As we move into a new year for collectible drinks, we look back at the top 10 fine wine trends of the past 12 months.
Although it may not make for the usual sensationalist start to an online story, the fine wine market has in fact normalised over the course of 2015 – or, looked at another way, it seems to have come full circle.
As our annual update of the world’s most powerful fine wine brands shows (which you can read in full in the December issue of the drinks business), 2015’s demand trends are pretty similar to those just over 10 years ago, before China discovered claret, and sent prices soaring for certain châteaux.
So, if one compares the current situation with late 2004, Bordeaux was 76% of the fine wine market according to Liv-ex – it is 74% today – with the remaining split between Burgundy, Champagne, Italy, the Rhône and the ‘rest of the world’, all in much the same proportions as you’ll see in 2015.
But this does mean that there has been a huge change in brand power over the past five years. In late 2010, when the fine wine market reached its peak, driven by speculation on the most sought-after brands for China, Bordeaux accounted for 96% of all secondary trading activity by value through Liv-ex. Not only that, but 61% of the total trade was focused on just five brands: first growths Lafite, Latour, Margaux, Mouton-Rothschild and Haut-Brion.
More remarkable was that Lafite alone was 35% of the business – a phenomenon that attracted much comment. Was Lafite’s dominance due to the look of the label, the high Robert Parker scores, the appeal of the brand name in Mandarin, or, at that time specifically, the decision by the château to add a Chinese symbol to its latest bottle release – the 2008 vintage? No one was quite sure, but cases of the wine were trading on average for over £10,000.
Fast forward to today, as December’s db shows, Lafite sells for half that sum and accounts for 10% of trade on Liv-ex. The first growths as a whole are a third of business, and, as noted above, Bordeaux makes up pretty much the same proportion as it did in 2004.
Essentially, the nature of the fine wine market today is a testament to the collapse of Chinese demand for the best cru classé claret, but it’s also a sign that things are back to normal: collectors’ tastes are almost identical to those of 11 years ago; it’s as though the bubble never happened.
But, for those sitting on unsold stocks of first growth claret, unfortunately it did.
To read the a full report on the fine wine market see the ‘Liv-ex Power 100’ fine wine power list in December’s edition of the drinks business. Meanwhile, over the following pages we bring you the 10 the biggest fine wine developments of 2015.