Fine wine news roundup: 27 February – 5 March
Fine wine outperforms cars, coins and art in Knight Frank’s Wealth Index
Despite the logistical challenges of the last year, wealthy investors have continued to drive values higher for key collectible assets, with fine wine performing strongly and coming second only to luxury handbags.
According to Knight Frank’s latest Wealth Report, fine wine is up 13% after a year of growth, followed by cars at 6%, watches at 5% and furniture at 4%. Other popular assets such as coins (-1%), coloured diamonds (-1%), jewellery (-1%), rare whisky (-4%) and art (-11%) saw declines. Luxury handbags saw growth of 17%.
Miles Davis of Wine Owners, which pulls together the Knight Frank Fine Wine Icons Index, says the results demonstrate the stability of fine wine as an investment asset. “More than ever, this year has been about timing in the capital markets and, if you got that wrong, the chances are you got it expensively wrong. Not so for wine,” he said.
"Unlike after the global financial crisis, the wine market has held its nerve, merchants did not mark down prices and the market has been stable. Investors are about, and even Bordeaux prices feel like they are firming up.”
However, while COVID-19 disrupted the fine wine market in the short term, Davis says that climate change is the bigger concern for the wine industry, with classic wine regions likely to struggle in future to produce the vintages to which buyers are accustomed.
"Perhaps now is the time to load up on the more affordable 2014 and 2016 classic vintages, the likes of which we may see only rarely in the future,” Davis added.
Bordeaux heavyweights Boissenot and Berrouet join forces for 2020 vintage
Top Bordeaux consultants Jean-Claude Berrouet and Eric Boissenot have teamed up to create the 2020 blend for St Estephe fourth growth Chateau Lafon-Rochet, where Berrouet has consulted since 2012.
The endeavour will mark the first time the pair have worked together on a blend, with Berrouet famed for his mastery of Merlot at Petrus, and Boissenot known for providing expert guidance to several top chateaux in the Medoc.
“With almost half of our estate based on clay, and the other half on dry deep gravely soils, it was logical to combine Jean-Claude’s work with that of Eric Boissenot,” said Lafon-Rochet’s director, Basile Tesseron.
“With Eric’s specialism in the Medoc, it is with pride that we will present our 60th vintage in the upcoming months with contributions from both experts for the first time.”
French critics rate biodynamic wines up to 12 points higher than conventional counterparts
French critics are likely to rate organic and biodynamic wines 6-12 points higher than conventional or sustainable wines, according to a new study published in the journal Ecological Economics.
The study, ‘Sustainable practices and product quality: is there value in eco-label certification?’, draws on data from three major French wine publications, aggregating ratings on more than 128,000 French wine scores from more than 30 French wine experts between 1995 and 2015. Wines ranged in price from $5 to $450.
“With organically grown wines, we saw an increase of six points in their scores compared to conventional or sustainable wines. With biodynamic, there was an increase of 11.8 points in their scores, compared to conventional or sustainable wines,” said economist and co-author of the report Magali Delmas.
The study divided wines into conventional, sustainable, organic and biodynamic wines. “What was most surprising to me was that we found a significant difference between organic and biodynamic versus conventional, but no difference between conventional and sustainable,” Delmas said. This, the authors suggest, could indicate that “non-certified sustainable practices can be associated with greenwashing and endanger the perceived value of eco-labels more generally”.
A previous study conducted by the same researchers in California was hampered by the low number of organic wines – only 1% — available in the US. In the French study, 8% of the wines were from certified organic or biodynamic vineyard.
In their conclusion, the authors wrote, “Our findings indicate that eco-certification [organic and biodynamic] has a positive effect on wine expert scores.”
Bollinger unveils 2007 RD cuvee
Champagne house Bollinger has revealed the latest expression of its RD cuvee using grapes from the 2007 vintage, featuring a label that honours the Champagne’s heritage.
RD, which stands for ‘récemment dégorgé’ (recently disgorged), was first launched in 1967 with grapes from the 1952 harvest. The label has historically been used to champion a great, older vintage of Champagne that had been disgorged shortly before release, and which featured a low dosage – two traits that were rare in the region at the time.
The label of the latest release has been redesigned to feature its original aluminium alloy material, with lettering in the 1952 font, and in keeping with the inaugural release, the date of disgorgement listed on the front label.
The 2007 differs somewhat from the usual expression of RD cuvee, as it features wines from fewer villages and subsequently altered proportions. While the RD cuvee normally has a greater percentage of Pinot Noir from Ay, the 2007 instead includes a larger amount of this grape from Verzenay.
During an online launch event, Bollinger’s chef de cave, Denis Bunner, explained, “When it is a hot vintage we use more Verzenay than Ay, because it is more north orientated, and with the 2007, Verzenay dominates with 29% of the blend.”
The blend also uses grapes sourced from 14 compared to an average of around 20. As a result, the production of RD from the 2007 harvest is around 10% lower than the last release, which was from the 2004 vintage. It will be available from 9th March at £625 per six-bottle case.
Champagne expert Richard Juhlin described the wine as “an unusually fine-tuned classic,” and awarded it 94 points.
Bordeaux’s six new grape varieties get final approval
The Institut National de l’Origine et de la Qualite (INAO) has formally approved the use of four new red and two new white grape varieties for official use in Bordeaux, as the region seeks to fortify itself against the effects of climate change.
The official approval follows several years of work by winemakers of Bordeaux AOC and Bordeaux Superieur, which saw more than 52 varieties face intense scrutiny for their ability to withstand extreme weather conditions.
The final six include Arinarnoa, Castets, Marselan and Touriga Nacional for the reds, and Alvarinho and Liliorila for the whites. Each has been chosen for its capacity to alleviate hydric stress associated with temperature increases.
The new varieties are limited to 5% of the planted vineyard area, cannot account for more than 10% of the final blend of any given colour, and, following convention, will not appear on Bordeaux labels.
The first plantings are planned to take place this year.