Collectors eye Bordeaux over Burgundy

Wealthy collectors are looking beyond Burgundy, finding value once more in Bordeaux.

Domaine de la Romanée Conti 1997/Sotheby's
Domaine de la Romanée Conti 1997/Sotheby's

Rare wines from Burgundy triumphed at a Sotheby’s auction in London this week, bringing in a total of £1,872,924 ($2,334,787). However, while Burgundy was the top draw, Bordeaux also excelled—in line with recent media speculation that Burgundy has hit its peak.

“The prices for DRC were still strong in this week’s sale,” Stephen Mould, Head of Sotheby’s Wine, Europe told Meininger’s, “but as buyers are more price sensitive right now, they are not as high as they were in the autumn of last year.”

The auction, the Finest & Rarest Wines, Featuring a Great Northern European Cellar, “set the bar high for the sale. Rousseau and DRC tied in the number one spot,” he said. Classic vintages of Bordeaux also stood out, “especially for classic vintages such as 1989 and 2000.”

On July 10, the Financial Times ran an article arguing that fine Burgundy prices had begun to trail other regions. “In the year to May, the Burgundy 150 index produced by Liv-ex, the largest online market for wine traders, has fallen almost 7 percent in sterling terms,” wrote Alan Livsey. “Down for six consecutive months, this index has not seen such a sustained decline since its inception in December 2003. The question many investors are now asking themselves is whether the Burgundy bubble has burst.” He went on to write: “For investors—and wine drinkers—Bordeaux could offer better value” and reports that some Burgundy lovers have decided to sell their cellars and look elsewhere.”

Compared to the pre-auction estimate of £40,000+ a case for 12 bottles of Domaine de la Romanée Conti 1997, a case of Château Haut-Brion 1989 certainly must have seemed a bargain, at a mere  cheap £20,000 a case.

Anthony Maxwell of Liv-ex was quoted in the Financial Times as saying there was a polarisation in the fine Burgundy market between the top eight to ten producers, and the rest and that collectors and investors are beginning to look outside of France, to Italy and California.

“There was demand for top producers Armand Rousseau, Leroy, Roumier and Mugnier, and Rousseau tied with DRC as the top lot, so I think the top producers and DRC are still attractive to collectors,” said Mr Mould, speaking of the Sotheby’s auction. “However, I think it’s fair to say that some buyers are looking to Bordeaux again as they see that they are now undervalued in relation to both Burgundy and California.”

Does this mean bargain bottles of Burgundy will flood the market?

Unlikely. The Financial Times notes that the wealthy titans of the tech industry in California still love Burgundy, and not just the top wines, while Asian demand is still strong.

Felicity Carter

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