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Top ten trends of the last ten years: 7. Fine wine

In our fourth installment of the greatest changes in drinks since db was launched in July 2002, we consider the rise of fine wine investment.

Fine wine hasn’t just been a regular in the pages of db over the last decade – but a popular topic in the tabloids too. Why?

Publications worldwide have picked up on the easily sensationalised price appreciation, primarily in first growth Bordeaux, driven by speculative investment, a series of excellent vintages, improved price transparency, limited edition labels and Far East demand.

Indeed, if you had picked up a case of Lafite 2000 in mid-2002, when db launched, you would have paid £2,500. Today that same case is trading for £16,000, according to the wine exchange Liv-ex. Furthermore, the same vintage of second wine Carruades is now worth £2,700, but could have been picked up for just £200 ten years ago.

Lafite has been the most powerful symbol of fine wine’s potential. The label of choice among the newly rich in China, speculative investment in the Bordeaux first growth precipitated dramatic price inflation, followed by a couple of equally dramatic corrections when economic shocks rippled through the market, such as 2008’s Lehmann Brothers collapse.

By Christmas 2010, as db reported, the liquid in a bottle of Lafite 1982, at £3,500, was worth five times its weight in black truffles.

Furthermore, Lafite saw its price rise over 20% in 24 hours when the château announced the application of the Chinese character for number eight on bottles of its 2008 release.

Similarly, when Chinese artist Xu Lei was announced as the artist for the label of Mouton Rothschild from the same vintage, prices of the wine doubled within weeks.

The last decade has seen the establishment of Liv-ex as the trade’s most trusted source of fine wine data, and the advent of wine funds, such as Anpero Capital’s Wine Investment Fund, founded in 2003. Today such funds – set up purely as investment vehicles – are estimated to hold £250m of stock, but it is still a small part of the £2.5bn fine wine market.

Over the course of db’s history, tastes have slowly broadened among the top collectors and consumers, and as the magazine approaches its ten-year anniversary it’s clear Burgundy now carries cachet in the Far East, led by the ultimate rich-man’s wine: Domaine de la Romanée-Conti.

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