Returns Beyond the First Growths

2008 was a turning point for the wine investment industry, as higher returns began to be found amongst the first growths of Bordeaux that earned lower ratings. In this post we examine if this phenomenon extended beyond the first growths, starting with the second wines.


Carruades de Lafite has, at times, traded at a higher price than Haut Brion. It was one of the quickest to appreciate as the market for fine wines grew over the last decade: vintage 2003 rose in value by more than1400% between release and the 2011 peak. Second wines often experience a counterbalance to exceptional vintages: if the grapes are really that good and prices that high, then more for the first wine is made, and so often the second wines underperform in these exceptional years and outperform the average the rest of the time.


Below Forts de Latour is used to illustrate the vintage drop in exceptional years:

Note that the pattern of decreased returns for high scoring vintages is again prevalent.


Beyond the first growths, the good returns for good vintages in the pre-2008 market have not been observed along the left bank. For example, 3me Cru Cantenac Brown follows the trend, albeit with much higher volatility and at much lower values.


Across the Dordogne on the right bank, Cheval Blanc also sees lower returns on its best vintages, and the re-classified Chateau Angelus has historically exhibited the same trend also.


Flying across France and straight into the wines of DRC, the market prices of La Tache suggest that it too may be exposed to similar market forces, although with higher volatility because of lower production volumes. The vintage sensitivity is lower than in Bordeaux, possibly also because of a more determined collector mindset. Throughout Burgundy, the dominant trend is the appreciation of wines as they reach their drinking window.


Ducking down to the Super Tuscans, Sassicaia exhibits the same pattern for many of its vintages. Tignanello, which trades at half the price of Sassicaia, shows higher returns to the greater vintages, although the benchmark expert here is Antonio Galloni rather than Robert Parker.

As the en primeur campaign for vintage 2013 starts, this set of analysis becomes relevant for what is likely to be a lower scoring year for most fine wines. The observed trend of appreciation for such vintages relies on the release price being historically (pre-2005) much lower for such a vintage. The early market indications suggest a mix: some have opted out of this campaign and Pontet-Canet has made some great PR by releasing early, albeit at the same price as for vintage 2012. Most likely, if buyers want a similarly scoring wine to the 2013, then there is room for the lower scoring back-vintages to appreciate which may further portray the trend observed in this series.

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