All about 2019. And, why Champagne is so in demand and other (bearish) markets updates.
Welcome to In the mood for wine — a weekly newsletter on wine for the next gen of wine lovers and investors. This is WineLeaks, a curated overview of the wine market, which will be with you every Monday at 10 a.m. (London time).
If you are new, you can join here. Please hit the heart button if you like today’s newsletter and reply with any feedback.
In case you’ve missed it, I’ve compiled a work-in-progress database of all vintages reports in all the major investment regions and a list with all my favourite wine experts. Check them out, and if I’ve missed anyone feel free to mention them in the comments.
”No frost, no hail, no mildew in 2019,” said Fabien Teitgen, winemaker at Château Smith Haut Lafitte. “There was no problem achieving ripeness this year. The challenge was to keep the freshness.”
From TWI: Cheval Blanc’s technical director Pierre-Olivier Clouet says “at Cheval Blanc the 2019 is like 2009. This was the kind of vintage at Cheval Blanc where you had to accept to do as little as possible. It was a vintage that was done alone in the vineyard. You just needed to preserve it—not to oxidize, etc. This was the earliest we blended. There is no press wine in here. It can bring a certain rusticity and dirtiness. We want to preserve the beautiful purity on the nose. You must be very careful not to ruin what you have.”
Anson summarises 2019 as “an excellent vintage – not as consistently outstanding as 2016 or 2010 out of the past decade, but I place it alongside 2015 (and in some cases 2018).“
Perrotti-Brown notes: “energy is the perfect word to describe the style of the 2019 vintage. Compared to 2018, the flavors are remarkably bright and refreshing—like crunching into ripe but not overripe fruit. And yet, these are also wines with gravitas, weight, and jaw- dropping intensity. The juxtaposition between alcohols (on the high side), vibrant fruit profiles, higher acids, and lower pHs (for the most part) gives the best 2019s this real sense of energy in the mouth.”
Interesting note by Perrotti-Brown on the second wines — “even though 2019 was, as many winemakers stated, an “easy” vintage, it is clear from my tastings that it was not quite as easy to make exemplary wines as it was to make good to excellent wines.” The same evaluation was echoed by Jane Anson: “this was not a vintage were all second wines performed well, which is why it never achieves the same consistency as 2016 or 2010. In most cases therefore I would go for the first wines of consistently good Cru Bourgeois (or equivalent) rather than the second wines of bigger names that are often similarly priced.“
A couple of second wines were mentioned by Anson, Château Montrose St Estèphe Dame de Montrose 2019 (£25 / bottle) and Château Margaux Margaux Pavillon Rouge de Château Margaux 2019 (£130 / bottle), having delivered absolutely brilliantly (both 94s).
“I do not give the 2019 Figeac 100 points because it is different. It just is.“ (TWI) ($)
On the topic of Bordeaux 2019, a great profile on Figeac DNA with a horizontal tasting spanning from 1979 to 2019.
“It is too early to make an assessment of the 2019 Barolos as they are not on the market yet, but the Barbarescos I have tasted look very exciting.” (TWI) ($)
Part of Susan Hulme’s Spin the Bottle piece on Barolo & Barbaresco 2017, 2018 and 2019 for The Wine Independent, she was surprised to notice that, when tasting the 2019 Barbarescos, her “scores are higher on average than for 2017 and 2018. For the eighty 2019 Barbarescos I tasted, I gave an average score of 91. What is very attractive in the 2019s is the poise and brightness of the aromas and flavors. These are firmly structured wines with a very pure and pristine quality of fruit. They have plenty of firm tannins, but the tannins are polished and refined. They need more time to open and show their real potential, but they look like wines capable of long aging.”
Among the top scoring, 2019 Gaja Barbaresco (~£169) and 2019 Massolino Barbaresco Albesani (doesn’t seem to be available in the UK). The former 2018 was also among the top winners of July 2018 (+6.8%, Liv-ex data). However, historical prices on Barbaresco haven’t moved much.
The Market Take
“Fine wine market dips in July“ (Liv-Ex)
Both Liv-Ex 100 and Liv-Ex 50 (Bordeaux First Growths) dipped in July, albeit by a small percentage. This is the first time since June 2020 that the fine wine market records a negative month-on-month movement. Last week, we reported that the bid-ask ratio had fallen below 1 — an indication that there are more offers in the markets than there are buyers.
“The Don of Champagnes: Dom Pérignon in focus” (Bordeaux Index)
The exception to the crippling fine wine market is Dom Pérignon. The Champagne 50 sub-index finished last year (Jan-Dec 2021) up 40.0%, its best ever year of performance. The bulk of the performance came in from October onwards, and the rally is continuing to this date. Dom Pérignon 2008 has risen in value by 17.3% year-to-date, has been in near-constant demand since release. The 2012 vintage has also been trading strongly this year.
This rally is very atypical as “champagne historically acts like an annuity. It never was the best performer, it was always up 8 to 10 per cent a year” says Justin Gibbs, co-founder of Liv-ex.
Why this change, you may ask? It’s supply & demand, says the FT.
Supply has been tight. A decision last year by the champagne trade association to reduce production during the pandemic, followed by a poor harvest this year because of frost and mildew, has made for smaller production, which can mean champagne houses hold on to more of their supply of older vintages.
This, combined with the recent arrival on to the market of the top-end 2008 and the “exceptional” 2012 vintages has attracted interest from buyers, according to Justin Knock, director of wine at Oeno Group.
BI confirms that the 2008 and 2012 Brut account for over 40% of all DP sales on their platform. “There used to be a clear pattern of outsized demand for the top vintages, but this has evolved quite interestingly of late. As Asia has become more focused on Champagne, there tends to be demand across young drinking vintages, and where one wine – even a weaker vintage – becomes cheaper than the rest by a material amount, strong demand ensues,” reveals LiveTrade’s CEO, Matthew O’Connell. “That said, demand for 2008 still remains very high, so for the absolute top vintages there is very significant differentiation.”
However, “up to around five years after release is when Dom Pérignon will be closest to the winemaker’s intention and the most intense expression of itself. After that it will be good, but it will be different due to the impact of ageing and oxidation.”
As wines are matured by the champagne houses and are released ready to drink, unlike top-end Bordeaux or Burgundy wines, which are typically kept for years and have well-developed secondary markets.
So, the question is — will these wines re-enter the secondary market or will they all be drank?
In other news, the Bank of England caused a little bit of a panic this week. Why?👇🏻
In addition, there has been talk of recession in the US this week, after two quarters of contracting GDP. Biden assures (or at least tries to): “It doesn’t sound like a recession to me”.
And Bloomberg reports some of the more unusual indicators of recession —and, along with underwear, lipstick, hemlines and diaper rashes, strong Champagne sales signal good times ahead of recessions.
“Majestic to pay ‘vintern’ to drink wine on holiday“ (Majestic)
Wine on holiday always tastes better doesn't it? But is there any exact science behind it?
They need to put this theory to the test, and they will do so in a rigorous scientific manner — by sending one ‘vintern’ to Portugal for three days.
Until next Monday,
In the mood for wine (a.k.a. Sara Danese)