The Top Five 'most powerful' wines of 2009

With Christmas very nearly upon us, corks on wine bottles will soon be popping all over the land.

And buyers and sellers of fine wines will likely be among them, toasting what has been a great year for the wine collectors' market, despite the recession.

The market recovered strongly during the second half of 2009 and continues to outperform the stock market according to Liv-Ex, the industry standard index.

This success was thanks partly to growing interest in Asia, with the top wines performing better than ever during some periods of the year.

Last month, Liv-Ex marked the close of 2009 with their latest Top 100 'power' list.

Let's take a look at the Top Five most powerful wines in the global collectors' market...

5. Bordeaux Latour

Latour's power status has dipped slightly this year. According to Liv-Ex, this could be because it doesn't have a large enough following in the Far East.

Château Lafite 1961, 1 d.mag, per lot £4,000-6,000
Château Lafite Rothschild is Liv-Ex's #1

The issue here could be brand-related: "Latour" in Chinese apparently means "to collapse" - the last association any drinks brand wants associated with it.

It is also speculated that Latour's overly-controlling nature could have impeded its market impact. Latour often likes to withhold stock, in contrast to the laissez faire attitude of other châteaux, such as Lafite.

This means that you are far more likely to see 100 bottle cases of châteaux Lafite at auction, and only a six bottle case of the Latour.

4. Bordeaux Pétrus

Right bank Bordeaux enjoyed a rather lacklustre performance in this year's Liv-Ex chart. Among them, Pétrus has seen a mere 1% rise. This may be because it, like other right bank fine wines, hasn't established a strong presence in Asia.

This contrasts to the UK, where, according to C&B's Oliver Hartly, the Pétrus 2008 vintage was oversubscribed by a factor of nine.

"In the secondary market, there is only so much wine people are going to buy and consume. And, in China, there are a very small number of collectors," he told Liv-Ex.

Nevertheless, Pétrus can certainly claim to be a critic's favourite. The pre-eminent fine wines expert Robert Parker awarded the 1961 Château Pétrus a 100/100 "perfect" rating.

3. Burgundy DRC

DRC is the most expensive fine wine traded on Liv-Ex's list. But it isn't the trade's most powerful brand because, says Liv-Ex, its 6,500 case production is too small to impact the market.

Nevertheless, 2009 reportedly saw a rising market presence for Burgundy. Twice as much was traded compared to 2008, with a massive increase for Leflaive, DRC, Rousseau, Raveneau and Comte Lafon.

This is reportedly due to bigger demand for Burgundy from Asia; including DRC, Leroux, De Vogue, Dujac and other great smaller producers.

2. Bordeaux Mouton Rothschild

The Mouton Rothschild has enjoyed an improved performance on this year's Live-Ex list, progressively moving from fifth, to fourth, and then most recently to second place in 2009.

Live-Ex speculates that this may be down to Mouton Rothschild's appointment of new winemaker Phillipe Dhalluin in 2000, in collaboration with Bordeaux's legendary consultant Jacques Boissenot.

Together, they have successfully ended Mouton's period of producing first growths which fell short of expectation.

Mouton became the most traded first growth in 2009's first quarter. And it could be the next star wine in the Asian markets, as Lafite becomes either too scarce or too expensive. "Mouton is in vogue," concludes Liv-Ex's report.

1. Bordeaux Lafite Rothschild

Without question, Lafite Rothschild has certainly made its presence felt on the auction block throughout 2009.

Half a dozen bottles of 1982 Château Lafite-Rothschild doubled their estimate at Christie's in November.

Expected to sell for as little as $18,000, the selection sparked some very competitive bidding and was eventually taken away for $38,400.

The following month, another 12 bottles of 1982 Château Lafite-Rothschild entered a Chicago auction with a $20,400-27,600 estimate. They eventually sold for $35,891.

The availability of Lafite Rothschild in 12 bottle cases, and the legendary reputation which precedes is, sees it easily dominate Live-Ex's 2009.

Its scarcity and value will only increase in 2010.


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