Bordeaux prices may not have picked up at the same pace as other major wine regions, thought buying en primeur could provide good opportunities if chosen carefully, explains Ella Lister, CEO and founder of Wine Lister
After a strong year for wine prices in 2016, 2017 was more sedate. The positive impact of the weak pound on the fine wine market has run its course. Furthermore, the first quarter of 2018 saw prices fall for three consecutive months (this common downward pattern had been averted in 2017).
Nonetheless, over the 12-month period to 30th April, all major wine regions have made at least some gains. The Wine Lister regional indices (figure 1) are composed of the five strongest wine brands in each region. Burgundy’s top wines have risen most in price, closely followed by those of Piedmont, gaining 16% and 15% respectively. Next come Tuscany and California, with Bordeaux’s top wines - the five first growths - trailing the pack, with annual growth of just 3%.
Bordeaux has not managed to pick up at the same pace as other regions since falling from its pedestal in the summer of 2011. However, its wines remain by far more popular and more liquid than those of other fine wine regions (its wines are the most searched-for online, and the most traded at wine auctions worldwide). Any considered wine investment portfolio would contain a good proportion of Bordeaux alongside more volatile but potentially more lucrative wines from other regions.
The good news is that for several years now – following the overpriced 2010 vintage – buying Bordeaux en primeur (futures, before the wine is bottled) has started to become worthwhile again for the consumer. The 2014 vintage, especially, has seen good returns. This year’s en primeur campaign has already started, and will present some good opportunities for those who choose carefully.
The 2017 vintage boasts some very good wines at the top end of the spectrum, though is less consistent than the last two vintages. Even the Bordelais readily admit that 2017 is not a contender for vintage of the century, or even decade. The wines have less density than 2015 and 2016, but are fresh, delightful, balanced wines, which in many cases will give early pleasure while also lasting well.
FIGURE 1: WINE REGION PRICES OVER 12 MONTHS
Wine Lister Quality scores for Bordeaux 2017 combine the ratings of the world’s foremost wine critics (Jancis Robinson, Neal Martin, Antonio Galloni, and Bettane+Desseauve) to identify the best wines of the vintage. Sweet whites from Sauternes and Barsac featured heavily among the critics’ top picks in 2017, and offer exceptional value money. Dry whites should also not be overlooked for drinking pleasure, though perhaps less so for investing. As for red wines, the top Quality scores are achieved by Pomerol trio Château Lafleur, Petrus, and Vieux Château Certan, all scoring above 970 on the Wine Lister 1,000-point scale.
A survey undertaken by Wine Lister asked its Founding Members (key members of the international fine wine trade) which were the most successful wines of the 2016 Bordeaux en primeur campaign. Apart from the first growths, properties experiencing the most demand last year included Châteaux Lynch-Bages, Canon, and Montrose (figure 2).
FIGURE 2: 2016 EN PRIMEUR SUCCESS, AS VOTED BY WINE LISTER FOUNDING MEMBERS
Canon 2016, for example, has risen 48% in price since its release in June last year (figure 3). Calon Ségur, Figeac, and Pichon Comtesse also featured high up the list of 2016 success stories. Each château made a wonderful wine in 2017, and is likely to sell well again this year. They should be worth trying to get your hands on, price-permitting of course.
FIGURE 3: CHÂTEAU CANON PREMIER GRAND CRU CLASSÉ B 2016
*Quality scores for all Bordeaux 2017 wines can be found on www.wine-lister.com, along with price history charts and an en primeur price checker tool to help you identify which wines are worth buying as they are released.