ’90 fall into the ‘legend’ definition but they are so expensive (c.£45,000 per 12) and rare, they have been excluded here.
Miles Davis - professional wine consultant working in the fine wine market. He has been a wine collector for thirty years and managed wine investment funds between 2006-17 for Wine Asset Managers LLP.
by Wine Owners
Posted on 2019-01-18
WO Score: 96
Price: £6,900 per 12
Margaux ’96 has always received rave reviews from the Wine Advocate, whether is was big Bob himself or Neal Martin who awarded it the full 100 in October ’16. Neal does not hand out the perfect score lightly – in fact, barely ever. Our own Nick Martin gave it the full three figures at the Wine Owner’s Margaux dinner last summer although his clout is not quite as heavy!
Left bank 96s deserve a decent allocation in any investment portfolio given their quality, liquidity and age profiles. You could argue the stars here are aligned. Margaux ’90, the only other confirmed 100-point Margaux from vintages still possible to source, enjoyed a chart break out starting last summer (see chart below). The ’96 is trading at a very attractive 47% discount to the ’90 suggesting a strong recommendation. The chart break out may not be around the corner but I’d want to be long when it does.
Recommendation: Buy as a core holding.
by Wine Owners
Posted on 2019-01-15
Chateau Margaux - ©Wine Owners Ltd.
WO Score: 95
Price: £4,675 per 12
Margaux ’89 has never received great scores from Robert Parker, with five tasting notes at either 89 or 90 points. His last post on the subject, however, was recorded in 2003. Neal Martin has always been more generous, rating the wine between 92 and 95, the last note dated 2010 – so, again, some time ago. In 2008 Jancis Robinson rewarded the wine with a generous 19 points which, as we know, is a high score from her.
The relatively low (and now aged) scores from Parker have probably always depressed the price performance of Margaux ’89. A more recent note from another critic a bit closer to home, from a dinner only a few months ago, yielded this review: “The generosity of the vintage is evident on the nose, yet the accomplishments of this wine are still hidden, and there’s a sense of more to come. That grainy texture and gorgeous spiced finish are surely harbingers of great things in store for future drinking. As a result, a decent investment to boot for a 10-year view: 94+.”
Margaux ‘89 has always been dwarfed by its much acclaimed sister from the ’90 vintage which currently trades at £13,000 per 12. 1989 and 1990 are often coupled for comparative purposes and have thrown up some intriguing pairs, both for tasting and trading purposes, Haut Brion and Petrus being the most fabled.
As the chart below demonstrates, the prices of Margaux ’89 and ’90 started diverging six months ago and the differential has never been wider. This, coupled with our own notes above, gives us good reason to recommend a purchase.
by Wine Owners
Posted on 2018-06-28
Whilst expensive Burgundies make the headlines, there's another revolution taking place that is transforming the qualitative level of winemaking more generally in Burgundy.
It's a revolution that's very different to the one caused by an influx of corporate cash snapping up top domaines that produce some of the region’s most sought-after wines.
Daughters and sons who are graduating from l’école viticole, and who spend their stages at new world wineries or with progressive in-region vignerons, are taking best practises in the vines and chais back to familial domaines and transforming quality of those wines. Other offspring are going it alone, relying on their social network to buy grapes from friends and friends of family. And still others are coming back to their roots, turning their back on a career in Paris for the siren call of the Côte d’Or.
In a way there’s a relationship between the two; the big money coming in is offering the promise of a wealthier future to the next generation.
Within this dynamic atmosphere there are lots of value buying opportunities. One doesn’t have to be a millionaire to own and to drink Burgundy. But you need to be quicker to claim an early allocation than previously. Prices of new discoveries rise fast. Whereas in the past it would have taken many vintages of successes before a domaine became established enough to justify rapid price hikes, these days positive press and ensuing price escalation can happen quickly.
How do I discover new producers?
Follow your favourite merchants – they’ll organise events or dinners at which the wines they represent can be tasted, allowing you to figure out which of the wines they are offering you think are the real deal.
Follow the critics – Neal Martin is now at Vinous, William Kelley has assumed the mantle at robertparker.com and Steen Öhman is busy discovering new talent at Winehog.
The blog format of Winehog is well suited to reading about new discoveries, where he’s picked up on Thibaud (Y) Clerget, Nicolas Faure, his fiancée Amelie Berthaut at Berthaut-Gerbet, Maxime Cheurlin at Georges Nöellat, Duroché, Jean-Marc Bouley, Arnaud Tessier, and Jean-Marc Vincent to highlight a range of notable domaines.
Charmes Dessus 2012, Domaine Tessier © Nick Martin
His latest discovery is Marthe Henri Boillot in Mersault, a true ‘start up’ having returned to pick up the remnants of her grandfather’s estate and has cut sourcing deals with friends.
It’s a familiar story. Down the road in Santenay Jean-Marc and Anne-Marie Vincent picked up the reins of his grandfather’s lapsed estate back in the late 1990s, and have transformed it into by far the best domaine of Santenay, making wines of great succulence, nerve and aromatic complexity. In fact, his reputation as one of the best true vignerons on the whole Côte is widely recognised by many other top producers all the way up into the Côte de Nuits.
They say birds of a feather flock together. Just look at Jean-Marc’s vigneron network, and you discover producers who share the same qualitative ethic and who are in search of constant improvements; producers such as Olivier Lamy, Jean-Marc Bouley and the passionately intense, super-fit Bruno Lorenzon in Mercurey.
Jean-Marc Vincent © Nick Martin
High density planting, low plant yields, vine training to minimise stress on the vine’s foot, braiding à la Leroy, soil microbial activity/ fertility, low sulphur addition late on in the winemaking process, rigorous triages of natural corks - are typical leitmotifs of these, and a growing number of young, ambitious producers.
In Vosne-Romanée, the brilliant and young family winemaker at Arnoux-Lachaux, Charles, has employed the braided training technique of his heroine Lalou-Bize Leroy to magical effect in his Aux Reignot vineyard, adding definition, an extraordinary energy and drive to this profound wine that is Grand Cru in everything but name. Arnoux Lachaux’s prices have skyrocketed so in that sense that particular ship has sailed; plenty are yet to leave port.
by Wine Owners
Posted on 2015-06-07
Which wine writers exert the most influence over consumer purchasing decisions of fine wine?
It’s a question we’ve often been asked, and one we wanted to understand in context of what kind of recommendations influence consumers’ fine wine buying decisions.
To find out, we teamed up with Spiral Cellars, and organised a structured research programme through Effective Research. The fine wine purchasing influence ranking is based on 244 questionnaire responses.
We discovered that consumers rely on multiple recommendation sources, and even the least relied-upon source is quite significant in influencing purchases. This also suggests that social media influence is real, and can indirectly contribute towards buying decisions.
There is nonetheless a clear, favorable bias towards online sources, with the subscription sites of leading critics exerting the greatest sway over consumers.
Which critics and bloggers, if any, are you most likely to base a proportion of your buying decisions on?
When it comes to informing a proportion of buying decisions, Robert Parker is the clear winner with more than half of all respondents likely to buy based on his reviews. Neal Martin, his successor for new Bordeaux releases and leading Burgundy critic, is relied upon by 29% of respondents, with Jancis Robinson in a very strong second place position on 49%.
Vinous (Antonio Galloni on 26% and Stephen Tanzer on 17%) showed complementary strength, with Burghound (Allen Meadows) registering 22% and Tim Atkin on 20%.
Whilst consumers have their favourites, their buying decisions will be influenced by a number of critics and writers.
by Wine Owners
Posted on 2015-03-16
With Robert Parker handing over the reins of Bordeaux Primeurs tasting to Neal Martin, what are the implications?
The first, most obvious, change is Neal’s palate.
However objective a critic may be, his or her palate and personal preferences inevitably play a big part. Where Parker excelled was at getting his impressions across in a particularly accessible and descriptive way; not easy when tasting barrel samples. The temptation is to describe a wine in its elemental state elementally, which isn't that interesting to read. He described its future, and over the years demonstrated he was rather good at that.
His personal preferences may have veered towards a sunnier style of wine, but he tended to let the wine buyer know if a wine was stylistically towards one end of the spectrum or another. But it must be very hard to award a great score to a wine that doesn’t move you viscerally, and to that extent personal preferences must come into play.
Martin’s tasting preferences are naturally more European than Parker’s, and is perhaps more likely to be dazzled by finesse and complexity over power, texture and rich fruit. This is a gross oversimplification for sure, but perhaps suffice to say his evaluations will be his own.
The second is winemaking trends.
The trend back towards a more classical form of winemaking is already underway (allied to far better vineyard husbandry than was broadly the case when Parker started out – he is often attributed with raising standards). Use of new oak is being moderated at many Chateaux, and régisseurs are looking at ways to fully express and nuance their amazing terroirs, sub-plots and micro-climates whilst making the most of Bordeaux’s inherent ability to bear and bottle the most age-worthy wines in the world.
The tendency of the late 1980s and 1990s towards making and showing the kind of wines proprietors thought would garner the best scores early on is on the wane. If the world’s leading critics and evaluators of young Bordeaux favour a finer-boned vernacular, this will be reflected in the market, which is more likely than not to reward those styles of wine with the greatest demand.
The third change is context.
Back in the early 1980s there was no Internet, market transparency was therefore limited and the market was much narrower than today’s. Can another critic, however good, assume the same degree of importance and purchasing influence over a market in the way that Parker has achieved? If so, will they come from Europe or do they have to be American? Or Asian?
Will crowdsourcing views and reviews become a proxy for the next leading critic of his or her generation, a perspective that arises with the growing importance of the Internet? I wonder. Some may argue that buyers are too ready in our online age to trust the word of a virtual room-full of complete strangers over the words of an advisor or friend. Whilst such principles may work well for holiday destinations or white goods manufacturers, it’s tougher to see how this will ultimately prevail for the finest of fine wine. How experienced is the taster, do they have a bank of reference points in respect of tasting young wines, and can they draw parallels between what a wine tasted like when in barrel compared with 10-15 years on? Can they recognise the future evolution of a young wine, see similarities and differences, then context (and visualise) the next young wine they taste accordingly? What does it mean when experienced tasters say that great wine is born great? What does great taste like? What’s the palate preference of each taster; where on the spectrum do they sit?
That’s an awful lot of questions to ask of a crowd, especially when most of them have day jobs. Broadly, people may not care about all that of course; but people into their fine wine, and making spending decisions based on the judgement of others, will care. That’s why evaluators of fine wine such as Neal Martin, Jancis Robinson, Stephen Tanzer, Antonio Galloni, Tim Atkin, Will Lyons, and many other talented writers (see here) matter so much.
What could be somewhat significant in turning reputation and influence into market impact is the business model deployed. What I wonder is this: with the Internet capable of coalescing huge audiences and showing the true - often massively underestimated - size of market niches, will blanket subscription firewalls allow wine writers to maximise market influence?
How experts in general monetise their high value content may yet change over the next few years, perhaps in a parallel way that the music business experienced a profound shift from selling records to selling bums on seats and festival tickets. Will the experiential become the bigger money-spinner? How the world’s critics engage with their audience and allow them an element of participation and dialogue may prove decisive for the next Parker, if there is to be one. Being social web savvy can only but help.
The fourth change may be the end to ‘wait and see’.
If the Chateaux knew Robert Parker was coming to Bordeaux, they might hold off from releasing until his scores were known, and the job of negociant and merchant alike was simplified, if sometimes a little delayed.
When Parker didn't come to town within a few months of the new vintage, the market reflected the collective views of the wine industry that had tasted samples most frequently (producers, courtiers, negociants, importers) and added a dose of realism to do with the macro-economic context. Price differentials within a set of wines (e.g. First Growths) were narrower. So, famously, 1990 was priced cheaply in the recession of 1991 as was 2008 in the post-Lehmann, financially sclerotic environment of 2009.
In the short term at least, all the leading critics will turn up to taste on time and publish on time. The extent to which they will collectively or individually influence prices (and demand) remains to be seen, but it would be more surprising if they didn’t have at least some bearing on the market. Producers are more likely to have made up their mind on pricing based on their qualitative assessments early on, and perhaps we shall all be spared interminably long campaigns.
by Wine Owners
Posted on 2015-03-01
Today's excellent Matter of Taste event at the Saatchi gallery put on by the Robert Parker organisation highlighted to me that wines from so-called vintages overshadowed by great vintages may give far superior early to medium term pleasure than those more illustrious, fêted siblings.
Thinking back a year or so to previous tastings, Pontet Canet comes to mind. Take your pick from 2002, 2004 or 2006 for wines which today deliver great visceral pleasure (although the latter vintages are youthful) - whether you favour asian-spiced, sweetly grained and plump or delineated and pure fruit the choice (and preference) is yours. The dual powerhouses of 2009 and 2010 are incredibly dense wines, but today seem brutalistic and impregnable. Impressive as hell, they remain ébauches that Time, the master craftsman, is yet to shape.
A wonderful Masterclass led by Neal Martin and Alexandre Thienpont, winemaker and proprietor of Vieux Chateau Certan, further illustrated the point.
The surprise of the tasting was Vieux Chateau Certan 2006, which preceded the 2005.
A composed, peppery and dark-scented nose announced a medium weight, finely-woven, textured wine. Beautifully integrated, showing a firm core coated with a fine, sweet gloss, and a medium-long, insistent finish.
A delight to drink now, whilst giving the warmer, controlled, classically sauvage (iodine/ meaty) character of the 2005 another 5-10 years to achieve its unquestionable potential. In contrast the 2006 has an elegance and purity all of its own, and at a 20% discount to the 2005.
It's worth looking out for 'VCC' 2006 on the back of this showing. It's equally tempting to seek out more 2006s more generally, a vintage that had garnered some good reviews at first release, but which suffered in comparison to the more successful 2005 vintage across the Bordeaux region and due to release prices that were far too close to those of the previous year. Now almost a decade on, the fine, compelling character of the year is clear, and the pricing looks very fair.
Martin highlighted that Pomerol and St Emilion had enjoyed a particularly successful vintage in 2006. With that in mind, you may wish to check out the fine wine exchange for the following:
The wine of the 2006 vintage, Robert Parker and Jancis Robinson both proposed (in a rare show of unanimity), was Mission Haut Brion. Surely the price will never be as realistic as it is today, at around £1,250-1,350? (55%+ down from it's idiotic opening price that proved to be damaging to its secondary market performance). At least now this great wine is within reach of more wine lovers.
Mission Haut Brion
A somewhat under-the-radar La Mission, the 2006 was generally overlooked following the brilliance of the 2005. A young, dense purple-hued wine that is developing beautifully, it exhibits notes of Asian plum sauce, charcoal, barbecue smoke, roasted meats, graphite and background oak. Full-bodied with good acidity, moderate tannin and a vigorous, powerful youthfulness, the 2006 will age more quickly than the 2005, but it still requires another 5-8 years of cellaring. Anticipated Maturity: 2014-2035. (RP 2012)
by Wine Owners
Posted on 2015-02-13
It was February 2007, and Denis was particularly excited. He’d just had a call from the American Ambassador in Paris, who was driving down to Gevrey Chambertin to taste his exceptional 2005s. If ever there was a defining moment in his gradual, understated rise to superstardom could this have been it?
Whilst every wine that Denis makes is exceptional in its classification, it is his Charmes that encapsulates the magic of his low-intervention winemaking from extremely old vines. To our taste, it is the finest of all Charmes Chambertins.
With top vintages, such as 2005 in £4,000-5,000 territory (if you can find any), 2007 looks remarkably good value at £1,575.
2007 is an earlier drinking vintage – but with a velvety density that delivers a sensation of lusciousness over the underlying soft tannins. Think of 2000 but with greater density and finesse. The fruit is still primary and will take a year or so yet for the secondary elements to show and express themselves. It should be at its peak around 2016-2020.
His wines are at complete ease in their metaphorical skins. Perfectly weighted, allied to a fine intensity and directness. There are no disappointing vintages here, just wines to drink a little earlier than others.
In a recent comparative tasting of 1999 and 2001 vintages alongside Armand Rousseau’s Charmes, Denis’s simply blew them away. 2002 Charmes also showed its class more recently in the same company as grand crus of the same vintage from Roumier, Rousseau and Ponsot.
Last year, a few of us attended a Charmes dinner, attended and written up by arguably the finest burgundy critic of his generation, Neal Martin, in The Hedonist’s Gazette.
Here are his summary scores: