February 26th 2019
Whilst the headlines might often focus on the twin pillars of Bordeaux and Burgundy, other regions have steadily and surely been increasing their market share. And, for some time now, the wines of Italy have offered an opportunity for collectors to diversify their portfolio and achieve healthy returns.
Italy’s wine regions are myriad, but when it comes to investment it is the 3 B’s that are most important, Barolo, Brunello and Bolgheri. Of these it is Bolgheri, the small Tuscan coastal village and home to Sassicaia and Ornellaia, that most investors first turn to.
There are good reasons Sassicaia and Ornellaia typically feature in a balanced portfolio. The wines themselves are a logical progression from the Cabernet Sauvignon based wines of Bordeaux. Whilst their inspiration was undoubtedly the great wines of the Medoc, the two estates soon found their own identity and soon after global desirability. Secondly, the wines are produced in relatively large quantities: Sassicaia’s average annual production is over 200,000 bottles or 16,500 cases; Ornellaia’s slightly less at 140,000 bottles or 11,000 cases, but equal to production levels of the Medoc. This allows collectors the opportunity to acquire the wines on release and, crucially, provides liquidity in the secondary market. This in contrast to low volume wines of Barolo for example, whose secondary market prices can be more volatile.
In terms of price development, both wines fit the mid to long term hold model (5-10 years). New vintages of Sassicaia and Ornellaia have been released around £600 per 6 bottle case (though the 100pts awarded to 2016 Sassicaia saw its price push past that mark). Mature vintages (10yrs +) command prices nearer £1000 per 6.
If we roll further back to the 1985, a wine that prompted Monica Larner of the Wine Advocate to comment:
“The soaring beauty of this landmark Sassicaia literally transcends the rather mundane realm of wine critique with its string of adjectives and wearisome descriptors”
The current market price of a 6-pack is £14,500.
Bearing in mind the same critic commented that:
“To my mind, the 2016 Sassicaia stands tall next to the epic 1985 vintage that set the ultimate benchmark for vino Italiano.”
The premium on the entry price of the 2016 seems negligible and confounds any doubts as to the eligibility of its inclusion in a portfolio.
Other wines that fall under the ‘Super Tuscan’ moniker and worth considering include Tignanello and Solaia from the Antinori stable. The former released around the £350/6 mark, sees mature vintages trade above £600 per case; the latter released nearer £750/6 but mature vintages trade in excess of £1000 per case. Again, relatively large production volumes for both wines (Tiganello c. 15,000 cases & Solaia c. 9000 cases) offer the collector access and market liquidity.
Brunello di Montalcino
Remaining in Tuscany, the wines of Montalcino are worth consideration. However, careful selection is required both of estate and vintage, though the correct choice can yield attractive returns. The 2013 Brunello di Montalcino Salvioni was released at £450/6, the similarly rated 2006 currently has a market value of £1000/6. One advantage of Brunello only being released after a period of ageing (5 years for a regular bottling) is consumption starts apace rather than after a further period of cellaring, thus adding pressure to supply.
In 2018, on average Italian wines made up around 7% of the transaction value on Liv-ex. If the super Tuscans make up the lion’s share of this, it is notable that when the 2013 Brunellos were offered in January 2018, the figure jumped up to 28% of the regional share of trade by value. When the right wines are offered, it would seem appetites are far from sated.
|Vintage||Wine||Case||Score||Release Price||Current Market|
|2013||Brunello di Montalcino Cerbaiola Salvioni||6x75cl||93pts||£450.00||£520.00|
|2013||Brunello di Montacino Piaggione Salicutti||6x75cl||95pts||£265.00||£280.00|
|2013||Madonna Delle Grazie Il Marroneto||6x75cl||97pts||£595.00||£795.00|
|2013||Brunello di Montalcino Il Marroneto||6x75cl||94pts||£115.00||£230.00|
Barolo & Barbaresco
In the north, the twin regions of Barolo and Barbaresco produce a number of wines that might merit inclusion. The patchwork of vineyards and vignerons often draws parallels with Burgundy and although prices have not matched the stratospheric levels of the Côte d’Or, interest in certain estates has seen market prices rise. The wines from the likes of Roagna, Gaja, Giacomo Conterno, Bruno Giacosa and Augusto Cappellano all enjoy fervent devotion from their admirers, whilst producers such as Vietti and Elio Grasso have made a real impression on the market. Typically small production quantities mean older vintages command handsome premiums as and when they appear.
“The Piedmont story is already out there. Those wines are just as good as top wines from anywhere else in the world and the pricing has followed. I think we are going to be hearing more about Alto Piemonte. It is a region that is benefitting from climate change. Perhaps even more importantly, Roberto Conterno’s recent purchase of Nervi sends a clear sign as to what the potential of the region is. Think about it for a second. Many producers of this generation are exploring projects in other countries. Look at how many producers from Bordeaux, Burgundy and Champagne are doing things in the US, specifically in California and Oregon. Conterno is saying “No. I am betting on Italy, on Piedmont and on Nebbiolo.” That is a huge statement.” Antonio Galloni June 2018
|2010||Barbaresco Paje Roagna||6x75cl||94pts||£240.00||£385.00|
|2010||Barbaresco Paje Vecchie Vigne Roagna||6x75cl||95pts||£1,200.00||£1,440.00|
|2010||Barolo Ravera Vietti||6x75cl||100pts||£1,650.00||£1,800.00|
|2010||Barolo Monfortino Riserva Giacomo Conterno||3x75cl||98-100pts||£2,950.00||£3,300.00|