Figure 1: Cult Wines Approach to En Primeur Wines
Left Bank First Growth
As demonstrated in Figure 2, brand, history and outstanding quality have made Bordeaux First Growth from Left Bank an attractive source of long-term returns. Liv-ex 50 tracks the performance of the last ten physical vintages of the five Left Bank First Growth.
Figure 2: Liv-ex Fine Wine 50 Index Since Inception (Source: Liv-ex)
Generally, First Growth wines with scores over 98pts are deemed as outstanding and tend to perform better than lower scored wines in the long run as they are highly sought after and collectible. However, high initial release price tends to follow high-scoring vintage, which reduces the short-term growth potential of these wines.
In the chart below we compared the 3-year returns of expensive En Primeur releases of Lafite vintages with cheaper releases (relatively), irrespective of scores.
Figure 3: High En Primeur Releases vs Low En Primeur Releases - Lafite Rothschild
3-Year Performance % Since Release
As Figure 3 suggests, scores alone may not be the best contributor to returns over the short term. Well-priced En Primeur vintages are initially likely to outperform expensive ones. However, over the longer term, the lower-scored vintages tend to be capped in term of prices whereas the ‘iconic’ vintages can reach stratospheric levels – Lafite 2000, scored 98+ by Robert Parker is now worth £13,000, whilst 2001, 2002 or 2004 with scores of 94-95 are all valued at £6,000.
With vintages that are both reasonable on release price and high on quality such as Lafite 2008, we expect to see a greater propensity to achieve high prices in the longer term. The price of Lafite 2008, which was released at a significant discount to previous vintages due to the economic pressure arising from the Financial Crisis, has risen by 230% in the last decade.
For people who wish to get access to the brand name and parallel level of winemaking technique of the Grand Vin, Second Wines of the five First Growths would naturally be their go-to choice. Strong brand reputation from the First Growths and solid returns have underpinned our positive stance toward Second Wines. To date our overweight on second wines has paid off. These have been consistent top performers for the past 15 years although EP release prices have crept up in recent years. At the right price, we remain optimistic in the category and expect them to continue to provide potential for returns, especially from En Primeur to physical release. Benefiting from strong brands and consistent performance across various vintages, second wines have now become an increasingly important part of any diversified wine portfolio.
Figure 4: Best Performing Second Wines
Bordeaux En Primeur 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017
Although the price gap between the First Growths and their Second Wines has continued to narrow, making Second Wine labels less attractive at recent prices, a few names stand out due to their outstanding medium- to long-term performance. Carruades de Lafite and Petit Mouton are undoubtedly the two names to watch, and they have consistently been amongst the top performing wines in terms of returns. For 2019, the key will be at what price the Grand Vin are released as it is possible that any price adjustment compared to 2018 will not be matched on the Second Vin, in percentage terms. This would artificially inflate their price ratio and could make them less attractive to the long-term investors. That said, we expect strong demand for those wines in this vintage.
Right Bank (RB)
The Right Bank Wines should be serious contenders for portfolio allocation in 2019 – the quality of Saint-Émilion and Pomerol is rumoured to be high and the wines should achieve very good scores. RB First Growths and the Super Second category performance have been fairly consistent across vintages due to scarcity value and we expect 2019 wines to be in high demand. In particular, Super Second RB’s relative attractive release prices to quality level have been extremely supportive for overall returns in the past.
Quality Price Ratio Wines (QPR)
Away from the big names there should be plenty of opportunities to acquire some fantastic wines in a more homogenous vintage than the previous three years and this will reward smart selection. Those wines with the best quality (scores) to price ratio have a proven track record of positive short- to medium-term returns.
Careful selection of well-priced, high quality, investable wines has always been key to our portfolio allocation process at Cult Wines and these wines have been consistently performing well for our investors. As ever, we will monitor 2019 release prices very closely to identify those wines with the best potential to increase in value and we are always ready to expand our investment spectrum if we come across new wines meeting our strict investment criteria.
If 2014 is any guide, at the right En Primeur release prices in 2019 this category will provide solid returns.