Fine wine trends 2016: the merchants speak out

Oliver Hartley, sales director, Corney & Barrow

urlWhat has been selling well for you in the past year?
2016 has two very distinct halves: pre- and post-Brexit vote. Pre-Brexit vote we were finding that anything that was ready to drink now, and in good condition was flying out of the door – we couldn’t get enough of it, as long as it was at the right price. But post-Brexit vote, with the weakening pound, I have never seen the blue chips on the secondary market fly as fast as they have in the last few months. The likes of Petrus and Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, as well as the first growths, are suddenly being snapped up for a 20% saving.
However, I am cautious of saying Bordeaux has bounced back in a big way, but I think people are buying maturing vintages – 2005 and older – and for the big-name wines there is a certain amount of opportunistic buying – people are thinking, ‘let’s buy now while it’s cheap, and hold it’, with an eye for a nice margin if and when currencies stabilise again.

How important is en primeur Bordeaux?
2015 Bordeaux was a lot better for us than the previous three campaigns, but was it back to the levels of 2005, 2009 or 2010? Absolutely not… I get a sense that there is a generational change, a sea-change in the way people are buying. Fewer people understand en primeur; we live in a world where people want instant gratification, and I see fewer younger customers buying en primeur; they don’t mind spending £1,000 on a case of wine, but they want something they can drink tomorrow.”

brexit

Post the Brexit vote, blue chip Bordeaux is being snapped up in Britain by dollar buyers in Asia and the US

Has anything fallen out of favour in the past 12 months?
No, I don’t think so. Things that have done really well for us in first half of this year, in terms of new releases have been, for example, the Super Tuscans, as well as releases from Germany and the Rhône. The 2015s have been extremely good in some of these areas, but it’s also I think because of something else. Maybe linked to Burgundy pricing – people are listening to the merchants, who are saying there is life outside France so the buyers are looking elsewhere. Our sales would back that up.

What do you think will do well next year?
Inevitably, the 2015 Burgundies will do well when released now and into January. Customers are expecting prices to go up. Some will be restrained, some will not. I think the wines will sell well, and it’s a good vintage. And people are aware that ’16, particularly for whites, will be scarce.
Bordeaux ’16 could be a very interesting vintage. And I think we’ll see Italy do well on fine-wine side next year. And, again, we’ll see a creeping influence of interesting fine wines that people won’t have considered to be fine before, such as emerging European countries. I was recently staggered by the quality in some of the wines from Greece, although they won’t be on the Liv-ex 100 any time soon…

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