It has become clear that the 2015 Bordeaux is one of two things: either very good, or very, very good. These incredible wines are being sold as futures at en primeur and are rumoured to be the best vintage in a decade. What’s more is that all three Bordeaux styles are being hailed as a success – reds, dry whites and sweet whites. This is something that hasn’t happened since 2005. The three that has particularly stood out are: Pessac-Léognan, Saint-Émilion and Margaux.
Near Perfect Conditions
As with all wine, the environment is what makes or breaks a vintage, and 2015 had particularly good conditions. Like 2003, it was dry but it wasn’t extremely hot and it started raining at just the right time in most areas. Because of these perfect harvesting conditions, producers could take their time and most of the Bordeaux wines during this year turned out great. There was one area in which the rain didn’t quite come at the right time, and instead only arrived during the September harvest. Although this wasn’t catastrophic, the wines of Saint-Estèphe and from the north of Pauillac may not be as finely tweaked as they could be. Bear in mind that these wines are still verging on greatness. Unfortunately this also affects the overall score which is why you can rest assured that in reality 2015 is an even greater year than what is rumoured. Ratings aside, this year is an absolute pleasure to drink.
Does This Mean Prices are Sky High?
Just because the year is great, it doesn’t always mean that the vintage will be overpriced. Prices are only decided after the market is assessed by producers which could take days, weeks or months after wines are tasted and reviewed. It is also important to note that although all three styles are being touted as great, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the entire vintage is a success. What this means is by all means, buy some of this highly recommended fine vintage, but do it through a reputable wine broker.
Every wine buff knows that Burgundy and Bordeaux are both very popular wines. What only the experts know is that Burgundy has been statistically outperforming Bordeaux for the last number of years, at least until recent months.
Let’s Look at the Numbers
The beginning of 2012 was also the start of a 50% rise for Burgundy wines that continued until at least 2016. During the same period Bordeaux wines fell by almost 20%. This was after the Bordeaux bubble that happened from 2009 to 2012 suddenly burst, and hailed the slow and steady decline. In January 2016, everything drastically changed.
Although the market indicators showed a dismal performance from Bordeaux, it continued to remain popular, and this popularity finally started showing up in the numbers. In the months between January and September of 2016 all indices increased by at least 10%, finally showing excellent growth potential. After years of declining numbers, Bordeaux is once again on the upward trajectory. While Burgundy is also showing growth, two Bordeaux indices are paving the way. First Growths are up by 13.5% and the Bordeaux Medoc Classed Growth index rose by 16.5%. It is not only Bordeaux that is shooting up. Blue Chip Burgundies have also risen by 11.3%.
The Battle of the Bottle
If there was a competition between the two, all bets would certainly be placed on Bordeaux being resuscitated. It is also interesting to note that despite the numbers of the past few years, Bordeaux continues to be well-loved and well-chosen, time after time.
Predictions for the Next Year or Two
All the signs are there. The rapid improvement of Bordeaux in recent months heralds a time of increased interest in an already eminent brand, and prices may well rise even more dramatically than Burgundy prices have in the past few years. This doesn’t mean that Burgundy will succumb to a rapid rise and crash cycle the way that Bordeaux has. Like Bordeaux, even when short-term investments may be slightly affected, other factors, like reduced yields the past year, will drastically push up release prices in the coming years. Fine wine investors can rest assured that both the Bs remain relatively safe investment options.
A less than desirable picture was emerging from the Liv-ex 50 in November 2015, with First Growths down 40% since the market’s peak. First growths and top Sauternes have struggled slightly, together with the second wines of top Chateaux that showed so much promise in recent years. However this is not the full picture – when we look at the second, third, fourth and fifth growths, we start to see some very positive signs for the year ahead, and reminds us once again that there is much more to Bordeaux than just the First Growths.
Decanter recently reported on the ‘uneven’ nature of the 2014 wines from Bordeaux’s Right bank, compared to the relatively consistent fine wines of the Left bank, suggesting that soil type played a key role in the region’s fortunes.
There have been a few recent articles in the wine press suggesting that Robert Parker’s influence is on the decline – like this one from The Drinks Business quoting figures by The Wine Investment Fund. It’s an interesting question that rears its head every year, perhaps more significantly this year since Parker has made it clear he is taking more of a back seat role.
Re-scoring of the 2009s
Love him or hate him, no one can deny Parker’s impact over the last few decades. His scores out of 100 have cast a shadow on the fortunes of Chateaux, leading to many being accused of attempting to make wines that would appeal to the Parker palate in order to secure a high score. His recent re-scoring of the 2009s has shown that he is still a dominant influence on the market. In declaring 2009 to be ‘better than 1982’ and ‘the greatest vintage I have ever tasted in Bordeaux’, Parker has sealed the fate of the wines he has given perfect or near-perfect scores to, and it would be foolish for the investor to ignore this. Continue reading →
After a few shaky vintages in Bordeaux, you could be forgiven for feeling nervous that interest in the fine wine market was beginning to subside in Asia. Admittedly the market became so vast, so quickly, that there was little chance of growth continuing at such a fast pace. However, recent reports show that Asia’s love affair with Bordeaux is far from over, and in fact,this may just be the tip of the iceberg.
Mouton-Rothschild and the year of the ram
The evidence speaks for itself – at the top end of the market, a recent ex-chateau auction of Chateau Mouton-Rothschild in Hong Kong smashed all records, fetching a total of US$4.1 million. An extraordinary collection of 66 bottles was featured, offering vintages between 1945-2012.
This auction took place just before the Chinese New Year, giving it particular significance for the Chinese bidders, since it is the year of the ram – of course ‘Mouton’ is the French word for sheep! Continue reading →
In spite of the global popularity of Bordeaux, a wine from Burgundy has eclipsed the first growths for the second time in a row to top Sotheby’s rankings in 2014. Although wines from Bordeaux dominated the overall sales as usual, it was a lot of 114 wines from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, known as DRC, that hit the headlines with a record-breaking HK$12.5 million when it was sold in Hong Kong last year, which is equivalent to US$1.6 million.
For many of even the most avid wine collectors DRC will remain an elusive wine – Burgundy’s entire production is tiny compared to the phenomenal annual output of Bordeaux, and so it is no surprise that the wines of this legendary estate have achieved something of a legendary status. So, what’s so special about them? Continue reading →