A friend of my father’s, let’s call him Mr. Smith, spent his life building a vast, antique coin collection. Mr. Smith was not a wealthy man – in fact I remember my dad, who was a lawyer, giving him free legal advice as “times were tight” for them. But, oh how Smith loved his coins. He spent every spare penny on them, much to Mrs. Smith’s despair. He even mortgaged his house in order to buy part of King Farouk of Egypt’s (another great numismatist) collection when it came up for auction in the mid-1980s. They never went on holiday, they never changed their car, and for all I know, ate peas and potatoes every night in order to invest any extra cash for the collection.
Unfortunately, Mr. Smith died earlier this year, leaving behind his, by now infamous, coin collection. It’s worth? €30,000,000. Suddenly, not having two weeks in Spain every year seemed worth it.
I am sure that Smith did not collect coins for their worth. He did it because he loved it. Even as a little girl, I remember the passion he generated when talking about, and showing us his collection. Because therein lies the real joy for collectors – it is the sheer joy that they feel when adding a new piece to their puzzle. And if it’s worth €30,000,000 when the time comes to sell it? Well, that’s just a good investing.
What Is a Collectible Wine?
People collect all sorts of things. Bitcoin, art, cars, stamps, shoes, houses, spouses and even people, every subject has great collecting potential. My own father was a great Alice in Wonderland collector (my sister is called Alice). Fine wine has always been high on the list of collectables. You can also start collecting them through our wine investment app. Certain vintages and producers have been whetting our insatiable appetites for years, but what makes some wines collectable, and others not?
Fine wine collecting is trickier than collecting coins, a la Mr. Smith. This is because when the estates release their allocations, they are released to specific negotiants and brokers only, who have (in theory) already pre-sold the wine to a select clientele that they have probably been working with for years. It’s a very closed circle and if you’re not in, then you’re out. Thus the lesser connected collector has two options: either wait for the wine to turn up at auction at a later date, ergo much more expensive, or try and get in on the ground level at En Primeur stage.
What Wines Are Collectible?
When thinking about collectable wines, remember the three Ps:
What is the volume? Wines that have higher yield are naturally less in demand than those with a limited production. Rarity is a key factor. Rare wines that have a run of 2,000 cases will have benefited from bespoke attention from the winemaker.
The Reputation of the Producer
Fine wines from producers with stellar reputations are usually top of the list when it comes to the most collectable wines. First growths are an obvious choice but do not overlook smaller producers who work hard and deliver a fantastic product. Remember that reputations can be lost as well as gained.
The Provenance of the Wine
Storage is incredibly important when collecting wine. Even the best wine in the world will lose its value if it has been stored on the top shelf of your drinks cabinet for years.
You can check out how to track wine provenance.
Once you have got your P’s in place, then step two would be to consider vintage and “anything else”.
The Vintage of the Wine
Vintage is perhaps the most tricky thing to consider when investing in collectable fine wines. A wine’s vintage is dependent on something undependable – the weather. In order for a vintage to be a success it has to be more than a sum of its parts. So it’s very important to do your homework here. Plenty of sunshine? Good. Insufferably hot? Bad. Regular but light rainfall? Good. Heavy downpours? Bad. While optimal growing conditions can vary from region to region, all great vintages follow great weather.
Is It a Limited Edition Wine?
Limited Edition wines are the holy grail of collectable wines. In fact, there are just 12 ampoules (that’s a fancy word for bottle, but at $150,000 an ampoule, we’ll let it pass) of the rarest wine in the world – a 2004 Penfolds Bloc 42 Cabernet Sauvignon. Collectors should also look out for bottles with labels that have been illustrated by an artist, or years when there has been a change in the production team (for the better), or if the estate has been sold.
Most Collectible Wines: Our Top 5
Mario Colesanti, Vindome’s Sales and Marketing Manager, suggests looking at En Primeur wines as a way of commencing or continuing your wine collection. “En Primeur – futures in English – offer great value for money and are one of the best ways that new collectors can add great producers to their portfolio. EP wines are tasted by a select group of professionals the spring after the autumn harvest, while the wine is still maturing in barrels. Scores are then given to the wine and, based on the estates terroir, history and winemaking team, prices are established. Traditionally, these initial EP prices are around 30% less than when the wine is released, about 18-24 months later”.
Mario gives us his top five tips on what are the current wines to start collecting below.
Château Cheval Blanc and Le Petit Cheval 2020
When it comes to stylish, world-famous wines, nothing can outrank Cheval Blanc. Superlatively sexy and eye wateringly expensive, this is a wine where every vintage is in demand. It should come as no surprise that a wine as glamorous as Cheval Blanc is owned by luxury goods giant LVMH. Hailing from the iconic house of Vuitton, the wine is everything you expect it to be, i.e. spot on time after time after time. It’s no stranger to the 100 points either and ages beautifully for up to 50 years. 2020s vintage was released at a lower than average price and has already increased in value by more than 10% in its first month of trading. It’s little brother, Le Petit Cheval, gallops along beside the first wine very well. Le Petit is perfect for those who want something more attainable, either to drink or invest in.
Château Latour 2013
The name needs no introduction, yet speaks volumes. Undoubtedly one of the most famous wines in the world, Latour (no chateau necessary) is one of the “Big Five” – the others being Haut Brion, Margaux, Mouton and Lafite. The wine is owned by luxury goods magnate Francois Pinault, who considers the estate more or less as he would any other brand in his portfolio (Gucci and Saint Laurent are just two that spring to mind), and only releases the wine when the estate “feels” it is ready. Thus no En Primeur here. 2021 has just seen the release of the 2013 vintage, at a lower release price than is usual for the First Growth. But – Latour is Latour and this wine will soon reach stratospheric heights, notably in Asian markets – before too long.
Château Pontet Canet 2019 and 2020
Château Pontet Canet is the perfect storm. A Fifth Growth wine that makes a mockery of its classification, Pontet Canet was one of the first estates to recognise the potential of biodynamic farming. Wine guru Robert Parker gave both the 2009 and 2010 a score of 100 points, provoking a mini-crash in the investable wine market. It is also one of the most (if not the most) popular Bordeaux wine distributed worldwide. 2019s vintage rose an astonishing 50% in the first three months of trading in 2020 (Covid year), something seen never before or since.
Château Pavie and Les Arômes de Pavie 2020
Both Chateau Pavie’s first and second wines offer exceptional value for money at this early stage of their lives. Pavie’s real beauty lies in its tremendous potential. Drinkers begin to get interested in Pavie around 15 years after the release date, if they want to even approach the , famous Pavie taste. So while investors need to be patient, the rewards are tremendous. 2020s vintage will unite everyone – with its low production, creaminess of texture and great depth of multi-layered flavours, this is one of Pavie’s most collectable red wines to date.
Château Smith Haut Lafitte, Le Petit Smith Haut Lafitte 2020
Château Smith Haut Lafitte’s Grand Crus Classé is arguably one of the best in Pessac-Leognan, and with vine whisperer Michel Rolland consulting, it comes as no surprise that the second wine Le Petit Smith Haut Lafitte is largely as good as many firsts. The same superb precision is given to all of Smith Haut Lafitte’s wine, but it is very telling that over half the estate is destined for Le Petit. This 2020 vintage shows all the promise of recent Petit vintages; the red bursts into opulence in the mouth (there’s something very right bank about it), offering a creamy opulence that will age beautifully.
Already thinking about purchasing at least one of those top collectible wines? Then, you should take a look at how to invest in wine.