2015 Bordeaux Futures: Worth Buying?

Posted by | Posted in Commentary | Posted on 07-14-2016

From Wikimedia.

From Wikimedia.

The excitement over the 2015 Bordeaux vintage is palpable. Early indications suggest that it is the best vintage since the superlative duo of 2009 and 2010. However, the quality of the 2015 vintage likely is not as high or as uniform as these prior years. The communes of Margaux, Pessac-Leognan and Pomerol appear to be the stars with the northern Medoc being of more variable quality due to late arriving rains.

The absence of a quality vintage for almost a half-decade has led to high expectations for the 2015 futures campaign. However, the stratospheric release price and subsequent poor investment performance associated with the 2009, 2010 and 2011 vintages have caused many to view the Bordeaux futures system with skepticism. Therefore, before we get too seduced by the hype surrounding this new vintage, we should consider whether the current price of these wines make them a compelling value proposition at this juncture.

When analyzing any futures offering for a specific wine, I ask the following three questions:

  1. Is this a wine worth purchasing based on my prior experience with previous vintages and/or its initial description and critical rating? Basically, is this a wine I really want to own?
  2. Is this a wine that is made in such limited quantities that I would need to purchase it via futures to obtain an allocation? Think Le Pin, Ausone, Lafleur, Hosanna, etc.
  3. What is the relative value of this wine compared to the most recent similar quality in-bottle vintage? Put another way, is the current futures price of the wine at least 20% below the lowest current retail price of the most recent similar quality in-bottle vintage? As an aside, I use 20% as a threshold because I feel that it is the minimum discount needed to justify the time-value of money and counterparty default risks associated with buying a wine two years before it is delivered. For example, if I can earn at least 5% per year by investing in stocks and bonds and I want at least a 10% discount to cover the risk that the merchant may not actually deliver the wine when promised, my minimum discount is 20%. I also feel that this discount is sufficient to justify purchasing a wine that has not yet received a final in-bottle rating.

If I can answer question #1 and either question #2 or #3 in the affirmative, I will consider purchasing the wine via futures. However, as you may have guessed, the most important questions is #3. Why? Because it is the only question that deals with monetary value and risk. Moreover, it is the only criteria that can be used as a litmus test to determine the relative value of a specific futures offering for an entire vintage, not just a specific wine.

Now that you understand how I generally analyze a futures offering, let’s look at the 2015 futures campaign to see if it passes muster. Read the rest of this entry »

Daily Wine News: Rise of Spätburgunder

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 07-14-2016

Pinot Noir/Spätburgunder. (Source: Wines of Germany)

Pinot Noir/Spätburgunder. (Source: Wines of Germany)

In Bloomberg, Elin McCoy is “blown away” by German Pinot Noir aka spätburgunder, and their “rose petal and spice aromas, cool minerality, silky textures, and unique savory flavors. (Those are the kind of wine words I usually reserve for the Cote d’Or.)”

Bertrand Celce shares photos that show the impact of herbicide on soils in French wine regions.

In Meininger’s, Panos Kakaviatos tracks the development of the Champagne region and how perceptions are changing.

Steve Heimoff is glad he never joined the bandwagon of protest against California Cabernet Sauvignon. “They claimed Napa Cabs were too much of everything: too ripe, too oaky, too alcoholic, too extracted. I never could quite understand what they were talking about.”

In Wine Spectator, James Molesworth profiles Fred Merwarth, owner and winemaker at Hermann J. Wiemer in the Finger Lakes.

Paul Draper talks to Decanter about his recently announced retirement.

Wine aged in a whiskey barrel? The Chicago Tribune’s Michael Austin tastes several wines that are part of an unusual trend.

In Wine Business, Liz Thach looks at the Scottish wine industry, and explores the major types of wineries in Scotland.

In the Wall Street Journal, Lettie Teague is impressed by the all-American wine list of the newly opened Nordic restaurant, Agern, located in Grand Central Terminal and owned by Claus Meyer.

Daily Wine News: En Rama, Etc.

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 07-13-2016

Sherry cask with glassed-side to see interior. (Wikimedia)

Sherry cask with glassed-side to see interior. (Wikimedia)

In Punch, Jon Bonné looks at sherry’s en rama resurgence. “En rama is basically as close as you can get to tasting sherry as it tastes from the cask… a willful decision by the Jerezanos to return to an earlier way of doing things: a rejection of progress for the sake of progress.”

Duane Wollmuth, executive director of the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance, died Monday after suffering a heart attack. He was 60.

In Grape Collective, Monty Waldin reacts to Stuart Pigott’s critique of “hipster” sommelier culture, and offers his thoughts on how he thinks “the whole natural scene as relating to somms could be improved.”

Barolo’s Vietti Winery has been sold to the Kyle Krause, president and CEO of Krause Holdings, Inc., reports Wine Spectator. Luca Currado will remain as CEO of the new company. Tyler Colman reflects on the Vietti deal.

On the blog for First Vine, Tom Natan considers the flaws of restaurant cookbooks, and finds where they fall short in terms of wine information.

Mike Veseth, the wine economist, offers up a mid-year report on the wine industry, and explains what he sees as risks for the rest of the year.

In Wine-Searcher, W. Blake Gray reports on Napa’s 2016 growing season, which has gone better than France’s.

Daily Wine News: Rosé Resisters

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 07-12-2016

Various shades of rosé. (Source: Wikimedia)

Shades of rosé. (Source: Wikimedia)

In Wine Spectator, Robert Camuto profiles Eric de Saint Victor, who is part of Provence’s “smaller school of winemakers—let’s call them rosé resisters—who are bucking the trend by making darker, more substantial and complex rosés.”

A professor at Iowa State University has developed a “micro winery” capable of producing wine within one hour to better help quickly test different fermentation methods and yeast strains.

According to figures just released by the Wine Institute, sales of California’s wines to all markets, both domestic and international, increased by 276 million cases last year.

W. Blake Gray voyages through the new Lewis-Clark Valley AVA, and discovers a fascination with Idaho wines. “The climate and soils are, in many places, similar to Washington wine country: conducive to good grape growing… There’s little wine culture yet, but it’s one of the most promising states for the future.”

VinePair profiles the Croatian winemaker Ivo Vodopíc, and looks at Croatia’s post-communist wine industry.

Alfonso Cevola reflects on old memories and remembers why he got into the wine business.

Steve Heimoff wonders what the right amount of growth for wine country looks like.

Patrick Ogle talks with Michael Heny, winemaker at Horton Vineyards in Virginia, about the state’s winemaking history and challenges winemakers in Virginia encounter.

Daily Wine News: Land Protection

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 07-11-2016

Oak tree removal by Justin Winery.

Oak tree removal by Justin Winery.

Esther Mobley considers the impact of the Justin Winery tree removal controversy in Paso Robles in the San Francisco Chronicle. “At the heart of Napa’s dilemma, now in messy post-pubescence, and Paso’s own problem, still in its infancy, is this: The land gets protected because it is valuable. But the more valuable it gets, the greater the financial temptations are to develop it.”

In the Washington Post, Dave McIntyre visits Bollinger’s recently unveiled Galerie 1829, a wine library that showcases older wines that span the house’s history.

Harvey Steiman looks at different interpretations of balance and acidity’s role in it in Wine Spectator.

In Decanter, Andrew Jefford experiences central Napa through Bordeaux eyes.

Tim Atkin explores what Brexit would mean for the wine business, and urges elected representatives to reconsider the decision about EU membership.

In Wine-Searcher, Liza B. Zimmerman looks at what some wineries are focusing on in order to attract and keep wine club members

Jancis Robinson reflects on the 40th anniversary of the Judgment of Paris.

Kerin O’Keefe sings praise for Italy’s great pinot grigios in Wine Enthusiast.

In the Seattle Times, Andy Perdue features Champion Wine Cellars, Seattle’s oldest wine shop, which opened in 1969.

Wine Reviews: Italian Grab Bag

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 07-09-2016

Recently, I’ve received a handful of wines from all over Italy, hence this catch-all report. This batch included some solid and relatively inexpensive whites and a kicking Brunello from Gaja. These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted. Read the rest of this entry »

Daily Wine News: Etna & Rainbows

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 07-08-2016

Etna

Etna

“For anybody making wine on Etna, the promise of the volcano far outweighs the threat… At best, nobody is really sure yet how good they can be.” In the New York Times, Eric Asimov on the resilient winemakers on Mount Etna.

“Today, most of us can comprehend that something as important as gender exists on a broad spectrum. Why is it so hard to do the same with wine?” In Punch, Jon Bonné explains why it’s important to see the wine world beyond just red or white, and how to embrace the rainbow by drinking it.

In Decanter, Jane Anson reports from Ile de la Lande, “the site of one of the last few secrets of Bordeaux viticulture – a tiny island paradise where Smith Haut Lafitte is trying to square the circle.”

Jess Lander takes the Napa Valley Wine Train’s new Quattro Vino tour and reports on the experience in the Napa Valley Register.

In Food & Wine, Anthony Giglio advising which wines not to order in a restaurant.

Wine Spectator reports on the 2016 vintage in South Africa, “one of the wildest growing seasons in South Africa’s wine history, thanks to torrid heat and record drought.”

In Wine-Searcher, Caroline Henry looks at how a looming ban on the use of the popular herbicide, glyphosate is impacting viticulture in France.

In Eater, wine director Dominique Henderson considers umami flavors in wine.

Daily Wine News: Changes & Challenges

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 07-07-2016

Vinkara vineyards in Turkey. (Source: Wines of Turkey)

Vinkara vineyards in Turkey. (Source: Wines of Turkey)

In Wine-Searcher, Christy Canterbury considers the two challenges that Turkey’s wine industry faces today. “One is explicit – the government; the other, causal – terrorism.”

RH Drexel is once again the owner and publisher of Loam Baby, and has shared a feature of husbands Jamie Gluck and John Wentworth of Bell Street Farm in Los Alamos.

Sports Illustrated looks at how former quarterbacks like Drew Bledsoe and Rick Mirer are making a second career in the wine business.

In Purple Pages, Julia Harding covers all the changes occurring on Austrian wine labels and with appellations.

Does BPA endanger wine drinkers? According to Wines & Vines, we don’t have too much to worry about.

“With the EU urging Britain to leave its ranks quickly, it is not known how much time the English wine industry, on the march for international respectability and wine store shelf space, has left to steel itself from any further aftershocks from the Brexit earthquake,” writes Gary Thomas in Palate Press.

Susan Kostrzewa says “Assyrtiko is poised to take its place among the great whites of the world” in Wine Enthusiast.

With news of Paul Draper’s retirement, Antonio Galloni reflects on a vertical tasting of Ridge Monte Bello from 1968-2012 in Vinous.

In the Wall Street Journal, Lettie Teague finds that not all albariño wines are too memorable.

Daily Wine News: International Style

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 07-06-2016

Vineyards at Recanati winery in Israel.

Vineyards at Recanati winery in Israel.

“What wasn’t foreseen by those who feared the international style was that far from oppressing and stultifying ambitious producers, especially those from locations where the wines were once rustic and unpromising, the very demands of wine modernity exemplified by the international style catapulted these previously (and often deservingly) obscure wines to new and admiring attention.” In Wine Spectator, Matt Kramer is “grateful to the international style” for improving the wines of the Canary Islands.

Aaron Menenberg makes a case for revisiting Israeli wine, delving into the history of winemaking in what is now the State of Israel, and offering tips for which wines to try.

How much did wineries really make in 2015? Rob McMillan delves into the data to find out.

Laura Ness talks with several top somms to better understand what goes through the mind of a sommelier when putting a wine list together.

In the Los Angeles Times, Patrick Comiskey is enamored with Roussanne from California.

Victor de la Serna of Finca Sandoval talks to Wine-Searcher about shaking off bureaucracy, indigenous grapes, and improving Spain’s wines.

In Palate Press, Elisabetta Tosi looks to Southern Italy for her selections of summer wines.

In the Wall Street Journal, Lettie Teague profiles Aaron Thorp, a sommelier who just came out of retirement for the opportunity to work with the Paris-based chef, Daniel Rose.

Bon Appétit’s wine columnist, Marissa A. Ross thinks you should be serving more magnums.

Daily Wine News: Feuding Over Natural

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 07-05-2016

Blending wines at Viniv (Source: Viniv)

Blending wines at Viniv. (Source: Viniv)

Stuart Pigott writes a part 3 of his “The Rise of the Hipster Somm” series of pieces in Grape Collective, in which he claims natural wines “were made with the hipster somms in mind.”

Rachel Signer pens a brief response to Pigott’s series, finding issue with several of his published opinions. “Pigott, clearly, is not a believer in natural wines…For Pigott to imply that sommeliers are undertrained and lazy… is one kind of assault. But to say that natural winemakers themselves are lazy is not only an attack on hardworking, serious farmers and artisans—it is also completely ignorant.”

“It sounds a bit like Build-a-Bear for oenophiles…” In the New York Times, Alessandra Stanley on Viniv, a company in Bordeaux that helps clients create their own custom blends.

In Le Pan, Guy Woodward profiles Château Haut-Brion’s Prince Robert of Luxembourg and tells the story of the estate.

Vatican City, with a population of just 842 people, has the highest per capita wine consumption in the world, according to the California Wine Institute. The Daily Beast says it has nothing to do with holy mass.

In an effort to “skew its brand portfolio to the upper end of the market,” Treasury Wine Estates announces it is selling 12 of its US “commercial” wine brands.

According to Decanter, Chablis prices are set to rise as weather has already cut the 2016 harvest by as much as 50%.

Lettie Teague considers the pros and cons of biking through Napa Valley in the Wall Street Journal.

Alfonso Cevola shares what he loves — and what he hates — about Sicily.

In the Washington Post, Dave McIntyre sings praise for Ao Yun, a $300 red wine produced near Shangri-La in remote southwestern China.