Champagne – slow and steady wins the race

At the end of last year, Wine Lister released its first ever Champagne report. As well as exploring a handful of key trends as identified by Wine Lister’s Founding Members, the report also sheds light on top Champagnes as compared to other regions in terms of economic performance.

Prices of the top Champagnes (Dom Pérignon, Krug Vintage, Louis Roederer Cristal, Salon Le Mesnil and Dom Pérignon Rosé) have seen a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.8% over the last six years. Relative to other major fine wine regions, this long-term growth is slow, as shown in the chart below, but also stable.

One notable advantage of Champagne as an investment option it its low volatility. Indeed, Champagne prices show a much better level of stability in the secondary market (deviating by just 2.5% from the average price over 12 months) than any other major fine wine region. Slow and steady wins the race.

Moreover, recent price performance shows Champagne accelerating. Prices of top Champagnes are starting to grow at a faster rate than their counterparts in California, Bordeaux, and Tuscany, beaten only by Piedmont and the seemingly unmatchable Burgundy. Indeed, as of December 2018 top Champagnes had seen a 12-month price growth of 11%. The region’s potential for long-term investment is already being acknowledged by the trade, with one of our Founding Members, a top tier UK merchant commenting “Champagne (Salon especially) has experienced solid growth and has become a reliable investment for collectors”.

Salon Le Mesnil is the number one performing Champagne for price performance, with an Economics score of 978, closely followed by Krug’s Clos d’Ambonnay (962). Krug also tops the Champagne Economics charts with its Clos du Mesnil, Brut Vintage, and Collection. Interestingly the only NV Champagne to appear within the top 10 Champagnes for Economics is grower Jacques Selosse’s Brut Initial, with an Economics score of 911. Its price, £106 (per bottle in-bond), is a mere 18% of the average price of the other nine top Champagnes by Economics score.

To read more key findings from our in-depth Champagne study, read the free summary here. (The key findings and full study are also available to download in French on the Analysis page.)


Listed: The top five 2013 red Californian wines by Economics score

While wines made in The Golden State are not as affected by vintage variation as their European counterparts, the 2013 vintage was for California as close to perfect as they come. The long, hot summer led to Cabernet Sauvignons with extreme fruit concentration and firm structure – a recipe for long-term cellaring. The vintage’s economic credentials seem equally promising, with Economics scores of the top five Californian reds from the 2013 vintage outperforming their respective wine-level average by 114 points (averaging 979 in 2013 versus 864 across all vintages).

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the number one spot is taken by Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon. At 996, its Economics score is not only the highest of this week’s top five, but of all 2013s on Wine Lister (matched only by 2013 DRC Richebourg). It is also by far the most expensive of the five at £2,363 per bottle – over twice as high as the price of the other four combined. Screaming Eagle’s “mailing list” sales model teamed with tiny production quantities (7,800 bottles per annum on average) means that demand for this wine consistently outweighs supply. This could explain the wine’s strong presence on the secondary market, with 855 bottles traded at auction over the last 12 months (according to figures collated by the Wine Market Journal).

In second place is 2013 Pahlmeyer Proprietary Red. Interestingly, it has the lowest Quality score of the group. Indeed, its 2013 Quality score is 74 points lower than Pahlmeyer’s average (848). Contrastingly, the 2013 vintage receives its best ever Economics score of 979, boosted by a six-month price performance of 18.7%.

The third spot of this week’s top five is occupied by the only Pinot Noir of the group, Kistler Vineyards Pinot Noir, with an Economics score of 972. It is the only wine of the five to have been released before 2016, and thus the only one with a three-year compound annual growth rate (28.2%), whereas Economics scores for the other four 2013s are based upon price performance over the short term only. Kistler’s place in the top five 2013 Californian reds by Economics score is impressive, given its lower price point (£101 per bottle, compared with an £843 average for the other four wines).

The penultimate wine of this week’s top five is 2013 Scarecrow. Alongside its best ever Quality score (987), the 2013 vintage achieves an Economics score of 965, helped by the second-highest three-month average price (£663) and the best price stability of the group (with standard deviation of just 4.1% over the last 12 months).

Last but by no means least is Philip Togni Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, with an Economics score of 964. Though fifth for economics, it is number one for Quality, thanks to a 100-point score from Wine Lister partner critic, Antonio Galloni, who calls it “a majestic, towering wine… one of the wines of the vintage”.


The impact of price movements according to Wine Lister

Price nearly always plays a part in the decision-making process of purchasing wine. Typically, much emphasis is placed on the importance of “value” – “how much quality am I getting for the price of this bottle”, for which Wine Lister has its very own indicator, Value Picks. However is simply offering “good value” enough?

Wines purchased for long-term cellaring carry financial risk just as investment does. With this in mind, Wine Lister’s Economics scores reflect not only a wine’s price, but the performance of that figure over time. As well as a three-month average market price, and six-month / three-year price growth, Wine Lister’s algorithm takes into account price stability as a factor in determining a wine’s Economic strength.

Using historical prices provided by our data partner, Wine Owners, we calculate the standard deviation of a price over the last 12 months, expressed as a proportion of the average price over the same period.

Volatility can be caused by price movements both up and down. Nobody wants to see the price of a wine plummet after purchase, but equally, wines with prices rising too high and too fast display risk too, and are therefore also sanctioned with lower Economics scores.

Below is an extract from this year’s Bordeaux Market Study featuring the 15 most stable Bordeaux wines. All five left bank first growths appear, testament that higher-scoring wines tend to experience less volatility. This is also tied in with liquidity: frequently traded wines tend to benefit from multiple reference points allowing a consistent market price to be determined. Conversely, a wine traded less frequently often sells at a markedly different price from one transaction to the next, resulting in a much more volatile market price.

While Château Latour’s slow and steady price growth (as shown in the chart below) results in relatively low six-month price performance and three-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) ratings, its strong Economics score is thanks to a high three-month average price, a high volume of bottles traded at auction, and a low price deviation of just 2.4% over the last 12 months.

The chart below shows a very different picture – this wine has experienced a 14.7% price increase in six months. Though this in itself is positive, its price has therefore deviated 12.5% in the last 12 months, and the yo-yoing nature of the price over the longer term earns it a much lower Economics score (492).


Listed: top five Champagne 2000 by Economics score

With England progressing serenely (ahem) through their round of 16 match against Columbia, much Champagne (and probably much more beer) will have been drunk on Tuesday evening. With somewhat tortuous logic therefore, this week’s Listed section focuses on the best Champagnes from the 2000 vintage by Economics score.

Separated by just three points at the top of the table are Philipponnat Clos des Goisses (966) and Pierre Péters Cuvée Spéciale Les Chétillons Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru (963). Despite experiencing the lowest Quality score of the five – a nonetheless hugely respectable 944 – the Philipponnat gets its nose ahead thanks to excellent growth rates over both the long and short-term, with a three-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 20% and having added 33% to its price over the past six months alone. No wonder it is one of the group’s three Investment Staples.

It is interesting that Pierre Péters Cuvée Spéciale Les Chétillons Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru comes in second place in terms of Economic performance, despite it experiencing the group’s lowest overall Wine Lister score for the vintage (910). Its lower Wine Lister score is the result of its Brand score (822) being the weakest of the group by nearly 90 points, confirming the phenomenal head start that the globally renowned houses have over grower Champagnes in terms of brand recognition. It manages second place in terms of economic performance thanks to formidable short-term growth rates, its price having risen 42% since January.

In third place is Krug’s Clos du Mesnil (954), one of three Blanc de Blancs in this week’s top five, and the first of two wines from Krug, with the Brut Vintage recording an Economics score of 907. The two Krugs are almost inseparable, the Brut Vintage’s Wine Lister score of 967 just one point ahead of the Clos du Mesnil, making them the overall top-scoring Champagnes of the vintage. Our partner critics were barely able to separate them either, the Clos du Mesnil’s Quality score just two points ahead (976 vs 974). However, the rarity of the Clos du Mesnil results in it being over 3.5 times more expensive. Furthermore, with the Clos du Mesnil recording a 3-year CAGR of 14% and short-term growth rates of 12%, the price discrepancy is increasing – the Brut Vintage has a 3-year CAGR of 8% and has increased in value by 4% over the past six months. However the feather in the cap for the Brut Vintage is that it is considerably more liquid – presumably because of larger production volumes – its top five vintages having traded 1,279 bottles at auction over the past four quarters, over 11 times as many as the Clos du Mesnil (112).

The remaining spot is filled by Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru (922). It is the second-most liquid of the group, its top five vintages having traded 720 bottles at auction over the past year.

Incidentally, 2000 was a European Championships year, not a World Cup year. Fittingly, given the focus of this blog, France won. England failed to make it past the group stages.


Listed: top five highest prices in Tuscany

In this week’s top five, we take a break from June’s Bordeaux bias on the vinous calendar to look at the rising prices of Tuscany’s top wines.

However, there’s no escaping Bordeaux with Tuscany’s most expensive wine, since Masseto is distributed through the Place de Bordeaux. With tiny quantities available to purchase via the Place each year – average annual production is 32,000 bottles – Masseto’s price of £511 per bottle makes it well over a third more expensive than the rest of this weeks’ top five, and also the second-most expensive Italian wine on Wine Lister (beaten only by Giacomo Conterno’s Barolo Monfortino Riserva).

Masseto also achieves the group’s best Brand score (977), the result of featuring in the highest number of the world’s top restaurants (24%) and being over 2.5 times more popular than any of the other four. The chart below confirms a strong relationship between Brand score and price for these wines, with Masseto’s formidable brand strength playing a key role in its high price.

At £367 per bottle, Soldera Case Basse Sangiovese takes the second spot. It achieves the highest Quality and Economics scores of the five (976 and 957 respectively). With an impressive three-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 18.4% – by far the highest of the group – and having added 7.3% to its value over the past six months, Soldera Case Basse continues to cement its position as Tuscany’s second-most expensive wine, and close the gap on Masseto.

Two Brunellos feature amongst Tuscany’s most expensive wines: Biondi Santi’s Brunello Riserva (£289) and Casanova di Neri’s Brunello Cerretalto (£157). Whilst Biondi Santi Brunello Riserva’s appearance might be expected, considering its heritage, the fact that Casanova di Neri Cerretalto is amongst Tuscany’s most expensive wines might be more of a surprise, indicating that Riserva status alone does not currently guarantee higher prices than straight Brunellos.

Rounding out the five is Tuscany’s fourth-most expensive wine and the group’s second 100% merlot – Tua Rita’s Redigaffi. At an average price of £180 per bottle, it is over 2.5 times cheaper than its varietal companion in the group, Masseto.


Bordeaux en primeur – what’s the magic number?

En primeur pricing is a crucial factor in the commercial success of top Bordeaux crus. With this in mind, Wine Lister has dedicated a section of this year’s Bordeaux study to the conundrum. We show historical pricing trends post release for a panel of 76 wines. The analysis indicates the effectiveness of release prices, based on the change between average ex-négociant release and current market prices (2009-2016 vintages):

Above are the top 20 best-performing Bordeaux wines post en primeur release (to view the performance of all 76 wines, see page 14 of the Bordeaux study). The second wines of Lafite and Mouton have enjoyed the greatest gains in the marketplace, with Pavillon Rouge not far behind in third place.

Clos Fourtet is the best of the rest, followed by Calon Ségur, BeychevelleClerc-Milon and Smith Haut LafitteLafite is the best-performing first growth, followed by Margaux and Mouton, with Haut-Brion making smaller gains.

This year’s en primeur campaign has not yet been met by the same enthusiasm as the 2016 or 2015 vintages. The average quality of 2017 is lower (by 10% if we take Wine Lister Quality scores for the same 76 wines) – a major factor in explaining price sensitivity, and why the average discount so far of 7% (9% excluding Haut-Batailley’s contrary price hike) is far from sufficient to oil the wheels of the campaign.

In our Bordeaux Market Study 2018, released just last week, we clarify an illustrative methodology for calculating release prices. Wine Lister looks at current market prices for similar recent vintages, and works backwards through three steps:

  1. Vintage comparison: As there is no obvious comparison for 2017, we apply the average quality to price ratio of the last nine vintages in order to arrive at a derived future market price, based on the average Wine Lister Quality score.
  2. Ex-château price: By removing the margins taken by the négociant and importer we reach the equivalent ex-château price.
  3. En primeur discount: Finally, we apply a discount of 10%-20% to incentivise buying en primeur, rather than waiting until the wine is physically available.

The chart below shows the theoretical application of this methodology to a basket of top wines. See page 13 of the Bordeaux study for a more detailed explanation.

Prices released in the campaign thus far have varied from 20% discounts (PalmerDomaine de Chevalier Rouge) to a 46% increase (Haut-Batailley) on last release prices.

Follow Wine Lister on Twitter for realtime en primeur release information, and use our dedicated en primeur page to compare 2017 release prices to last year.

Other wines featured in the top 20 best-performing Bordeaux post en primeur release are: LabégorceCanon, Haut-BatailleyFerrièred’ArmailhacHaut-BaillyGiscoursPape Clément, Durfort-VivensPedesclauxAngélus, and Talbot.

Subscribers can download a copy of the full Bordeaux Study 2018 from the analysis page.



Votes of confidence for Burgundy

For wine lovers the world over, Burgundy is a region to be celebrated all year round. That being said, the modern interpretation of the traditional, post-harvest festival, La Paulée de New York, holds its West Coast counterpart this week, celebrating some of Burgundy’s finest producers in San Francisco’s best restaurants.

With Burgundy on the brain, we look back at our recent Burgundy study and the results of our Founding Members’ survey. Wine Lister asked 52 key members of the global wine trade across importers, merchants, and auction houses to rate their confidence in certain domaines from 0 to 10.

Our Burgundy study is the first to feature producers with a perfect confidence score. In Burgundy, two producers received a rating of 10/10. It perhaps comes as no surprise that Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (DRC) should be one of them. The other, Domaine Rousseau, is likely to have the strong performance of its Chambertin to thank for its perfect confidence score (Rousseau’s Chambertin holds the fifth best overall Wine Lister score in Burgundy, after four DRC wines).

Six producers achieved a confidence rating of 9/10. D’Auvenay and Domaine Leroy’s marks confirm the trade’s outstanding level of confidence in Lalou Bize-Leroy. Whilst Mugnier and Roumier fly the flag for Burgundy’s top red producers, Coche-Dury and Raveneau show that the trade is sure about the prospects of the region’s most prestigious white wine producers.

26% of producers included in the survey gained a confidence rating of 8/10. Among them, Comtes Lafon, Ente, and Roulot confirm the prospects of Meursault and its top producers.

36% of producers received a score of 7/10 – still a strong result and underlining the trade’s high level of confidence in Burgundy. This confidence seems linked to the region’s consistent price performance, as one US fine wine auction house notes: “The single most interesting trend is pricing. Demand on the primary and secondary market is high, and it’s amazing to see that prices have not gone down at all…in years.”

For context, no Burgundy producer scored below 5/10, compared to 5% of Bordeaux wines in Wine Lister’s Bordeaux study last year.

For more detail on which Burgundy producers achieve top confidence ratings, see our full Burgundy study here, or subscribe to gain access.

For those joining the La Paulée festivities, we wish you a very happy Burgundy week!


The best wines for decadence

We may have been glad to see the back of January, but it certainly wasn’t all blue. The first month of the year brought excitement to the wine world with Domaine de la Romanée-Conti’s (DRC) 2015 release, and to Wine Lister with our first ever 1000-point Brand score. For much of London’s bustling City, the end of February means one thing: bonus time. The Financial Times’ February edition of How To Spend It already features the iconic DRC – below are some further ideas for wines to blow the budget.

Prices from our data partner, Wine Owners, are shown ex duty and sales tax (VAT) per bottle as averages across Wine Lister featured vintages.

  1. Krug Clos d’Ambonnay

While Dom Pérignon or Louis Roederer’s Cristal are more commonly associated with City celebrations, those in the know will be toasting with Krug’s famous Pinot Noir expression. With an average Quality score of 969 and a price of £1,367 per bottle for the latest available vintage (2000), a glass of Krug Clos d’Ambonnay is, in itself, cause for celebration.

  1. Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon

If you’re one of the lucky few on Screaming Eagle’s direct mailing list, congratulations. It is one of the most talked-about wines by the trade based on the results of Wine Lister’s proprietary Founding Member survey, and counts over 17,000 monthly online searches on Wine-Searcher. The average £2,593 price tag per bottle is therefore a small price to pay, if indeed you are able to get your hands on one of the 7,800 bottles produced each year.

  1. Egon Müller Scharzhofberger Riesling TBA

Even harder to find is Egon Müller’s Scharzhofberger Riesling TBA. It breaks a number of records, including Wine Lister’s rarest wine (with an average of only 150 bottles produced per annum) and the highest ever average Wine Lister Quality score (995). Prices range from £5,848 per bottle to over £21,000 per bottle for older vintages.

  1. Domaine Leroy Musigny Grand Cru

The second most expensive of all French wines, let alone in Burgundy, is Domaine Leroy’s Musigny. At just over half the price of DRC Romanée-Conti, averaging £6,805 per bottle, its consistent quality is matched by impressive price growth, with a compound average growth rate of 26%. It featured in last year’s Listed blog, “the best wines money can buy”, which certainly still rings true.


Top 5 Saint-Emilion 2015s by Economics score

The Bordeaux 2015 vintage broke a more lacklustre run since the formidable 2010, and seemed to prove the wine trade legend of vintages ending in 5. En primeur tastings took place at the crest of “Bordeaux Bashing”, with some journalists reluctant to praise the vintage too highly, and there was talk of inconsistency between appellations. Saint-Estèphe was said to have suffered from more rain than its southerly neighbours, for example. Meanwhile in Saint-Emilion, a lack of homogeneity allowed each wine to express its terroir and its identity to the utmost.

Now that the wines have been bottled, it seems a suitable time to revisit the vintage. Our CEO, Ella Lister, has just got back from tasting over 200 wines from across the two banks with Wine Lister’s partner critics Michel Bettane and Thierry Desseauve. She reports Saint-Estèphe as “exceptional and wrongly dismissed as rained-out”, and names Figeac and Canon as two highlights, both “stunning”. The two Saint-Emilion wines are among the top five Quality scores for the vintage on Wine Lister.

Figeac and Canon both also feature in this week’s top 5: Saint-Emilion 2015 Economics scores, showing that the market recognises their worth. Coming in second and fourth place, both hold premier grand cru classé B status since the reclassification of Saint-Emilion in 2012. Château Figeac 2015 achieves its best Economics score to date with an impressive six-month price performance of 18%.

However, Château Canon is the real surprise here. One of the most talked-about wines by the fine wine trade, its Wine Lister scores are improving from vintage to vintage, with its Economics scores, in particular, soaring. It comes in second place among all Bordeaux wines for Economics score in the 2016 vintage. Both Figeac and Canon are Buzz Brands and also Investment Staples (two of the four Wine Lister Indicators), and so is number one on the list…

Beating both of these is premier grand cru classé A, Château Ausone, with an Economics score of 991 – a record high for this producer, even against the strong 2005 vintage. The château also gains the number one spot across all Saint-Emilion 2015s in Quality, with a score of 990. In the context of overall Wine Lister scores, Ausone is just behind Petrus and Margaux as the third highest-scoring Bordeaux of 2015.

Magrez-Fombrauge and Péby Faugères are the ‘underdog’ entries among Saint-Emilion Economics performers. With Quality and Brand scores ranging from average to strong, the overall score of both wines is “strong” according to the Wine Lister 1,000-point scale (the other three entries sit comfortably in the “strongest” category, with overall scores significantly above 900).

In contrast, one might expect some bigger names, such as Cheval Blanc (a Wine Lister Buzz Brand) to appear higher up the list. Its Economics score of 946 puts it in seventh place, with slower price growth (3% over the last six months). Its price per bottle currently stands at around £500, over five times higher than that of Péby Faugères, and seven times more than Magrez-Fombrauge.