Analysing the trends from 2017’s Liv-ex Power 100

Last year it was Bordeaux, this year the star of the Liv-ex Power 100 is undoubtedly Burgundy. Patrick Schmitt MW looks at the reasons for its success, and also discovers which other regions have been popular in 2017.

As our loyal readers know well, db’s December issue always contains a list of the world’s 100 most powerful fine wine brands, ranked by Liv-ex according to a range of measures, from the volume of wine traded in the past 12 months to the price movement during the same period (see methodology at the end of this article). It’s a compelling survey, not just because there are always new entrants in the rankings, but because the prevailing trends in the secondary market can be drawn from the movement up and down the table of the most famous names in the wine business.

In essence, by measuring brand power, this annual list clearly shows what’s in vogue – then it’s up to us to find out why.

Last year’s theme was the comeback of Bordeaux, boosted by the Brexit vote, because sterling’s devaluation encouraged buyers outside of the UK to snap up blue-chip cru classé châteaux from London merchants at a discount. 2016 was also the year when one could really see a broadening of the market taking place – with Liv-ex trading more wines than ever before. In short, it was a year when two seemingly opposing developments were occurring: while there was heightened focus on the classic, established big Bordeaux brands, there was also a rising demand for the first-growth equivalents from the likes of Tuscany, Piedmont and Champagne –labels that were once overlooked by the new buyers in Asia, or the speculative investors in Europe and the US.


While the latter trend has continued, attesting to a maturing fine wine drinker in the fast-developing Asian market, the overriding regional focus has shifted from claret to the Côte d’Or – 2017’s Liv-ex Power 100 is characterised by the call, whatever the cost, for Burgundy’s great reds, and, significantly, its whites too.

So, while last year’s top 20 contained two brands from this part of the fine wine world, in 2017 that number has more than doubled to total five. As for the entire table, 2016 featured 19 names from Burgundy, and this year there were 24. Not only that, but as many as 22 of the top 50 biggest price risers were from this region, proving that the demand for Burgundy is outstripping supply.

Feature findings

> While a Bordeaux comeback was the main theme in last year’s Liv-ex Power 100, this year, it’s the rise of Burgundy.
> It’s not just Burgundy’s great reds hat have proved popular but its whites too.
> While 2016’s list featured 19 names from Burgundy, this time around there were 24, including 22 of the top 50 biggest price risers.
> Liv-ex’s Justin Gibbs says there was a scramble for Burgundies in a range of vintages, and not merely the latest releases.
> Burgundy’s success has been given a boost by the Asian market, whose buyers are attracted to the wine’s immediate drinkability.
> Liv-ex saw the first trades this year from a Chinese wine (Ao Yun), and an English fizz (Nyetimber).

However, the most conclusive evidence of Burgundy’s gain at Bordeaux’s expense comes in the results for 2017 concerning the percentage of trade on Liv-ex by value. As the table on page 42 shows, Bordeaux is now at its lowest share of secondary market business through the fine wine exchange since we began running this survey in 2004, while Burgundy is at its highest. Nevertheless, with 68.6% of the market, Bordeaux is still by far the biggest fine wine region in terms of trade. The second-largest, Burgundy, represents just 12% of the secondary market, although that’s up from 7.7% last year. Bordeaux, in contrast, has dropped by 6%.

“Burgundy is the theme of this year,” says Liv-ex director Justin Gibbs, adding that the biggest movers up the survey – Prieure Roch, Francois Lamarche and Guy Roulot “came from nowhere”. In other words, these names didn’t even qualify for power brand status in previous surveys (to even be considered for the top 100 a fine wine has to have traded at least three vintages with a total value surpassing £10,000). And, as mentioned above, 22 of the top 50 highest risers were from the Côte d’Or, with, in first place, Georges Roumier, which is up by 34% in price over the past 12 months. “Burgundy has really been the kicker this year,” continues Gibbs, saying there was a “scramble” for the wines in a range of vintages, and “not just the latest releases”.

Furthermore, while the rise of Burgundy, led by wines from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, has been certainly been observed in past surveys, the beneficiaries historically have been the red wines of the region. In 2017, some of the top performers are white wines. “Leflaive, Guy Roulot, Coche Dury, Etienne Sauzet, Raveneau… there is a big story in white Burgundy; it is back,” says Gibbs, adding that the 2014 harvest in this region produced some of the greatest white Burgundies ever made. He adds that, for example, Roulet Meursault from this vintage has seen a price rise of 50% since its release. Confirming such a trend, Will Hargrove, Corney & Barrow’s head of fine wine, says: “The surge of Burgundy’s popularity has continued strongly, with demand across the range and many wines oversubscribed at release – and this is the case for both reds and whites.” It’s a development observed by Simon Staples at Berry Bros & Rudd too, who says: “Burgundy romps onwards, ever onwards, with a 28%increase, thanks to a very successful en primeur campaign, but mainly because of huge trade in secondary-market Rousseau, DRC, Roumier, Mugnier, and Grivot.”

It’s also worth mentioning as further proof that Burgundy is hot at the moment that some major acquisitions have taken place in 2017, notably by American billionaire Stan Kroenke, owner of Screaming Eagle, who took a majority share in Bonneau du Martray at the start of the year, and Château Latour owner François Pinault, who, in October, acquired Clos de Tart, which adjoins Clos des Lambrays – another property that recently changed hands, with LVMH buying it in 2014.


Number of wines in the Liv-ex Power 100 by region

2017 2016 2015
Bordeaux 53 57 54
Burgundy 24 19 20
Italy 8 9 7
Champagne 6 6 5
Rhône 3 3 5
US 3 3 4
Spain 1 1 2
Australia 2 2 2
Argentina 0 0 1
Chile 0 0 0

Explaining the reason for such Burgundy fervor, Gibbs looks to the evolving Asian fine wine market. “The Chinese buyer wants to be seen as more sophisticated…anyone can pull out a bottle of Margaux, but how many can do the same with Rousseau?” he asks, suggesting that top-end Burgundy is now considered the more refined choice among the collectors of mainland China. But it’s also a question of taste. “The Chinese are discovering that Burgundy is far more approachable when it’s young; you don’t have to wait 20 years to drink it [as you might with cru classé claret], and they are quite impatient: they want to buy it now and enjoy it now,” he says. “And if you add to that the lack of supply, you have the perfect storm.”

He stresses that the surge in popularity for the top names in Burgundy hails entirely from Asia, even if the buyers of the great growers on first release are British. “It reminds me of the days when Lafite reached £12,000 a case [on the secondary market] – no-one in Europe or the US was buying it at that price; it was all going to Asia. Burgundy feels the same. European buyers are taking their allocation and, as soon as they can, they flip it, and it’s not being sold to another Englishman, it’s going to Asia.”

Nevertheless, prices are getting a touch “toppy”, worries Gibbs, particularly among the lesser wines. “Grand and Premier Cru Burgundy has been a sell-out for the past two years, but the village wines are becoming stickier; they are now too expensive,” he says.

Before considering last year’s performance of Bordeaux in more detail, it’s important to look at the other major positive development of 2017, the widening of fine wine demand to new regions and producers.

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