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Race to buy fine wine speeds up as climate concerns grow

Wine collectors are stepping up their efforts to secure some of the world’s greatest wines before global warming wipes them out.

Changing weather patterns are now becoming a key factor in wine investment decisions as concerns over some of the world’s best vintages disappearing spur connoisseurs on to buy fine wine.

“A few years ago, we would rarely get asked about climate change in the context of wine,” said Matthew O’Connell, chief executive of online trading platform LiveTrade, according to a report by The Times. “Today, it’s usually in the top five questions new investors ask.”

It’s little surprise that experts are worried. As the drinks business has reported, 2021 saw devastating frosts, floods and wildfires decimate grape crops leading to significantly reduced harvests. Such climatic events resulted in France’s wine output dropping to a historic low, while blazes in California, Oregon and British Columbia destroyed wineries and left growers with smoke-tainted grapes.

However, in sharp contrast to dwindling crops, sales of fine wines shot up by 15% in 2021, says O’Connell. It is thought that buyers are adopting a ‘once they’re gone, they’re gone’ mentality about wine, and rushing to secure expressions that are unlikely to be around in years to come.

There is some truth in the ticking clock, and it’s not just down to smaller harvests due to climatic events. Growers are increasingly planting new, hardier grape varieties that can better withstand hotter, drier conditions. As wineries enjoy more success with these new (or in some cases, very old) varieties, the popular grapes that consumers have become used to – Merlot, Cabernet, Pinot Noir – may end up being gradually phased out, making it harder and harder to get your hands on the kind of tradable fine wine that currently excites buyers.

As ever, notions of scarcity push prices up and this was reflected through several record-breaking auction bids for wine last year at Bonham’s, Christie’s and Acker Merrall. Fine wine even surpassed gold in the secondary market.

The trend is likely to continue during 2022 as collectors strive to stock their cellars with drops that may be extinct in decades time. And buyers’ eyes will be on the skies, watching the weather closely for their cue to invest.


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