Over the past two years there’s been a distinct broadening in the wine investment market, both in terms of nationality of the investors and of the wines in which they invest. In this week’s post we thought we’d take a look at the key factors that make wines “investment grade”.
1. Ageability – Wine with legs.
When one hears about wine investment, it’s usually spoken in the same breath as Bordeaux/First Growths/Top 50 Châteaux and other references to expensive claret. However, Bordeaux is one of the largest wine producing regions in all of western Europe and it is only a tiny proportion of its annual production that is considered worthy of investment. So how do you know which Château to buy, or even whether to buy Bordeaux or not?
For the truly uninitiated, the simple reason that makes certain wines investment worthy is their ageability. That is to say that, these are wines that can, and do improve with age, and from particularly good vintages, age and improve for many many years. This does somewhat beg the question as to “how do you know which wines age the best?” and this is where the role of the critic or expert wine advisor comes to importance.
2. Critical Score – The role of the experts.
Today, thanks to the ubiquity of the internet, there is a wealth of information available with regards to wine history, price, quality, condition, storage location, critical opinion and analytic research. Of course, discerning which websites or people are worth your time and which are mere speculation/biased opinion is much harder, below we offer several sources which we think deem close reading:
- Robert Parker Jr’s Wine Advocate and associated internal sites are considered the top resource for Bordeaux and New World wines.
- Likewise, Allen Meadows’ Burghound.com is The invaluable source of experienced and critical Burgundy opinion.
- James Suckling launched his own namesake site after leaving his position as Senior Editor of the Wine Spectator in 2010; both websites contain a wealth of knowledge on the finer wines of the world.
- Jancis Robinson, through both her own website and her tireless work on The Oxford Companion of Wine, provides some of the most concise information on the world of fine wine.
- Stephen Tanzer, another respected American critic, has his own site focusing on Burgundy, northern Italy and California.
All of the above experts and critics have their own rating system, which they judge wines with; from Jancis Robinson’s straight forward “points out of 20″, to Robert Parker’s famous “100point scale”, aped by so many other critics since inception. The key with all of the scores, and a point of contention for many in the trade, is the review that goes with the score – several journalists and critics have decried the use of a point system; but for many the numerical value is paramount. To wit, most would consider that any wine that gets 95 or more points out of 100 from Robert Parker is investment-grade.
3. Brand Appeal – the importance of a good name.
A key feature in the investment quality of a particular wine is it’s “brand appeal”, and this can be quite a hard aspect of a wine to place a discerning quantity or number on. What we mean by this is, that while a wine may come from a storied producer and receive good scores from the leading critics, the actual demand for the wine may be rather small or not command a price that it’s pedigree would suggest. For instance: Château Saint Pierre, outside the village of St Julien in Bordeaux, consistently out-performs the likes of Château Beychevelle, and yet the latter is considered far more investment worthy; simply because of demand from Asia.
Further afield in Burgundy, the importance of brand is further reinforced, simply due to the number of producers, making wine from the same named sites. To the extent that, there are hundreds of vignerons producing wines from Gevrey Chambertin, but the range of prices between the best producers and the inconsistent ones are huge. Even within one of the famed Premier Cru sites, for example Gevrey Chambertin Clos St Jacques there are five famed producers all asking different prices for the same-named wine from the same vintage. With Vinetrade’s Watchlist feature we collate the best of the critical opinions and weekly recommend wines that we think merit watching.
Summing up – How to choose investment grade wine.
Ultimately, with any investment there needs to be a reason for adding it to your portfolio. For wine to be worthy of inclusion in your portfolio it should, at the very least, have:
- A good brand appeal, or sufficient demand to make it worthwhile.
- A high score from respected critics; typically 95+ from the likes of Robert Parker
- Sufficient ageability, that is with ageing potential and not at the end of its lifespan and unlikely to improve.
- Been stored under-bond; as mentioned before in our previous post, a wine stored in a bonded warehouse is VAT exempt and kept in optimal conditions.
- Come from a good vintage, or have sufficiently good reason for investing in.
Vinetrade only deals with wines that are stored in bonded warehouses, in impeccable condition, and with years of industry experience are more than happy to advise on which wines we consider age-worthy and merit inclusion in your collection.