After fear at the back end of last year, followed by hope in the Spring of this one, we now have confidence in the Fine Wine market. A quick look at the Liv-ex 100 shows that things are back on the up. Closer inspection reveals that much of this has been led by one wine in particular: Ch. Lafite-Rothschild.
Much has been written about the fascination of the Far East with Lafite: about why its brand is so strong, about the insane prices that their second wine, Carruades de Lafite, now fetches and I won’t add to that aside from the most recent amusing story that I heard: Lafite is now the currency of choice for those wishing to oil the wheels of a business deal. Send a case of the wrong first growth and forget about it.
Wine investing isn’t actually investing: your money isn’t actually building anything. It’s speculation, and it’s betting on future demand. Nowt wrong with this – it’s just what it is.
So, given that we’re betting, what about the horses?
Lafite is clearly the favourite but the odds are getting shorter and shorter, and the horse has been running for a long time. So what’s next. We’ll discount the uber-wines: Pin, Petrus & Ausone, and stick to the first growths.
My money is firmly on Mouton for a number of reasons. Firstly, the quality here is better than it’s ever been. The hit-and-miss of the old days is no longer as attention to detail in both the vineyards and the cellars is assiduous. Secondly, it has the kudos of the Rothschild name. And thirdly, the label. Since 1946 each year’s label has been designed by a different artist. And the artists have been premier league: Salvador Dali, Henry Moore, Marc Chagall, Andy Warhol, Francis Bacon. The list goes on, and includes the Prince of Wales, whose picture of “Mediterranean Pines on Cap d’Antibes” graces the label of the 2004. This is all highly marketable stuff, and can only add to the appeal of such an ultra-luxury consumable.
Whether or not speculation on wine prices is ethical is another story: it’s not quite in the same league as parking your oil tankers a couple of miles off the coast and waiting for the price to rise, but the two concepts have similarities.
My outsider is La Mission Haut-Brion, by the way.