iDealwine update: Comtes de Champagne

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22nd November, 2016 by Arthur de Lencquesaing for iDealwine

Brand power, consistent quality and reasonable prices combine to make Champagne Taittinger’s prestige cuvée an intelligent investment option.

Champagne Taittinger's Comtes de Champagne prestige cuvée

Champagne Taittinger’s Comtes de Champagne prestige cuvée

The house of Champagne Taittinger was founded in 1932 by the great-grand-father of current CEO Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger. In 2005 the family sold the property to Starwood Capital. However Pierre-Emmanuel succeeded in buying it back a year later. Today, Taittinger remains one of the happy few family-run Champagne houses of such a large size.

The property comprises 288 hectares of vines, of which 60% are grands crus and 40% are Chardonnay. This guarantees about half of Taittinger’s grape requirement for the six million bottles it produces annually – making the house the sixth-largest in Champagne.

Rather than aiming at increasing volumes, the strategy of the house is to grow the proportion of luxury cuvées with a strong emphasis on the prestige label Comtes de Champagne.

Historic cuvée

> iDealwine is an international fine wine e-merchant with offices in Paris, Hong Kong and London. Specialising in online auctions and fixed-price sales, iDealwine was launched in France in 2000 and is now the online auction leader in Europe, supplying to 45 different countries across Europe, Asia and the US.
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This cuvée was created in 1952 and named as a tribute to Theobald IV, King of Navarre and the greatest Count of Champagne. It is produced in the former Abbey of Saint-Niçaise, erected in the 13th century in Reims.

It is made exclusively from the juice of the first press of Chardonnay grapes sourced exclusively from Côte des Blancs grands crus of Avize, Cramant, Chouilly, Le Mesnil-sur-Oger and Oger. Since the 1988 vintage, 5% of the wines are aged for four months in oak barrels (renewed by one-third every year). Depending on the vintage, and after eight years of ageing on their lees, 150-300,000 bottles of Comtes de Champagne are released.

In the 55 years separating the first Comtes the Champagne from the latest release – the 2006 – only 35 vintages have been declared. Highly rated by international critics, Taittinger’s prestige cuvée is often considered the epitome of Chardonnay alongside other icons like Dom Ruinart, Krug Clos du Mesnil and Salon Cuvée S.

Recently there has been a shift in both trade and consumers’ perceptions about prestige cuvées, with many increasingly considering them as bluechip assets in the same vein as fine Bordeaux or Burgundy grands crus. Leading Champagne houses like Dom Pérignon and Krug have certainly contributed to this trend, generating vigorous interest through special releases, limited editions and restricted allocations.

On iDealwine auctions, we have observed significant price increases for top Champagne cuvées, with bids remaining predominantly from traditional markets like France and the UK, but with growing interest from Hong Kong, the Baltic states and the Middle East.

Comtes de Champagne is benefiting fully from this trend. It enjoys strong brand awareness, a consistent quality recognised by international critics and reasonable release prices – making it a safe bet for buyers, who have so far enjoyed sensible price increases.

In the past few months these increases have accelerated significantly across all vintages. The past decade has generated a great series of vintages, combined with an increased effort from Champagne houses to boost their premium offering. As a result, larger volumes have been produced, which should restrain the price increase in the short term.

In the long term, however, with consumption levels reducing the amount of available wine on the market, the best vintages – such as 2002, 2004 and the not-yet-released 2008 should be safe investments. In all recent auctions, 2004 and 2005 rose but the most important increase was observed for the limited and acclaimed 2002 which sold for €164, increasing by 31% from its 2015 price.

Mature vintages

Price evolution of Comtes de Champagne (€)
Vintage In 2008 In 2010 In 2012 In 2014 In 2016 Change (%)
1998 81 79 95 118 120 48
1996 82 83 120 161 219 167
1990 117 132 159 162 203 74
1988 94 102 103 144 242 157
1982 120 108 142 152 328 173

For more mature Comtes de Champagne, typically from the best vintages of the 80s and 90s, demand is growing even stronger. For example, the 1996 sold for €294 a bottle in May – an increase of 35% on its estimate – while the 1988 rose by 21% to €281.

The 1982 vintage, that was selling for €171 in 2015, went under the hammer for as much as €316 in January and increased again to €384 in the first auction of May. The record sale of Comtes de Champagne in recent months was the 1976, which fetched €618 in the first auction of January.

Comtes de Champagne is clearly a good performer at auction and mature vintages from the best years show even greater value in the long term. It’s important to remember, however, that cellaring conditions need to be absolutely optimum to ensure the quality and price of these delicate wines over the years. Cheers!

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