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

Fine wine trends: the merchant’s view

GARY BOOM, FOUNDER, BI WINES & SPIRITS
What has been selling well for you in the past year and why?
“Bordeaux keeps top spot in terms of overall sales, and has seen a 12%increase in value in 2017 over 2016. It remains pretty stable, at around 60% of total sales. En primeur was very successful, with the first growths and leading lights of St Emilion in particular proving popular. The best-sellers of the top categories (£1m+ sales per year) are Champagne and the Rhône, which have seen a 19% and 32% increase respectively, and Spain has increased by 13% to move into this top group. Dom Pérignon, Cristal, Krug and Clos des Goisses led the way for fizz, with Guigal’s La Las and Château Rayas winning the prizes for ‘most sought after’ in the Rhone. Spain continues to be dominated by Rioja sales, with Muga’s Prado Enea the leading light in 2017.

“However, the biggest growth has come from outside wine, with our spirits category growing by more than 150% to more than £2.5m. Unsurprisingly, this has been led by rare whisky, from both Scotland and Japan.

“In the ‘second rung’, the biggest winners have been Chile and Madeira. Chile has benefitted from significant publicity from James Suckling in particular, and also from Luis Gutierrez at The Wine Advocate, which has really raised the profiles of the leading wineries and wines. The major winners for us were the high-scoring Almaviva 2015 (James Suckling’s Wine of the Year), Clos Apalta 2014 and Sena 2015. Madeira might be surprising but the sales team have become positively obsessed with this unique region and its wines, and have been working to convert as many of our clients as possible. The total numbers are not enormous but we have almost tripled last year’s sales figure.”

What do you think will do well in 2018 and why? And do you have high hopes for next year’s en primeur Bordeaux campaign?
“Bordeaux will continue to lead the way, as there appears to be no let-up in demand, and with the 2015s due to become physical in 2018, we expect to see an uplift in trade on this excellent vintage. The Asia market did not get hugely involved with the 2015 vintage en primeur but the demand will certainly be there once the wines are available to be shipped to collectors. This may well drive prices, which, in turn, may spark interest in other back vintages that are well-priced in the market.

“Bordeaux en primeur is very difficult to predict – so we don’t try. We go into every vintage certain that if the prices ‘match’ the quality (denoted by the leading critics) then there is a good chance of a successful campaign. We know that 2017 will be smaller in volume in some regions, especially in parts where quantity has to be sacrificed to maintain quality, but it is impossible to tell what impact this will have on pricing. We’ll be ready, whatever happens.

“Champagne will also continue to do well, as the wines still look like decent value in comparison with many other top wine regions, and the way that rapid consumption drives up back vintages continues to impress and intrigue buyers.

“Spain remains one of the most exciting wine regions, and will keep on delivering wines of character, quality and scarcity at very competitive prices.

“California is developing stronger sub-regional identities and creating wines ever-more focused on elegance rather than power, and we expect these to gain traction with more traditional UK and European palates.”

WILL HARGROVE, HEAD OF FINE WINE, CORNEY & BARROW

What has been selling well for you in the past year and why?
“The surge of Burgundy’s popularity has continued strongly with popularity across the range and many wines oversubscribed at release (too many to mention). This is the case across both reds and whites.

Piedmont also continues to rise in popularity and sees very strong demand. At the same time the big names in Champagne and right bank Bordeaux are selling very well. The top names in the Rhone are certainly back on peoples agenda and are seen to offer good value with some of Burgundy being at very high prices in the secondary market.”

Are your sales for the past year up on 2016, and if so, why?
“Yes, they are up, a reflection of the combination of the 2015 and 2016 vintages to sell generally strong vintages across Europe and beyond. This is combined with good work done by our team in boosting new customer numbers.”

Finally, what do you think will do well in 2018 and why? And do you have high hopes for next year’s en primeur Bordeaux campaign?
“Time for the crystal ball! Potential patterns are always a little hard to ‘guess’ at but what is for sure is that the market is becoming more and more focused on producers rather than region or wine type – the great (and upcoming) producers, whether in Bordeaux, Burgundy, Italy, Spain and well beyond, are in demand. The number of great producers has never been higher.

“In terms of next year’s en primeur – this is a very tricky one to judge, as there will probably be a general perception that it was a very tricky (frosted) vintage (which it was in many places). Actually, there are many areas of excitement on the Right Bank, and it will be down to producers and merchants to get this across.”

TOM STOPFORD SACKVILLE, CHIEF EXECUTIVE, GOEDHUIS & CO

What has been selling well for you in the past year and why?
“New Champagne and Californian releases have worked really well this year, and also some of the Chilean releases, like Sena, have had a significant response from our clients for the first time. Burgundy remains very popular, even at current price levels, while Bordeaux in the £40-£80 per bottle slot also has a consistent following.”

What has fallen out of favour in the past 12 months and why?
“Sadly for us, some of the cheaper/middle-priced Rhones appear to be harder to sell than in the past. As we are great fans of these wines we struggle to understand why so many are making regular appearances on our bin-end and clearance sales, it seems the clients have their heads turned elsewhere at the moment.”

Are your sales for the past year up on 2016, and if so, why?
“Yes, sales are well up so far in 2017, and we have Burgundy 2015 and Bordeaux 2016 to thank for that. We sold 30% more 2016 en primeur Bordeaux than 2015.”

Finally, what do you think will do well in 2018 and why? And do you have high hopes for next year’s en primeur Bordeaux campaign?)
“2017 Bordeaux will be quite a tough sell after the 2015/2016 double act, but if quality is good and prices are sensible then there is no reason for it to fail. Just three big ifs.”

SIMON STAPLES, SALES DIRECTOR, BERRY BROS & RUDD
What has been selling well for you in the past year and why?
“Well, well ,well… this was not quite what I felt in my ever capacious ‘gut’. It felt like Barolo and Barberesco were going to be the biggest movers as it just seems like that’s what everyone has been after, with more leaning to the more modern movement. Hell, even I bought some this year. However, although they enjoyed a strong 10% rise on volume and value, they are by no way the stars. Statistically, the region of this year is Beaujolais – 70% up in volume and 60% up in value. Great news. Sherry is soaring, up by 68% year on year; mainly old and rare ones plus a great drop of en rama. Spain is solid, especially non-Rioja. Red 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, Grivot etc. However, our superstar region is, you’ve guessed it… Bordeaux! It’s back. A cracking en primeur campaign was great but it’s the 20% increase in cases and 35% in value that makes me beam with delight. The sexy physical vintages of 2005/2009/2010 are being revisited and topped up. We’ve also done well on Figeac, Baron, Lafite, Calon, Lynch and Pavie.”

Are your sales for the past year up on 2016, and if so, why?
“Doing well on last year, and almost 10% (9.76%) up across the board.”

Finally, what do you think will do well in 2018 and why? (And do you have high hopes for next year’s en primeur Bordeaux campaign?)
“As for next years trends I see Bordeaux’s top 30 properties in 05/06/08/09/10/ 14/15 and ’16 only going one way. I think there will be one superstar and that will be Lafite Rothschild, with the glorious return of my old sparring partner, Jean-Guillaume Prats. I think he is going to cut and polish this raw diamond into possibly something that Bordeaux has never seen. I cannot wait to see what’s going to happen. Also next year, Palmer, Lynch-Bages, Montrose, Ducru and Pichon Baron will continue to move north. More top white Burgundies will fly in price following Coche, Roulot, Arnaud Ente, Yves Colin-Morey, Fichet, Vougeraie and Leroux. The top 10 Barolo and Barbarescos producers will increase dramatically. Everyone wants 2008 top Champagne. Dom Pérignon, Krug and Cristal will soar. Red Burgundy from £50 to £150 is likely to rise dramatically because of a lack of supply. More generally, I see wines from South Africa and Argentina piling on the pounds as people search for value and quality.

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