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.

Burgundy fine wine prices fell in 2019

A new report from Liv-ex, the global wine trade marketplace, shows vulnerability for Burgundy fine wines. However, it also points towards reasons for fine wine investors and traders to be positive.

For a number of years, the Burgundy fine wine market has been enjoying meteoric price rises. In fact, this has been a dominant theme for at least five years. However, in 2019, prices began to drop for some of the biggest names in the market.

 

How much have Burgundy fine wine prices fallen?

During 2019, according to the annual market report for Burgundy compiled by Liv-ex, prices stuttered for some of the most popular Burgundy wines. This includes a number of Domaine de la Romanee Conti wines.

The report tracks the ‘Burgundy 150’, which are the most traded Burgundy wines on the platform. In 2019, the Burgundy 150 was the worst performing regional index on the platform, with its value falling by 8.8%.

According to the report, 2019 “has highlighted the vulnerability of Burgundy’s high prices.” However, traders and fine wine collectors should be aware that where this will lead is far from certain. It’s too soon to know what the long-term trends will be for 2020, as there are many economic and political factors at play.

 

Increase in number of Burgundy wines being traded


The Burgundy 150 has leapt up by 445% over the last 16 years (since 2003). The biggest rate of growth was between 2016 and 2018. For more context, compare this growth with the benchmark Liv-ex 100 with its 202% growth since 2003. Similarly, the Liv-ex 50 has grown by 235% since 2003 – this covers the five Bordeaux first growths – Haut-Brion, Latour, Margaux, Mouton Rothschild and Lafite.

Liv-ex says that the fall in prices mostly covers the very top-tier Burgundy wines. It also points out that there has been a 48% increase in the number of Burgundy wines traded on the Liv-ex platform in 2019.

This means that more fine wine collectors have been seeking out cheaper wines that may hold more value sometime in the future. This includes a number of wineries that have innovative and upcoming winemakers leading the way.

Due to this increase in the number of Burgundy wines on the platform, the region achieved a 20% share of trades by value. This represents a record high total for Burgundy, and further compounds the fact that Bordeaux no longer commands more than 90% of the fine wine trade.

For a lowdown on fine wine terminology check out our earlier blog here, and stay tuned for more updates on the fine wine market throughout 2020.

Celebrity Chef Risks Angering French Wine Enthusiasts

 

If there’s one thing France are renowned for it’s their wine making. That’s why the Ideal Wine Company is unsurprised at people’s reaction when Gordon Ramsay started stocking British wine.

Bordeaux wine making

Bordeaux, located on Western coast of our neighbour across the channel, is undoubtedly the French wine production industry’s crowning jewel.

Figures collected by Wine Cellar Insider indicate that Bordeaux is the most popular wine region in the world. It produces a staggering two billion euros-worth of wine per year – the equivalent of almost 450 million bottles! This means that Bordeaux produces roughly 39 million cases of its famous red wine per annum, such as the Chateau Lafleur 1990, which you can buy from the Ideal Wine Company.

Le Pressoir d’Argent

As such, it’s no surprise that celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay recently decided to open a new restaurant in Bordeaux. Called Le Pressoir d’Argent, it’s located in the in the five-star Grand Hotel de Bordeaux Hotel and Spa, and features a wine list mainly composed of classic Bordeaux vintages, according to the Daily Mail.

However he’s now revealed that Le Pressoir d’Argent’s wine list will also feature English sparkling wines. Apparently Gordon has started serving sparkling wines from Kent, Cornwall and Sussex in his restaurant. Noted vintages that already appear on the list include Gusbourne Estate from Kent, Ridgeview from Sussex and Coates & Seely from Hampshire.

Wine epicentre

Speaking to Decanter, the celebrity chef explained: “We are working with several local winemakers, but it’s hard to single out a particular growth or wine – this is an oasis of magical growers that can’t be matched anywhere in the world.

“My objective is to have the wine to become our epicentre. The wine list will be mainly from Bordeaux, but we have gone outside the region also. And we had to include English sparkling wine. We haven’t had a riot yet.” Maybe not Gordon, but you’ve decided to feature English wine in Bordeaux of all places – who comes to Bordeaux to sample a vintage they can get back home!

Try a Bordeaux

At least Ramsay’s planning to take advantage of his fantastic location and feature Bordeauxs on the wine list at Le Pressoir d’Argent. If you want to see why we’re so relieved by that, why don’t you buy the Chateau Austone 1988 from the Ideal Wine Company, so you can sample a fantastic Bordeaux today!

 

Which Wines Need to Breathe?

If you leave a wine to breathe you could improve its quality, but there are some wines you should drink the minute you open them up. This is why Ideal Wine Company has decided to ask; which wines need to breathe?

Benefits of aeration

When we say that we’re letting a wine “breathe,” we’re not saying that we’re letting it breath the same way a human being does. Rather, we’re saying that we’ve opened its cork and exposed it to the air in a process called ‘aeration.’

Conventional wisdom holds that aerating a wine makes it taste better, and the people who first came up with this theory had a point. When some wines are exposed to oxygen, they release the array of flavours and aromas that are locked within their depths, allowing them to become more “expressive.”

Importance of tannins

This is because some wines contain ‘tannins.’ A tannin is a naturally occurring polyphenol found in grape skin and wood. It lends a bitter, acidic character to wine, that can make your favourite tipple taste far too harsh if you drink it after you’ve just opened the bottle.

Tannins soften when they’re exposed to air, and this is the reason we’re talking about them. It means that tannin-rich wines such as hearty reds, especially younger bottles such as the Two Hands Deer in Headlights 2004, which you can buy from the Ideal Wine Company, need to be allowed to breathe.

In contrast, you don’t need to let white wines and Champagnes breathe before serving. You definitely shouldn’t allow Champagnes to breathe because they’ll go flat, and no one likes flat bubbly. However, if a white wine has been aged for a significant amount of time in a wooden barrel it may contain tannins which means it should be aerated before it’s served.

Decanting

However, if you open up a bottle of red and just leave it to aerate you’re not really doing it right. This is because the bottle of the neck is narrow, so you only expose the wine to a surface area that’s roughly the size of a penny, meaning that the vintage won’t receive the air it needs to breathe.

If you want to maximise your vintage’s ability to breathe, you need to pour it into a decanter. This allows your red to take a deep breath, and gives it the time it needs to filter out the sediment that can build up as a result of the wine making process. This is why you really need to learn how to use a decanter.

Rule of thumb

Take this as a rule of thumb. If you’ve decided to buy a Krug 1988 from the Ideal Wine Company, whatever you do, don’t let it breathe. However, if you’ve decided to purchase a Hermitage La Chapelle 1985, you should let it aerate, as red wines need to be allowed to breathe before they’re served.

How to Read a Wine Label

A wine label can tell you everything you need to know about your luxury vintage. With this in mind, this week the Ideal Wine Company explains how to read a wine label.

Assess your vintage

Here at the Ideal Wine Company, we would say that our Hermitage La Chapelle 1985 is a fantastic example of a classic red wine. It’s a structured, intriguing vintage which boasts subtle notes of ground coffee, and light aromas of truffle and cherry fruit.

Yet we truly believe that as a consumer, you need to assess the quality of any vintage, including the Hermitage La Chappelle 1985, before you add it to your wine collection. This is why you need to know how to be able to read a wine label. These labels, especially on French vintages, contain all the information you need to assess the quality of a bottle of fine wine.

Five label reading tips

However, the average wine label holds a lot of information, which pieces do you need to read to assess the quality of a bottle of wine? Here are five tips that’ll help you read the label:

  • Know the grapes: Different grapes have different qualities. If you look at the grapes, you’ll be able to determine how the vintage should taste, as well as whether it’s a blend. We’d suggest that you do your research so you can determine which varieties of grape you prefer.

 

  • Check the vintage: If a vineyard produces one pinot noir in 1985, and another in 1995, chances are they won’t taste the same because they’ve been exposed to different growing conditions. If you check the vintage of the bottle when you read the label, you can determine whether your bottle was produced in one of the vineyard’s better years.

 

  • Think about alcohol content: It’s absolutely vital that you check the alcohol content if you’re buying the wine for a dinner party. If a wine’s alcohol content is 16% or more, it shouldn’t be paired with food, as it can prove too overpowering and damage the flavour of your lovingly prepared dish.

 

  • Don’t be fooled by reserve: The Ideal Wine Company has previously explained that there are certain differences between old and new world wines. They use the word ‘reserve’ on labels in different ways. In the old world, reserve refers to a superior vintage, whilst in the new world it’s often meaningless!

 

  • Learn about the region: There’s a reason that it’s common practise to refer to wines by their region of origin on labels. The region has a big impact on the quality of the vintage. If you check the region when you read the label you can learn about the wine’s growing conditions, development techniques, and traditions which have shaped its production and so much more.

 

Read the label

At the end of the day, you should never take somebody’s word for it. We would always advise you to read a wine’s label before you buy it. This way you can use the information on the label to determine whether this is the type of wine you want to serve at your next dinner party, or store in your ever-growing wine collection!