Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Wine Investment - The Complete Novice Way - (Nearly) 2 Years On

*Disclaimer* - you really should seek sound, professional financial advice before investing. Investments can go down as well as up. This is not a recommendation to invest all that you have in wine, it is purely our story!

Hello All!

A lot has happened since my last update in July 2011, which was 1 year after our initial foray into the world of wine investment; of course as complete novices! Given that the Bank of England base rate was, and still is, a paltry 0.5%, our savings (earmarked for a house deposit) were not growing particularly well. Wine seemed to be doing very well and the "Vintage of a lifetime" Bordeaux 2009 wines were about to be released, so we took a gamble. Back in July, we had notched up a nifty 20% return on investment and things were looking pretty rosy until a major market correction would cast a rather gloomy shadow and wipe out most of our growth...

Little did we know that the prices our back vintage wines reached that July (Chateau Mouton Rothschild 2002 and Chateau Pontet Canet 2003 reaching £4100 a case, and £1050 a case respectively) would signal a peak (barring a few wobbles) before the Fine Wine market would plummet and lose about 25% of its value. In January of this year, the price of Mouton 2002 had dropped back almost to the initial purchase price, at around £3000 a case, but has since rallied to £3400, while the Pontet Canet 03 fell back to, and remains at, £850 a case. So, still a positive growth you might say? Yes, but these are purchase prices from the merchants. Typically, the price you get on selling is 10-20% less which gives very little return! Put it this way; the 6% fixed rate bond we were trying to beat looked particularly attractive at this point!

Such a shame that we were not running a short term investment strategy along the lines of setting trigger points for selling, moving them up after every price rise. If we'd have timed it right we could have sold at the peak, and re-bought at the bottom, cashing in about £1200 in the process! However, we are of course novice investors, and we view it (as we were told to) as a medium to long-term investment. Still, it would have been nice to catch that peak! Hey ho.

So, why did the correction happen? There are many theories but I think the most widely accepted is that the demand from China was overestimated, supply was over-egged and inevitably the Chinese, barring a few Billionaires, decided that they would not continue to pay skyrocketing prices for Bordeaux. It was a bubble, and it inevitably burst. 

But, just like any investment and asset class, there are downs and ups. And more recently there has been a little upside, thanks to (God bless him!); Mr Robert Parker! After sitting at pretty much a few percent above their initial release prices for nearly two years, the 2009 Bordeauxs are now in bottle and have been re-scored by Bob. Good old Bob! What I said in my initial post now almost seems prophetic, although I was just spouting what I'd read:

"There might be some positive price movement in the summer of 2012, when the wines actually get bottled and shipped out to our merchants (i.e. they actually become physically-available entities rather than “futures”). Also, as the years go on, Robert Parker will re-score the wines from time to time. If the points go up the price might go up." and "100-point Parker-rated wines are almost sure-fire winners!"

Thanks to Bob, the purchase price of our 2009 Pontet Canet went from £1300 a case to £1800 almost overnight, as did the Montrose 2009 from £1500 to £2500, due to them both receiving perfect 100-point scores! We purchased these for £1150 and £1350 respectively so a nice little increase, especially for the Montrose, which I bought on the advice of my advisor at Bordeaux Index (who I must remember to thank) while impatiently waiting for Leoville Poyferre to be released. Sage advice!

Upwards also went our Lynch Bages 2009, albeit to a more modest extent, from £1250 to £1400, thanks to a 98-point rating and its highest since 1990 (which now trades at £2500) so could be a good one for the long haul.This we bought for £1050. 

So, the total value of the fund now is something approaching £10,900 but less say, 15% commission, so more like £9250. Which on an investment of about £7800 is about 18.5% return over 2 years. A little better than that 6% Bond, but not quite as good as say, Gold at 70%, or Brent Crude at 60%, over the last two years then? No, not quite. Oh well, you can't drink Gold and you'd be pretty ill if you drank your oil!

Another downside is that I do not think there will be any significant movement now for a good while. Nobody's really going to drink all their 2009s just yet (but if you do have some, please do...<wink> ) so the supply isn't exactly going to be dwindling any time soon. Unless the market miraculously picks up overnight, I don't think we can expect to see much further return, other than a gradual, market-linked rise. The saving grace might be the back vintages, which could, as before, rise on the back of the very high prices now demanded for the 2009s and 2010s. 

So the question remains; do we change tack and adopt a short-term strategy, maximising our short term gains on the back of these new high scores, or stick with the traditional approach and see it through for the long-term? Gold and oil look great in hindsight, and I actually toyed with idea of stocks and commodities before deciding on wine. Damn it. Oh well, time will tell... If you're taking the investment plunge, good luck to you!

...Oh and if you're reading this Bob, a 100-point Pontet Canet 2010 will do nicely too. And a crystal ball if you have one. Thanks.

As usual, speak to you soon,



Monday, 20 February 2012

Birthday Treats

Hello All!

As you may (not) know, February is the month where D and I share a birthday, so we often indulge a little extra into the wine belly during Feb. Here's what we enjoyed and what we thought:

First up, for D's birthday I got her some vintage Pol Roger from her birth year. THE most expensive bottle of alcohol I have ever bought I might add! The 1990 was golden and dark, almost amber; the colour of urine after a heavy night, one might say, but thankfully much more appealing! As I've never had a vintage champagne this old, I wasn't sure what it should taste like. After 22 years in bottle, it was slightly sherry-like with a very faint oxidised note, although I wasn't sure whether it was fine, or whether it was passed its best. D liked it anyway, which was a bonus, and I was surprised to find it still freshly acidic, attractively nutty and evolved with a very nice honeyed citrus fruit, marmalade and brioche character. Still lovely, but in questionable health 8/10. North of a hundred quid from Nickolls & Perks. 
 Continuing with the Champagne theme, we had a lovely bottle of Louis Chaurey NV (£30 Marks & Spencer) courtesy of my brother and his wife. This was nice and bready/biscuity with sharp citrus combined with a honeyed note. Slightly bitter but not bad at all 7.5/10. If you were lucky enough to be in Marks & Spencer over Christmas, during the brief few hours it was available, you may have picked this up for only £10!

We had some premium Kiwi wines in the form of Cloudy Bay's Te Koko 2008, which is an oaked Sauvignon Blanc (Sauv Blanc is very rarely oaked, normally espoused with stainless steel tanks to maintain freshness of fruit). It was an oddball. There was a ghostly vignette of Marlborough Sauv Blanc in the background; faint gooseberry, passion fruit and grass, but I was overwhelmed by the sense of drinking a Gewurztraminer; flowers, Turkish Delight, pine needle. It certainly was a complex wine, I eventually noted down green pepper, smoked cheese, nettles, limey, nutty and tropical. That's a fair few adjectives. It got better after a couple of glasses but I really think this is a "marmite" wine. You may love it, you may hate it. I'm sitting on the fence until I try it again ?/10. About £25 from Nickolls and Perks. Also we had, Mount Difficulty's Pinot Gris 2010 which was frankly stunning. Nutty and creamy on the nose leading to a full and viscous mouthful of honeyed melon and apricot, finishing in a fresh and zingy passionfruit. Slightly off-dry but enough balancing acidity. Also hints of citrus and apple, this was awesome with a spicy stir fry. Yumm, 8.5/10. £16 ish from Majestic.

Some nice Chardonnays were had in the form of Sonoma Cutrer 2009 from the Sonoma Coast appellation in California. Typical Chardonnay complexity of apple, citrus, creamy, leesy, nutty and with a smoky coconut hints. Lovely 7.5/10 and about £15 from Majestic. Next was the Single Vineyard Chardonnay 2010 from Vina Leyda again with a lovely complexity; apple, pear and spice combined with a leesy/bready character 7.5/10. Also from Vina Leyda we had the superb Syrah Reserva 2009. Sub-£10 and bloody great; nice blend of red/black fruit with peppery spice, chocolate, leather, great balance with some perceptible tannin and clear acidity to freshen it. Cool climate Syrah done very well for the price. Can't ask for more 8/10. Continuing the Syrah theme we had a nicely evolved, old Saint Joseph 1999 from the famous Paul Jaboulet Aine. Brick red rim with a black/chestnut core this was fully mature with spicy red fruit and Xmas cake on the nose, followed-up by clean, bright red fruit, silky tannins and a leathery/nutty complexity. Almost Bordeaux-like weight, fruit and oak integration. Delicious, but like a knob, I forgot to decant so the second glass was full of sediment. You live and learn...8/10

Finally a pair of Joseph Drouhin wines, the Saint Romain 2006 (7.5/10) (white Burgundy; Chardonnay) and the Chorey-les-Beaune 2009 (8/10) (red Burgundy; Pinot Noir). Both were delicious with the St. Romain having a slightly evolved honeyed apricot character and surprisingly, no oak. The Chorey les Beaune was again, very good, with us having had the 2007 lately. Delicious, complex with plenty of cherry fruit and smooth.

So after that lot of indulgence (Burp!) it's back down to Earth. The Supermarket Sweeps will return soon.

As always,

Speak to you soon.



Monday, 30 January 2012

Supermarket Sweeps - Six for £60 - Sainsbury's - Part 2

Hello all!

Following on from last week's return to frugality after the festive indulgences, this week we conclude the look at Sainsbury's with the red wines we had. As I said last week, there was little of interest in the standard supermarket reds that dominated the shelves but some interesting wines presented themselves from the "Taste the Difference" range. The whites fared pretty damn well, so let's see if the reds kept up...

Oh and don't forget to follow me on Twitter for further little nuggets of wine-related stuff.

Taste the Difference, Priorat, 2008

£7.49 Priorat is a Catalan wine growing area (Priorato in Spanish) where the reds are usually Grenache dominated blends, if not 100% Grenache (or Garnacha in Spanish). This one is mainly Grenache with a bit of Mazuela thrown in, and weighing in pretty heavy at 14.5%

The Look: Dark purple core to a dark cherry/violet rim.
The Smell: Great nose of black cherry, lots of spice, some raspberry and some sweet oakiness, reminiscent of a Bordeaux!
The Taste: This took me by surprise - very good indeed; velvety tannin, plenty of fresh acidity, the high alcohol was almost non-existent on the palate (served on the cool side of room temp.) The fruit profile was black cherry and something sharper - maybe raspberry, punctuated by a highly oaked vanilla and cedar note, but well-handled. Slightly bitter but not too detracting. This was superb after being open for two days - transformed to blackcurrant fruit and sweet caramel, suggesting that this will keep very well and get better with time. 7.5/10.  Recommended
VFM: Very nice for an "own label" wine and bang on the money with a VFM of 1.0!

Taste the Difference, Penguin Sands, Pinot Noir, Central Otago, 2010

£9.99. This pinot is from the much hailed Central Otago region of New Zealand's South Island. A great price point to get people to sample NZ pinot, but a much-contested market. Can it hold up? 13.5%

The Look: Dark purple core to a cherry rim.
The Smell: Very familiar - I swear we've had this before, but from the Producer (Sacred Hill I beleive?) I don't think we have. Anyway, strawberry, blueberry and oak with a floral character too.
The Taste: Fresh, vibrant acidity, tangy, plenty of cherry, raspberry and bright red fruits, quite sharp. Slight hotness and bitter tannin - feels a little over extracted.
The Score: Not the best in this price point. Better than Oyster Bay (not much praise) but search for something else (Villa Maria, Spy Valley, et al - there's plenty more to choose from) 6/10
VFM: Not horrendous, but not the best either; VFM = 0.6

Taste the Difference, Malbec, Mendoza, 2010

£7.99. Mendoza Malbec is a staple for any wine drinker on a budget. It packs a brambly, powerful, tannic and often teeth-staining punch in its inky blackness, begging for a steak. £8 is at the lower end but there's still great stuff to be had here. Is this worthy of the name...? 14.5%

The Look: The de-facto inky black-purple.
The Smell: Initially very acidic, almost vinegary but with a violet, floral backbone so I gave it some time. Not faulty, developing a nice nose of blackberry crumble, spice and a wet-stone minerality. All good so far after a shaky start.
The Taste: Again, very acidic and floral off the bat so gave it two hours in the bottle with the cork off; it remained hot, some pleasing black fruits and crushed-rocks minerality but unfortunately retained a horrible bitterness on the finish and a mouth burning hotness. Unfortunately, badly made wine, overcooked the extraction trying to get deep colour which was achieved at the cost of balance and fruit. Poured the second half down the drain...
The Score: Food did calm it down but I would avoid. There's plenty more from Mendoza and cheaper too, that gladly, aren't like this, which is frankly, pretty shit. 4.5/10
VFM: Even at £7.99, you can beat this hands down at pretty much any wine merchant. VFM = 0.56

So after a great start, and apart from the 2008 Priorat, the reds "pissed on Sainsbury's chips" to coin a phrase. So, only a few supermarkets remain; Morrisons, Asda and if I can pluck up the courage, Aldi and Liddle. Who knows, maybe a £3 Cotes du Rhone will knock my socks off! By my reckoning, Co-Op still leads, but we'll have a full summary when all is complete.
Our birthdays are fast approaching so we may afford ourselves a couple of indulgences before getting back to the nitty gritty of frugal drinking. Until next time...

As always, speak to you soon!



Monday, 23 January 2012

Supermarket Sweeps - Six for £60 - Sainsbury's - Part 1

Hello All,

A necessary return to frugality this month, with it being January and with most of us suffering from empty pockets following the Xmas splurge. So a return to the Supermarkets Sweeps 6 for £60 series. This time, we visited our local Sainsbury's and I must say, I was suitably un-impressed with their range. Ok, it's not a mega-store, but it's a reasonable size and larger than our local Co-Op but sadly, lacking any sort of comparable range. The shelves were packed with 3 for £10 and the standard supermarket fare (think ubiquitous plonk that you can find in any supermarket, Bargain Booze, Costcutter, Spar et al.).

However, before resigning myself to the Jacob's Creek, I did spot the "Taste the Difference" range and one or two others that caught my eye. Keenly priced and from regions/grapes not often found in your average 3 for £10. In fact, they were very keenly priced leading to an overall spend of only £47 - the cheapest yet. Grape types, styles and regions are all clearly explained on the bottle, which I thought was a nice touch, and probably a good way to get customers to trade-up. Barring a nice looking/sounding Syrah from Chile (reduced from £11.99 to £5.49) that had sold out, they were the only reasonable choices for my red selections. I found a pair of interesting whites, subsidised by another Taste the Difference wine, the 2010 Chablis. Seeing as we had the whites first, here they are:

So, were they any good...?

Oh and don't forget to follow me on Twitter for further little nuggets of wine-related stuff.

Vina Maipo, "Gran Reserva" Sauvignon Blanc, 2011

£5.49 (50% off, normally £11.99). A great find this turned out to be. From Chile's Valle Central and more than likely the Maipo sub-region, from the wine's name. A liberal usage of the term "Gran Reserva" adorns the label; I'm not quite sure what that means in terms of Sauv Blanc, this certainly hasn't seen any oak, or been aged significantly (being a 2011 vintage!). I guess they just want you to know it's "special"? 12.5%

The Look: Pale, lemony.
The Smell: Great smell of fresh passion fruit, gooseberry and a slight grassy herbaceousness.
The Taste: Pow! Overtly fruity but gorgeous. Vibrant, tingly acidity, punchy, stuffed full of tangy passion fruit. Slight smoky undertone.
The Score: Delicious, and at the sale price, an absolute bargain. 8/10. Highly Recommended
VFM: At the sale price this is immense value; VFM = 1.46, but still worth it at top-whack.

Sainsbury's Taste the Difference, Chablis AOC, 2010

£8.99. This reasonably priced Chablis caught my eye. Being a modest AOC Chablis (rather than a Premier or Grand Cru) this would have been vinified in stainless steel to keep the freshness. I was hoping for that steely minerality underpinning lively fruit. 12.5%

The Look: Pale, lemony.
The Smell: Flinty, mineral, peachy, soft fruit.
The Taste: Very nice. It starts rich, plenty of soft peachy/pineapple fruit, the underpinning mineral notes were there, almost a nutty/leesy complexity but then transforms to a very fresh citrus zing, lemony and delicious. This was still in fine fettle after a week in the fridge with the screwcap on, which might suggest it should keep well for a year or two.
The Score: Lovely Chablis, great price. Can't ask for more. 7.5/10. Recommended
VFM: Quite simply; good value. VFM = 0.83.

Seifried, Sauvignon Blanc, Neslon, 2010

£8.99. We may have had this before from Naked Wines - my memory has never been the best! Anyway, slightly interesting as it's from Nelson rather than the ubiquitous (but nonetheless, great) Marlborough. Made by Heidi Seifried, I believe. Recycled the bottle a bit prematurely, so a quick Google reveals; 12.5%

The Look: Pale. Lemony. But this time some green hints too.
The Smell: Compared with the Maipo this was much more herbaceous; green pepper and grass dominated the nose.
The Taste: Green pepper, backed by very sharp, acidic gooseberry. Very savoury to begin with but developed a nice fruitiness with passion fruit and softer gooseberry but maintained the green pepper edge.
The Score: Good. Herby, peppery style but backed with enough fruit. 7.5/10. Recommended
VFM: At £8.99 there's a lot of competition in this price bracket, and plenty of generic branded NZ Sauv Blanc to be had for cheaper. Give this style a try if you're bored of the others. VFM = 0.83. Good value.

A great start from Sainsbury's. Keen prices, good scores and they fared a lot better than the Tesco Finest stuff. Can the reds do as well? Come back next week to have a look...

As always, speak to you soon!



Monday, 9 January 2012

Christmas Highlights

 Hello All,

Happy New Year to you! We lived it up a little over the festive season and had some gorgeous wines. It was a time for splurging, so the average bottle price went through the roof a bit, but what the hell; it was Christmas after all! Our stock is now seriously low (and funds also) so I'll be returning to the Supermarket Sweeps series soon for a much needed price-respite and stocking up at one of the large retailers, not sure who yet, so stay tuned for those...

Anyway, here's some of the best we had over the break...

On Christmas day, we started with the Veuve Clicquot, 2002 (£40 ish, Waitrose, Majestic). We love the NV so wondered whether the 2002 vintage was worth the extra £10 or so. The smell was very reticent straight from the fridge and didn't give much away. The first sip was a shock: I think my words were along the lines of; "Jesus, that's sharp!"  - the acidity caught me off guard, I was expecting a mellow, honeyed old Champers but this was still very young! It did mellow with time and displayed some fruitcake and biscuity complexity, but primarily gave zippy, tangy citrus. After a while in the glass it was superb - one to hold on to for a few more years 8.5/10!

With the main event (Turkey and all the trimmings, rich gravy and plenty of pigs in blankets) our gamble paid off. Seriously paid off. Last year we went against convention, having been told that Pinot Noir was the best match for Turkey, and had a Puligny Montrachet 06 (fairly expensive white Burgundy, if you didn't know) by Nicolas Potel, and thought it went superbly well with Turkey. So this year, I thought I'd stick with white Burgundy but opt for something a bit more unconventional; Chablis. My God, I'm so glad we did. The Domaine William Fevre, Chablis Grand Cru, Bougros, 2005 (£37, The Wine Society) blew our minds. Literally stunning; lively bright lemon and gold, intense nose of spice, honeyed fruit and oak, perfectly mature tastes of complex toasty, smoky, spicy, dried fruits, buttery, honeyed and still with fresh acidity to balance it all out. Faultless and a great surprise. If we were rich our fridge would be stocked with this at all times. Amazing 9.5/10. Boxing day saw another Turkey dinner at my parents which was washed down with another delicious white Burgundy; Joseph Drouhin, Rully, Premier Cru 2008 (a little more down to earth at £14.99 in Waitrose). This again had the delicious, complex, toasty, nutty, smokiness of barrel aged Chardonnay along with the tropical and citrus freshness to balance it. Superb and great value 8/10.

We enjoyed some lovely wines from the ever-consistent Vina Leyda; the Lot 4 Sauvignon Blanc 2010 and Lot 21 Pinot Noir 2008 were delicious (£10 and £18 respectively from The Wine Society). The Sauv Blanc (7.5/10) was a grassy, minerally example of the grape, but backed with fresh zingy gooseberry and slight passion fruit. The Pinot was delicious, silky smooth, voluptuous, chocolatey dark fruits and leathery complexity. Great 8/10. The Matetic EQ Pinot Noir 2007 (£18 the Wine Society) however, didn't fare so well; we found it over-extracted and battered by oak. Nice but not deserving any merit 6/10. However, the Matetic EQ Syrah 2006 (£22 Majestic - although they sold out of the 2006 some time ago, maybe the 2008 is still available) that I'd been saving for a few years was stunning. No tasting note and no photo doesn't help my recollection but I seem to remember it being big, bold and very fruity, but reined-in by some peppery complexity and more red fruit spectrum than jammy black fruit. Worth the wait 8/10. Another Chilean Pinot from the Leyda Valley came via a gift from my Brother and Sister-in-Law; the Secano Estate Pinot Noir 2010 (Marks & Spencer) - smooth, grown-up Pinot with a great balance of fruit, acidity, and a gamey/mushroomy note. Lovely 7.5/10. Thanks W&N! Topping of the Chilean wines was the Montes Alpha, Chardonnay, 2009 (about £11.99 Tesco, Co-Op, many more...). Great Chardonnay, nicely balanced between fruit, minerality and some lees/barrel added complexity. Nice 7.5/10.

We had a couple of Aussies from The Co-Op supermarket. Wirra Wirra, Church Block, 2009 was a blend of Cabernet, Shiraz and Merlot (£11.99) displaying big, bold fruit and chocolate, slightly jammy but enough acidity and dark chocolate bitterness to keep it from being sickly (7.5/10). One hell of a surprise came in the form of the Skillogalee, Basket-Pressed Shiraz, Clare Valley, 2007 (£15.99) - an absolute stunner! Strong smell of bramble fruits, pepper and dark chocolate bode well and was followed up with juicy, mouthfilling fruit, bright acidity kept it fresh, bursting with red and dark fruits but with the cool-climate pepperiness giving it that superb edge. Cracking 9/10.

The Martinborough Vineyard Pinot Noir 2007 was sublime. Nicely aged now with silky tannins, complex, red and darker berries with leathery, mushroomy complexity. Literally as smooth as silk, perfect balance of acidity. Beautiful, 9.5/10 but unfortunately £30 (Majestic)!

We finished off the festive period with some Chianti and Pasta. I'd been squirrelling away a good bottle hoping for the acidity to fade (I'm not the biggest fan of acidic Italian Reds - why on earth would you want a red wine that has as much discernible "tang" as a Sauvignon Blanc???) and was really surprised by the Isole e Olena, Chianti Classico, 2007 (£16 ish, The Wine Society). What a beautiful wine. Yes it was acidic but not overtly so, just a slightly charged juiciness to the red cherry fruit, smoothed out by oaky complexity and cedary spice - not unlike a Bordeaux. Had a likable spiciness that I could only describe as "medicinal". The faintest hint of something reminiscent of Red Aftershock - that kind of thing. Anyway, Best Chianti Yet! 8/10.

And that was it. A shitload of money spent. A shitload of alcohol units consumed. But a shitload of enjoyment too! Some of the highest scores ever but also some of the highest prices to accompany them...<sigh> ... Nevermind, frugality returns next time (it has to - anorexic wallet syndrome setting in) with the return of Supermarket Sweeps - this time Sainsburys.

As always, speak to you soon!