Going the (quality) distance
As we prepare for the Bordeaux 2020 en primeur releases to really pick up pace, Wine Lister has published Part II of its annual Bordeaux Study.
With contribution from two of our partner critics, Antonio Galloni and Neal Martin (Vinous), Part II looks at how the latest vintage compares to recent years, considers which wines have seen the greatest step up in quality in 2020, and evaluates the leading Bordeaux bottles for long-term price performance and presence at auction.
Please see a handful of our key findings here:
Burgundy prices continue to rise, and top wines are becoming ever-harder to access – but must what goes up really come down?
Wine Lister has published its second in-depth Burgundy report, with contribution from partner critic and leading Burgundy expert, Jasper Morris. With insights from key fine wine trade players from across the globe, the report investigates the state of Burgundy compared to other major fine wine regions, and discusses projections for its future performance.
Please see our key findings below:
You can download the study digest in English here: Wine Lister Burgundy Study Digest 2020 or French here: Wine Lister Étude Bourgogne 2020 – Résultats Clés. The full report can be purchased on our Analysis page, while Pro subscribers can access their free copy here.
With our founder, Ella Lister, just back from tasting the latest releases at Benvenuto Brunello in Montalcino, we thought we’d dig deeper into the data behind the appellation’s top wines. The pyramid system in the region means that most producers make at least three wines: in the middle, a Brunello di Montalcino DOCG Annata (or “vintage”); in good years, a Riserva (with longer ageing but also nearly always the best selection of grapes from the estate); and at the bottom of the pyramid, a Rosso di Montalcino DOC, producing fresher, approachable wines requiring less ageing.
This allows, and indeed encourages, a healthy level of selection in the region. At last weekend’s event, the vintages on show were 2013 Brunello Riserva (excellent), 2014 Brunello Annata (a tricky vintage, with some producers declassifying to Rosso di Montalcino), and Rosso di Montalcino 2017. There is also a trend in the Brunello DOCG towards vineyard-specific crus, such as Casanova di Neri’s Tenuta Nuova or Il Marroneto’s Madonna delle Grazie, both of which feature in this week’s top five: top Brunellos by Economics score.
When examining the economic profile of Brunello wines, we see that Riservas tend to have higher Economics scores than Annatas, in line with their higher Quality scores. The best-performing Brunello by Economics score is Biondi Santi’s Brunello di Montalcino Riserva, with a score of 902. It earns the number one spot of this week’s top five with the highest price at £315 per bottle in-bond, and annual auction trading volumes of 458 bottles. The wine also outperforms the rest of the group for both Brand and Quality scores (904 and 938 respectively).
While Riservas are strong economically speaking, Annatas often have stronger Brand scores than their longer-aged counterparts, being produced in larger quantities and thus achieving greater visibility. In second place is Valdicava’s Brunello di Montalcino Madonna Piano Riserva, with an Economics score of 892, whereas its straight Brunello has a Brand score 57 points above its “big” brother, an example of the potential branding conundrum surrounding Brunello and other parts of Tuscany with a Riserva denomination. Nonetheless, the Riserva shows better price performance, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 15.2%, and an average of 257 bottles sold at auction annually.
Specific “crus” can also perform better than their straight Brunello Annatas in economic terms. In third place is Casanova di Neri’s Brunello di Montalcino Tenuta Nuova with an Economics score of 865. Despite having the lowest Quality score (841) and lowest price (£70) of the group, it earns this week’s second-highest Brand score (887).
In fourth place is Il Marroneto’s Brunello di Montalcino Madonna delle Grazie, the winery’s top cru, produced from grapes grown around the historic chestnut flour store house, and below the church by the same name. It has an Economics score of 847, benefitting from by far the best long-term price performance of this week’s top five, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 22.9%. Moreover, it sits just one point shy of this week’s number one in Quality terms (937) at 40% of the price – £130.
Rounding out the group is Poggio di Sotto’s Brunello, with an Economics score of 815.
While Super-Tuscans have been recognised for their investment potential for some time, Brunello still sits rather in the shadow of its Bordeaux-blend brothers. In Wine Lister’s first Tuscany market study, conducted in 2017, Brunello held nine places out of the top 25 Tuscan Economics scores. Today that number has increased to 14, as Brunello – Montalcino’s very own, highly ageworthy selection of the Sangiovese grape – goes from strength to strength.
This week some of the Wine Lister team attended the Institute of Masters of Wine‘s Annual Claret Tasting, which this year focused on Bordeaux’s 2014 vintage. Though still young, it is a vintage that is tasting beautifully.
Throughout Wine Lister’s coverage of this year’s en primeur campaign, we found ourselves referring frequently to the 2014 vintage for comparative (and sometimes better) quality, and crucially, better prices. Below we explore the vintage in more detail, looking at Quality and Economics scores by appellation. (Note that this analysis was produced based on the basket of wines represented at the IMW Tasting).
Wine Lister’s holistic and dynamic approach allows us to not only see which appellations produced the vintage’s best wines, but also demonstrates if and how the market has since reacted to each appellation’s relative quality.
You can download the slide here: Wine Lister IMW 2014 vintage overview
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).
With daily en primeur release alerts and offers for the new 2017 vintage filling our inboxes, the “Bordeaux buzz” at this time of year is undeniable. However, Bordeaux’s popularity does not end with en primeur, as we prove with results of the last quarter’s trading volumes.
Wine Lister uses figures collated by the Wine Market Journal from sales at the world’s major auction houses to calculate incremental increases in four-quarter trading volumes – in this case, January-December 2017 versus April 2017-March 2018. Auction volumes contribute towards Wine Lister Economics scores, allowing us to measure the liquidity of each wine.
The five wines showing the biggest increases in trading volumes between these two periods all hail from Bordeaux. Indeed, such is the case for the top 20 auction volume increases, with the exception of brand royalty, Dom Perignon (in 10th place).
The wine experiencing the biggest increase in trading volumes is Mouton Rothschild, with 778 additional bottles traded. It has the highest Economics score of the five (956) and a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 11.3%. Kicking off the first growth releases of 2017 vintages this week, Mouton Rothschild’s 2017 UK release price sits 17% below last year’s at £360 per bottle.
In second place is right bank powerhouse, Cheval Blanc, whose trading volume increased by 685 bottles with the addition of the most recent quarter’s figures. Though second for incremental change, its total trading volume is at least 30% smaller than any of the left bank first growths.
Latour and Haut-Brion come in third and fourth place, both with 12% trading increases of 614 and 529 respectively.
Finally, trades of Pape Clément keep the Pessac-Léognan property’s red in the top five for trade increases for a consecutive quarter, with 506 more bottles traded in the current period. Despite dropping four places since last quarter’s auction volume results, Pape Clément still achieves the highest proportional change of all five wines at the top, with a 27% trading volume increase.
After two quarters of Bordeaux dominance, the latest trading volume data has room at the top for one non-Bordeaux wine. Among the five wines with the greatest incremental increase in trading volumes for the period of January-December 2017 (calculated using figures collated by Wine Market Journal from sales at the world’s major auction houses), sits Louis Roederer’s Cristal in second place.
Volumes of Cristal traded increased by 267 bottles, helped along by a Sotheby’s auction in New York in November where 37 bottles went under the hammer. While this translates into a small Economics score increase of just one point, the wine nevertheless holds the highest overall Wine Lister score of the five at 975/1000.
Château Pavie appears high up the list for a consecutive quarter, with a further 228 bottles added to its trading volume count compared to October 2016-September 2017. Though in third place for incremental change, Pavie has the highest overall volume of bottles traded of the top five (2,466).
The number one spot for increased trading volumes is taken by Château Pape Clément, with 293 more bottles traded over the course of 2017 compared to the previous dataset period. Pape Clément has the lowest Quality score of the top five (825), however high Economics (952) and Brand (960) scores pull the overall score up to 898.
Château Calon Ségur and Château Troplong-Mondot fall in fourth and fifth place for biggest change in trading volumes.
It is interesting to note that Larrivet Haut-Brion Blanc has the highest growth of Economics score, moving up a huge 376 points since Q4 2016, to 669. With the recent spike in trading volumes of the red (as seen in our last analysis), trading volumes of the château’s wines are increasing across the board.
For the second consecutive quarter, the five wines which saw trading volumes rise most were all from Bordeaux. Four of the wines below are big hitters, with overall Wine Lister scores ranging from 921 (Château Montrose) to 963 (Château Lafite Rothschild).
These top crus are also mainstays at global fine wine auctions, with over 2,000 bottles of the top five traded vintages of each wine selling at auction every year, and over 5,000 for Lafite. So, while auction trading volumes – a measure of liquidity – feed into a wine’s Economics score, none of the four has seen a significant enough increase to find their Economics score significantly changed.
There is one anomaly. Château Larrivet Haut-Brion has an average price of £23 per bottle, and from the period of July 2016 until June 2017 its top five vintages sold only 103 bottles at auction. At the end of last month, however, 228 bottles of the wine’s 2000 vintage were sold at a Bonham’s auction, making the wine the most popular of the day. The update to Larrivet Haut-Brion’s trading volumes has had a strong impact on its Economics score, which has risen from 567 to 667, and boosted its overall Wine Lister score from 663 to 684.
We calculate which wines have seen the greatest incremental increases in bottles traded by using figures collated by Wine Market Journal from sales at the world’s major auction houses.
Wine Lister’s Economics scores are based on a variety of price and liquidity metrics, including a wine’s three-month average bottle price, six-month price performance, and three-year CAGR. This week’s newly updated Listed section features the five top-scoring Australian wines by Economics score. Noticeably, all are red, and red wines outperform for Australia in this category (the top white, Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay, has an Economics score of 498, its top traded vintages only trading 10 bottles in auction over the past year). While there is quite a difference in points between the first and fifth wine on today’s list, all are considered very strong (750–900) or among the strongest (900+) wines in Wine Lister’s database.
Several of Australia’s best-known producers feature in our top five, including Penfolds, which accounts for the top two entrants: Penfolds Grange and Penfolds Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon. While both wines excel on three-month average bottle price and three-year CAGR, Penfolds Grange is particularly strong for liquidity, its top five trading vintages having traded 626 bottles over the past four quarters.
The third wine on this list, Torbreck Run Rig, experiences good trading volumes but has the lowest three-year CAGR of the five (3.27%). Fourth place goes to Henschke Mount Edelstone Shiraz, which is the lowest in price and sees fewer bottles traded than the others, but has an excellent six-month price performance of 11.88% and good price stability. Finally, the list is completed by Grant Burge Meshach Shiraz, which has one of the higher three-year CAGRs, at 6.4%.
Don’t forget – if you’re not yet a subscriber to Wine Lister, you can still fully explore this week’s five Listed wines, and those for the previous four weeks, via the homepage.