Considering wine as an asset class can be an attractive option for collectors because trends in the wine market are generally more stable and predictable than they are in many other industries. Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (DRC), for instance, has held a strong share of the secondary market for decades, and this trend isn’t expected to reverse anytime soon. However, in order to maximize your returns, you need to consider what makes wine a great investment, how to identify wines that are worth keeping, and what to do with your bottles once you have them in your cellar.
With ripe, perfumed aromas and lively acidity, the 2017 Bordeaux vintage is shaping up to be a very approachable release for collectors. It’s true that these wines aren’t quite as exciting and sumptuous as the recent 2015 and 2016 vintages, but 2017 Bordeaux is still worth consideration. This vintage is perfect for early to mid-term drinking, with a great expression of terroir. However, before you invest in 2017 Bordeaux wine futures, keep in mind that quality varies in this vintage and many producers had to overcome poor weather conditions. You’ll need to choose your bottles carefully, but if you do, you can expect to find supremely drinkable, fresh-tasting wines that you can enjoy while your more legendary bottles mature.
In the late 1990s, you could buy Dominus’ flagship wine directly from the estate for just $65 per bottle; today, many of these wines are worth anywhere from $250 to $500 apiece on the secondary market, sometimes more if the vintage is especially high in quality. However, it’s not just the ever-increasing market value that draws wine enthusiasts to this producer. Dominus wine scores are also among the highest in Napa year after year, and the estate’s offerings very frequently outrank other superb California wineries–even the famed Opus One. Critics and collectors alike adore Dominus’ small-scale, Bordeaux-style wines, and analyses like the one Liv-ex publishes project that these wines may continue to grow in value significantly over the next few years. Now is perhaps the best time to invest in wines from this high-quality estate, and by following this guide, you can learn how to make the most out of every bottle you purchase.
Calling the 2017 Loire Valley vintage “difficult” is a serious understatement. Winemakers had to navigate worrisome spring frosts shortly after bud break, which threatened to destroy most of the crop before it even had a chance to grow. However, now that the harvest is over and the wine is aging in vats across the region, Loire winemakers can finally breathe a sigh of relief. Early Loire vintage reports show that both red and white wines are developing beautifully in spite of the difficulties that winemakers faced early in the season, and these may be among the most drinkable (and potentially collectible) Loire wines of the past few years. While it’s still too early to say exactly how these wines will compare to past vintages like the 2016 and 2015, winemakers are very optimistic about the investment potential of the 2017 vintage.
Although sommeliers are well-versed in nearly every wine style imaginable, some still struggle with one wine in particular: German Riesling. They might be able to talk for hours about the origins of the obscure Négrette grape of southwest France and easily pronounce words like “Pouilly-Fuissé,” but there’s something about reading German wine labels that sends shivers down their spines. It’s easy to see why; knowing how to read a German wine label means not only understanding the basic mechanics of the German language, but also the complicated rules of their wine rating system. While most countries keep their labels simple, Germany packs as much information onto the front of the wine as possible–you often have to read through at least five, sometimes ten, different words at the top of the label just to get to the producer’s name.
Latkes and sour cream are a staple at my family’s dinner table as the first day of Hanukkah approaches. Recently, we’ve started giving each other Hanukkah wine gifts specifically designed to pair well with latkes, as well as all the other delicious fried foods on our plates. At first, we only served kosher wines or wines from Israel as a celebration of our family’s heritage. Today, we’ve expanded our Hanukkah wine gifts to include a wide range of varieties and regions, from white Burgundy to oaky California Chardonnay. Regardless of whether you stick with kosher wines or branch out, when it comes to giving wine for Hanukkah, it’s important to remember why we celebrate this holiday. As long as you buy wines that mean something to your gift recipient, you can enjoy just about any bottle with your family this year.
My friends know how much I love wine, which is why every year, I always end up with at least two or three wine gift baskets. But while some of these baskets are beautifully made and contain fascinating wines that I’ve never tried before, more often than not, they’re full of cheap California Cabernet or cloying Moscato. The problem with pre-made wine gift baskets is that they rarely offer the sort of unusual, interesting wines that connoisseurs enjoy. Gift basket wines also tend to be lower in value and are selected seemingly at random. One basket might contain Oregon Pinot Noir, German Riesling, and a super Tuscan from Italy all in the same gift, without rhyme or reason.
A few years ago, I found an incredible Cyber Monday wine deal on two mixed cases of superb California Cabernet from a variety of different wineries, including Robert Mondavi and Aubert—I simply couldn’t pass up this opportunity. However, by the time my wine haul arrived on my doorstep a few days later, I realized that I had made a major mistake: not only did I have very little space left in my cellar to store these cases, I also had no idea what to do with so much wine. While some of the bottles I bought could be stored long-term, a lot of them were meant to be drunk young. I ended up giving away most of the bottles to close friends and family.
Renowned wine critic James Suckling is fortunate enough to sample some of the greatest wines in the world, from legendary DRC vintages to the rarest Lafite-Rothschild. So when a critic as experienced as Suckling calls a wine “mythic,” it certainly commands attention. Suckling’s review of 2005 LaFleur Pomerol is downright gushing; he calls this wine “fine and beautiful” with a “rich, powerful palate” that continues to build long after the last drop hits your tongue. This is one of the many reasons why 2005 LaFleur is considered the best Bordeaux blend for collectors who adore a more muscular wine.
Over dinner one evening, I had an animated discussion with a group of wine-loving friends about which Bordeaux wines are overrated. None of us could agree on a producer; there was always at least one person in the group who loved a particular “overrated” estate. But when one of my friends suggested that Liber Pater is the most overrated wine in Bordeaux, it gave all of us pause. It’s surely the most expensive wine in the region–the question is whether the added expense is actually worthwhile for collectors, or if the wines are more hype than substance. Ultimately, the value of Liber Pater Bordeaux will depend on your own collection and goals. Before you invest in these bottles, consider whether the current Quality-Price Ratio (QPR) matters to you, or if you’d rather spend a little extra to stay loyal to Graves craftsmanship.
My accountant is a dedicated wine enthusiast, and he always gives his clients the same informal investment advice: young Bordeaux will almost always give you a better return on investment than the stock market. He has his own collection of luxury wine bottles, and within just five years of buying his first “investment case,” he’s already seen a 16 percent increase in his wine’s value. By comparison, the stock market only offered him a 7 percent average return each year.
One of my friends has been a wine collector for 20 years; he owns at least a dozen bottles of fine Latour and Haut-Brion, and is immensely knowledgeable about the wine industry. Knowing how much experience he has with wine, you can imagine my surprise when I learned that he had never bought a full bottle at a restaurant. He told me that he could spend hours in a wine shop looking at obscure vintages and know exactly which bottle to pick, but when he tries buying a bottle of wine at a restaurant, he is too nervous to commit to a single full bottle. Because of this, he would always bring wine to restaurants instead; that way, he’d know exactly what to expect.