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.)
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”.
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).
Wine Lister Economics scores not only reflect a fine wine’s economic clout, but also predict its future price performance. The economics of fine wine are increasingly important. Some purists wish it weren’t the case (wouldn’t it be wonderful if quality could exist in isolation from pecuniary concerns?), but consider the plight of the producer making an exceptional wine, that without any brand recognition or commercial strategy doesn’t ever see the light of day. It never finds an importer, or its way into the consumer’s glass, let alone the investor’s portfolio.
That is why Wine Lister scores capture 12 data points across three rating categories, to measure the all-round performance of a fine wine in its journey from vine to glass. After Quality and Brand, the third Wine Lister rating category is Economics. The Economics score shows the producer whether its commercial strategy is working, but more than that, it can also serve to indicate to the collector whether the wine makes an economically sound investment.
Bordeaux wines with an Economics score above 900 in November 2016 had increased by 17% in price on average by January 2018. By contrast, those with Economics scores below 600 gained just 8% subsequently. We can see this pattern in action in the chart below, which looks at Saint-Estèphe wines over the same 14-month period. The wines with the highest Economics scores at the beginning of the period proceeded to increase more in price than those with lower scores as a general rule.
The below screenshots of Wine Lister’s price history tool illustrate graphically the difference between two wines with different economic profiles. Vieux Château Certan’s Economics score lies in the “strongest” portion of the Wine Lister 1000-point scale at 907/1000. While Château La Providence’s Quality score is strong (708/1000) its low Economics score of 389 is the result of a lower price, weak price performance, volatile prices, and modest trading volumes.
Wine Lister analyses five criteria in order to measure a wine’s economic strength, expressed as an Economics score out of 1,000. Four of these criteria use pricing data from our data partner, Wine Owners, while the fifth uses trading volume figures from the Wine Market Journal:
- 3 month average bottle price
This “market price” is the ultimate measure of what people are willing to pay for each wine in each vintage. Data is updated weekly, and bases prices on a three-month rolling average. Prices are shown In Bond per bottle.
- Short-term price performance
A wine’s financial strength also depends on its price performance. Wine Lister calculates price changes over six months for an indication of short-term price trends.
- Long-term price performance
Long-term performance measures a wine’s compound annual growth rate over three years.
- Price stability
Price fluctuations over a 12-month period are distilled into the measure of a wine’s stability. Wines with less volatility are more consistent, less risky and therefore earn a better Economics score.
- Volume traded
Added to pricing information is data on a wine’s liquidity. A wine can have good price performance but lack the current market demand, potentially making it a less attractive wine for investment.