Octavian Vaults, Fine Wine Storage Periodicals

Market Analysis

Rising wine price indices; a post-Brexit vote boost in fine wine trade; a strong auction market; excitement surrounding the 2016 en primeur campaign; not least quality in high quantity… all bodes well for 2017 as Ella Lister, Founder and CEO of Wine Lister, explains

The fine wine market has begun 2017 in fine fettle. Wine merchants have reported brisk sales across the board, with a strong Burgundy 2015 en primeur campaign in January, and now all eyes on Bordeaux 2016. Sentiment this time last year was cautious, as the first three months of the year so often show promise only for the market to slide into a lull thereafter. However, wine price indices have now been rising consistently for a year and a half (fig.1).

FIGURE 1: Wine region price indices over two years

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Ironically, the Brexit vote has - for the time being at least - boosted the fine wine market by weakening the pound, making wine bought in London significantly cheaper for euro and dollar buyers, and allowing prices to rise swiftly. We should not forget that Brexit has not actually taken place, so we cannot yet predict its longer-term effects.

Looking at Wine Lister indices (fig.1), calculated on the basis of the five strongest wine brands in each region, those displaying most growth over the last two years are Piedmont and California, gaining in price more than 50% a piece over the period. Next comes Burgundy, then Bordeaux (25%), and just behind it, Tuscany.

The wine auction market was strong too, with worldwide live auction revenues up 3.1 percent in 2016, having shrunk by 5.6 percent in 2015. Auction houses reported strong sales of Burgundy in 2016, and also a stable and even resurging market for Bordeaux, continuing into the first quarter of 2017, with rising interest for Château Mouton Rothschild in particular.

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The [Bordeaux 2016] vintage is very good, and certainly worth getting hold of. The wines are fresh, balanced, and elegant, and moreover they will offer a wonderfully long drinking window, just like the 1982s.

Talking of Bordeaux, the 2016 en primeur campaign will be in full swing by the time you read this, with the market more excited than it has been since 2010. The vintage is very good, and certainly worth getting hold of. The wines are fresh, balanced, and elegant, and moreover they will offer a wonderfully long drinking window, just like the 1982s. They possess the power, concentration, and tannic strength of the 2010s, but with lower alcohol, and some of the charm of the 2009s.

There were many wonderful wines to taste during the en primeur week this year in Bordeaux. Combining the scores of Wine Lister’s three partner critics (Jancis Robinson, Antonio Galloni, and Bettane+Desseauve) gives a more objective view on the best wines of the vintage (fig.2). In pole position is a wine you won’t be able to purchase for a few more years, since Château Latour withdrew from the en primeur system in 2012. Next comes Pomerol’s Lafleur, then Haut-Brion, Petrus, and Vieux Château Certan. This latter, along with Calon-Ségur and Figeac, is likely to be the best value among this list.

In addition to exceptional quality, quantities were high in 2016, so there should be plenty to go around

In addition to exceptional quality, quantities were high in 2016, so there should be plenty to go around. A survey undertaken by Wine Lister asked its 49 Founding Members what average price adjustment on 2015 would be appropriate for the 2016 Bordeaux en primeur releases. The answer was a decrease of 4 percent, but this was before the tastings in early April, and also reflects the merchants' vested interest in encouraging producers to keep prices lower. It is certain that 2016 will cost as much 2015 in euro terms, and often more, which means that wines on the UK market will be at least 10% more than their 2015 equivalents. Severe frosts affecting the 2017 crop in late April may lead some badly affected producers to increase 2016 prices further to compensate. Let’s hope this doesn’t unravel what is otherwise set to be a successful campaign.

© Octavian Vaults 2014