2010 – should you put your money in wine?

Merchants that sell Burgundy en-primeur will be kicking this year off with offers of the 2008 vintage (pretty whites and mixed, but on the whole good to very good, reds).  Those that don’t offer Burgundy in this way need to find something else to get the year in gear, and there should be some tasty offerings from the serious guys in the form of January sales.  Some might say that January discounting doesn’t help “the market” but if there is enough demand then cheap parcels of Bordeaux will soon be snaffled up.

2008 Burgundy isn’t really something to invest in as a commodity, as something to make cash from.  If you are looking for a commodity to carry your cash then Bordeaux is the horse you should be looking at.  And this year’s horse is the 2009 vintage, which might just be a cracker.  And will probably be expensive.  Very expensive.  I have previously described the Burgundians as farmers and the Bordelais as businessmen.  This is an insult to neither (particularly the Burgundians: Burgundy is as much my home as Sydenham or Surrey), just a way of describing their techniques.  As businessmen, what the Bordelais excel at, what they really are very, very good at, is pricing their wines as fully as they possibly can without going too far.  If you have your heart set on a case of 2009 Lafite, then you will probably pay twice as much as you hoped to, 25% more than you expected to, and 5% more than you were willing to.  But you will be happy and, most likely, you’ll probably do well.

The most expensive vintage of Ch. Lafite-Rothschild so far was the 2005.  Released on the UK market at about £3750+ per case in bond in June 2006 (and it was a ringer with Latour and Margaux at £4500-£5000).  Value now: £7500+ per case despite a global liquidity crisis and the only drop in wine prices we have seen this century (erm, well, the bankers that sort of, well, caused it all, well, might have, possibly, had a few cases that they needed to unload to pay the school fees).

Prior to the release of the 2005s, the pricey vintage was 2000.  A case of 2000 Lafite would have set you back just under £2000.  Value now?  £14000+.  1996 Lafite?  Less than a grand a case on release and six to seven now.  The lesson is this: do not be afraid of the expensive vintages.  Unless fine wine is uncovered as the Emperor’s New Clothes then Lafite, and maybe twenty or so other chateaux, should remain quite a clever car park for cash.

With the caveat that no fisherman is going to tell you that his own fish stink, this here makes interesting reading.  I don’t drink Lafite much, but the next time I do I will remember that I am imbibing an asset class.  I hope that those investing reciprocate by understanding that they are banking on, and with, Bacchus.

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