The Story of... How Bordeaux wines dominated the markets in 2010

All in all, 2010 was an outstanding year for fine wines - especially in the wake of 2009's Bordeaux wines. While at least one critic wryly described the 2009 release as "the most hyped vintage since the last most hyped one," it soon became clear that the vintages could live up to the hype.

Before long, the 2009 vintages were being regularly mooted as the "best Bordeaux wine in 60 years" - with even hard-to-please critics like Robert Parker joining in with the enthusiasm.  Indeed, so impressed was Parker that he upped his famous "100 points" scale to gauge the wines.

Describing the wines as possessing "the finest potential of all the offerings I had ever tasted from that estate in nearly 32 years of barrel tasting samples in Bordeaux," Parker extending his ratings system beyond the usual 100 points. Wines above 100 points were marked with an asterisk.

Bordeaux 2009 made its presence felt in the markets before it was even bottled. As we reported back in August, opportunities to buy the wines en primeur soon elevated the region's 2009 vintage to "the most expensive vintage, bar [the legendary] 1982."

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Meanwhile, as collectors and enthusiasts became increasingly turned-on to the latest Bordeaux batch, a vast market filled with opportunities emerged on the horizon in the shape of China. The People's Republic this year officially became the world's #2 economy.

Not surprisingly, with its ascend to world 'superpower' status came an increasing taste for the high-life among China's nouveau rich. And near the top of their shopping lists was another Bordeaux vintage. Not the 2009, but rather the 2008 - specifically Lafite.

We described it as a "A new love affair" back in November, and that's not an unreasonable description. While China's rich pushed the Chateau Lafite Rothschild 2008 to a 20% overnight price jump, Lafite responded by marking its bottles with a new "eight" symbol.

"Eight" is considered to be very lucky in China. Not that the Lafite needs much luck with its new-found market power. Our November report stated that a case of the 2008 is now worth £10,160 ($16,000).

Other vintages were also benefitting from China's new 'love affair'. Around the time of our report, three bottles of the Lafite 1869 sold for more than $232,000 each at Sotheby's successful wine sale in Hong Kong.

This success was not one-off. In fact, both Sotheby's and Christie's enjoyed record years for fine wine sales in Asia. Sotheby's recorded a $88.2m "landmark year, [its] best in 40 years" for wine auctions; while Christie's posted total results of $71.5m - each thanks in no small part to Asia's buyers.

Meanwhile, ongoing market analysis by Liv-Ex found that the 'much hyped' Bordeaux 2009 in the end brought returns of 40.5% for collectors and alternative investors and accounted for a definitive 95% of the total exchange turnover.

"The driving force behind Bordeaux's success is undoubtedly Chinese demand and the Far East's current predilection for Left Bank Classed Growths - particularly Lafite," said Liv-Ex's experts on the company's blog.

So what does 2011 hold? The Wine Investment Fund (TWIF) has predicted increases of 21% for its main fine wines index. And it's safe to say that Asia's markets will continue to be source of much excitement. Watch this space for upcoming news on 2011's fine wine markets.


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