Finding good value among the 2009 Bordeaux wines

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

 is it possible to find good value wines from the 2009 vintage?
is it possible to find good value wines from the 2009 vintage?

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!

Should I invest in Champagne?

As Bordeaux licks its wounds following a couple of weak campaigns, investors are often tempted to look to wines from other regions. While Bordeaux will inevitably recover, it does give us a chance to reflect on other wines that might be of interest to the investor, in particular Champagne. In the last decade, Champagne has become a popular choice for investors and deserves to be taken seriously as an investment grade wine.

How does Champagne investment differ from Bordeaux?

ChampagneChampagne doesn’t usually offer the longevity of Bordeaux – it isn’t destined to be stored for half a century by any means, but the top wines will cellar for a decade after release and the wines of some vintages much longer. There is no ‘En Primeur’ campaign for Champagne – although the media attention that a release of a top vintage wine warrants has a lot in common with En Primeur, as wine merchants grapple to secure their allocation.

One reason why investors are drawn to Champagne is it is perceived to be good value compared to wines of a similar level. You could expect to pay in the region of £80 – £120 per bottle (on release) for wines like Taittinger’s Comte de Champagne and Moet’s Cuvée Dom Pérignon. The marketplace for fine Champagne is both buoyant and global. And as many corks are popped not long after release, the remaining wines that are laid down tend to increase in value quite rapidly.

Encouraging signs

There are signs from the last 12 months that the market for investment grade Champagne has really taken off – this is often attributed to two very strong vintages being released in a short period of time (2002 and 2004 are both excellent). While wines like Dom Perignon will always be popular, there are also signs that investors are broadening their search to include wines not previously considered. Liv-ex reported on this trend in August 2013. Similarly Decanter reported on the growing success of Champagne as an investment grade wine last year, and it seems to show no signs of slowing down.

Portfolio diversity

Ultimately it will only benefit you to have some diversity in your portfolio, so why not take a look at what Champagne has to offer? The top wines are only made in vintage years so there are no ‘red herrings’ among them – the quality speaks for itself, and has never been better. As long as corks are being popped and Champagne is increasingly recognised as a great wine for food pairing as well as merely a celebratory fizz, this trend seems set to continue.