The leading benchmark for the fine wine market, the Liv-ex 100, finished up 1.3% in March, reflecting a rise of 7.3% year to date. Liv-ex reported increased liquidity on the exchange, with exposure up 26% to £21.5m, a strong indication merchants and wine funds are more eager to trade.
The Liv-ex 50, which consists of the leading vintages of the First Growths and therefore a narrower selection, underperformed the Liv-ex 100. This can be attributed to the positive performance of top scoring wines outside the traditional investment market. The Liv-ex 100 contains a small amount of Champagne, Burgundy and notably Clos Papes Chateauneuf de Pape 2005, Ornellaia 2004 and Sassicaia 2006, the latter performing over 20% higher in the last six months. Perhaps this is the final nail in the anachronistic belief that fine wine investment ought to be restricted to a limited selection of First Growths.
Bordeaux 2010 – released in March
As largely expected Parker’s bottle scores for the 2010 vintage inveterate his previous assertion that it is a legendary vintage, awarding ten perfect 100 scores; he awarded 19 chateaux 100 points in 2009. His scores confirm that while 2010 may be just behind 2009, it is better than the great 2005 and 2000. Indeed, when taken together these vintages must be considered as the best he has tasted in his career. The triumph of the vintage turned out to be Pape Clement, a wine he originally scored 93-95+, but subsequently remarked 100 points; this with the Pontet Canet and Montrose will be added to the Liv-ex 100. Parker also stated that he may rescore another ten wines as 100 points in the fullness of time. Six wines straddle both vintages with 100 points: Latour, Haut Brion, Petrus, Le Pin and magnificently Beausejour-Duffau Lagarrosse and Pontet Canet.
The areas to look at – particularly for investment – are the high scoring, 99 to 100 points wines under £2,000 a case. If we consider the legendary 100 point Pichon Lalande 1982 and Montrose 1990 which trades above £5,500 a case, it is easy to see the value in these truly great 100 point wines from 2009 and 2010. Moreover, there are numerous wines, Second Growths through to Fifth Growths that are First Growth in quality.
Some of the IG Wines team will be arriving in Bordeaux next week to taste the 2012 vintage, which will be released En Primeur this spring. Reports so far suggest a mixed vintage with difficult weather conditions leaving a lot of work to be done by the winemakers. Most reports suggest that a warm end to July followed by a hot August saved the vintage, which was looking disastrous after rain throughout April, May and June produced uneven flowering. However, the heat in the eleventh hour still could not stave off the inconsistent ripening. The vintage is said to have produced low yields, not a bad thing in itself, however, broadly speaking the grapes did not reach full phenolic ripeness and lower alcohol levels and less ripe tannins can be expected.
Early reports suggest there is a large variance between estates, where some winemakers performed brilliantly and others not. Modern-day techniques such as sorting tables, which sort all the grapes and remove any undesirables, mean that terrible vintages are extremely infrequent from the top chateaux. Many experts are comparing 2012 to 2002 and 2008, I wish they wouldn’t, it means very little. If the Bordelais use the low yields as a justification for maintaining the ridiculous 2011 prices then there will be plenty of wine left in Bordeaux.
Since Antonio Galloni’s departure early this year three new reviewers have joined The Wine Advocate team; Jeb Dunnuck who will be covering Rhone, Southern France, Washington, and Central & Southern California, and two others who are yet to be announced. Parker will once again be looking after Bordeaux and has returned to Napa, Sonoma and Northern California, dropping his cherished Rhone valley.
The Tuscan 2010 is currently being released, a vintage driven by fruit, elegant, with finesse more than body. We tasted it along with the 2009 two weeks ago and it is hard not to draw comparisons with Bordeaux which produced an incredibly ripe 2009 and the structured equally concentrated 2010.
Every year Parker rescores the equivalent vintage released ten years before and this year he will be reviewing the divisive 2003 vintage, which due to its extreme heat and vine strain split critics. Parker scored this vintage very highly, favouring its incredibly ripe fruit and soft tannins. It is a vintage that looks under-priced when compared to his scores, a discrepancy caused by the markets fear the vintage will not age well. This could be one his most interesting rescores yet, will he confirm or retract his previous glittering review. “Whilst the peaks are not as lofty as in 2000, 2005, 2009 or 2010, they are interesting, exotic, lavish, often sumptuous wines that will repay extended cellaring, though most can be broached now” Neal Martin.