Bordeaux 2018: What market awaits?

27th March, 2019

The Bordeaux 2018 vintage faces a “benign” market where a combination of factors means buyers will not “chase at any price”, Liv-ex predicts.

In its annual pre-primeurs report, Liv-ex has examined the current state of the fine wine market, the possible effects of previous campaigns and current geopolitical factors to give an idea of what sort of environment the 2018 clarets will face when primeurs begin this spring/summer.

As is now well known, there is a real sense that the 2018 vintage in the Gironde has produced a good to extremely good vintage.

Volumes have bounced back strongly in most areas after severe losses to frost in 2017 but, as previously noted, isolated pockets of hail and larger outbreaks of “aggressive” mildew mean that certain châteaux suffered considerably and won’t have large amounts to offer.

So what’s the overall view? As Liv-ex noted, despite this apparently “desirable vintage in barrel”, the market is currently a complex place.

To begin with, as the Power 100 list made clear at the end of last year, the fine wine market is now a much more rounded place and while Bordeaux is still dominant within it, it is nowhere near as dominant as it was in the past.

Liv-ex said: “2018 saw Bordeaux prices hold steady, while its share of trade continued to decline, reaching
 a new annual low of 59%.”

There’s also the problem that after the extremely good 2015 and 2016 vintages (the ‘new’ 2009/2010 duo) and a patchy 2017 campaign, “both collectors’ cellars and négociant warehouses are well stocked with young Bordeaux.”

And these factors alone make it, “improbable that buyers will chase Bordeaux 2018 at any price.”

Then there are other compounding factors. A big one has been the very clear policy from the campaign of the 2016s in particular (though several estates began doing so as early as 2010) for the Bordelais to hold back larger and larger amounts of stock in their own cellars.

This has been done with the hope of releasing at a later date, to help beef up years when stocks are small (such as 2017s) but also to try and achieve higher prices.

The problem, said Liv-ex, is: “The medium- to long-term impact of this strategy is difficult to compute but the rather lukewarm reaction to stellar in-bottle scores for the 2016 vintage hints at a possible supply-side cap on prices.”

Then there’s the problem of Brexit and the ‘will it? When will it? Won’t it? When won’t it? What’s going on?’ palaver of the whole thing.

A graph showing pricing from the châteaux from 2004 to 2017, compared to the annual progress of the Liv-ex Bordeaux 500 index and the vintages’ average score from The Wine Advocate

As Professor Colin Hay wrote recently for the drinks business, the effect it has on the value of the pound could very well be a determining and decisively so on the outcome of the campaign.

A stronger pound against the euro will have the obvious effect of making prices coming out of Bordeaux look more attractive than a weak pound and strong euro.

And it needs to be remembered that the UK remains the most single important foreign market for Bordeaux futures (a fact well-known since 2010 and made abundantly clear when the 2016s were released).

The US is a little more active than before but China and the rest of Asia-Pacific has not been a key buyer of en primeur since the 2010s were released. It is a market that prefers vintages ready to drink – hence another reason for estates to hold back stock – and anyway is going through an economic rough patch where the RMB is losing value too. So the UK should remain the focus of the Bordelais when considering who is actually going to buy these wines.

Another issue therefore is the news that one of if not the most influential British critic when it comes to Bordeaux, Neal Martin, has said he is sitting out this year’s pre-campaign tastings due to a health matter (though he has said he will taste the wines albeit at a slightly later date).

So in a key market like the UK where Bordeaux is less of a ‘must-buy’ than it was previously, cellars are full, the pound may be fatally weak and one of its leading critics is out of action, Liv-ex stressed that: “It is therefore more important than ever that release prices reflect the reality of the vintage’s quality, current market conditions and the very real political and economic uncertainties.”

On the other hand, added Liv-ex giving a little plug for its ‘Fair Value methodology’: “The conditions do seem ripe for a sensibly priced campaign. Both buyers and sellers have never been better equipped to make informed decisions. The market is more transparent today than it has ever been.”

London City Bond celebrates 30 years in business

27th March, 2019

30 years ago, Ben Jones and Alf Allington founded London City Bond. Since then, it has grown, including its purchase of British & Foreign Wharf dating back to 1870, and developed into today’s LCB.

London City Bond

LCB’s “Olympus” warehouse

From one small warehouse on the north bank of the Thames at the Barrier, the estate has expanded to 10 sites throughout the whole of the UK , and executives say there is more to come.

As the demand for quality warehousing grows, so does the importance of providing a high level of customer service along with the back up systems support. “Put this into a mixture of demands from potential new customers of all shapes and sizes, the continued growth of our existing customer base and add in the hike in storage deemed by some customers as a necessary post Brexit precaution, and you arrive at the conclusion that even more capacity is needed,”  a spokesperson for LCB said.

Hence the latest acquisition to LCB’s portfolio – a new site at Melksham in Wiltshire. This consists of four former aircraft hangars each of which have been renovated with “particular emphasis on thermal resistance and industry led climate control systems.” A fifth hangar will become LCB’s transport hub for the South West region.

LCB have said that the first customer to occupy space at the Melksham site is Farr Vintners – “the world’s leading fine wine wholesaler”- who “perceived the advantages of dealing with LCB at this purposely designed site.”

An extension to LCB’s Global warehouse in Burton upon Trent is also under way, and agreements have been reached to acquire two further sites. The addition of a third site in Burton upon Trent, together with a new site in Leeds, will bring the total warehousing capacity to over 2 million square feet.

Over the years, LCB said it has “been fortunate in building the finest team of people for all aspects of the business.”

Managing director Alf Allington said: “our present market leadership places us in prime position for the next 30 years and beyond!”

Five last-minute creative ways to celebrate Mother’s Day

27th March, 2019

If you’re honest, you forgot about it until this morning, didn’t you?

You’d think that working in the drinks industry would make sourcing Mother’s Day gifts easy, but those in hospitality often need to go the extra mile to prove they’re not just scrambling through their cupboards for that artisnal gin saved for a rainy day.

Fear not, if you’re struggling to find something original in the gift department, we’ve listed our picks of the best presents and days out to show mum you care this year.

Craft breweries push up house prices in the US

27th March, 2019

Living in close proximity to a craft brewery could help push up the asking price of your property, according to a study by researchers at the University of Toledo and North Carolina.

Condominiums in centre-city neighbourhoods recorded a near 3% increase on sales price after a brewery opened within a half mile, while single family homes in centre-city neighbourhoods saw a near 10% increase.

Using Charlotte, North Carolina, as a case study, researchers found that craft breweries have a positive impact on residential property values.

For the study, researchers focused on properties sold between 2002 and 2017 within a half mile buffer of a brewery, with 21 breweries opened in Charlotte between March 2009 and October 2016.

The team found that while many areas in close proximity to a craft brewery appear to have been associated with relatively higher price premiums even before the opening of the brewery, breweries tend to add to this premium.

“These results are informative to policymakers considering revising zoning laws and other regulations in efforts to promote the growth of craft breweries and spur economic development in their local economies,” said Dr Isabelle Nilsson, assistant professor in the Department of Geography and Earth Sciences at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

Condominiums in centre-city neighbourhoods recorded a nearly 3% increase on sales price after a brewery opened within a half mile, while single family homes in centre-city neighbourhoods saw a near 10% increase.

However the team found the presence of a brewery had no impact on the price of commercial properties.

“Being able to walk to a craft brewery in the evening or late afternoon on the weekend is considered a positive amenity that would – for some people – be attractive when looking at a house,” said Dr. Neil Reid, professor of geography and planning at The University of Toledo.

“There is a different attitude toward a craft brewery. It’s perceived differently than a liquor store or bar.”

According to the Brewers Association, craft breweries contributed US$76.2 billion to the US economy in 2017, providing more than 500,000 total jobs with more than 135,000 jobs directly at breweries or brewpubs.

“This new research shows that craft breweries contribute to increased property tax revenues for local governments, in addition to job creation and aiding neighbourhood revitalisation efforts,” Reid added.

“However, the effects to residential property values may not be as significant in places with higher rates of vacancies and lower population growth, as well as in more established cities such as Chicago or New York.”

The study was published in Growth and Change: A Journal of Urban and Regional Policy.

Lincolnshire vineyard and winery goes on sale for £800k after owner retires – take a look

27th March, 2019

Somerby Vineyard and Winery in Lincolnshire, set in around 12.5 acres, has gone on the market for £800,000, producing on average 26,000 bottles of wine per year with the potential to expand the site.

Somerby, which is planted with 9,000 vines and includes an established winery, capable of vinifying 20,000 litres, is being marketed by Savills.

The vineyard is currently planted with Pinot Noir, Solaris and Rondo vines and has the potential to be planted with a further 3,000 vines. It currently supplies bottles to local Waitrose stores and has picked up awards at both the UKVA and IWC competitions.

The site has also recently started production of a cider and has plans to produce sparkling wine. The vines are on average 10 years old and achieved two tonnes per acre in 2018.

The winery is contained within two modern, steel portal framed buildings with a lean-to store in between. It has the capacity to vinify 20,000 litres but has room to to expand to around 150,000 litres.

There is the potential to rent a further 2.5 acres (1 hectare) of additional land planted with 1,500 vines, subject to negotiations.

Bob Hobson, owner of Somerby, has decided to move on after taking on the site 12 years ago. Commenting on the move, he said: “Having enjoyed 12 years building an award winning vineyard I have decided that the time has come to retire and pass the baton to the next generation of English winemakers, who I hope will get as much enjoyment out of it as I have.”

Having been assessed in the Soil Survey of England and Wales, the site is made up of Grade 3 soils described as shallow and well-drained silty over chalk.

Sam Thomas, farm agent at Savills Lincoln, commented: “Located on the northern edge of the north Lincolnshire Wolds, Somerby is an award winning English winery thanks largely to its chalk terrain which is most prominent in Kent and certainly a rarity further north. Its position offers far reaching, unspoilt views across the Lincolnshire Wolds with the landmark Lincoln Cathedral visible on a clear day.

“There is further potential to adapt or extend for further storage or to create a facility that can host a wine tourism business with the addition of a kitchen and tasting facilities, subject to gaining the necessary planning consents.”

To view the full details, please click here, or to arrange a viewing, please call Sam Thomas at Savills Lincoln on 01522 507 315 or email

The area under vine in Great Britain has increased by 160% in the past 10 years to reach 7,000 acres (2,888ha). In 2018, 1.6 million vines were planted with a further 2 million expected in 2019. Last year was a record year for the industry, with a total of 15.6 million bottles produced, beating the previous record (6.3 million bottles in 2014) by 9.3 million bottles.

Click through to view further images of Somerby.

Billecart-Salmon UK appoints VP to boost London on-trade business

27th March, 2019

Champagne Billecart-Salmon UK has named Chris Crosby as its new vice president with a remit to extend Billecart-Salmon’s network in the London on-trade, as well as members’ clubs and luxury hotels.

Crosby has almost 10 years’ experience working in London’s on-trade, beginning his career at Hakkasan as part of the team that relaunched the Ling Ling brand.

Crosby then went on to join The Arts Club, where he was instrumental in the opening of this renowned private members club.

Most recently, Crosby was global sales and marketing director for COYA, a group of Peruvian restaurants with eateries in London, Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

Crosby will work closely with managing director Colin Palmer.

“We’re delighted to welcome Chris to the team in the UK. His experience, charisma and connections make him the ideal candidate to help us expand our reach in the UK and further afield,” said 7th generation family member and CEO, Mathieu Roland-Billecart.

Trade invited to celebrate the life of Gerard Basset

27th March, 2019

The life of Gerard Basset OBE, MS, MW, MBA, MSc (OIV) will be celebrated at a service of thanksgiving in Winchester in June, with all members of the wine trade invited to attend.

Basset passed away on 16 January following a brave battle against cancer of the oesophagus.

Gerard’s wife Nina and son Romané confirmed details of a memorial service yesterday, which will be held at Winchester Cathedral on Friday, 14 June, at 11am. 

Following the service, a reception will be held at The Guildhall, Winchester.

The family has close personal ties to the city of Winchester, not least because it is home to the original Hotel du Vin, which Basset co-founded in 1994.

Members of the wine and hospitality industries are invited to attend the service and reception.

However it would be appreciated if those wishing to attend email by 30 May to give an indication of numbers.

Born in 1957, Basset arrived in the UK from France in the 1980s, having originally trained as a chef, but quickly discovered a taste for wine and switched his focus to becoming a sommelier.

Basset’s career really took flight in 1988, when he became head sommelier at the Michelin-starred Chewton Glen in the New Forest, Hampshire.

Nina Basset (right) and Romané Basset (left) in London last week for the inaugural awarding of the Chaîne de Rotisseurs GB Gerard Basset Tasting Trophy

He earned his Master Sommelier qualification in 1989 and became an MW in 1998.

In 2007, Basset opened the renowned wine-focused TerraVina, a boutique luxury hotel in the heart of the New Forest, in Hampshire, with his wife, Nina.

Last year the couple scaled the business back to a bed and breakfast (Spot in the Woods), as Basset’s health deteriorated.

In 2010, he won the World Sommelier Championship, which was followed by an OBE in the 2011 Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to hospitality.

While undergoing treatment, Basset wrote his memoirs, which will be published in due course.

For more on Basset’s outstanding contribution to the wine trade, and his work in supporting and nurturing the next generation of sommeliers, click here to read our last interview with him, conducted in the autumn of last year.

Week in pictures: Hong Kong

26th March, 2019

The annual Chablis White Party kicked off in Hong Kong last month to celebrate the release of Burgundy’s 2017 vintage, a more generous year that saw production volumes go “back to normal” after the frost-bitten 2016 vintage.

Anne Morreau, co-president of Bureau Interprofessionnel des Vins de Bourgogne (BIVB), toasting to the success of the 2017 vintage at the Chablis White Party.

Alyn Williams departs The Wild Rabbit to focus on London restaurant

26th March, 2019

Chef Alyn Williams has stepped down from his position as chef patron at gastro pub The Wild Rabbit in Kingham in Oxfordshire to focus on his restaurant in Mayfair.

Serving modern European cuisine, the chef opened Alyn Williams at The Westbury in 2011. His debut solo venture, the restaurant was awarded a Michelin star the following year, followed by four AA Rosettes.

Williams arrived at The Westbury following his five-year tenure as head chef at Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley, accepting his residency at The Wild Rabbit in 2018 with the intention of dividing his time between the Cotswold-based gastropub and The Westbury.

Williams grew up in east London, where his father grew vegetables in two allotments and his back garden. Meat-free dishes remain a feature of his London restaurant in the Westbury hotel. 

Williams said: “I’m delighted to be back at The Westbury in London full-time. I had a brilliant time with the team at The Wild Rabbit and we’ve ended on extremely amicable terms, but London is where my heart really lies.

“I’ve got an exceptionally talented kitchen brigade at The Westbury and I’m hugely excited for this new chapter.”

Where winemakers dine: Katie Jones

26th March, 2019

Winemaker and owner of Domaine Jones in the south of France, Katie Jones, praises London’s St John restaurant for the Languedoc-Roussillon focus on its wine list an reveals how she likes to pop into Cut at 45 Park Lane for a glass of Champagne.

1. What is your favourite restaurant in London?  

It has to be St John’s – amazing food and convivial atmosphere. I love what Fergus and team have done there. They have a great French wine list with a real focus on the Languedoc-Roussillon.

2. Where is your favourite wine offering in London and what’s your typical go-to first glass when you get there?

I love places like The Sampler and Vagabond wines where you have the opportunity to try many different wines in one go – we just don’t have these places in my remote village of Tuchan high up in the mountains on the Languedoc-Roussillon borders.

The first glass of wine would definitely be a glass of sparkling! St John’s list has a wonderful sparkling Limoux by the glass, but if I have time and really want to treat myself, I’ll pop into Cut at 45 Park Lane for a glass of Champagne. Decadent but a special treat!

3. How does London compare to other big global cities in terms of the wine lists you find there?

Mark-ups are generally much larger in London and it’s easy to see why with huge rents and massive operating costs. But increasingly there are more places applying lower margins to encourage their customers to experiment more and trade up. London wine lists offer much variety…more than so many European countries.

That said they are increasingly offering smaller more focused wine lists that change frequently – keeping it fresh and interesting but less daunting for customers. I also note an increased choice of by-the-glass wines, although this is a trend in European countries too. Sommeliers in London are so well informed, knowledgeable and enthusiastic. There are lots of exciting wine developments happening in other European cities I visit – but I do think London is still ahead of the game.

*Last year, Cut at 45 Park Lane was placed 76th in Wine List Confidential’s top 100 restaurants in London for wine.

To view the Wine List Confidential website, please click here.

Wine List Confidential, brought to you by the drinks business, is the first platform to rank London’s restaurants on the strength of their wine list alone, providing a comprehensive guide to the best restaurants in the capital for wine lovers.

Restaurants are graded on a 100-point scale based on five criteria: size, value, service, range and originality.

* Please note that scores for the next edition of Wine List Confidential will be published in May 2019.