AMID ECONOMIC gloom, a small solace for wine investors. Last year’s excellent vintage of Bordeaux reds is selling for 15-30% less than the crop of 2018. Top labels retail for $350-500 a bottle and the second tier for $100-175, prices last seen in 2016.
The bargains will not sustain tipplers through lockdowns. Bordeaux estates sell wine two years before bottling it, via a system called en primeur. They set prices based on scores from critics, who taste wines as they mature in oak barrels, and are paid up front by middlemen. These négociants then sell wines to wholesalers and importers, who supply shops and restaurants.
The modern version of this network evolved 70 years ago, when wineries needed money and patient buyers snapped up cheap claret. By the 1990s leading estates had cash aplenty. But the system turned into an investment vehicle. Investors who bought wine en primeur each year between 2000 and 2008, and sold each vintage after two years, made a return of 19% on average, according to Liv-ex, a trading platform.
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