Liv-ex Power 100 List – 2019

FIRST GROWTHS? In 2016 the top five of the Power 100 were: Lafite, Mouton Rothschild, Margaux, Haut-Brion and Latour. A year later, DRC and Angélus were in the fourth and fifth spots, and last year Lafite was in second place with Mouton and Margaux in fourth and fifth. This year, Latour has scraped in (barely) to a joint 10th place, Margaux is 12th, Mouton 15th, Haut-Brion 16th and Lafite 19th. This might seem like a wholesale collapse but that’s not the case. Latour is where it is because, explains Gibbs, “there’s less Latour about, it’s less liquid so its price performance is slightly better”.

One might argue that the château’s non-participation in en primeur strategy is starting to pay off, but its ex-cellar offers are not working all that well. The re-release of the 2008 this spring was well received, but the 2011 release in September was wide of the mark price-wise, and the autumn Latour release is now running into a slew of other releases from the négociants, providing a lot of competition for Latour’s ex-cellar premium to cut through. One thing to remember with the Power 100 is that a wine falling down the list doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s failing in the marketplace, it is often just the case that it’s being overtaken by rapidly rising brands that could fall away equally quickly and leave the likes of the first growths back in the upper echelons next year. They’re like a rock, submerged then revealed again by crashing waves.

If you look at the top labels traded by value, Lafite is still right at the top this year, followed by Mouton, then DRC, then Margaux, Latour and Haut-Brion. By volume too they’re well represented within the top 20 of the list. If measured on value and volume trade alone Lafite would still be number one overall, and the other firsts are also top performers. These are still wines that have high demand in the secondary market. Where they’re failing currently is in price performance, with Margaux and Haut-Brion at -1.2%, Mouton at -1.8% and Lafite trailing at -4%.

BURGUNDY: END GAME As noted above, the number of Burgundian labels on the list grew to 34 this year, and their share of trade by value now accounts for 20%. “We’re slightly rolling through second-line Burgundies now,” says Gibbs. “It’s showing signs of maturity, and there’s an expanding field.” Prieuré Roch and René Engel have already been touched upon but some of the other entrants this year include labels from domaines that have younger winemakers at their helms, such as Arnoux Lachaux, Ramonet, Roulot and Raveneau.

It’s striking that white wine producers are catching a bit of attention at the moment, especially with Meursault. Gibbs says they’re “awesome wines”, but they’re also being drunk, as their appearance in numerous social media posts at least somewhat attests to. Is there still a fear of premature oxidation? Either way, their price performances are what’s driving them up. Ramonet has seen a change of 15.6% this year, Roulot 27.4% and Raveneau 13%.

Burgundy has been a juggernaut for the past few years but, just like Marvel’s cinematic Avengers extravaganza, which finally came to an end in 2019, this year feels a lot like its endgame too – at least for prices at the very top end. This has been a recurring theme for a while and is often countered by cries that ‘demand and interest has never been higher!’ But ongoing interest in Burgundy doesn’t equate to sustainable prices.

Gibbs points out that much of Burgundy’s positive performance this year comes from feeding off a strong finish to 2018, because for much of this year the Burgundy 150 index was in a fairly deep slump and was outpaced by other sub-indices. Burgundy is a very volatile market, Prieuré Roch and Engel’s out-of-the-blue impact may dissipate completely by this time next year. Liquidity for a lot of wines is low, with single bottles sometimes all there is available. While some labels have shot up the rankings, elsewhere it a story of decline.

region Domaine Leflaive, Faiveley, Emmanuel Rouget, Coche Dury, Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey, Jacques Frédéric Mugnier, Comtes Lafon, Georges Roumier, Sylvain Cathiard and Etienne Sauzet have all seen their rankings slide this year, sometimes considerably. Gibbs notes that Burgundy buyers are increasingly “tentative”, and they “struggle to price these wines”.

The bid-to-offer ratio for Burgundy this year has been 50%, while for Bordeaux, Champagne and Italy it’s 100%. It’s not that buyers don’t want Burgundy, nor that we’re about to see a pricing crash, but the upper tier has reached a peak, and the price performance reflects that, as does the inclusion of more names from domaines where prices have not quite run ahead of themselves… yet.

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