Fine wine’s biggest risers of 2015

After a year of ups and then downs the ten best performing wines of 2015 reflect the renewed diversity of the fine wine market.

Angelus-Stone-640x428The loosening of Bordeaux’s grip on power over the last few years has actually returned the fine wine market to levels of diversity and price last seen around 2004.

As was pointed out at the end of last year, this return to a broader market has put the brakes on plummeting secondary pricing and 2015 looked like it might finish in the black for the first time in five years (the year-end figures have not yet been released).

Nonetheless, it was a Bordeaux that topped the year’s best risers and two more snuck into the top 10, albeit below a handful of Burgundian and Italian labels and even entries from the Rhône and Port.

According to Liv-ex the year’s best risers were:

  • Angélus 2005 – 39.9% from £2,250 to £3,148 between December 2014 and November 2015 (all prices)
  • Domaine Pegau, Châteauneuf du Pape Reservée 2010 – 37.2% from £436 to £598
  • Opus One 2006 – 35.9% from £2,134 to £2,900
  • Domaine Mommessin, Clos Tart 2010 – 34.4% from £2,182 to £2,933
  • Luciano Sandrone, Barolo Vigne 2007 – 34.1% from £645 to £865
  • Tignanello 2004 – 33.2% from £764 to £1,018
  • Taylor’s 1994 – 31.4% from £818 to £1,075
  • Domine Leflaive, Batard Montrachet 2002 – 30.7% from £2,922 to £3,818
  • Cheval Blanc 2005 – 29.3% from £3,750 to £4,848
  • La Mission Haut-Brion 2005 – 28.5% from £2,900 to £3,728

A number of things stand out from this list that tie in neatly with a number of narratives that dominated last year’s fine wine headlines.

To begin with there is the success of Bordeaux’s 2005 vintage 10 years on. Robert Parker’s retrospective ramped up expectations as June approached and even if his scores dished out the laurels to the Right Bank rather than the Left (save the two ‘Brions’ in Pessac), the warm glow of attention and bizarrely low prices for such a great vintage 10 years on ensured an intense (if brief) trading period.

Despite a certain amount of head-shaking at recent price hikes int he wake of its elevation to grand cru classé ‘A’ in 2012, Angélus continues to go from strength to strength, its new rank confirmed by Liv-ex’s re-classification of the Right Bank last summer which showed it had edged into ‘first growth’ territory in terms of average pricing – unlike fellow ‘A’ Pavie which has struggled to maintain prices.

The solid mid-table dominance of Italian labels points to that country’s growing presence in fine wine and from Super Tuscans and Barolos in particular.

Opus One at number three is surprising though less so when one considers that Napa wines have stormed ahead recently and now command a market share of 2.1%, up from 1% in 2014 and just behind a struggling Rhône category (Pegau’s surprise result aside).

Burgundy’s first entry in fourth place sits well with that region’s increasing struggles as prices edge ever higher and hit their respective ‘walls’. The region has already slipped behind Italy and Champagne in terms of trade (although it remains hugely profitable) and stands on the edge of a correction by many accounts. The departure of Clos de Tart’s winemaker, Sylvain Pitiot, and sad passing of Anne-Claude Leflaive last April brought each estate some attention last year as well as greater recognition for the excellence of Leflaive’s wines and the vastly improved quality of the former thanks to Pitiot.

Finally, vintage Port made a surprising if welcome entry to a best-performer’s list, Taylor’s 1994 nestling comfortably in seventh place.

Although the undervalued fortified didn’t seize too many headlines throughout 2015, there were signs that parts of the category were healthier than they had been in a while. Last October Symington Family Estates reported a €10 million surge in its Tawny sales and one may imagine that a vintage Port as great as 1994 now over 20 years old couldn’t stay below £1,000 a case forever.

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