September 5th 2019
Meandering its way from Vienne in the north past Avignon in the south and onward to the Mediterranean is the Rhône valley, home to a vast array of great wines. In the north, Syrah reaches its zenith in the sublime wines of Hermitage and Côte-Rôtie; in the south Grenache takes the lead in the rich, generous wines of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Despite the breadth of choice and unquestionable quality of wine, historically the Rhône has lagged behind other regions in terms of performance on liv-ex indices and returns on investment.
The last two years have seen increased interest in the top producers from the Rhône, mainly from the North which tends to make less alcoholic and finer wine that are longer-lived and sought-after. The great producers from Côte Rotie such as René Rostaing, Guigal and Jamet tend to sell out on release but can still be picked up at reasonable prices. Côte Rotie, alongside Hermitage and Cornas are the three most desirable regions in northern Rhône and the wines are almost all exclusively made from Syrah.
Whilst the north is characterised by steep, terraced vineyards and single varietal wines; in the south the art is in the blend. Châteauneuf-du-Pape is the most famous and largest appellation and up to sixteen different grapes can be included in the blends. With over 3,000 hectares under vine, annual production can exceed millions of bottles and as one might expect, the resulting wines vary greatly in quality.
Whilst there are a large number of high-quality producers, there is a far smaller group whose wines might be considered investment grade. The wines of Château Rayas (10ha), Henri Bonneau (6.5ha) and Clos des Papes (31ha) are amongst the most desirable and tradeable. The relatively large estate of Château de Beaucastel (100ha under vine) only produce their top cuvée, Hommage à Jacques Perrin, in the best years and, with an average production of 350 cases, limited availability drives secondary market prices.
In July the Rhône 100 was the best-performing sub-index of the Liv-ex 1000 (+1.62%), capping a successful three months for the index. Other Rhône wines posting positive returns included JL Chave Hermitage 2006 (12.8%), Clos des Papes Châteauneuf du Pape 2011 (10.6%) and Beaucastel Hommage à Jacques Perrin 2015 (6.7%).
There is a great deal of history here, going back over a millennium, and a huge amount of talent that is now getting the recognition it deserves. Another great gauge of its potential is the consistently high scores the top wines manage to get from Jeb Dunnock, James Suckling and Neal Martin – the critics love these wines! The Rhône, particularly the wines of the north, are now firmly in the thoughts of the market. Undoubtedly, as the market diversifies and more buyers look to other classic winegrowing regions, this is the next region to consider buying into.
 The Liv-ex Rhone 100 tracks the ten most recently physical vintages for five Southern and five Northern Rhône wines: Beaucastel CNDP, Clos des Papes CNDP, Hommage à Jacques Perrin, Vieille Julienne CNDP, Vieux Telegraph, Chapoutier Ermitage Le Pavillon, JL Chave Hermitage, Jaboulet Hermitage La Chapelle, Guigal La Las (aggregated), Guigal Côte-Rôtie d’Ampuis.