Why Bordeaux wines are among the best in the world

Bordeaux wines dominate fine wine investment. Along with wines from another French region, Burgundy, wine collectors love Bordeaux. Wines from the region make up around 70 per cent of global wine investments.

So, what is it about wines from this particular area that makes them so attractive to investors? As wine production is now a global industry with winemakers everywhere from Chile to China, why do we still love these traditional French wines?

Bordeaux wines come from a region with an ideal climate

First and foremost, Bordeaux is simply the perfect place to make wine. The weather is warm enough to grow plump, fruity grapes. But cool breezes from the Atlantic also mean that it doesn’t get too hot and ensures a long ripening season.

The soil is also ideal. On the highly regarded Left Bank of the Gironde river, there is a mix of gravel, sandy-clay and limestone deposits. This area produces some of the very best wines, but even the Right Bank with its more clay rich soil produces some great vintages. Broadly speaking, wines from the Right Bank tend to use more Merlot than the Left Bank, especially in those areas with limestone deposits.

Bordeaux wines have a long tradition

Bordeaux is arguably the birthplace of fine wines. Like most of the finer things in life, wine production here began with the Romans. They grew grapes for winemaking and the city of Bordeaux along with the surrounding region quickly developed its excellent reputation. The industry boomed in the medieval period but the draining of the Medoc marshes in the 1600s freed up land and really kicked things off.

Many of the wine makers who began in the 1800s are still going today. And it is this long tradition that gives investors confidence in the quality of Bordeaux wines. One thing to note: since the 1800s Bordeaux chateaux are ranked from the most important wine producers known as First Growth down to Fifth Growth at the bottom.

The ageing potential of Bordeaux wines is attractive to investors

One of the most important aspects of any wine for an investor is how well it will age. Take a look at our recent post on how to identify whether a wine will age well for more information. Bordeaux wines age particularly well, and so offer good value for investors looking to see a good return when it is time to sell.

A big reason for this is that Bordeaux wines use Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, which age beautifully. According to French law, for a wine to be called a Bordeaux it must be made from both Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. This, combined with the ability of world-class wine makers to produce perfectly balanced wines, means that many Bordeaux wines will get better with time.

Our pick of Bordeaux wines to invest in today

1.Château Margaux, 2017

Rich and elegant, this is a brilliantly well-balanced Bordeaux red from one of our favourite chateaux. A great one to set aside for a few years. We recommend enjoying it at its best, which will be in 2024.

2. Château l’Evangile, 2013

With its hints of raspberry and cherry, we love this particular vintage. Made at Château l’Evangile by the experts from Chateau Lafite it’s well worth seeking out.

3. Château Smith Haut Lafitte, Pessac-Léognan, 2016

Another one to put away for a few years, this dense and smoky wine will age wonderfully. Beautifully balanced and well worth waiting for.

The Asian wineries making their mark on the industry

Wine production and consumption is now a global industry and Asian wineries are leading this charge. While the investment market is still dominated by the Old World wine makers in Burgundy and Bordeaux, there are increasing opportunities in some of the lesser known regions.

And for wine investors seeking value in a crowded market, the latter category offers a chance to get ahead.

Five Asian wineries to watch for fine wine investors

Asia is an enormous and incredibly diverse region. Climates vary from the harsh high-altitude conditions of the Himalayas to the more tropical climes of India. Yet this diversity of growing conditions means there are some interesting regional variations to investigate.

Asia has a lot to offer fine wine investors if you know where to look. Here are some of our favourites.

1. Chateau Sun God Great Wall, China

Most discussions of winemaking in Asia begin with China. Chinese wine production is booming, and interest is growing in the country’s leading wineries. Chateau Sun God on the spectacular Sanggan River is certainly one of them. Each year they produce a limited number of fine wines of the very highest quality.  

One to try:

Chateau Sun God Reserve Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon, 2005

A top-quality Cabernet Sauvignon from arguably the best winemakers in China.

2. Grace Vineyards, Japan

They’ve been making high quality wines at the Grace Vineyards site since 1923, and the current owners are the third generation of makers from the founding family. Over the years the winery has established an excellent reputation for creating high-quality wines. The 12-hectare site is in foothills of the Kayagatake mountain range and offers ideal growing conditions.

One to try:

Cuvée Misawa Rouge 2013

An excellent red with hints of cedar and liquorice..

3. Sula Vineyards, India

These vineyards close to Nashik in central India are located in a region that produces around 80 per cent of the country’s wine. The vineyard’s owners spent time honing their skills with the wine growers of California before starting the winery here. Today they’re producing some excellent vintages, with a focus on sustainability and community support.

One to try:

Sula Rasa

Our pick is a classic Shiraz, lovingly aged in oak barrels.

4. Château Mercian, Japan

It’s back to Japan for our next pick. The Château Mercian winery was one of the very first Japanese wine producers and was named Winery of the Year by the Asian Wine Review in 2019. It was well deserved – over the years they’ve used the cooler climate here to create some excellent reds as well as some crisp whites. A leading Asian winery with a long history and a promising future ahead.

One to try:

Iwade Koshu Kiiroka Cuvée Ueno

A typically citrus-packed white that shows off the skills of the team at Château Mercian.

5. Silver Heights, China

Silver Heights share the same latitude with wine making regions such as Napa, and Bordeaux. It’s in the perfect location to grow great wine grapes and they’ve produced some very high-quality wines that stand up well on the global market.

One to try:
Emma’s Reserve

Emma’s Reserve is a classy Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot blend that more than holds its own against a Bordeaux red.

Your guide to finding a fine wine that will improve with age

We know there are many different factors that go into defining the value of a fine wine investment. Everything from the experience of the producer through to the reputation of the terroir is important.

And of course, as fine wine is a long term investment, storage is also important. But these factors aside, it’s handy to know why some fine wines are worth keeping over others.

How to know whether a fine wine will age well

Fine wine investment is complex. But at its most basic level, you’re simply looking for wines that you can afford now and that will increase in value over time. It’s all about choosing vintages that will deliver on the investment goals you’ve set yourself.

Only you can decide what level of investment you can afford, and how much risk you can take on. Here’s how to spot a wine that should age well and potentially increase in value. There are four key factors to consider:

  • Tannins.
  • Acidity.
  • Alcohol.
  • Sugar.

Look for a wine high in tannins

Tannins form in grapes as they grow, protecting the grapes from the sun. During winemaking the pips, skin and juice of the grapes are crushed together. It’s this process that releases tannins into the wine itself. Tannins can also come from oak barrels as well.

They’re behind the slightly dry mouthfeel of some wines, and also provide the ‘body’ in a glass of wine.

While high levels of tannins can help a particular wine age well, it’s no guarantee. It’s important that the wine is well balanced in the first place. And much of that comes down to the maker’s expertise in balancing the other factors too.

Choose wines with high acidity

In a similar way, the quantity of acid in a wine roughly correlates with how well it ages. Acidity varies from vintage to vintage and offers no fixed guarantee that a wine will age well. But higher acidity generally helps to combat some of the damage done by oxidisation over time.

As wines age, they lose acidity. If you want to keep a bottle for a few years, make sure it has high acid levels to start with. Both acidity and tannins provide structure to the wine and extend its lifespan.

Look for lower alcohol content

Wines with higher alcohol levels are more likely to break down over time. Of course, fortified wines have much higher alcohol levels and still age well. But for non-fortified wines, always look for lower alcohol levels if you want them to improve in storage.

Don’t forget sugar content

The final factor in assessing whether a fine wine will age well is its sugar levels. Sugar is a preservative and wines with higher sugar levels should last longer. A white wine such as Tokakji is the perfect example of a sweet wine that will age beautifully. 

When it comes to ageing wines, balance is everything. Higher tannins, acidity, sugar or lower alcohol levels won’t be enough on their own. Each of these elements need to support each other without one single aspect dominating another.

Finally, it’s also worth remembering that most wines won’t age well. Generally speaking, non-investment wines are made for drinking within a couple of years. Producers only create a relatively tiny number (approximately 1%) of investment quality wines each year. If you’re looking at increasing the value of your investment over time, only focus on these very special wines. And enjoy drinking the rest right now.

What makes one year’s wine vintage better than another?

If you’re serious about collecting wine for investment, it’s critical to understand what goes into making a great wine vintage. The Ideal Wine Company Collector’s Guide is the perfect place to get an overview of where to start in wine investment. 

But how do collectors and investors choose one vintage over another from the same vineyard? What sets one year apart from another? Why is one year’s production highly sought after, while another is much lower in value? Here are some answers.

What is a wine vintage?

We’ll start with the basics first. What exactly is a wine vintage? Simply put, it is the year that winemakers picked the grapes for a particular bottle. It may sound straightforward, but there are a number of important factors that go into making a particular year’s crop of grapes better than another.

The quality of the process and the ability of the winemakers themselves is crucial, of course. The timing of the harvest, when the vines are pruned and how well they manage pests are all significant. One poor decision can easily lead to wine of a lower quality.

But the winemaker’s broader vision for their wines also contributes to a great vintage. A winemaker who thinks longer term is more likely to make the right growing, harvesting and making decisions year-on-year. It’s why it pays to get to know the winemakers you respect, and to follow their careers closely.

We talked about an example of this recently in terms of champagne production. The top champagne makers only release premier cuvées when the conditions are exactly right. They maintain their good name with investors as a result.

How does the climate affect the making a great wine vintage?

Most of the growing and harvesting decisions that the winemaker takes are usually in response to the weather. An experienced grower will know how to respond to everything from hard spring frosts to wet summers and damp harvests. All of these factors and the quality of a maker’s response to them impact the investment value of a particular vintage. The wrong weather can even badly impact an entire year’s production.

To create a vintage wine harvest, the most critical factor is the amount of sunshine during that growing season. This directly impacts the rate and amount that the grapes ripen on the vine. Too much sunshine and the grapes raisinate. Too little sun (or too much wet, cloudy weather), and the grapes are less likely to ripen and more likely to rot.

Crucially, it’s worth remembering that not all grape varieties respond in the same way. So, if you have a favourite producer, understand how the weather in that region impacts the wine variety they use. And before choosing a particular vintage, research the specific weather that year. Finally, in regions where the weather is more consistent, vintage is less important. Unpredictable weather is unlikely to impact growers in Australia, California or even South Africa. It’s why they produce wines of a similar quality year on year.  

Which lesser known wines are worth investing in?

Are lesser known wines worth exploring for investment purposes? We certainly think so. Classic wines from Bordeaux and Burgundy dominate the fine wine investment market, for good reason. These regions have a long and storied history of winemaking that investors trust.

But as investors buy up the best wines, they become rarer and prices rise. It means that it can be harder to find wine investments that offer good value.

One way to find value in this crowded fine wine market is by investing in a vintage from lesser known wine regions.

Which lesser known wines are worth investing in?

Winemaking is now a global phenomenon. Producers are springing up in plenty of new markets, particularly in Asia. But too often, investors overlook other traditional wine producing countries. Greece, Austria, Croatia and even Hungary are all well worth exploring for opportunities.

Here our guide to some of the best wines from these lesser known wine regions.

China – Ao Yun, 2013

In recent years China has fully embraced wine making. One of the most popular producers is Ao Yun. They produce their wines in the foothills of the Himalayas. Their wines use both local grapes as well wines based on as old classics like Cabernet Sauvignon. Our choice is the first vintage from Ao Yun, the 2013 red. The wine shows off its producer’s attention to detail, and it’s fine on the palate. A great advert for Chinese wines, and a maker worth watching for investors.

Greece – Douloufakis Dafnios, 2016

The wonderfully varied landscape of Greece is full of unique producers, but Eastern Mediterranean wines can be ignored by investors. And increasingly, many of them make high quality wines that are worth considering from an investment perspective. 

If you’re looking for an interesting white wine to invest in, consider one from Crete. Our pick is this white wine from the Douloufakis Winery, which has been making wines on the island since the 1930s. That expertise shines through in this mellow, citrusy white with a flavour hints of jasmine.

Austria – Johanneshof Reinisch Rotgipfler, 2016

Austria has a rich winemaking tradition and it is worth hunting down some of their more unusual grape varieties. For example, local winemakers harvest the rare Rotgipfler grape from a tiny area south of Vienna.

One of our favourite producers from this region is the excellent Johanneshof Reinisch winery south of Vienna. They produce a wonderful Rotgipfler, full of zesty freshness and a real depth. Our pick is their 2016 Satzing Rotgipfler, which is a high quality white wine and an excellent vintage that investors should look up.

Hungary – Tokaji Furmint, 2015

Tokaji is a Hungarian institution but is sometimes overlooked by fine wine investors. Producers make Tokaji from ‘botrytized’ grapes, which creates a sweet, intense white wine with a refreshing acidity.

Vines used to make Tokaji are prone to rot, which makes it harder to grow than other varieties. As a result, some Tokaji producers now use the grapes to make dry white wines. There are some interesting opportunities here for investors. Any wine from the Szepsy winery is worth investigating, and our pick is the earthy 2015 Tokaji Furmint.

Croatia – Miloš Stagnum, 2007

If you’re looking for a wine that will just get better and better with age, then look no further than Croatia’s plavac mali wines. This is the most famous red wine variety in the country, produced on the Dalmatian coast in ideal wine making conditions. Aged in barrels, the wines have a bold, fruity flavour profile. Our pick is the Miloš Stagnum 2007. It’s wonderfully well-balanced, with a rich, complex mix of fruit and figs.