Fine wine trends 2016: the merchants speak out

16th December, 2016 by Patrick Schmitt

Gary Boom, founder, BI Wines & Spirits

gary-boomWhat has been selling well for you in the past year, and why?
The big story for us this year is Bordeaux. First, we have the continued demand for the best pre-2000 vintages of the top wines – first growths and their right-bank equivalents from 1982, 1986, 1989, 1990 and 1996 are still among the biggest draws for wine lovers in the UK, Asia and in the US. Second, we have the resurgence of demand for drinking vintages from Asia. Wines at all cru classé levels from 1999, 2001, 2004, 2007 and 2011 have been hoovered out of the UK market for shipping to Asia, where they will be consumed by the growing middle classes. To prove these points, sales of wines through our LiveTrade screen are up more than 13% year on year. Third, we have the success of the 2015 en primeur campaign, which was our best since 2010.

Much of the non-UK business has been given a welcome boost through the effect of this year’s sterling weakness – but en primeur remains very much a British phenomenon, and our biggest volume sellers included some of the most expensive wines released, proof that when Bordeaux is really good, wine lovers will return to it.

A Great Bordeaux Cellar

Bordeaux is back, says Boom

What has fallen out of favour in the past 12 months and why?
I wouldn’t say ‘fallen out of favour’ – if anything, the trend for our clients is to be more exploratory in their buying habits. The only region with slightly disappointing numbers is the Rhône, but this is more to do with a pair of slightly more challenging vintages (2013 and 2014) than we have become used to. 2015 will turn that around.

How important is en primeur Bordeaux to your business, and how important will a great 2016 vintage be for you?
En primeur is important but not just because of the immediate sales value – as we have seen over the ups and downs of the past decade, en primeur is too hard to predict to allow it to form a major financial part of sales strategy. If our clients buy deep and wide and store with us, we will get first access to that stock should they wish to trade it further down the line. This is important in lower-production wines that become hard to find in the open market five to 10 years after physical release.

2016 is reportedly another fine vintage, and given the success of 2015, even with its relatively high pricing, you cannot rule out another successful campaign. Clients have proven they are willing to pay up for the best wines. However, the currency impact on the 2016 campaign will be significant, and with Article 50 and its associated uncertainties still looming over the horizon, it seems unlikely that there will be a significant improvement in the euro:pound exchange rate.

Are your sales for the past year up on 2015, and if so, why?
Yes – mainly as a result of the successful 2015 en primeur campaign and the considerable increase in Bordeaux sales – both in terms of stock going to Asia becasue of the weak currency, and in terms of UK buyers taking strong positions before the prices go up further.

Finally, what do you think will do well in 2017?
Spain will continue its resurgence and South Africa will gain more footholds with established merchants. Australia and Chile’s continued search for cool-climate sites will yield more excellent, balanced, fresh wines with real appeal for the European palate. 2015 Burgundies will be in huge demand but we expect the prices to put many wines out of reach of all but the most determined – and the real winner from this will be Bordeaux. This most ancient of wines will come full circle and once again look like good value compared with much of Burgundy. With top wines like Lynch Bages or La Mission Haut Brion from ready-to-drink vintages available now for the same price as a Villages Gevrey from a top grower, it’s not hard to see how even the most experienced of heads will turn back towards the Gironde.

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