A real buzz surrounded the release of Mouton Rothschild’s 2014 vintage on 28th April – not least because the opening price is lower than any other physical vintage of Mouton’s. At only a few pounds per bottle more than the 2013 , which is also still in barrel, it’s exciting news, and offers some hope following the recent murmurings that En Primeur would cease to exist if no enthusiasm could be generated about this year’s campaign.
A new Napa Valley wine has recently been tipped for ‘cult wine’ status. King of Clubs, a collaborative effort between Robert Mondavi, restauranteur Justin Anthony and entrepreneur Christopher R. King, is likely to follow in the footsteps of wines like Screaming Eagle and those of Harlan Estate and other Napa superstars. But what factors give a wine ‘cult’ status?
A big name doesn’t hurt
Robert Mondavi is one of the world’s most influential winemakers. Other wines that he has been involved with such as Opus One, a collaboration between Mondavi and Baron Philippe de Rothschild, are representative of the Californian blockbusters with which his name is associated. So it’s no surprise that this latest project involving Mondavi is set to be a huge success.
Parker describes your wine as ‘utter perfection’
It doesn’t hurt to have Robert Parker give your wine 100 points, which was the case when little known boutique Californian winery Screaming Eagle found their Cabernet Sauvignon suddenly in high demand. Parker’s ‘utter perfection’ comment was actually about the 2010 vintage, sending its price per bottle skyrocketing and generating interest in older vintages on the second hand market. Due to small production, tiny allocations, and allegedly a waiting list to get on the waiting list to buy a bottle directly from source, Screaming Eagle’s cult status has all but ensured most of us will never see a bottle, let alone taste it!
The elusive artisan factor
Spain’s Bodegas Vega Sicilia winery is the home of the country’s most praised wines, including flagship wine Unico. But the estate’s most elusive wine is Unico Reserva Especial – an extraordinary wine that is a blend of great and often very old vintages. The Reserva Especial is a blend of Spain’s indigenous grape Tempranillo with Bordeaux’s Cabernet Sauvignon. It is impeccably crafted, and has a true artisan quality. It is released infrequently and in high demand, so allocations are small.
For the most part, these cult wines exist as an intriguing distraction to both the fine wine drinker and the investor – the drinker might spend a lifetime trying to secure a bottle and hoping it will meet with their expectations. The investor will do well to remember their names and look out for the next King of Clubs in order to get their hands on it before Parker does.
Few Bordeaux vintages have generated as much speculation and subsequent commentary as 2009. Thanks to Robert Parker’s glowing endorsement, there was a genuine scramble to get hold of the top wines with an unprecedented 21 wines receiving the ultimate accolade, 100 Parker points.
The power of Parker’s endorsement
Although prices were undoubtedly high, Parker’s endorsement ensured that the 2009 campaign was a successful one, just as the market began to peak. So, in the wake of a couple of weaker vintages, and with Bordeaux having fallen out of favour somewhat as the pricing debate continues, is it possible to find good value wines from the 2009 vintage?
Liv-ex points to three specific groups of wines from 2009 – first growths, wines scoring 100 points, and Parker’s ‘Magical 20’, a group of second to fifth growth wines declared by Parker in a fascinating 2011 Hong Kong-based tasting to be punching substantially above their weight. Among the three groups the first growths saw a decline when the 2012 in-bottle tastings took place, but the Magical 20 wines and the 100-pointers’ value started to soar.
First growths overshadowed
The problem that the first growths encountered was that the wines were so expensive when they were released that the prices barely moved until the wines were actually in bottle. Parker’s selection and evaluation of his Magical 20 meant that the first growths fell out of the spotlight, with everyone clamouring to get hold of the wines he evaluated to be the most exciting overperformers of the vintage.
There is some crossover between the 100 pointers and the Magical 20 of course with some wines falling into both categories. Oddly despite the prestige and pedigree of the wines that fall into two categories, there is potentially some value to be found here for those wishing to buy 2009 wines today, with Liv-ex’s blog describing the current prices as recently as July 2014 as ‘off-peak’.
Buying ‘historic’ wines
So if you are considering purchasing wines from the vintage that Parker said ‘may turn out to be historic’, it may not be the worst time to do it. Ultimately we can never be entirely sure what’s around the corner with Bordeaux – factors such as the annual weather, the size of the harvest, the emergence of new markets for the top wines, and whether these markets buy for drinking or investment will all continue to play their part in Bordeaux’s fortunes. Meanwhile, what remains from the extraordinarily good 2009 vintage will continue to improve in bottle for years to come, and those that didn’t invest in those 100-point wines might come to wish they had. And we certainly shouldn’t write off those first growths just yet!
Various factors come together to determine the value of a wine – there’s the quality of the vintage, its classification, and perhaps most significantly, how it has been rated by wine critic Robert Parker. Wines that Parker scores with 90 points or above become highly desirable often regardless of their Bordeaux classification, including wines that might otherwise slip under the radar. So, what are the factors that determine which wines are the ‘ones to watch’ whose value will improve the most?
The wines of Bordeaux were classified in 1855 and little has changed since then. Recently though, there has been some movement. Two St Emilion estates received promotion to Grand Cru Classé A status, Pavie and Angélus, resulting in a flurry of activity as buyers sought to get their hands on them.
Of course, re-classification doesn’t happen overnight, and a good deal of legislation accompanies it, giving the smart investor with a close eye on the market a chance to source wines that are being considered for promotion.
Parker re-evaluates the wine in bottle
The score that Parker initially assigns to a wine on tasting the barrel sample is a crucial one, but it’s often his in-bottle score in the years to come that determines the wine’s value on the second-hand market. A recent example was Parker’s perfect scoring of Chateau Pontet-Canet 2010– a fifth growth punching above its weight whose value has rocketed.
A special endorsement
When Hong Kong first emerged as a market for Bordeaux, First Growths dominated. In his ‘Magical 20’ tasting, Parker selected 20 wines from the 2009 Bordeaux vintage that he felt were of First Growth quality, taking attention away from the top wines and ensuring that there would be a race to buy the wines he endorsed. Wines like Cos d’Estournel and Pichon Lalande were identified for praise, and their value consequently soared.
A new market?
Who could have predicted how immense the market for fine wine in China would be? Far from slowing down, this is a market whose taste is changing, turning its attention to wines from beyond Bordeaux and exploring different wine regions. It is possible that India will soon drop its wine import duty too, and it is worth keeping an eye on markets like Russia and Singapore as well. Wines to watch out for include Chateaux with historic links to emerging markets.
When it comes to wines to watch, we can’t get it right every time of course, nor can we predict what will appeal to one man’s palate, so for every 2010 Pontet-Canet there will also be a Pichon-Baron whose value suffered slightly from not receiving a perfect score from Parker this time. Nonetheless it remains highly investible and may benefit from re-evaluation in future. Ultimately fine wine is a solid investment, and if you happen to have some of these wines in your collection, your investment will prove to be even more lucrative than you thought.
As wine marketers know, there is never a lack of investors lining up to pay high prices for rare or older bottles of fine wine. We were recently reminded of that fact when a case of Château Petrus from 1998 was put up for sale. It tripled in value during the past eight years and broke all records when it sold for £26,822. Looking over the past two decades of wine sales, the 1998 Petrus was the third most expensive. According to Robert Parker’s 100-point scale, it won a rating of 98. At a recent Sotheby’s sale, Bordeaux wines from Petrus were again the top sellers when bottles of a 1990 vintage brought in £25,850. Part of the value of the wine derives from the estate where it was produced, and Château Petrus is one of Bordeaux’s most valuable estates.
Location is Everything
The 28 acres of vineyards at Château Petrus are located in Pomerol, an area in the southwest of France. Holding an international reputation for being one of the world’s best areas to produce wi
that it has earned its international reputation in a relatively short period of time. For instance, until the last century it was barely noticed but now its wines are more expensive than many of the more established Bordeaux estates.ne, it is not typical of other appellations in Bordeaux. Pomerol does not have its own classification system and it is not one of the wealthy châteaux in the midst of many others. It is unique in
Pomerol is located to the east of Bordeaux on the Dordogne River’s right bank. The highest percentage of grapes grown is Merlot, although there are some Cabernet Franc vines as well. Unlike the other appellations, Pomerol is not named for a town located in its region and it does not have an epicenter.
Other producers taking advantage of Pomerol’s excellent location are Lafleur and Le Pin.