To Buy or Not to Buy (with apologies to Hamlet) - The Do’s and the Don’ts of Wine Investment

POSTED ON 01/08/2013

Two years ago in November, I was invited to be part of a panel discussing wine investment at the Hong Kong International Wine & Spirits Fair. I felt a bit lonely as a consumer wine journalist because the other panelists representing various wine trade interests were setting out their stalls. There was a broker, an auctioneer, a wine merchant, a wine fund manager and a wine cellar adviser. All of them extolled the virtues of investing in wine. I, on the other hand, felt that I was there representing an invisible but more important group: wine lovers interested in investing in wine, but unsure of the benefits. I therefore felt it was my job to look at both sides of the investment coin.

This doesn’t mean that I belong to the sometimes priggish group of consumers and wine press who say that wine should only be for drinking and never for investment. Of course we all know that the primary role of wine is for enjoyment of its life-enhancing qualities with food and in the company of our friends and family. At the same time, it would be ostrich-like to ignore the reality that when demand exceeds supply for a specific group of fine wines, their value increases. Perhaps because many of us with a passion for wine are not very good at stocks and shares or business or whatever else makes money for most people, wine has become a focus for investment. It’s the only thing we really know about.

Starting with the 1982 vintage and the ratings of the American wine guru Robert Parker, it was the en primeur market for Bordeaux that made investing in wine a popular sport. If you were able to buy a case of wine in a great vintage at an attractive price, its value would increase as supplies dwindled. I, and many like myself, bought into the idea of purchasing two cases of a wine I really liked. If you happened to back the right horse, you could end up covering the entire cost of a case by selling one to finance the other, ‘and you can always drown your sorrows’, so the mantra went. Although ‘buy two, drink one for free’ was a form of wine investment, no-one raised an eyebrow or queried it because it wasn’t really considered wine investment as such so much as prudent wine buying.

It is clear that no-one foresaw then quite how much the value of fine wine would soar. If they had, they would have themselves laid their hands on as many cases of Château Lafite or Le Pin and their like as they possibly could. The 1982 Château Le Pin for instance was selling en primeur in 1983 for around £175 a case, while today you could buy a new series Audi on the proceeds of one case or finance a child’s education on the proceeds of two cases. Of course Le Pin and Lafite are extreme examples but nonetheless, the tide has risen high enough today to elevate a group of three to four dozen wines to luxury goods status in a secondary market, and this secondary market has been estimated by Chris Smith of the Wine Investment Fund at something in the region of £6 billion or $9 billion

It is only natural that in deep waters there will be sharks, and nowhere is this more the case than in fine wine. Unmasked by LA-based attorney Don Cornwell, the controversial collector Rudy Kurniawan today awaits charges in the New York of counterfeiting fine wines such as the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. The evidence is damning. Kurniawan however should not become a scapegoat. The fact is that because of the high prices now being obtained for individual cases, or even bottles, of wine, fraud and forgery have become global big business on a mafia-like scale. For every shark, there is equally an incompetent. Take the case of Noble Crus, for instance, a wine investment fund that was suspended in June because of its incompetence. Most wine funds are working well but even then, do you know how much of your money invested goes on management fees and other administration costs?

As significant as the problems of forgery and fraud are, the ultimate question for the would-be investor is ‘will this purchase make me money and if so how much and when?’ This is really the only question to be answered when it comes to wine investment and the answer in my view is that, even if the global economy were stronger than it is, it is becoming increasingly difficult for the individual consumer to make money from wine investment. For one thing the odds are stacked against you in that the professionals, the brokers, the wine funds and the auctioneers all have a much better idea than 99.9% of consumers what will make money for them and what won’t. They have insider knowledge that only the most assiduous consumer investor can match.

The limited category of wines on which money can be made is now well known thanks to global dealings and communication. There are still a few wines teetering on the cusp of becoming investment-worthy. If for instance you’d bought the 100-point Château Pontet Canet or Léoville-Poyferré in the acclaimed 2009 vintage, you would have seen your investment rise substantially. By and large though, the professionals know about them – and make money – on them before you and I do. Yet another problem is that the real bankers today such as the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti are made in such limited quantities and are in such demand that you have to be in the in-crowd to buy in the first place.

For all the potential pitfalls, it is not impossible to invest in wine successfully as a consumer. But the much-vaunted Chinese collector is now wary of an en primeur market in which Bordeaux overinflated the price of the 2010 vintage, and, as the Liv-Ex indices which are considerably down show, the global economic downturn has depressed the secondary market for some considerable time. The key to wine investment if you want to go down that route is to be on the ball all the time and stay on the inside track to take a chance on the up-and-coming wines that could turn out to be tomorrow’s bankers. Of course you might be just as well off buying a lottery ticket. And the stakes are not quite so high.

Chinese Version

伦敦之声 回味
波尔多和勃艮第这两大经典产区之外 的葡萄酒也紧随这样的趋势。在香槟区,这 一范围扩展为库克香槟(Krug)、水晶香槟 (Cristal)和唐培里侬(Dom Pérignon),尤其 是顶级年份和限量版。在意大利则是Barolo 的Giacomo Conterno、Sandrone,Barbaresco 的Angelo Gaja,托斯卡纳的超级托斯卡纳, 包括Ornellaia、Sassicaia、Masseto等等。加州 酒有很高端的赤霞珠葡萄酒,比如Harlan、 ScreamingEagle、BryantFamily、Grace、 Dominus 和Opus One。澳大利亚则有奔富
文 /AnthonyRose 译/张然
最近,泰勒波特酒厂( Taylor's )把两 桶1863单一年份酒装在1600个水晶 瓶中,并将在世界范围内发行。每 瓶的售价大概在3000英镑。稍前发布的6升 装限量版2010年份奔富Bin 170老藤西拉, 其木盒包装由英国林利(Linley)公司特制 并嵌入一个玉制指南针。每瓶的零售价格为 33000英镑。
从表面上看来,这类酒的价格和它的价 值没有太大的关系。这些酒的目标消费群体 定位在一些讲究牌子的超级富豪,这些所谓 的“顶级”的酒卖点类似于其他奢侈品,就像 手表、包、鞋子、皮革制品、香水、油画或者汽 车 ,是 社 会 地 位 的 象 征 。事 实 上 ,这 些 瓶 中 的 液体被神奇地转化为了奢侈品。
想要明白这个道理,你需要了解葡萄酒 投资和收藏的二级市场。这个市场的体量不 可小觑,整体估值达到40-60亿英镑。投资市 场是推动葡萄酒价格疯涨的重要因素。随着 过去三十年来对限量佳酿的需求日益增长,精 品葡萄酒价格飞涨,这更加鼓励葡萄酒的投 资者而非传统葡萄酒爱好者购买葡萄酒。
并不令人惊奇的是,以投资为目的的葡萄 酒数量明显增长。现在葡萄酒投资的方式越 来越多,从传统的酒商和个人到中间商、拍 卖行,现在扩展到网络和老酒投资基金,这 样的投资基金目前在世界范围内至少有十几 二十种。
在市场上交易的精品葡萄酒中有五分之 四是波尔多酒,大概有二十几个顶级波尔多
酒庄现在已经成为了奢侈型品牌和投资级产 品。在这些酒庄中,有五家来自梅多克和格拉 夫 的 一 级 庄 ,奥 比 昂 、拉 菲 、拉 图 、玛 歌 、木 桐 ,“ 超 二 级 庄 ” 如 雄 狮 酒 庄 、 林 卓 贝 斯 酒 庄 和帕玛酒庄,圣爱美浓一级特级名庄白马、奥 颂,以及最近获得升级的金钟和柏菲,波美侯 的 柏 图 斯 、里 鹏 和 拉 弗 尔( L a f l e u r )。随 着 国 际藏家和投资基金的追捧,普通消费者是难 以得到这些酒的。
寻找“下一个波尔多之星”的聪明的投 资正在流向比如庞特卡奈(Pontet Canet)、
波菲(Léoville Poyferré)和高柏丽(Haut- B a i l l y )。然 而 波 尔 多 的 问 题 在 于 ,经 历 了 价 格 虚高的波尔多2009、2010年份和紧随其后的三 个平庸年份,收藏家和投资者对这个产区已经 失去了信心。截止到2014年3月31日,Liv-ex指 数已经连续12个月呈下降趋势。
葡萄酒变成奢侈品的最明显例子就是勃 艮第的DRC。虽然直到最近,拉菲酒庄还是 葡萄酒奢侈品市场的宠儿,但是在过去的一 年中拉菲的价格在不断下降,然而DRC和其 他的勃艮第顶级酒却在不断走高。DRC所带 来的连锁反应便是投资者现在开始寻找那些 不 过 分 出 名 的 酒 庄 ,比 如 R o u s s e a u 、C a t h i a r d 、 Fourrier、de Vogüé、Roumier、Coche-Dury、 Comte Liger Belair、Leroy、Ponsot、Leflaive、 Grivot 和Dujac。
Grange和一些潜在的顶级佳酿。 这种寻找“下一个投资明星”的潮流变
成 了一 种 国 际 现 象 ,来 自 俄 罗 斯 、亚 洲( 尤 其 是中国)、马来西亚和拉美的百万富翁开始 加入传统的北美和欧洲的富裕消费群体。来 自波士顿咨询集团的最近一年的财富研究显 示 ,百 万 美 元 富 豪 从 2 0 1 2 年 的 1 3 7 0 万 人 增 加 到 2 0 1 3 年 的 1 6 3 0 万 人 ,其 中 ,中 国 的 私 人 财 富 暴 增 4 9 % 。对 我 们 这 些 爱 酒 的 人 来 说 ,这 是 一 个 让人担忧的变化。
Anthony Rose
常住伦敦。英国葡萄酒记者和作家,在www.independent. co.uk开设周专栏。也为Decanter、 The World of Fine Wine 等杂志供稿。很多知名葡萄酒大赛的评委和主席。The Wine Gang 的创办人之一。博客,微 博Anthony _ Rose。
葡萄酒评论 August 2014 125

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