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A few years ago, I had the opportunity to try a 2007 William Fèvre Chablis Valmur at a blind tasting party. What I remember most about this delicious wine wasn’t its fruit or floral notes, but its briny iodine flavor and aroma. The iodine note, in particular, stood out to me because the taste reminds me so much of fine Islay scotch; although the Fèvre is a delicate, complex white Burgundy, I found some subtle similarities between it and my favorite bottle of Laphroaig 18 Year Old. Both share an intense minerality on the palate and an oceanic brininess. In fact, wine critic David Schildknecht says that the 2007 Fèvre is a “mineral soup that seems as deep as the sea.”
But where does Fèvre obtain its strong minerality? For decades, many oenophiles have assumed all great Chablis gets its salinity and oyster shell flavors directly from the soil (grand cru Chablis grapes are grown in Kimmeridgian soil, which contains layers of fossilized seashells). However, as geologists and wine experts study minerality in wine, they’ve discovered that the relationship between soil and wine is much more complicated than this. A wine’s mineral flavors come from more than just rocky terrain and ancient seashells; in order to understand why a wine tastes like wet stones or chalk, you need to know how soil affects wine–and how it doesn’t affect it.
The Relationship Between Soil and Wine Is Complicated
For decades, scientists and wine experts have attempted to understand how soil affects wine, yet despite these efforts, this relationship still isn’t well understood. The main problem that scientists face when studying this relationship is that an almost infinite number of factors can impact wine. It’s difficult to say, for instance, that limestone soil is solely responsible for Mosel Riesling’s firm acidity, lean palate, and intense petrol flavor. While the limestone could have an impact on all of these characteristics, the wine’s acidity, weight, and flavors could also be the result of weather conditions, human interference (both in the vineyard and during fermentation), and post-fermentation practices. In other words, you can’t look at soil composition in isolation from these other viticultural factors that affect wine quality. Soil is just one small piece of a massive jigsaw puzzle.
In order to understand just how much impact soil actually has on the characteristics of wine, it can help to review a few common soil and wine myths. The following myths have been largely disproven by geologists, viticulturists, and chemists over the years:
Myth #1: Terroir Never Changes
Geologist Alex Maltman told the Guild of Sommeliers podcast that one of the most common misconceptions he encounters among wine enthusiasts is the idea that terroir is stagnant. For instance, people say that Chablis has Kimmeridgian soil. Although this is true, it ignores the fact that soil composition constantly evolves. The bedrock may contain fossilized seashells, but the younger topsoil often has entirely different properties than the deeper layers. This young topsoil also moves around more than the bedrock does; rain, earthquakes, and human interference may change the overall composition of the topsoil. So while you may attribute the oyster shell flavors in Chablis to Kimmeridgian soil, the limestone-based bedrock isn’t the only type of soil impacting the wine. The ever-changing layer of topsoil also plays a role.
Myth #2: All Limestone Is the Same
Saying that an estate like Raveneau grows its vines in limestone-rich soil doesn’t mean that soil is the same as the limestone-rich soil that exists in other areas of Burgundy. There are many different types of limestone-based soil, and each can affect the final flavor and quality of the wine through different means. For example, soil that is relatively dense tends to retain water and keep the earth cool. This results in a much more acidic wine with a great deal of tartaric acid (this acid makes you salivate and contributes to a wine’s age-worthiness). Meanwhile, if a vineyard has a lighter, rockier limestone-based soil, the resulting wine will usually taste leaner on the palate, and the soil may create more malic acid (this acid can make wine taste too bitter). And this isn’t just the case with limestone. Different types of minerals and soil affect wine in different ways. For example, Mosel has both red and blue slate soils. Although they are both slate-based soils, the red soil is slightly denser and contains more clay, while the blue soil is a bit rockier, allowing for better water drainage and making these wines more concentrated.
Whether a vineyard has volcanic soil, sandstone, or gravel, how soil affects wine will vary depending on how much of each type of mineral is present in the vineyard.
Myth #3: You Can Reliably Correlate Specific Aromas to Specific Soils
Alex Maltman recently studied whether there is a correlation between specific aromatic groups and soil types. What he found is that in blind tastings it’s difficult to pair a specific aroma to its corresponding soil type. In other words, some of the aromas associated with limestone soil, like flintiness or petrol, were also present in wines whose fruit wasn’t grown in limestone. While petrol and limestone aromas are commonly thought to be strongly related to one another, Maltman found that he could identify petrol flavors in wines that were grown in other types of soil as well; petrol wasn’t unique to limestone. This doesn’t mean that soil doesn’t have any impact on a wine’s aroma and flavor. It merely means that each person perceives these aromas differently, and we can’t easily correlate certain aromas with certain types of soil. These connections are still largely a matter of opinion, rather than hard science. While some wine experts like Andrew Jefford have found differences in taste and aroma between wines made in schist versus wines made in limestone, these studies haven’t been reliably repeated yet.
Myth #4: Minerals Have a Smell
Minerals like limestone and sandstone don’t actually have much of an aroma. Instead, we usually detect smells that we associate with stones, rather than detecting the actual aroma of the stones themselves. For example, when you smell wet stones, you’ll perceive the aromas of water, ozone, and small particles of other substances that sit on the surface of the stone (like moss). The stone itself is not producing that aroma. Does this mean that you can never use the word “slate” or “flint” in your tasting notes? Not necessarily. Although we can’t smell the actual differences between these minerals, we can detect small differences in the wine’s other phenolics, which we have learned to associate with either slate or flint.
As you can see, the relationship between soil and wine is a complex and little-studied phenomenon. While scientists, winemakers, and wine critics continue to research this relationship, we still don’t have any definitive answers about the precise impact that soil has on wine, or whether we can really taste flint in a glass of Selbach-Oster Riesling.
How Soil Affects Wine Directly
Now that we’ve unpacked a few common soil myths, you may be wondering which soil factors actually can influence the flavor of a wine. There are three primary factors that geologist Alex Maltman says directly impact a wine’s flavor the most: water retention, thermal qualities, and microbiology.
Water Retention: How rocky or dense a soil is can have a direct, measurable impact on the wine. Rocky soil drains water more quickly, resulting in more concentrated grapes. Meanwhile, dense clay-based soil retains much more water, which may result in more diluted fruit.
Thermal Qualities: Density and water retention are closely related to the thermal qualities of soil as well. The density of the soil impacts how warm or cool it is at different times of the year. Dense soil traps water, which keeps the root system very cool, resulting in grapes that are very high in acidity. Rockier soil doesn’t retain as much water, and therefore is typically a bit warmer, resulting in grapes that are riper and more sugary.
Microbiology: Fungus such as botrytis can be present in the soil, which may impact the grapes as they ripen. Topsoil is often home to active bacteria that can make their way into the grapes, which in turn can alter the flavor and phenolic compounds in the wine.
From what we know so far about how soil affects wine, the actual minerals themselves may have very little to do with how the wine tastes. Instead, it seems to have more to do with the texture of these minerals and how they interact with water, heat, and bacteria that may impact the final wine.
Soil Can Help You Conceptualize Your Wine
The actual science behind how soil affects wine is complex and far from fully investigated. It’s entirely possible that minerals and soil impact wine flavors in ways that we don’t yet understand. What we do know so far is that soil composition has an impact on how well grapes ripen and how much acidity those grapes will likely have when they’re harvested. Additionally, talking about soil composition can help us contextualize wine, making it easier to discuss the characteristics that we love. For instance, even if I know that limestone doesn’t directly absorb into a grapevine’s roots, I can still use the word “limestone” to talk about the unique characteristics of Chablis in my tasting notes. In this sense, limestone becomes shorthand for Chablis’ unique flavors, like salinity and chalkiness. Ultimately, tasting minerality in a wine is entirely subjective. If you feel that soil and minerality help you understand a region’s wines more easily, then you can and should use these terms in your own tasting notes.
Have you ever driven through the Italian countryside? It’s an absolutely surreal experience. In 2013, I took a road trip through northern Italy to learn more about the diverse range of wines made there. It seemed like every village had its own method for making wine, and I learned that Italian wines are more diverse than I had even imagined. Occasionally during the trip, I would drive through tunnels built to cut through the hillside. When I’d emerge on the other side of the tunnel, I’d discover that my surroundings had completely changed–it was like I’d accidentally entered a different country. The experience made me appreciate just how much can change from one area of Italy to the next.
This firsthand experience gave me insight into Italian wine regions and the best places in those regions to find collectible wines. Italian wine is notoriously difficult to navigate in part because the differences between the regions are so pronounced. When you visit, say, Sonoma and Santa Barbara in California, you’ll likely find that the Pinot Noir in both places tastes similar. But visit virtually any subregion of Italy and you’ll see a much greater degree of variance among regions in terms of style, winemaking techniques, and local grape varieties. That’s why we’ve created a comprehensive guide to navigating the best Italian wine regions. This guide will dig into the eight most important wine regions in Italy to help you make wise investment decisions about this complicated country’s wine.
Journalist and avid wine enthusiast Robert Draper considers Friuli-Venezia Giulia one of the best Italian wine regions, and with good reason. The area is home to some truly mouthwatering white wines, many of which are both tart and immensely ripe in flavor at the same time. Draper first discovered Friuli-Venezia Giulia when he visited Venice a number of years ago. While dining in a restaurant, he asked the waiter to bring him a bottle of Pinot Grigio–any bottle of the waiter’s choice. The waiter returned with Venica Collio, a wine that Draper had never heard of before. The wine was so delicious that it inspired Draper’s love affair with the entire Friuli region, and he has since been back to visit the area at least 30 times over the past 20 years.
Friuli-Venezia Giulia is technically two regions in one; it consists of the separate Friuli and Venezia Giulia regions, which have been grouped together into a single, much larger region. Because of its size, Friuli-Venezia Giulia is home to a diverse range of wines. Most collectors know the region for its various white wines, although it’s also home to some interesting reds as well. Friuli is relatively cool in temperature, and, as a result, the wines tend to share some traits with German Riesling, such as sharp acidity. If you’re a fan of German wine, then you’ll likely find Friuli wines quite appealing.
Here are just a few wine styles and grape varieties made in Friuli that are worth considering:
If you’re unsure where to start with Friuli wine, begin in the Colli Orientali del Friuli subregion, which makes the highest quality wines. This was the region that most impressed Robert Draper, and I’ve heard a number of wine enthusiasts express a similar adoration for Colli. Wines from Colli also tend to be the most collectible in this region. In order to start a Friuli wine collection, think about which wines you tend to prefer drinking right now. If you love whites, try a familiar wine like Pinot Grigio, then a few of Friuli’s local white wine styles, such as its dessert wines or Friulano. If you’re more of a red wine fan, try the region’s Merlot or local varieties like Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso. Some producers in Friuli-Venezia Giulia also make fascinating orange wines–this is the perfect style for red wine lovers looking for a white they’ll enjoy.
When I first began learning about Italian wine, the Veneto region was both fascinating and intimidating all at once. To this day, I’m amazed by the diversity of styles and the sheer number of wines made here. However, Veneto’s wide range of wines can also make this region one of the most difficult to understand, especially for those learning about Italian wine for the first time. At first, I was only familiar with Veneto’s Prosecco and Pinot Grigio, but I’ve since discovered the region’s many other wines, including Soave, Amarone, and Bardolino (a light, fruity cousin of Valpolicella).
Because so many different styles of wine are made here, some wine critics call Veneto a “wine factory.” The problem with Veneto is that many of the wines here are simplistic. As a result, some serious wine collectors are hesitant to call Veneto one of the best Italian wine regions. However, it’s unwise to write this area’s wines off entirely. You can find some hidden gems in Veneto, especially those made in the heart of regions like Soave and Valpolicella, labeled as ‘Soave Classico’ or ‘Valpolicella Classico.’ These tend to be higher in quality than those made on a larger scale in the areas that have been expanded outward from the original core of their respective regions. Many wines made in Veneto are produced using the traditional winemaking method of drying the grapes, which concentrates the sugar content of the fruit and gives the wine a unique character.
If you’re just getting started with Veneto, Soave is a great wine to try first, as it can be collectible and very delicious. You’ll also want to try Amarone from Veneto’s warm southern valleys; the best Amarone producers include Romano Dal Forno and Giuseppe Quintarelli. You may also want to try the region’s Recioto di Soave, which is rare and quite distinctive. It has a refreshing flavor that can provide a nice break from heavier dessert wines.
Piedmont is a legendary wine region that leaves a lasting impression on anyone who visits. Critic Jancis Robinson gives these wines an especially glowing review. She says Piedmont “has won [her] heart for its sheer joie de vivre.” She describes how every village she’s visited over the years, even the smallest, most unassuming little towns, were home to incredible local cuisine, including perfect food and wine pairings that Robinson says are some of the best she has ever had. Robinson’s recommendation of Piedmont wine should come as no surprise to serious collectors as it is largely considered one of the best Italian wine regions in history (alongside Tuscany). It also has a reputation for producing some of the most age-worthy Italian wines on the market, making it a go-to region for serious wine collectors looking for wines to cellar long term.
The Nebbiolo grape is the backbone of Piedmont. It makes up some of the region’s greatest wines, including Barolo and Barbaresco. These two wines are the most collectible in Piedmont, and they can last more than 20 years in a cellar. The climate is relatively cool and foggy, giving its red wines a sharp, acidic flavor profile. Because these wines age so well, it’s worth buying a full case and opening just one or two bottles every couple of years to see how they are maturing. If you’re looking for high-quality Barolo to lay down, then consider one of these top Piedmont producers:
Many of the producers above also make Barbaresco and other classic Piedmont wines, although in most cases their Barolo is the most valuable on the secondary market.
In addition to Barolo, you’ll also want to try these Piedmont wines:
Ghemme and Gattinara
While these styles aren’t as age-worthy as Piedmont’s Barolo, they make good everyday drinking wines, and you can find some incredible bottles in the $20 to $30 range. If you’re looking for wines that have some of the best value in the entire Piedmont region, then you may wish to explore wines from Ghemme and Gattinara. These high-quality northern Piedmontese wines are made from the Nebbiolo grape, just like Barolo and Barbaresco; however, Ghemme and Gattinara are typically more rustic in personality. Choose one of these styles if you prefer a rustic wine, or if you want a wine with an excellent price-to-quality ratio.
Like Piedmont, Tuscany is considered one of the best Italian wine regions, and it makes some of the most collectible wines in the country. When I first discovered Tuscan wines, I primarily drank the region’s basic Chianti and other Sangiovese-based wines. Most of these wines are approachable, but not especially interesting. It wasn’t until I began exploring Tuscany’s great wines, like the iconic Super Tuscans, Chianti Classico Riserva, and Brunello di Montalcino that I really began to appreciate just how refined, elegant, and fascinating Italian wine could be. I quickly learned that Sangiovese isn’t always an uncomplicated variety, and that Chianti is more than just a pleasant wine to serve with dinner. There are stunning versions of these wines being made all over Tuscany every year, and more are still waiting to be discovered.
If you’re a serious wine collector, you’ve likely thought about buying or have already purchased some Super Tuscan wines. These blends combine the best of both Italy and the New World; they are intense, bold, and deeply concentrated, just like California’s finest cult Cabernets, yet those which use Sangiovese in the blend are able to retain a unique spiciness and local character. Some of the best Super Tuscan producers include:
In general, if you’re looking for a safe investment, Super Tuscan blends may offer you the best return. However, it is worth exploring wines from this region that are made only from Sangiovese as well, as these are more classic and traditional expressions of Tuscany. For instance, Brunello di Montalcino is an age-worthy Sangiovese wine that is perfectly suited to a Tuscan climate. Here are some of the best producers of this wine:
Additionally, producers like Dell’Ornellaia make interesting examples of Merlot and other international grapes that combine New-World flavors with Italian tradition. Meanwhile, Chianti Classico Riserva is a collectible version of Chianti that tends to be a bit more refined than Superiore or plain Classico, so it’s worth buying if you want an elegant but easy-drinking option. And finally, you should also try some of Tuscany’s dessert wines like Vin Santo, a style made from dried grapes that beautifully concentrates the sugar. With so many styles to choose from, Tuscany has a lot to offer, whether you’re a beginning collector or a seasoned expert.
The first few times that wine enthusiast Kevin Day tasted Pinot Nero from Trentino-Alto Adige, he wasn’t all that impressed with the region’s offerings. The wines he tried lacked complexity, and they couldn’t compete with great Pinot Noir from Burgundy. However, when Day tried his first bottle of Lageder Krafuss, his opinion of Trentino-Alto Adige wines changed forever. He found gorgeous notes of baking spice, cranberry, and even a hint of pine; this was the complex Alto Adige Pinot Noir he had been waiting for. But why was this wine so different from the others Day had tasted over the years? It all comes down to the vineyard. The other Pinot Nero wines that Day had tasted in the past were made from multi-vineyard blends and from the valleys of Trentino-Alto Adige. Because Lageder Krafuss is from a single vineyard at a higher altitude, the wine is much more expressive.
This is a relatively common experience among wine enthusiasts who try Trentino-Alto Adige wines for the first time. Although it is one of the best Italian wine regions, the area is also home to plenty of easy-drinking wines that may not appeal to serious collectors. In order to make the most out of this region, you have to know where to find the best producers. The best wine from Trentino-Alto Adige is typically:
From vineyards located at high altitudes.
A single-vineyard wine, rather than a multi-vineyard blend.
Trentino-Alto Adige is one of the most diverse regions in Italy. It actually gets its name from the combination of two smaller, separate regions, Trentino and Alto Adige. The combined Trentino-Alto Adige region is home to a massive number of varieties such as:
We suggest exploring the wines that are unique to Trentino-Alto Adige, such as Lagrein (a rare red variety that tastes quite similar to French Syrah). This wine is potentially age-worthy, so if you happen upon a high-quality bottle from a respected producer, keep it under storage for up to 15 years in order to get the most out of its complex flavors. Another wine worth trying is Schiava, a light-bodied, freshly acidic style with a delicate strawberry and floral character. Although this wine typically isn’t collectible, it’s a good option if you’re looking for an unusual, traditional Italian wine that pairs well with a variety of foods. You may also enjoy Kerner, an aromatic white wine with complex layers of flavors similar to a dry German Riesling. You can drink this style on its own in order to appreciate its distinct layers of stone fruits and wildflowers, or try it with food, as it pairs well with many dishes. Acidity plays a major role in many Trentino-Alto Adige wines; this sharp acidity is often accompanied by flinty notes as well. The region’s cool climate is similar to that of Germany, and the soil is very mineral-heavy, lending these wines a steely personality. Overall, Trentino-Alto Adige is a great place to find light, complex red wines and acidic, aromatic whites.
Wine writers Per and Britt Karlsson say that they love a good structured wine; they don’t particularly care for the soft, velvety styles that are easy to drink in their youth. This is why the Karlssons adore Umbria’s Sagrantino di Montefalco. This rare wine style is absolutely wild in its youth, and, as one Umbrian winegrower told the Karlssons, “must be tamed” with age. If, like the Karlssons, you love wines that challenge the palate and you’re tired of drinking the same Super Tuscans, then Umbria may be the perfect Italian wine region for you.
Umbrian wine is largely underrated, especially when compared to other great regions like Tuscany and Piedmont. While Super Tuscans and age-worthy Barolo receive much of the attention on the wine market, Umbrian Sagrantino di Montefalco is still fairly unknown outside serious wine collecting circles. Made from the Sagrantino grape, this utterly unique wine has extremely high levels of tannin, which make it possible to cellar these wines for three decades or more. Despite this aging potential, prices for Sagrantino di Montefalco haven’t caught up to those of other collectible Italian wines, like Super Tuscans, so this is an excellent wine to lay down now.
However, Umbria is more than just Sagrantino. Although this is the region’s most collectible and age-worthy wine, Umbria also produces:
These easy-drinking wines aren’t as collectible or as age-worthy as Sagrantino, so if you’re looking for a wine for long-term cellaring, then Sagrantino di Montefalco is still your best choice. This wine is trending on the market, and may begin to grow in value just as Super Tuscans increased in value during the 1980s. Getting in on this emerging trend now could offer you a good return on your investment.
Travel journalist Anna Lebedeva thought that she knew everything about Sicilian wine from her many trips to the sunny island over the years. She had drunk plenty of Zibibbo and Nero D’Avola, and she assumed that nearly all Sicilian wine tasted either sweet (in the case of Zibibbo) or fruit-forward (in the case of Nero D’Avola). However, the longer she stayed in Sicily, the more Lebedeva realized that she knew relatively little about the diverse range of wines made there. From earthy Nerello Mascalese to fresh, fragrant Carricante, Sicily is so much more than just easy-drinking styles that appeal to casual wine fans. There are some truly well-priced yet collectible Sicilian wines that are worth a space in your cellar.
One of the biggest misconceptions about Sicilian wine is that all of the region’s wine styles taste fruity and ripe. This myth likely stems from the idea that Sicily is warm and sunny year-round; many people assume that the warm weather produces overly ripe grapes with lots of concentrated sugar. While this is true in some areas of Sicily, it’s not true for all subregions. The truth is that Sicily has a more diverse climate than it’s given credit for, from the cool, sometimes even snowy conditions on Mount Etna to the warm, dry vineyards that lie along the western coastline. On average, inland Sicily is 15 degrees cooler than the Sicilian coastline. This means that you’ll often find concentrated, fruity wines along the coast, and acidic, flinty wines inland. The volcanic soil of Etna makes these wines taste especially mineral-rich.
With more than 20 different styles of wine made in Sicily, it’s difficult to know where to start. Consider trying at least one of the following varieties or styles:
Cerasuolo di Vittoria
If it’s your first time exploring Sicilian wine, then you may wish to start with some of the easy-drinking producers located in west Sicily, such as Donnafugata and Planeta. Then, try some regional wines, such as those from DOC..
Deciding when—and whether—to sell port wine can be a major challenge, as one wine enthusiast recently discovered. In 1997, a family friend gave this wine enthusiast’s young son an incredible gift of birth-year wine—six bottles of Quinta do Vesuvio stored under bond in the original wooden case. Because the case was stored under pristine conditions, the wine was potentially quite valuable—the son could choose to either drink the wine himself when he came of age or sell the bottles for a profit later. But when the time came to decide what to do with the port, the wine enthusiast and his son weren’t sure how to proceed. The man explained, “I thought I was reasonably worldly and wise until my son asked me what he should do with his port, then suddenly I was completely stumped.” At the time, the wine was only worth about $150 for the entire case, so he wasn’t convinced that selling was the right option yet. Ultimately, he decided to keep the wine in storage indefinitely until it increased significantly in value.
The biggest issue with selling port wine is that only some rare vintages are actually worth flipping for a profit. Additionally, port takes decades to mature and gain in value, and collectors who don’t have time to wait may not be able to make a profit. This is why it’s important to know when, whether, and how to sell port wine. In this post, we’ll be discussing which vintages and producers actually have value on the secondary market, how long those bottles need to age before they will be worth selling, and which services offer you the best options for selling your wine.
Most Port Isn’t Worth Selling
While you can pretty easily lay down a bottle of Margaux with the assurance that the wine will be worth more on the secondary market later, port isn’t nearly as simple to resell as grand cru Bordeaux. That’s because there are only a handful of producers that make truly valuable port wine. Moreover, only certain legendary vintages are worth hundreds (or, rarely, thousands) of dollars. And, even if you have a bottle from a high-quality producer and a sought-after vintage, there’s still no guarantee that your port wine is worth reselling.
Let’s say that you own a bottle of 1847 Real Vinicola that you inherited from your grandparents. While that wine is worth more than $9,500 per bottle, on average, you can ask for that price only if you stored your bottle under perfect conditions for its entire lifetime. In other words, if your grandparents kept the wine in a cabinet in their living room, it may not be worth much on the secondary market. There’s a good chance that it was exposed to high temperatures at some point, and this causes the wine to lose significant value. If, on the other hand, you bought the wine from a merchant who had it stored safely under bond, or who can otherwise prove the bottle’s provenance, then you may be able to sell it for a price close to its upper limit on the market.
How to Tell If Your Port is Worth Selling
Knowing whether your port is worth selling requires considering the producer’s reputation, the vintage quality, and the wine’s provenance. These three factors significantly impact the value of your port, and could mean the difference between a $50 bottle and a $10,000 bottle.
Research the Producer
Before you sell your port, consider whether your collection contains any vintages from prominent producers. The most valuable port wine producers include:
The list above is by no means comprehensive; there are many other valuable port producers on the market, so it’s a good idea to research each bottle you own in order to estimate its value. Keep in mind that just owning a bottle from one of these producers doesn’t guarantee that your wine has resale value. You also need to look at vintage quality in order to determine the value of what you have.
Research the Vintage
Vintage port is only made when the quality of the wine is especially high. This means that you can rarely go wrong with vintage port. Still, some vintages are higher in quality than others. Some of the finest port vintages include:
2011 (you can read about this vintage in more detail here)
For the most part, any vintages prior to 1950 are drinking well now, so you will be able to sell some of these older wines for a greater profit than younger vintages. Port enthusiasts are often willing to spend more on bottles that have already aged for decades and don’t require more time to fully mature. Younger vintages are likely worth holding on to for at least another decade or two before you resell them (that is, if you can afford to wait). The longer you wait, the greater the profit you will likely make from the sale.
Investigate the Bottle’s Provenance
As we mentioned above, even if you have a bottle of 2007 Dow’s, you can’t necessarily sell that bottle at full value unless you can prove its provenance. The guidelines below can help you determine whether your wine is worth selling or whether you should drink it yourself:
Was the wine stored under bond? This is the best-case scenario. It’s fairly easy to sell port wine that has been stored professionally, untouched, for its entire lifetime. If you bought the wine directly from the estate, or you bought it from a private seller who has it stored under bond, then you can ask for the highest price possible for your wine.
Was the wine stored professionally? Under bond sales are rare, which is what makes bonded wines so valuable on the secondary market. Most of the time, you’re going to buy port that has changed hands a few times, especially if you’re purchasing older vintages. But as long as there’s proof that your wine was stored professionally throughout its lifetime, or, at the very least, stored under excellent home cellar conditions, then you can likely sell an aged fine vintage for a decent profit.
Is the wine’s history questionable? I’ve known many collectors who have tried to sell their port without understanding the exact history of the bottle, and in most of these cases, the collectors had to charge much less for the bottles than they would have liked. If you own a wine that has been stored professionally for the past five years but whose history was essentially unaccounted for before then, it could be difficult to sell that bottle and difficult to make a profit on it.
Is the wine a family heirloom? Most heirloom port isn’t worth selling unless it was kept in a cool, dark place throughout its lifetime. Rather than selling these kinds of wines, it may be more worthwhile to continue the tradition and keep the wine exactly where it is. Or, drink the wine yourself and keep the bottle as a souvenir.
Although port is fortified and relatively sturdy, it’s still a wine, and you’ll need proof of proper storage if you want a return on your investment. Your best option in many cases will be to drink and enjoy the port yourself, then sell the empty bottles online. You won’t make hundreds of dollars from empty bottle sales, but there is a small, niche market out there for beautiful port wine bottles, especially those from the 1800s and early 1900s.
How to Sell Port Wine
Once you’ve determined the approximate value of your port, you can start the selling process. By far the easiest, safest, and most legal method for selling port wine is to locate a trustworthy, licensed merchant or auction house that has experience selling fortified wines. You will have to pay a fee to the seller if you want to sell port wine using this method, but very often the fee is well worth the price of admission. An experienced merchant or auction house will take care of every detail of the sale, including:
The audience/buyer (the best auction houses and merchants already have a great reputation on the market, and as a result, they attract buyers who are serious about purchasing high-end port).
The wine sales license and any interstate shipping regulations or costs.
The full description of the bottle (the wine’s condition, provenance, photos, and any other details that will attract buyers).
The fee for this type of service is often very reasonable, depending on the merchant or auction house that you choose. Here are some of the most common fees you’ll come across when you sell port wine through a professional:
Fixed fees: The seller charges anywhere from zero to 18% of the final sales price. If the seller charges more, it may be wise to shop around for other options or ask why the fee is higher than average.
Sliding scale fees: You only pay the seller based on what the wine is worth. You’ll pay a much higher fee for a $10,000 bottle of port than you would for a $240 bottle of 1968 Taylor’s.
Insurance fees: The seller charges an average of 1% to cover theft, damage, or other complications that may occur before the sale is complete.
A seller will typically charge you just one of the fees above. However, in some cases, a seller may have both a fixed fee and a separate insurance fee, or a sliding scale fee and an insurance fee. Before you choose a seller, ask them how they calculate their fees and, if possible, request a fee estimate in writing in advance.
Ultimately, a small sales fee is worth paying in exchange for convenience and peace of mind. When you send your wine to an auction house or full-service merchant, you’ll never have to ask yourself if your wine is worth selling. A professional wine expert will answer this question for you after carefully analyzing your bottle from label to cork. These professionals stay up to date with the latest wine prices and trends, and can help you pick the ideal time to release your port on the market. Professional full-service wine sellers will handle factors like appraisals, shipping, insurance, storage, and payments. All you have to do is sit back, relax, and watch the profits roll in.
A few years ago, wine journalist Li Demai dined with the Italian ambassador in China. During the meal, the guests began discussing Italian wine, and Demai opened up about some of the struggles he’d had with Italian wine in the past. Demai told the Ambassador that he had lived in France for two years in order to study French wine. But in the entire time he lived in France, he never once made a trip over to nearby Italy to taste Italian wine. Why? Demai felt that the world of Italian wine was too complicated to even try to understand as a beginner, before he’d mastered the basics of French wine. Italy is home to more than 500 different grape varieties and hundreds of high-quality producers, and as such, understanding all of them is a challenge, even for seasoned wine experts. It took Demai two more years of intense study to finally grow comfortable with his understanding of Italian wine.
It’s common for even the most experienced collectors to struggle when learning about Italian wine. However, one technique for overcoming this struggle is to sample a range of wines from some of the best Italian wine producers. You don’t necessarily have to spend time living in Italy, as Demai eventually did, in order to learn firsthand which winemaking techniques, grape varieties, and flavors make Italian wine so unique. We’ve put together a comprehensive list of some of the best Italian wine producers to help you get started on your journey. While there are many other producers also worth consideration, the producers in this guide represent some of the finest in terms of wine quality, value, and overall reputation, and our selection can help you narrow your choices down to the producers that are most worth your time and that suit your goals for your collection.
Top Italian Wine Producers and Labels on the Liv-Ex Power 100
Every year, Liv-ex organizes its Power 100 list, a detailed ranking of the highest-performing wines on the market. The most recent 2017 Power 100 list included seven of the best Italian wine producers and labels in the country, including Masseto, Sassicaia, Gaja, Solaia, Dell’Ornellaia, Antinori Tignanello, and Giacomo Conterno. Not only did these producers and labels perform particularly well on the secondary market last year, Italy’s total market sales increased as a whole by ten percent in 2017. With the popularity of Italian wine on the market increasing, there’s never been a better time to learn about the best Italian wine producers. If you’re looking for a few promising investment ideas, or you’re dipping your toes into fine Italian wine for the first time, then it may be worthwhile to start with a few vintages from the producers on Liv-ex’s Power 100 list.
Position on the Power 100 List: 20. Varieties: Merlot. Typical Characteristics: Lively and powerful. Region: Bolgheri, Tuscany. Notable Recent Vintages: 2006, 2010, 2011, 2013. Best for: New-World wine lovers who want to try Italian wine.
Dell’Ornellaia’s Masseto label is currently the best-performing Italian wine on the market in terms of value and sale volume. Masseto grew in price by 24% between 2016 and 2017, and it’s expected to continue to increase in value over the next few years. Liv-ex founder Justin Gibbs explains, “It has top scores, the supply is limited, and it seems to be successfully distributed through ‘La Place.’” Masseto is both an excellent source of profit for serious collectors and a delicious, complex wine for drinking.
I generally recommend this wine to collectors who already adore New-World wines (especially Napa Valley Merlot) and who want to ease their way into Italian wine for the first time. I once knew a man who claimed not to be a fan of Italian wine at all—he assumed that Italian producers only made light, earthy reds, and he preferred bolder California reds. But everything changed for him when he tried Masseto at a recent tasting event. The wine was full of dark cherry, spice, and chocolate notes, and its powerful flavors reminded him a bit of his favorite Merlot from Hourglass in Napa. However, he found that the Masseto had a unique finesse and depth. It shared some similarities with New-World wines, yet the underlying structure was very Old-World and distinctly Italian. Today, he owns many bottles of Masseto, as well as a few other offerings from Dell’Ornellaia.
You might have noticed that Masseto and Dell’Ornellaia appear at different positions on the Power 100 list. That’s because, although Masseto is made by the Dell’Ornellaia estate, the producer encourages a distinct separation between Masseto and the winery’s other labels. Masseto also typically garners a much higher price per bottle than Dell’Ornellaia’s signature wine, Ornellaia, putting it in a class by itself.
Position on the Power 100 List: 33. Varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. Typical Characteristics: Rich, dense, and powerful. Region: Bolgheri, Tuscany. Notable Recent Vintages: 2006, 2008, 2009. Best for: New-World wine lovers who want to try Italian wine.
The Sassicaia label, made by the San Guido estate, is the producer’s most successful wine. While San Guido makes other wines worth trying (Guidalberto and Le Difese), choose the flagship Sassicaia label if you love bolder wines or want to make a profit on the secondary market. San Guido was one of the first in Italy to embrace a bolder, fruit-driven style of Cabernet, and it would later take on the name “Super Tuscan,” influencing countless other producers that wanted to make a beefier Italian red. In this way, it differs significantly from Italy’s traditionally dry, earthier red wine varieties.
Although Sassicaia is one of the most valuable Super Tuscans in Italy and makes an excellent investment for resale, it’s also a wine you should try yourself at least once. A wine collector writes on the Wine Berserkers forum that in 1992 he found six bottles of 1985 Sassicaia on sale for just $80 apiece. After opening the first bottle to try it, he found the wine so delicious that he ended up drinking the rest of the bottles before the year was over. As much as he wanted to store this wine long-term, he couldn’t resist the temptation to drink them. His story isn’t unusual; I’ve heard from a number of collectors who feel the same way. This is a great wine for collectors who prefer to drink their own wines, or who have enough willpower to wait patiently for their bottles to mature so that they can resell them later.
Position on the Power 100 List: 56. Varieties: Nebbiolo, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Merlot, Syrah, Sangiovese. Typical Characteristics: Nebbiolo wines are medium-to-full-bodied and tannic; the Super Tuscans are floral, earthy, and spicy. Region: Langhe, Piedmont (known for Barbaresco and Barolo), Bolgheri, Tuscany (the Ca’Marcanda estate wines). Notable Recent Vintages: 2004, 2011. Best for: Anyone who generally drinks New-World wine but has enjoyed some earthier wines as well and would like to try more Nebbiolo.
Gaja wines have experienced a 13.37% increase in value between 2016 and 2017, and this upward trend is expected to continue through 2018. What makes this producer so popular among serious collectors is that Gaja wines age especially well. Additionally, Gaja is modern without losing its Old-World charm; the producer was the first in the area to use temperature-controlled fermentation and small-cask aging. These techniques help create a structured, flavorful wine that will last for decades in a cellar. Barbaresco is the most successful Gaja wine, and you can find some particularly fascinating vintages of the estate’s Costa Russi, Sori Tildin, and Sori San Lorenzo labels. Since the 1996 vintage, these have been reclassified from Barbaresco DOCG to Langhe DOC, which has given the producer more freedom to experiment with unique winemaking techniques.
The biggest question you may ask yourself when investing in Gaja wine is which style will best meet your needs. The obvious choice for the majority of collectors will be the estate’s cru Barbaresco, as it is the most valuable label and a big hit among wine critics. This is the label that I recommend to collectors just getting started with Gaja wine. If you’re looking for a wine with enormous finesse and integrated oak flavors, then Sorì Tildin may also be an excellent choice. Meanwhile, Ca’Marcanda is a polished, memorable wine that often appeals to those who already own and collect plenty of Bordeaux—you may find some similarities between classic Bordeaux and Ca’Marcanda.
Position on the Power 100 List: 80. Varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Sangiovese. Typical Characteristics: Full-bodied, spicy, and very dark in color. Region: Chianti Classico, Tuscany. Notable Recent Vintages: 2004, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010. Best for: New-World wine lovers who want to try Italian wine.
Like Masseto and Sassicaia, the Solaia label from Marchesi Antinori is so valuable and sought-after that it has earned its own unique ranking on the Liv-ex list apart from the producer’s other labels. The wine gets its famous ripeness from the ample sunshine of Tignanello Hill—it’s grown in the sunniest section of the vineyard. Due to Antinori’s focus on high quality and careful grape selection, Solaia vintages will last for decades in a cellar. This is especially good news for collectors who wish to lay down some of these wines for future resale—the wine has increased in value by more than 14% since the beginning of 2017.
Before you buy a few vintages of Solaia for your collection, be aware that these wines tend to be very fruit-forward, even more so than some of the other Super Tuscans on this list. During a blind tasting event last year, one wine enthusiast initially misidentified a bottle of 1990 Solaia because the wine tasted so ripe. The enormous fruit flavors in the nose made the attendee believe that he was drinking a late harvest California Cab. For this reason, Solaia typically appeals most to drinkers who love New-World wines and fully ripened fruit flavors. It’s one of the best examples of this style in Italy, and it’s downright hedonistic in personality. If you prefer an earthier, more restrained wine, then you may opt to invest in one of the other Italian wine producers on this list instead.
Position on the Power 100 List: 86. Varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Sangiovese (and Merlot for the Masseto and Le Volte labels). Typical Characteristics: The Super Tuscan blends are full-bodied, balanced, and elegant. Region: Bolgheri, Tuscany. Notable Recent Vintages: 2011, 2007, 2006. Best for: Collectors who enjoy both the finesse and elegance of Old-World wines and the plush fruit of New-World wines.
Along with its Masseto label, Dell’Ornellaia’s Super Tuscan proprietary blends—the most important being Ornellaia—also made it onto the Power 100 list. While Ornellaia often isn’t as high in value on the secondary market as Masseto, it tends to be slightly more elegant in style, making it appealing to those who drink other Old-World wines. And because these wines can last for 20 years or more in storage, they make a potentially valuable investment in addition to being an enjoyable drinking experience.
When you’re starting an Italian wine collection for the first time, the Dell’Ornellaia estate can teach you a great deal about the environment in which these wines are made. The Ornellaia label is a near-perfect expression of Bolgheri as a region, so if you’re not that familiar with the Bolgheri region, or even with Tuscan wine as a whole, then Ornellaia can give you a good sense of what Bolgheri’s typical style is. Once you have some knowledge of Bolgheri under your belt, you may choose to move on to other great Dell’Ornellaia wines, like Masseto, that will give you a glimpse into a single-vineyard, single-variety wine from this area.
Position on the Power 100 List: 88. Varieties: Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc. Typical Characteristics: Full-bodied, concentrated, and velvety. Region: Chianti Classico, Tuscany. Notable Recent Vintages: 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010. Best for: New-World wine lovers who want to try Italian wine.
The very first Super Tuscan to hit the market, Antinori’s Tignanello label is still thrilling collectors today. Although the wine doesn’t garner quite as much attention as its Solaia sister, it is still one of the best offerings from the Antinori estate. It claimed many firsts when it was introduced: the first Sangiovese to be aged in barriques, the first Italian wine blended with non-traditional grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, and the first red blend in Chianti Classico to use purely red grape varieties. This subregion is known for mixing white grapes into red blends, but Antinori was the first to ignore this common practice. As a result, these wines still have plenty of Italian personality (in part from the traditional Sangiovese grape), yet will taste very familiar to New-World wine lovers as well.
The Tignanello label will always hold a special place in my heart in part because it was one of the first Italian wines that I invested in on a serious level. When I first began drinking fine wine, I stuck mainly to California proprietary blends, Bordeaux, and Burgundy. But one night a taste of a 1997 Tignanello absolutely fascinated me. The wine was full-bodied, yet had soft, supple tannins, and the finish seemed to last for ages. The quality of the wine made me want to learn more about Antinori and Tuscany’s many other collectible producers. To this day, I still adore the Tignanello label, and I’ve continued to buy these wines over the years.
7. Giacomo Conterno
Position on the Power 100 List: 96. Varieties: Nebbiolo. Typical Characteristics: Medium-bodied, tannic, and aromatic. Region: Langhe, Piedmont. Notable Recent Vintages: 2001, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006. Best for: Old-World wine enthusiasts who want to try more Nebbiolo.
Giacomo Conterno has long been one of the best Italian wine producers, and over the decades, the estate has made Barolo into fine art. At the turn of the century, in 1900, it was difficult to find an age-worthy Nebbiolo. Conterno was one of the first producers to work to change this. By using longer fermentation techniques and allowing the Nebbiolo to fully express its tannic nature, Conterno was able to produce wines that could last decades in a cellar. The estate’s vineyards receive a great deal of sunlight from the southwest, and the angle of the hill on which the vines grow positions the grapes perfectly to capture as much light as possible in the spring and summer. The result is a fully ripened, traditional Italian wine that can be a little too bracing in its youth, but mellows into an elegant, mature wine as the years wear on.
It’s important not to uncork a bottle of Giacomo Conterno Barolo too early. These wines are often intensely aromatic, however, if they haven’t been given the chance to fully mature, the tight structure of the wines can prevent some of their subtler aromas from coming through. This is frequently true for the Cascina Francia label. In some cases, even after Cascina Francia has aged for ten years, it may still be too young to showcase its true potential. The Monfortino label is often slightly richer and more lush in its youth than Cascina Francia, yet this is another wine that prospers with aging. I recommend laying down any Giacomo Conterno vintage for a minimum of 15 years. If you can wait, many of these wines will only become more incredible as they approach the 25- or 30-year mark.
These seven Italian producers and labels on Liv-ex’s Power 100 list are each excellent, but they are by no means the only producers worth trying or collecting. If you’re looking for investments or are just starting to get acquainted with Italian wine, they’re a good place to start, but there are plenty of other Italian producers making fantastic, ageable wines. We’ll explore some others in the next section.
Other Producers That Make Age-Worthy Reds
If you want to get to know the best Italian wine producers, you’ll want to look at more than just Liv-ex statistics. I’ve known a few collectors over the years who thought that the only wines in Italy worth buying were those on the Power 100 list. But in the process of collecting only the best vintages from these producers, they missed out on a number of fantastic Italian reds that fall outside of the “Super Tuscan” category. Recently, one of these collectors in particular has made it a goal to start tasting wines from a variety of areas, and he has become much more open-minded about Italian wine, branching out to try offerings from other great producers like Bruno Giacosa and Vietti. Today, his Italian wine collection is diverse and well-rounded, and he’s discovering a new passion for aged Barolo and Brunello in particular.
All of the Italian producers on Liv-ex’s list are located in Tuscany and Piedmont, as those two regions offer some of the most collectible Italian wines. But there are more great producers in these two regions than the handful that made it onto Liv-ex’s Power 100 list. Here are some other Italian wine producers that craft legendary red wines in these areas:
1. Bruno Giacosa
Region: Piedmont. We Recommend Trying: The Barolo Falletto label. Varieties: Nebbiolo. Typical Characteristics: Medium-bodied, rich, tannic, and complex. Notable Recent Vintages: 2000, 2001, 2004, 2007, 2008, 2012. Ageability: 20+ years. Value: Frequently gains in value as it ages—wines sell for an average of $150 in the first few years and can grow in price to $300 or more per bottle as they reach maturity.
2. Biondi Santi
Region: Tuscany. We Recommend Trying: The Brunello di Montalcino Riserva label. Varieties: Sangiovese. Typical Characteristics: Complex aromas, refined tannins, and a velvety finish. Notable Recent Vintages: 2006, 2010. Ageability: 25+ years. Value: These wines slowly gain in value as time goes on—they run anywhere from $300 to $500 per bottle, on..
Do you remember the first wine that inspired you to start a collection? What was the first legendary bottle that took you from casual drinker to passionate enthusiast? For one collector on the Wine Berserkers forum, that wine was 1986 Château Canon. Before he became a knowledgeable wine lover, this collector felt intimidated to explore his natural interest in wine. The wine world seemed too complex, and he was worried that he didn’t know enough about wine to start a collection of his own. But when he had his first glass of 1986 Canon, the wine was so delicious and made such a strong impression that he knew he couldn’t ignore his passion for wine. He explains that Canon wine “convinced me that being able to replicate experiences like that was worth getting into.”
It’s not surprising that Canon wine had the impact this collector describes. With rich, dark berry flavors, spicy aromatics, and a lavish (yet still well-structured) personality, Canon vintages are among the most interesting Classe B Saint-Émilion wines. And if you haven’t already sampled this estate’s incredible wines, then now is an excellent time to start. The producer is gaining in popularity on the secondary market and is showing great promise for investors as well as for avid drinkers. The value of these wines is steadily increasing, and Canon recently released the greatest vintage of its nearly 300-year history (the 2015). There has never been a better time to be a passionate Canon fan.
Canon Wine Is Having a Moment in the Spotlight
So, why invest in Canon wine now? You’ll want to consider adding this producer’s wines to your collection in part because the wine is gaining in value in the marketplace and this trend is expected to continue. This will be especially true if the 2017 vintage turns out to be high in quality. According to the latest Liv-ex Power 100 report, Canon moved up in rank by an impressive 80 spots in 2017 to 59th place. This means that the estate was one of the top ten movers on the market, indicating that its sales and value have both increased significantly. In fact, only four producers in the world made a bigger jump in rank than Canon: Georges Roumier, Etienne Sauzet, Ponsot, and Jacques Prieur. Canon has also significantly increased in average price per bottle–the value of wines from this estate jumped by 39.53% in 2017.
This massive increase in both price and number of bottles sold is primarily the result of the fantastic 2015 vintage. Critics like James Suckling and Neal Martin gave 2015 Canon perfect and near-perfect scores, respectively, and they claim that the wine is easily the best Canon has ever produced. Although many past Canon wine vintages are very fine and certainly worth a space in your cellar, the 2015 vintage was truly spectacular. This came down to a combination of ideal weather conditions and having a new winemaker at the helm. Acclaimed Cheval des Andes winemaker Nicolas Audebert became technical director of Canon in 2014, and his keen eye for detail and years of experience led to a superb 2015 vintage. Most unusually, the wine was so high in quality that Canon actually invited visitors to pick any random barrel in the room and sample a bit of the wine inside–typically, the estate only allows critics to taste a carefully-curated blend en primeur.
The Most Promising Recent Vintages
By far the best vintage to invest in from the Canon estate is the 2015. Made from 72% Merlot and 28% Cabernet Franc, the wine spent 18 months in 70% new French oak. This is fairly typical for the producer’s flagship wine, but what made the 2015 vintage really stand out were the weather conditions in Bordeaux that year. The weather was exceedingly hot in July, which was threatening the health of the grapes, but by the time August arrived, so did cooler weather and even a bit of rain. The grapes were revitalized, and a calm, relatively warm fall gave winemakers ample time to pick the grapes at their ripest. As a result, 2015 Bordeaux wines tend to have very prominent tannin and acidity, but the ripeness of the grapes cushions some of this underlying power. Critic Jeb Dunnuck calls 2015 Canon an “iron first in a velvet glove.” Plenty of structure will allow the wine to age for decades, but the wine’s tannin is somewhat masked by the depth of pleasant fruit flavors. If you buy this wine, you’ll have to be patient; it still needs about five years to develop, and it won’t reach peak maturity for at least another 20 years.
The biggest problem with the 2015 Canon vintage is that it may be difficult to find on the market due to its popularity. This vintage is currently being sold as a pre-arrival at an average price of $272 per bottle. This is a steeper price than that of 2016 pre-arrivals, which are currently only selling at $145 per bottle on average. The 2014 vintage is currently selling for just $90 per bottle on average. Due to high quality and increased demand, to invest in 2015 Canon you’ll have to pay almost double the price of a typical Canon release, and the number of bottles available from retailers will likely be limited.
If you choose to pass on 2015 Canon, seek out some of the estate’s other high-quality vintages. Other than the 2015, the best vintages in Canon history include 2016, 2012, 2010, 2009, 2005, 2000, 1989, 1982, 1959, 1955, 1953, 1950, 1947, and 1945. Because Canon wine is able to age for decades in a cellar, you may be able to find wines from the 1950s that are still worth drinking. Vintages from the 1980s are certainly worth buying and drinking now as well, and all of the 2000s vintages are worth keeping in storage for at least another ten years. If you can, avoid drinking these right away, as they are typically much more enjoyable as they approach the 10- or 15-year mark.
Canon Wine Has a Promising Future
Canon shares the distinction of being one of the finest premier grand cru Classe B producers in Saint-Émilion with other greats like Château Figeac, Château Canon La Gaffeliere, and La Mondotte. But experts suspect that Canon may surpass its Classe B peers within the next few years. Liv-ex director Justin Gibbs says that Canon is a candidate for a status upgrade in 2022–the estate may transition from Classe B to Classe A. If this happens, you can expect Canon prices to skyrocket and these wines may become harder to find on the market. Right now (although the estate is popular among many collectors), it doesn’t tend to attract collectors who only invest in Classe A producers. Once the estate is upgraded, serious collectors and investors may take more interest in these wines, potentially driving the prices up even further.
For this reason, it’s wise to invest in these wines now, before the estate’s status changes. Although there’s no guarantee that the estate will upgrade to A status four years from now, we know that already more collectors are buying these wines than usual and prices are on the rise. With a long history of making high-quality, fascinating wines, interest in Canon likely isn’t just a fad–the estate has lasting power that is only going to grow. By investing in some of their wines now, you may get to watch the value of your collection grow along with it.
I used to be skeptical about online wine clubs, especially those offering deals that seemed too good to be true. Could you really get a mixed case wines including high-quality California Chardonnay for less than $13 per bottle? In order to test some of these popular wine subscriptions, I joined a few wine clubs myself. After signing up for three different subscription services, I learned that the quality of a wine club can vary dramatically depending on how rigorous the bottle selection process is. In my experience, wine clubs that are run by certified sommeliers or focus on niche styles or regions tend to be the most worthwhile. In fact, only one of the three wine clubs I joined met my high expectations–it offered diverse selections of highly rated wines, including a delicious Syrah from San Antonio Valley in California and a proprietary red blend from Napa winemaker Helen Keplinger. I was extremely impressed with the wines I received, and the experience made me rethink my skepticism about wine clubs.
If you’re wondering why you should join a wine club, consider that today’s wine subscription services are often founded and run by sommeliers who hire knowledgeable, trained staff members to choose unique, highly rated wines for each shipment. Unlike the wine clubs of the past, which frequently featured lower-quality wines, many modern wine clubs have a greater focus on quality, and a number cater to very specific regions, styles, and preferences. However, wine clubs aren’t right for everyone. Before you sign up for a subscription, think about the pros and the cons to these clubs. Here are a few of the pros:
Modern Wine Clubs Are Changing
The biggest complaint that serious wine enthusiasts have had about wine clubs is that they tend to feature easy-drinking, fairly boring bottles, often at low prices. Some wine clubs even make cheapness a specialty and point of pride. And while the price of a wine doesn’t always dictate its quality (you can find some truly delicious $20 wines), most of these budget-friendly wine subscription services are designed for casual drinkers, rather than collectors or connoisseurs.
So why join a wine club if you’re a serious wine enthusiast? Well, modern wine clubs are changing for the better. For instance, wine clubs like SommSelect were founded by Master Sommeliers who ensure that the club’s selections are carefully curated. SommSelect’s monthly subscription includes a blind tasting option–the company sends you six bottles wrapped in black tissue paper and lists the order in which you should taste them. Wine journalist Elin McCoy calls these niche, sommelier-run clubs “the only wine clubs worth joining.” Other wine clubs hone in on a specific style of wine or region, making it more likely that the wines you receive will be something special. Here are just a few examples:
Fat Cork: Specializes in grower Champagne.
Cellar 503: Offers wines exclusively from Oregon.
Gold Medal Wine Club: Focuses on wines from small-production wineries.
Wine Down Box: Offers unique food pairings alongside each wine.
Viticole: Specializes in organic wines.
These new wine clubs have taken subscription services way beyond the old days of quantity over quality. They’re even offering great wines that are hard to find elsewhere.
Gain Access to Limited Releases and Rarities
I’ve wanted to try Lalalu Cabernet Franc ever since I first heard about this small-scale, terroir-driven producer. However, finding just one bottle of the 2016 vintage was extremely difficult; its limited production and esteemed reputation make it all but impossible to locate on the market. The only place that I could find the bottle was through a special SommSelect membership offer. This story isn’t an uncommon one, either–in many cases, small-scale producers will sign exclusive special release deals with wine clubs in order to introduce their wines to a broader audience. If you join a wine club with an excellent reputation, you may come across some fantastic lesser-known bottles or limited releases that you can’t find anywhere else. If you’re looking to try some wines made in very limited quantities and you’d rather not spend the time to hunt them down yourself, consider joining a wine club that has exclusive deals with small-scale producers.
You’ll Discover New Favorites
If you’re looking to spice up your wine collection or get out of a wine rut, then a subscription service can help you break out of your usual routine. For instance, I’ve long enjoyed Keplinger Grenache, but I wasn’t as familiar with some of Helen Keplinger’s other incredible wines. It wasn’t until I joined a wine club that I discovered the 2014 Carte Blanche red blend. After tasting it, I’ve decided to seek out more wines made by Helen Keplinger, including her Keplinger Syrah and the 2011 vintage that she oversaw during her time at Bryant Family Vineyard.
Of course, it’s no good having an “aha” moment about a new wine if you forget everything about it later. It’s a good idea to keep track of your tasting notes for every bottle by using the Vinfolio wine management app or a similar platform to take detailed tasting notes on each bottle of wine. A mobile app allows you to see at a glance which wines you enjoyed most, which in turn will offer you insight into other wines and producers to try.
Wine Clubs Can Adjust to Your Preferences
Many wine club subscriptions offer you six unique wines each month–this means that you could receive as many as 72 different wine bottles every year. But what good is receiving all these wines if you don’t actually enjoy most of them? To solve this problem, some of the best wine clubs now use advanced algorithms and surveys to determine exactly which wines to send you every month. While some wine clubs still rely on a “somm knows best” mentality, other wine clubs like Winc (formerly called Club W) are taking a more algorithmic and data-based approach to their offerings. The club collects information about each member, including preferences and whether the member enjoyed the wines they received in previous months. They then use this data to refine future wine offerings. Founder Xander Oxman tells Eater, “Our predicted recommendations are better as we collect more data, and consistent feedback tells us what’s working and what’s not.” With the ability to change wine offerings at a moment’s notice, fine wine clubs have the ability to evolve with emerging trends as well.
You’ll Rekindle the Joy of Wine
You should also join a wine club if you want to improve your drinking experience. Too often, serious collectors get bogged down by market statistics, bottle resale value, returns on investments, or whatever vintage everyone is excited about at the moment. However, wine is much more than just a financial asset or trophy. It’s easy to lose sight of what draws us to fine wine in the first place: complex flavors that excite our senses. Wine clubs offer bottles that are ready to be uncorked right now, which gives you the opportunity to drink wine more often and more casually. While your age-worthy wines are in storage, you can sample lesser-known wines that are drinking well right now. This might even inspire a few spontaneous blind tasting parties or an experimental food and wine pairing dinner with close friends. Regardless of where your tasting experiences take you, rekindling your love of wine–and the experience of learning something new–can make any wine club worth the fee.
A Few Caveats for Collectors
Despite these benefits, fine wine clubs aren’t the right choice for every connoisseur. Here are some of the reasons why you might choose to pass on joining a wine club:
If You Already Understand Your Palate
If you’re a serious wine collector, you likely already purchase plenty of wine throughout the year from trusted retailers and you may not need a sommelier to tell you which wines to drink every month. You already try a lot of wines–maybe you belong to a local wine tasting group–and your collection is already focused on the ones you’re passionate about. If you fall into this category, it makes more sense to purchase your favorite Hundred Acre label on your own from a reliable retailer rather than signing up for a wine subscription service.
If You Don’t Have Space to Store Bottles
If you rely on a home cellar or wine fridge for storage, you may not have enough space to add 72 new bottles of wine to your collection every year. Moreover, wine club wines are almost always meant to be drunk early, and they’ll take up precious space that you might prefer to save for age-worthy wines.
If the Wine Club Requires Long Contracts
Some wine clubs ask you to sign a contract that might last anywhere from six months to a full year. Especially if you’re an experienced collector, choose clubs that offer month-to-month services or that offer contracts that last fewer than three months at a time. This allows you to cancel your subscription if you dislike the club’s selections and it keeps you from crowding your cellar with wines you’ll never get around to drinking.
If You Discover Hidden Fees
Keep an eye out for hidden shipping fees or consultation costs; quality wine clubs will tell you exactly how much the service costs upfront. The cost of shipping should be included in the listed membership price or should be easy to find before you sign up.
If the Wine Club Advertises Other Services
In our experience, it’s best to avoid wine clubs that offer non-wine-related services. In general, a wine club should stick to selling and talking about wine, not advertising Carribean vacations or airline deals. In some cases, a larger parent company (like an airline or a hotel) will license their name out to a wine club. When this happens, you may end up paying more for your wine because the brand’s name is attached to the service. Instead, choose fine wine clubs that are solely focused on the wine itself.
The bottom line is that wine club memberships should be fun. While not every connoisseur needs one, quality subscription services can be a springboard for exciting new drinking experiences. At their best, they are a simple, useful tool for collectors who wish to expand their horizons and rediscover what they love about wine.
Recent Ornellaia Masseto wine vintages are excellent in quality, yet some are still relatively low in price, making them potentially promising investments for collectors.
Ornellaia e Masseto has long been one of Italy’s finest wine producers, but today this winery is becoming even more valuable for collectors. According to the Liv-ex Power 100 report (the organization’s annual list of the top performing wines on the market), the producer Ornellaia e Masseto is among the top 20 best-performing wine labels in the world. By comparison, in 2016, the producer took 51st place on the Liv-ex Power 100 list. Over the past year alone, Ornellaia e Masseto has moved up an impressive 31 places on the list, meaning that it increased in market share, price performance, and number of bottles traded on the secondary market. This is due in large part to Ornellaia’s fantastic Masseto blend.
If you’ve always wanted to try Ornellaia Masseto wine for yourself or expand on your existing Italian fine wine collection, now may be the best time to invest. This producer will likely continue to increase in value as time goes on, and by investing early, you may set yourself up for higher profits in the future should you decide to resell your bottles.
Ornellaia Masseto Wine Is Increasing in Value
Over the past 10 years, Ornellaia’s wines have increased in value by 22.9 percent. Moreover, this increase is even greater compared to the Italian wine market as a whole–the region’s wines only added 18.3 percent in value over the same period of time. However, despite the predictable market growth of Ornellaia Masseto wine over the past decade, this label still maintains an excellent price-to-quality ratio. You can buy legendary vintages from this producer for around $600 upon release, and after just five years in storage, these wines often sell on the secondary market for $900 to $1,000, depending on vintage quality. In fact, Ornellaia Masseto is such a great investment that some financial experts question whether it’s even wise to uncork these bottles at all. Journalist Cesare Pillon explains, writing about the ‘financialization’ of wine, “There is clearly the risk that its very essence will be transformed to become a tool of speculation instead of a desirable object.” That said, with a relatively low entry price of $500 to $600 upon release, collectors shouldn’t be timid about opening their Ornellaia Masseto wines. There’s value in both drinking and reselling these incredible wines.
The 2014 Vintage Is Particularly High in Quality
If you’re looking for the best possible investment in Ornellaia Masseto, consider the 2014 vintage. Ornellaia Masseto 2014 is exceptionally high in quality, but you might not reach this conclusion by looking at the price alone. Currently, the 2014 vintage sells at a price far below other recent Masseto vintages; it’s worth just over $5,800 per case, on average. By comparison, the 2006 vintage sells for nearly $12,000 per case, and even the 2013 vintage sells for more than $7,500 per case. Despite its extremely low price, however, the 2014 vintage is expected to age spectacularly, and in the future, it may be worth much more than it is today.
James Suckling gave this wine 97 points, noting that the wine is especially intense in flavor for Ornellaia Masseto. This intensity may be due to the weather conditions that year. While some Tuscan vineyards suffered from hailstorms and mildew in July, Ornellaia Masseto managed to avoid these challenges. The favorable fall weather, which was warm and dry, allowed the grapes to fully ripen, resulting in a deeply complex, concentrated wine. Critics expect 2014 Masseto to age well through at least 2035, and by this time, the wines will likely be worth hundreds of dollars more on the market. This means the 2014 Ornellaia Masseto vintage may be your safest Italian wine investment this year.
How to Invest in Ornellaia Masseto
While the low price of the 2014 vintage is tempting, it’s also a bit difficult to find on the secondary market. Wine merchant Paul Marus told Decanter that he could have sold his 2014 Ornellaia Masseto allocations “three or four times over.” Demand for this vintage is particularly high, in part because the price is so reasonable. But 2014 Masseto isn’t the only Ornellaia wine worth investing in. Many other vintages show promise, including the 2012. Ornellaia Masseto 2012 sells for nearly $7,000 per case, which is slightly more than the 2014, however, this is still much lower than other recent Ornellaia vintages. Like the 2014, the 2012 vintage was also high in quality despite the relatively low price. The wine is medium-bodied and fresh in flavor, and should drink well through 2030.
Nearly any modern Ornellaia Masseto vintage is a great investment, whether you plan on drinking these wines or reselling them. However, depending on your needs, you may want to avoid the 2006 vintage. If you’ve followed the Italian wine market over the past few years, you likely know that 2006 Ornellaia Masseto is one of the best vintages that the producer has ever made. Now that this wine has been on the market for more than a decade, its price is much higher than other high-quality vintages from the winery. The 2006 vintage (which received perfect and near-perfect scores from many critics) is now worth almost $12,000 per case, more than any other recent Ornellaia vintage. For this reason, it may be wiser to invest in younger vintages from Ornellaia which are of near-equal quality at a much lower cost. If, however, you want to drink a legendary Ornellaia Masseto vintage that is already near peak maturity, then the 2006 vintage is an excellent choice for your cellar. The vintage also increased in value by 31.3 percent just in 2017, so despite the somewhat inflated price, it may still be a worthwhile investment for collectors looking to resell their wine for a profit at a later date.
Overall, the 2014 and 2012 Ornellaia Masseto vintages are likely to offer you the best quality-to-price ratio; the 2004 and 2003 vintages will offer you the best return on your investment (in 2017, these wines increased in value by 58.9 percent and 39.5 percent, respectively); and the 2006 vintage may offer you the best drinking experience (and could also be profitable in the future). The Ornellaia Masseto vintage that you ultimately choose will depend on your needs and preferences. As one of the finest Super Tuscans available on the market today, you truly can’t go wrong with this producer. The winery’s famed Merlot label is as rich, complex, and age-worthy as ever, making it the ideal addition to any fine Italian wine collection.
You may have noticed that the prices of Burgundy and Bordeaux wines have risen steadily since 2016. Back in February of 2016, it was easy to find Ponsot Clos de la Roche for sale for less than $600 per bottle, on average; today, you’ll be lucky to find that same vintage for under $700 per bottle. It has increased by more than $100 in price on average over the course of just two years. Financial analysts believe that this is no coincidence. Experts at Liv-ex have noticed a clear link between Brexit and wine prices. Since the Brexit vote passed on June 23, 2016, we’ve seen more expensive wines and higher profits for collectors on the fine wine market. This means Brexit could have an impact on your fine wine collection over the next few years.
A UK Buying Spree
The Brexit referendum has nothing to do with wine specifically–it simply proposes that the UK will officially withdraw from participation in the European Union. So how exactly does the Brexit vote affect the wine industry? Namely, it impacts exchange rates and wine trading habits. Shortly after the Brexit vote passed, the value of the pound sterling (UK’s currency) began to decline. When this happened, foreign wine investors began buying up as much fine wine as they could from British merchants since their own currencies went further in the UK. For instance, American investors found that the U.S. dollar was beginning to look stronger than the UK pound. Investors from the U.S. were able to use this to their advantage, purchasing wine in the UK at a much better exchange rate than they would get from other retailers in the European Union.
This resulted in a veritable buying spree on wine in the UK. Investors in China and the United States were buying more cases of fine wine in the UK, and this, in turn, may have been one of the factors that caused wine prices to rise. In 2016, fine wines on the Liv-ex Power 100 list (which rates the top wines in the world) increased in price by an average of 25.5 percent in pound sterling. By contrast, wine prices fell for collectors using other currencies. In U.S. dollars, prices fell by 19 percent, and in euros, prices fell by four percent. Later, in the winter of 2016, global wine prices began to rise, even in euros and U.S. dollars. In early 2017, average wine prices rose by 18.3 percent in pounds, six percent in euros, and 2.6 percent in U.S. dollars. For the majority of 2017, this pattern continued; as the value of the pound fell, fine wine prices increased at a steady rate worldwide. Although it’s still unclear exactly how much impact Brexit had on these price changes, many financial analysts believe that the referendum kickstarted a worldwide splurge on fine Bordeaux and Burgundy.
The Future of Brexit and Wine
According to Liv-ex, however, after a period of increased prices and sales, Brexit may no longer be affecting the wine market in the same way it did at first. For example, although the pound fell in value by four percent against the euro in 2017, this didn’t result in a significant increase in wine prices globally. The reason for this change may be twofold. First, although the pound is still falling in value globally, it is slowly beginning to strengthen against the U.S. dollar. As a result, fewer American investors are buying fine wine from the UK.
The second reason for the change may simply be buying habits. After more than a year of increased sales and steepening wine prices, it’s possible that investors are simply choosing to buy less wine in 2018. In order to take advantage of Brexit wine prices, a collector or investor might have purchased twice as much wine as usual in 2016 and 2017. But as time goes on and the value of the pound slowly increases, the same collector or investor might wish to return to his or her typical yearly wine budget. On paper, this looks like a troubling decrease in fine wine purchases in 2018, while in reality, it may just be a return to normal wine buying behavior. Moreover, some collectors may have even run out of space in their cellars to store wine, and as a result, might choose to buy fewer bottles this year.
What This Means for Your Investments
The relationship between Brexit and wine prices may be weakening slightly, but it could still have an effect on your collection in the near future. No one can accurately predict exactly how Brexit will impact the global wine market in the next few years (if at all), but financial experts and wine enthusiasts are offering some theories based on observations.
First, some financial analysts are seeing a minor drop in French wine exports. Since the Brexit vote, exports from France have fallen by 0.8 percent. While this figure isn’t enormous, it is concerning for some wine distributors. Producers in popular wine regions such as Champagne, Bordeaux, and Burgundy are largely keeping bottle prices the same, even though the pound is currently valued much lower than the euro. This means that some UK merchants are struggling to afford wine from French producers and distributors. This could impact your collection in the future, even if you live outside of the UK. Financial analysts predict that other French wine regions, like the Rhône Valley and the Languedoc, may see more sales in the UK this year than usual since prices for these wines are lower than for those from Bordeaux and Burgundy. As a result, we could see some worldwide growth in value and sales for these French wine regions and possibly New World wines.
Overall, Brexit likely won’t have a significant impact on wine prices and sales outside of the UK. You may see a slight uptick in sales for historically lower-priced wine, such as bottles from Australia, however, this increase will likely be very modest. Brexit may make a greater impact on the value of the Bordeaux and Burgundy wines that you already have in your collection. Some financial experts theorize that Brexit played a role in the recent Burgundy and Bordeaux price increase, however, no one is certain to what extent the referendum was involved. We do know that Brexit caused a glut of American and Chinese investors in the UK, which, in turn, may have increased demand for Bordeaux and Burgundy, resulting in a price increase worldwide. If this was the case, it’s possible that some of the best French producers, such as Lafite-Rothschild, Margaux, and Leflaive, will become more expensive in the near future. What’s most exciting about this possible connection between Brexit and wine is that any French grand cru or premier cru wines that you own right now may prove more lucrative over the next few years. Some investors are already making better returns on their fine wine than they have in almost a decade, making this the perfect time to start a spectacular collection of your own.
Burgundy is making a huge comeback this year, and it’s all thanks to a group of spectacular wine producers. According to Liv-ex, Burgundian wines (both red and white styles) are gaining in popularity on the secondary market, and this increase in value is expected to continue over the next few years. However, while nearly all of the region’s wines are performing well on the market, some producers are performing better than others. Liv-ex found that four Burgundian estates (Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Ponsot, Leflaive, and Armand Rousseau) are proving to be the soundest investments for wine collectors. Over the past few years, these producers have risen in both value and quality, and they are among the most sought-after wines on the market today. If you’re considering investing in a greater number of Burgundian wines this year, then these four producers may offer you everything you need, whether you plan on reselling your bottles for a profit or drinking these spectacular wines at a later date.
What You Need to Know About the Liv-ex Burgundy Rankings
Every year, Liv-ex makes a list of the top 100 producers in the wine world (called the Power 100 list). Experts analyze market data to rank wines, taking into account their performance in a number of categories, including value and volume of bottles sold, the producer’s total share of the market, the average trade price, and whether the producer’s wines increased in price over the past year. Liv-ex tallies up scores under each individual category and comes up with a definitive list of the top-ranking producers overall. In the latest Power 100 report, more Burgundian producers received high rankings than in previous years. In 2017, 24 different Burgundian producers made it onto the top 100 list, compared to just 19 producers in 2016. And of those 24 producers, an impressive 22 of them made it into the top 50 list of best-performing producers.
What this means is that Burgundian wine is gaining in worldwide market share and trade price, both of which could prove profitable for your Burgundy collection. But if you only want to invest in the highest-ranking wines, then you should consider the top four Burgundian producers in particular. According to Liv-ex, Burgundy is gaining in value overall, and producers Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (DRC), Ponsot, Leflaive, and Armand Rousseau were the top-ranking estates from Burgundy. All four of these producers made it onto the top 20 list of best-performing wines on the market. In other words, these four producers are all experiencing a high value and volume of wine traded, a high average bottle price, and high overall price performance. This combination of factors makes these producers especially popular among collectors looking to resell their bottles for a profit. But in order to make the most out of your investments, you need to know which vintages were most successful for each of the four producers, and what the best method is for buying and storing these wines long-term.
Investing in DRC
Out of all of the Burgundian producers on the Liv-ex Power 100 list, DRC ranked highest. This isn’t unusual–the estate always outperforms its Burgundian peers on the list. But this year, DRC is performing especially well on the market. It ranks at the top of the list for best-performing Burgundy, and it took fourth place worldwide (behind Lafite-Rothschild, Margaux, and Mouton-Rothschild). This is an increase in rank compared to the previous year’s Liv-ex statistics; in 2016, DRC ranked in sixth place worldwide. The reason why DRC is having a much more successful sales year is partially due to an increase in vintage quality, and partially due to a renewed interest in Burgundy among collectors.
The 2015 DRC vintage is among the most legendary that the estate has ever produced, and many collectors are eager to buy this much-anticipated vintage. Because modern vintage quality is high (the 2014 vintage also received high scores), wine enthusiasts are buying up more DRC bottles in response. On the whole, DRC wines have increased in price by more than 31 percent since 2016, making this a very safe investment if you plan on reselling your wine later.
Here are the average critic scores for the ten most recent DRC vintages. These scores were calculated based on the cumulative scores from a variety of sources, like Wine Spectator and Decanter, as well as individual critics like Jancis Robinson and James Suckling.
As you can see in the chart above, the best DRC vintages include the 2015, 2012, 2010, and 2005. Out of the ten most recent vintages, the 2015 has received the highest scores by far. However, this vintage may be difficult to locate on the secondary market. Demand is high, and there is only a limited number of bottles available. If you can’t find an authentic bottle of 2015 DRC on the market, then consider investing in any of the estate’s other most recent vintages as an alternative. You really can’t go wrong with modern DRC; every vintage has something wonderful to offer, from the 2011 Romanée-Saint-Vivant’s sweet, round flavors to the 2005 Richebourg’s darker, more complex notes. The DRC vintage that you choose should ultimately depend on the Burgundy style that you prefer. If you love dark, smokey wines, opt for any Richebourg vintage. Collectors who enjoy a fuller, more velvety wine will do well with DRC’s La Tache label. And, if you’re looking for one of DRC’s most profitable wines, then Romanée-Conti–or, increasingly, Echézeaux—may be an excellent choice. What’s great about DRC is that as long as you stay true to your own taste preferences, you’ll never make a poor investment.
Investing in Ponsot
According to the lastest Liv-ex Burgundy statistics, Ponsot ranked slightly lower than DRC, taking second place for Burgundy overall. Ponsot also claimed the sixth spot on the top 100 list worldwide. However, Ponsot had what is perhaps one of the biggest comebacks of any producer on the Power 100 list. In 2016, the producer didn’t even make it into the top 100–it ranked in 130th place, far below where it is today. So, how did Ponsot move from 130th to sixth place in just one year’s time? While the answer is still somewhat unclear, we do know that Burgundy is gaining in popularity on the whole, and that terroir-driven producers like Ponsot are experiencing an increase in sales as a result. In short, more collectors are starting to appreciate Ponsot’s minimal-interventionist winemaking techniques. The estate doesn’t like to interfere with the wine’s natural flavors, and at times, this causes inconsistent vintage quality. However, you would be hard-pressed to find a wine that expresses terroir as perfectly as Ponsot. In years when vintage quality is high, these wines are absolutely incredible and very age-worthy.
This increased interest in Ponsot’s wines is just one factor that may have led to its higher ranking on this year’s Liv-ex list. The other factor may have to do with the announcement that esteemed winemaker Laurent Ponsot is leaving the estate. It’s possible that many collectors are buying up older vintages that were made by Laurent Ponsot in the expectation that these wines will increase in value in the future. When a winemaker leaves an estate or retires, it’s not uncommon for their wines to increase in value. Ponsot has already seen an 18 percent increase in price overall in 2017.
If you’re curious about trying Ponsot for the first time, or you want to add to your existing collection, then these are the average scores for the most recent vintages:
The best Ponsot vintages are the 2015, 2009, and 2005 releases. As with all of Burgundy, the 2015 vintage has been especially high in quality for the estate, so you may want to invest most heavily in these wines. The following labels are all great choices, as each received high scores for the 2015 vintages:
Domaine Leflaive’s position on the list also improved significantly over the past year, although not quite to the same extent as Ponsot. Leflaive started 2017 in 27th place worldwide, but by the end of the year, it had moved up to seventh place, just behind Ponsot. However, while Leflaive ranked below Ponsot overall, it had a greater price increase per bottle. Last year, Leflaive wines increased in price by more than 20 percent, and this producer had some of the highest numbers of bottles traded on the secondary marketplace. This increase in price is largely due to the renewed interest in Burgundy overall, especially on the Chinese market. Generally, Chinese investors are less interested in Margaux than they are in Leflaive. This is because many collectors in China have already established expansive Bordeaux collections, and are looking for new, high-quality wines to invest in. Burgundy has become the latest wine trend in China, meaning that value and prices are now increasing at a steady rate worldwide.
The quality of Leflaive is undisputed; it has long been one of the greatest producers Burgundy has ever seen. If you’re looking for the highest-quality wines to add to your portfolio, then you may consider the following vintages:
The 2005 vintage was especially high in quality for Leflaive, which is why many collectors choose to store these bottles long-term. Yet it’s important to remember that average critic scores won’t always give you an accurate sense of which Leflaive wines are worth an investment. For instance, many of Leflaive’s 2015 wines were slightly lower in quality than usual (that year’s warm weather caused some white wine styles to struggle), however, the 2015 Chevalier-Montrachet is a clear exception. This wine is very structured and is designed for long-term aging. This is why it’s so important to research individual scores for each label, as the average vintage score doesn’t always paint an accurate picture of every wine on every estate.
Investing in Armand Rousseau
Armand Rousseau has long been one of the most sought-after estates among Burgundy enthusiasts, and based on the latest Liv-ex Burgundy market data, the estate has proven once again that it is worth an investment. Rousseau makes some of the most consistent wines on the market. In 2016, the estate ranked in 19th place worldwide, which is a very impressive ranking. In 2017, the estate moved up in rank to eighth place, just behind Leflaive. This change in ranking is a reminder that Rousseau has always been one of the best Burgundy producers to invest in year after year, as these wines almost always rank among the top 20 in the world. Rousseau saw a nearly 17 percent increase in sales in 2017, which is on par with the rest of Burgundy. Moreover, Liv-ex expects Rousseau to continue to either maintain or increase steadily in value over the next decade. These wines aren’t likely to lose value anytime soon.
Here are the most recent average vintage scores for Armand Rousseau:
The 2015 and 2010 offerings are the standout vintages by far. In 2015, the weather in Burgundy was absolutely perfect for red wine styles, meaning that this already-consistent estate produced wines that were even more elegant than usual. Likewise, 2010 was a largely successful year for many Burgundy estates, resulting in wines with high acid and great aging potential. Because these wines are fairly popular on the secondary market, and yields were slightly lower than usual, it may be difficult to find them on the market. Instead, you may want to invest in years like the 2014 or 2005, which were nearly as high in quality and are much easier to locate. The 2014 Armand Rousseau vintage is famous for its floral aroma and strong backbone. This is a great wine for long-term aging.
Why Invest in Burgundy Now
This is an exciting moment for Burgundy. The region is not only releasing some of the best wine of the decade, but sales are also healthier than they have been in years. The only challenge is that these wines may be harder to find now than in the recent past, and you may have to pay a higher price for them. This is why it’s important to invest in Burgundy as soon as possible, before prices get too unwieldy. While great wines like DRC, Leflaive, Ponsot, and Armand Rousseau will always be worth buying, you can make a greater profit on these bottles when you invest in them while they’re still young. We likely won’t see exorbitant prices in Burgundy anytime soon, but the market is infamously unpredictable. By investing in these wines now, you’ll get the chance to drink or resell these bottles while the quality-to-price ratio is perfectly balanced.
Last year, when the 2002 Krug vintage was first released, the wine sold for nearly $2,500 per case. Today, just a year later, that same vintage sells on the secondary market for an average of $4,000 per case, a massive $1,500 spike in value. Why is this wine increasing in price at such a rapid pace? It boils down to superb wine quality and limited availability. The 2002 Krug vintage is one of the best that the estate has ever produced, but its excellent quality also makes this wine much harder to locate on the secondary market. Demand is high, and supply is woefully low. This is why, if you come across one of these legendary bottles, you may want to invest right away before prices climb any higher. Critics anticipate that this vintage will continue to increase in value over the next 30 years, making this a true blue-chip investment wine.
Krug’s Value Is Increasing
According to the latest Liv-ex Power 100 Report, Krug was Champagne’s most impressive performer in 2017. This means that the producer’s individual wines increased in value significantly and that the estate sold a large number of unique bottles last year. While Krug usually makes it onto Liv-ex’s Power 100 list, the producer is currently performing better than it ever has. In 2016, Krug took 58th place on Liv-ex’s list, and in 2017, the producer moved up to 15th place on the list. This is a historical moment for Champagne; it’s the greatest increase in ranking that any producer in the region has ever experienced.
Krug’s success is the result of its stellar reputation and the immense excitement surrounding the vintage. When critics first sampled early tastings of the 2002 Krug vintage, they didn’t simply praise it; they declared it the “vintage of the decade.” Some critics even claim that the wine may be the best of the century for Champagne. James Suckling says that the 2002 Krug vintage is “flawlessly fresh and as perfect as it gets.” The wine is deeply complex and has a custard-like richness, even in its youth, yet it also has bright citrus notes that give the wine a zesty energy. Although critics say that the wine tastes perfect already, they recommend holding onto it until at least 2020 in order to get the most out of these complex flavors. This is the type of wine that you can store for 50 years or more if you are so inclined. It has incredible aging potential, even compared to other great Champagne vintages like the 1990 and the 1996 (for more information on cellaring bubbly, see our guide to aging Champagne).
The Popularity of Champagne
The 2002 Krug vintage is just one of many fine releases from Champagne that we’ve seen recently. Reviewer Julia Armfield says that 2002 Champagne is “so good that it is almost a brand in its own right.” If you’re looking for a sound Champagne investment this year, then the 2002 vintage should be at the top of your wish list. We’re seeing more 2002 Champagne on the secondary market, as many of the top estates are just beginning to release their best wines from this legendary year. In vintages when the weather conditions are perfect, the best estates often hold a number of vintage bottles for 10 years or more, allowing them time to age a bit before they reach collectors and enthusiasts. Krug allowed its 2002 vintage to age for 15 years before it was officially released, and many other high-quality estates followed suit.
As a result, Champagne as a whole is a hot ticket on the wine market. With these new 2002 releases, collectors are buying up as many bottles as they can, before prices skyrocket. Champagne sales are up by 5.3 percent compared to last year, and currently, the region has almost the same share of the wine market as Italy. Collectors are especially interested in 2002 Champagne because these wines are offering them a 10 percent return on investment, at a minimum, and often much, much more. The 2002 Krug Champagne vintage is currently offering collectors an impressive 60 percent return on investment. This figure is likely only temporary–the vintage will probably stabilize in price over the next few years–but for now, while demand is very high, collectors who are lucky and move quickly can make a fast profit from the 2002 Krug vintage.
How to Invest in the 2002 Krug Vintage
Because this wine is in high demand, it may be difficult to locate bottles of the 2002 Krug vintage. The good news is that nearly every top producer in Champagne made near-perfect wines in 2002, so you don’t have to hold out for Krug’s offerings alone. Estates like Gonet-Médeville, Salon, and Bollinger all made exceptional wines that year that will get only better with time. Any grand cru 2002 Champagne should be able to age at least 30 years, and you’ll likely want to wait until at least 2020 to uncork the 2002 vintage, as the wines still need time to mature properly. In the meantime, you may consider trying a few bottles of non-vintage Krug, as these wines are also delicious, even if they’re not quite as collectible as their vintage peers.
Since the aging potential of the 2002 Krug vintage is so impressive, this is a wine that may thrive most in professional storage, where conditions will remain extremely stable over the long term. By caring for these bottles properly today, you’ll set yourself up to make a profit in the future and ensure that all of the complex flavors come through over the next few decades.