Having gone through a devastating spring frost and continued problems with premox, Burgundy needed some good news for a change, and it looks like it got it. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Burgundy’s low grape yields might actually produce one of the most legendary wines of this decade, which is excellent news for producers and collectors alike. Montrachet’s finest producers (including DRC, Comtes Lafon, and Leflaive) will combine their grapes into a single Grand Cru label this year. This decision has consequences that go far beyond its limited release, and 2016 Montrachet Grand Cru has the power to impact the entire region’s wine prices for decades to come. I haven’t seen this much hype surrounding a single wine vintage in years, so you will want to get ready now to take advantage of this investment.
What We Know About the Merger So Far
After frost decimated Grand Cru vines in Montrachet this past spring, the top producers were left with only a handful of grapes apiece; none of them had enough grapes to make a single barrel of wine. However, the grapes that they did have were healthy and high-quality owing to a fantastic summer growing season. Rather than throwing these perfectly fine grapes away, the top estates decided to pool their efforts into one legendary white blend. The estates that will contribute to the blend are DRC, Comtes Lafon, Leflaive, Lamy-Pillot, Guy Amiot et Fils, and Fleurot Larose.
Even with their combined efforts, they’ll only produce about two barrels of wine total, making this vintage extremely rare already. Experts anticipate just 600 bottles of wine coming to market, and if the merger succeeds, the six estates will get 100 bottles each. Although they are all made from the same pool of grapes, the DRC, Leflaive, and Comtes Lafon labels in particular will likely be almost impossible to buy, since they will be the most sought-after labels in the group. As of this moment, we don’t have an estimated sale price on the bottles, and experts aren’t sure whether they will reach the market at all. France’s administration still needs to approve the temporary merge, and if they don’t get that approval, the wine will never be sold.
Investments Hinge on the French Administration
Officially, France bans the sale of shared grapes between estates. This could put a major snag in 2016 Montrachet Grand Cru, since the six estates will be forced to offer the wine only at private tasting events without making a profit. However, if they can convince the French administration to approve the merger, each estate will get to use its own label on their bottles, and will get to sell each bottle for whatever price they see fit.
What to Do if the Merger Happens
Approval will impact the market prices of Burgundy as a whole, and could change the way that you invest in other white Burgundy vintages. To start, if you’re one of the lucky few collectors who manage to get your hands on just one of these 600 bottles, you will have a true unicorn wine that will appreciate in value astronomically. A wine like this will probably never be made again in this exact form, and it’s a clear, no-brainer investment for any serious wine collector, no matter how much it sells for on the early market. A wine like this is almost immune from being overpriced upon release, since it is all but guaranteed to be worth more 10 years from now.
Beyond the 2016 Montrachet Grand Cru itself, Montrachet prices as a whole will rise if this wine ever reaches market. Not only has this merger announcement sparked renewed interest in the region (which will result in a price jump on its own), but grape yields are low across Burgundy, which usually signals at least a 50 percent increase in price. Rarity almost always drives up price, and based on harvest reports, 2016 Burgundy will have some of the rarest wines in its history. Knowing this, it would be prudent for collectors to invest heavily in high-quality 2016 Burgundy across the board.
How to Invest if France Denies the Merger
Even if 2016 Montrachet Grand Cru never reaches the market, you’ll likely see a change in price for other Burgundy vintages, perhaps more so than if the wine is approved for sale. Knowing that Montrachet’s top producers aren’t available at all this year will significantly drive up the price on lesser-known Montrachet estates, making it a smart move to invest in these other wines as soon as possible while prices are still relatively low.
Additionally, a denied merger will have a ripple effect on vintages outside of the 2016, especially for the estates involved in this year’s Montrachet Grand Cru blend. For instance, if you have a bottle of DRC Montrachet from another vintage, you might see a bump in value by the end of next year because no Montrachet was available to collectors this year. This is especially applicable to high-quality recent vintages like the 2015, 2014, and 2012. Overall, white Burgundy is a promising investment for collectors this year, and whatever happens, the high quality and rarity of this year’s grapes and the publicity the region is receiving should breathe new life into a region that has lately been plagued by poor luck and inconsistent quality. This year, Burgundy is poised for change.
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Image by Joncaves [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Harley is an Executive Wine Specialist for Vinfolio, helping collectors find the best wines for their collection. He’s a lover of everything outdoors and the proper bottles to go along with it. You can find him at any of the newest cocktail bars and restaurants in SF or on an adventure somewhere in between Lake Tahoe and the California coastline.