Will the momentum of the Super-Tuscans continue?
At times in 2021, it looked like the growth of the Super-Tuscans had stalled, and the impressive growth across recent years was levelling off. However, Bordeaux Index argues that this slow-down looks to have only been temporary and momentum in Q4 of 2021 suggests there could be plenty more to come from these super charged fine wines.
Speaking to the drinks business this week, Matthew O’Connell, CEO of Bordeaux Index’s market-leading fine wine trading platform, LiveTrade, says that he feels very positive on the outlook for Super Tuscans in 2022, even though their performance may sit behind wines from Burgundy, which has particular exposure to ultra high net worth collectors.
The key to this can be seen in the significant momentum that the Super-Tuscans picked up during the last quarter of 2021 – with prices gaining +7% in the fourth quarter, a “particularly noteworthy” result, O’Connell says, that rather outperformed expectations.
He explains the lower expectation came as the result in the lifting of US tariffs on EU made wine – when the US slapped tariffs on most EU-made wines – notably Bordeaux and Burgundy – but not on Italy, this provided an ‘artificial’ boost for Italy.
“We thought that when they were removed at the start of last year, it would effectively take out that tail wind. So we weren’t that surprised that Italian wine was behind Burgundy, Champagne and Bordeaux,” O’Connell explains
The uptick towards the end of the year was more of a surprise, but he attributes it largely to the Champagne effect of reopening of the on-trade – restaurants, private members clubs and hotels want to replenish wine inventories that had been wound down and Italy is benefiting from this trend.
Within this trend, there has been some disparity between the most important Super-Tuscans. Data from the LiveTrade online trading platform shows Tignanello has seen particularly strong growth (+40%), followed by Sassicaia (+23%), with Ornellaia and Solaia some way back (+10% and +7% respectively).
So why are these two in particular leading the pack?
“The general public awareness of these wines – even outside the people who are really into wine – is just much higher.” O’Connell explains. “Sassicaia and Tignanello all have such great brand recognisable, that restaurant and high-end bars want to list them.”
However, it’s not just because it is known to be the favourite of both the Duchess of Sussex and Boris Johnson – In recent years, Tignanello has benefited from high tasting scores and there has been increased recognition that there is a disparity between the price and value compared to other Super Tuscans.
“The 2018 Tignanello got 98 points from the Wine Advocate and 97 points from Galloni, so it was very highly scored and we saw a lot of interest there, and in the previous two vintages as well,” O’Connell explains.
The rise in the price of Super-Tuscans in general has also played a part.
“As the price of Super Tuscans have gone up, instead of being able to buy a bottle of Sassicaia for £125, it’s now £200 plus, whereas Tignanello is significantly cheaper by the bottle – although effectively scoring similarly – so that’s quite significant in terms of demand,” O’Connell explains.
Meanwhile Sassicaia has been gradually building on the momentum it has had over the last two decades – and the increased recognisability this has brought has broadened its buyer universe.
“Among high-net-worth collectors even five years ago, Sassicaia just wasn’t so popular, but now if someone is coming to the wine space for the first time, alongside Lafite or Latour, they are just as likely to be mentioning Sassicaia – and even Tignanello,” he explains.
Best performing vintages
The best performing vintages for the Super-Tuscans on the LiveTrade platform were the 2015, which had been somewhat overlooked due to the 2016, along with the 2009 and 2010 which offer very good value given the quality of those vintages.
As O’Connell points out, the disparity was “noticeable but not massive”: the lesser performing vintage were up 15% compared to the better performing vintages, which rose 25%.
If nothing else, this lends credence to O’Connell’s assertion that the rise of the Super Tuscans is still on the way up.
“But when you have a market that’s moved a long way in a short time like the Super Tuscans, in general, people will see value in the better, stronger vintage, and they will pay more for those better vintages, ” he explains. “It’s when that market starts to reach a new peak, people look around, shifting towards lesser vintages, that haven’t yet been pulled up as much as their stronger neighbours.
In the case of the Super Tuscans, that peak looks to be a long way off.
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