Pichon Comtesse and Fleur Petrus top Bordeaux labels on the rise

Amid the turbulent world of Bordeaux in the secondary market it is the non-first growth labels from both Left and Right Banks which are starting to steal a march.

Liv-ex recently examined its Bordeaux 500 index which is composed of six sub-indices: the Fine Wine 50 (first growth tracker), Right Bank 50, Second Wines 50, Sauternes 50, Right Bank 100 and Left Bank 200.

What it found was that as the marquee names from the Gironde have taken a bit of a knock, the solid middle order of second to fifth growths and Right Bank crus classés has taken a step up.

As a group the index has declined 0.9% in the past year while the broader market tracker, the Liv-ex 1000, with its Burgundy, Champagne, Rhône, Italian and other labels has risen 2.8%.

This reflects the wider narrative of a much broader secondary market where Bordeaux wines remain a dominant but no longer absolute power.

But what of the ‘power struggle’ within the Bordeaux 500 index itself?

It used to be that the first growths were the driver of everything Bordeaux related. Lafite and then Mouton Rothschild were the darlings of the Asian market but the bubble for Lafite popped and continues to weigh down the Fine Wine 50, coupled with the fairly lethargic performance of Latour in recent years post its departure from primeurs. There has been a slight upturn in the index’s fortunes since May of this year however.

The Second Wines 50 – covering the second labels of the first growths – has received a lot of column inches due to he runaway performance of Carruades, Petit Mouton et al.

A ‘gateway’ label to the first growths, their quality and stature have grown substantially while many other claret labels, not least the respective grands vins, have seen varying levels of decay.

Apparently unstoppable the second labels have seen their momentum slow a little in recent months.

As Liv-ex reported in July, where once (2007) you could buy six bottles of Carruades for one bottle of Lafite, now the gap is just two and for Mouton:Petit Mouton it’s just under two.

And as the prices approach something akin to parity so the second labels are going to struggle because, ultimately, they are only second labels and, like two positive ends of a magnet held too close together, their upper price level can only get so close to that of the grand vin before they begin to repel one another and it makes more sense to buy the full fat version rather than the semi-skimmed.

Over on the Right Bank, while the firsts suffered the Right Bank 50 – composed of Petrus, Cheval Blanc, Ausone, Le Pin and Lafleur – flew high for a long time but since September 2018 the index has softened, though, like the Fine Wine 500, there has been a rally since May of this year.

Interestingly, the two indices on the up are the Left Bank 200 and Right Bank 100. These are the indices made up of the crus classés that comprise the solid core of Bordeaux’s output.

On the Left Bank this is the likes of Montrose, Palmer, Pichons Baron and Comtesse, Calon Ségur and Lynch Bages and on the Right Bank Vieux Château Certan, Evangile, Fleur Petrus and Troplong Mondot.

Both indices have zigged upwards around 0.5% while the rest of the Bordeaux 500 zagged.

The two best-performing labels are Fleur Petrus and Pichon Lalande up 9% and 7.6% respectively.

With the exception of Petit Mouton, Suduiraut and Clarence de Haut-Brion, the rest of the ‘Top 20’ best performing Bordeaux brands since June 2018 are all from the Left 200 and Right 100 indices.

There’s no surprise why. Buyers of Bordeaux are becoming increasingly selective and rewarding estates where price and quality are dovetailing and continue to present a buyer or collector with the sort of wine Bordeaux excels at offering; excellent, long term cellaring and drinking stock that combines pleasure with the possibility of a positive financial upside.

Right now that job is largely being fulfilled by second to fifth growth claret and it’s showing.

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