Top Burgundies including Romanee-Conti and Henri Jayer are driving investment-grade wine prices at auction this year. Demand for rarities has combined with buyers seeking value in Bordeaux following a market slide.
A six-magnum case of Domaine de la Romanee-Conti Assortment 1990 fetched HK$541,200 ($69,400) at an Acker Merrall & Condit sale in Hong Kong last month, more than 15 percent up from last year, while a Hart Davis Hart sale in Chicago on Feb. 2 included two Romanee-Conti 1990 DRC Assortment cases, one of which fetched $41,825 and the other $38,240.
Demand has been buoyed by this month’s Chinese New Year celebrations. The London-based Liv-ex Fine Wine 50 Index of leading clarets rose 3.5 percent in January, its biggest monthly gain for two years, and the index is up more than 7 percent from a 31-month low touched in mid-November.
“We’re still keen on Burgundy,” Peter Lunzer, founder of Lunzer Wine Investments in London, said in a telephone interview, noting that demand for top Burgundies far exceeds supply. “One of the ones that is resilient is Domaine de la Romanee-Conti.”
Lunzer helps manage investment and trading accounts worth $34 million, and in a report last week described the region’s wines as “undoubtedly contenders for our investment portfolios, even if we often struggle to find sufficient volume.”
A case of La Tache 1999 DRC sold for $38,240 at the Hart Davis Hart auction, while 12 bottles of 1990 wine from Jayer’s Vosne-Romanee Cros Parantoux vineyard fetched $113,525 at the same sale.
Jayer, who died in 2006, has become one of Burgundy’s most sought-after wine-makers. His Cros Parantoux, from a 2.5-acre (1 hectare) premier cru vineyard that was an artichoke field in World War II, acquired trophy status in sales last year, notably after a case of the 1985 vintage fetched HK$2.06 million at a Christie’s International Plc auction in Hong Kong last February.
Other Burgundies which featured in the January Acker sale included six bottles of Domaine Dujac Echezeaux 1978, which fetched HK$196,800, and four three-liter jeroboams of Domaine Roulot Meursault-Perrieres spanning the years 2007 to 2010, which sold for HK$137,760.
Two 12-bottle DRC Assortment cases from 1999 sold for 28,200 pounds ($44,600) each at Sotheby’s in London Jan. 30, according to the auction house. A similar case traded on Liv-ex in November at 26,400 pounds.
Other Burgundy lots at the Sotheby’s sale included a case of Chambertin 1999 Armand Rousseau and 12 bottles of more recent Chambertin Clos de Beze 2005 Armand Rousseau, which each sold for 11,163 pounds.
While Burgundies have been driving auction prices, not all investors are convinced they represent value.
“We’re not buying Burgundy, the timing would be poor,” Miles Davis, co-founder and partner in Wine Asset Managers LLP in London, said in a phone interview. “It’s had a good run. It’s been outperforming for the past year or so.”
WAM has $20 million under management in two funds, all currently allocated to Bordeaux, including first-growths from the Medoc such as Chateau Lafite-Rothschild.
“Lafite seems to be reasonably popular again,” Davis said. “We’ve got a sensible weighting in it.”
A case of Lafite 2009 sold for 7,800 pounds on Liv-ex Feb. 12, a seven-month high on the exchange and extending gains which lifted it 7 percent from its December level, according to data on Liv-ex’s Cellar Watch website.
The Lafite vintage peaked at 14,350 pounds a case in February 2011 amid strong Asian demand, before a price slump which took it as low as 6,950 pounds on Dec. 14. Lafite’s 2009 vintage is its most expensive of the past five years, according to Liv-ex merchant data.
Among leading Bordeaux wines in the Hart Davis Hart sale in Chicago this month, a case of Chateau Petrus 1982 fetched $38,240 and 12 bottles of the same Pomerol producer’s 2008 vintage sold for $28,680. A case of 2009 wine from neighboring vineyard Chateau Lafleur went under the hammer for $20,315.
Following is a table of major auctions held so far this year.
Jan. 11/12: Zachys, Hong Kong – $4.65 mln
Jan. 25/26: Acker, Merrall & Condit, Hong Kong – $6.82 mln
Jan. 30: Sotheby’s, London – $2.22 mln
Feb. 2: Hart Davis Hart, Chicago – $4.40 mln