Monday, May 11, 2009

Still wise to Invest in wine?

Hong Kong - When James Christie held his first auction in 1776. Bottled of wine were among the lots to go under the hammer. Even then, wine was more than just an accompaniment to fine food- it was a liquid asset.
More than 200 years later, it's a view shared by many Asian investors, particularly in Hong Kong where collectors are believed to own around 1 million cases of rare or fine wines, or as much as 15-20 per cent of the world's total.
In May 2008, an auction by US company Acker Merrall & Condit fetched 8.25 million US dollars, at the time the highest total for any wine auction ever held in Asia.
Interest boomed and it seemed everybody was talking about wine as the safe haven for savings as the world headed for recession. It was hailed as a liquid asset in all senses of the word and one with the advantage of historically being weakly correlated to other markets such as stock, shares and property.
But the past few months have shown that even wine is not quite as immune to economic forces as those selling would have us believe. In October 2008, the market finally succumbed to the pressure with the Liv-ex, the leading fine wine exchange, recording its largest monthly fall since the index was first calculated in 2001, dropping by 12.4 per cent. Sales were also down.
Even Bordeaux, the wine considered to be the safest and most stable in price, took a tumble to drop 25 per cent from a peak in August. In November 2008, the Liv-ex fell again by 5.5 per cent, making it 11.9 per cent down since November 2007.
Analysts blamed the declines on city investors seeking to cash in on profits accumulated over the last year to compensate for heavy losses on the stock market. As I would like to point out: 'If you're a financial high-flier with huge financial commitments and you've just lost your job, what are you going to sell, your house? Or your wine?'
In the same month, Acker Merrall & Condit's second Hong Kong sale realised 52 million Hong Kong dollars - an 18 per cent fall on its first Hong Kong auction in May.
Those involved in the sales are more optimistic and point to the fact in the long-term wine has always proved its worth gaining on average 12 per annum in value and that it has bounced back after similar falls in past recessions, including the Asian financial crisis of 1997.
They point to the Liv-ex statistics for November showing the index to be 12.6 per cent down year to date - but much less that the year-on-year fall of 33 per cent for the FTSE 100, 43 per cent drop for the Nikkei 225, and as much as 60 per cent for Hong Kong's benchmark index the Hang Seng from its peak in October 2007.
The world has proven historically that things go down a little bit but they always come back higher than ever before and I think the smart buyers know that.
Wine has always held its value. In my fifteen years of business it has only gone one way and that is up. Given that fact, I think it is always going to hold its own and it's just a question of buying from the right producers and the right vintages.
By the right producers' I am referring to well established producers - the favourite being French Bordeaux and names like Château Mouton Rothschild, Château Lafite Rothschild, Chateau Latour and Château Margaux.
The reason why Bordeaux is such a good investment is all down to the simple economics of supply and demand.

The supply of these wines is finite and strictly controlled by the EU and the French government, these châteaux which we call 1st Growth Châteaux are not allowed to produce even one additional bottle from the quota they are given.
On the other hand demand has grown exponentially. The market has boomed in Asia. Demand has grown to be worldwide but the supply can't be increased, so that is why you see exponential increase in appreciation.
As the years go by that supply decreases - a bad harvest produces a low quota, wine gets drunk or damaged - but demand remains stable and even grows, pushing up prices by around 12 per cent per annum, at conservative estimate.
A report in the Financial Times Wine Investment Supplement in May this year claimed there had not been a five-year period during the past 20 years where fine wine would have yielded a negative return.
The optimism is shared by Anthony Hanson, senior consultant with Christie's wine department, who believes, despite risks, fine wine remains a good investment option with the recent depreciation making it a buyers' market.
The market has softened but there is still strong demand for these top bottles. The best wines are selling still selling really well.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

For Love or Money

When you decide to invest in wine collecting, the first decision you have to make is whether you are investing for the love of certain wines, to make money, or a combination of both.

Stock market volatility brought on by the current economic climate means that many investors’ confidence in the financial markets is at an all time low. As a result, investors are looking at smarter ways to invest – perhaps through commodity based investments such as fine wine – either as a direct investor or within the boundaries of a fund. Fine wines are now a proven, tax efficient asset class (wine is typically treated as a wasting asset and is therefore exempt from capital gains tax) that has outperformed the FTSE in the last 25 years and dramatically in the past 10 months.

Fine Wine is an established form of alternative investment that can offer impressive returns. The wine market is based upon simple supply and demand economics. Bordeaux has the most stable financial market of all wine producing regions, while in each decade only 3-4 vintages out of every 10 have wines of a high enough quality for investment purposes. A chateau can only produce a unique and finite amount of wine each year. As this is happening the wine is maturing and becoming more desirable, which leads to an increase in demand.

With decreasing availability, comes increasing rarity. In a nutshell, the trouble in the major investment markets makes it an opportune time for investors seeking to diversify their portfolios, to invest in this highly specialist, tried and tested alternative format. The product of wine has extra appeal as an asset class, as wine is classed as a wasting asset and is therefore not liable for capital gains tax. Krunch is already managing a number of funds, while talking to others about the fund he anticipate launching in the new year.

Investing in wine can be a risky proposition, but if you weigh all the costs associated and are prepared to drink what you don't sell, it can be a fun and savvy investment vehicle. Plus, if you fail to pick a winner, you can always toast your loss.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Daily Wine Storage

"Cellaring" wine - keeping it for long-term storage - is not a widespread practice among the current American wine-drinking public. Following a couple of simple rules is the key to keeping wine longer than a week or two.

Understand that wine has three enemies: light, heat and lack of humidity.

Keep bottles out of direct sunlight (in a box or closet, for example) if storing for more than a week or two. Prolonged exposure to light can alter the chemical structure of a wine. Wine bottles, especially for red wine are made from dark glass for this reason. Yet dark glass alone is not enough to keep a wine in its original condition for very long.

Realize that heat is probably worse for wine than light. Wine can easily start to taste cooked after just a few weeks at higher temperatures. Store wine in the coolest spot in your home. If you live in an area where summer temperatures exceed 80 degrees, you should keep your air conditioning set to a minimum temperature of 73 degrees. An alternative to high utility bills during the hot months is to buy a wine cooler that can handle the amount of wine you keep around the house about 36 bottles or if you have more think about keeping your wine at a storage facility. This might seem like a strange idea, but you might be pleasantly surprised to find out how inexpensive these facilities can be. Storing wine directly over or alongside a refrigerator (as a lot of people do) is actually the worst place to store wine.

Consider lack of humidity. If you let a wine bottle stand vertically too long, the cork will shrink enough to allow air into the bottle, oxidizing the wine. As long as the wine is in contact with its cork (by leaning the bottle at a minimum 45-degree angle or up side-down) it is safe. However, realize that exposure to extreme levels of humidity can cause a cork to mold.

The longest-lived wines are kept in subterranean caves that have fairly high humidity and a constant temperature of roughly 50 degrees.

A wine must have the right characteristics to enable it to improve with bottle age. The three most important characteristics, in no particular order, are tannin, sugar and acid. Both red and white wines can have one or more of these characteristics, but red wines generally improve more from aging.

You may have noticed that a lot of sauvignon blanc bottles are made of clear glass. This is because few, if any, sauvignon blancs are made to be aged.

So drink to your health and enjoy the company that wine will bring to you.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Master Sommelier or “Wine GEEKS”?

Do you have a taste for rich food and enjoy playing culinary roulette? In these troubled times, a position has arisen in the royal house to be the majesty's official food taster or better known as a Sommelier. You never know when some wretched rascal is going to have a pop at the king or queen and slip something nasty into a dainty dish, so your job is to taste everything before it crosses the royal lips.
A sip of soup here, a smidgen of pie there, taste some of the best wine in the world, there's no end to the delights that await your taste buds. Of course, you won't actually get to eat any complete dishes, and there's always the chance that you'll crash to the floor clutching you throat as, with your last gasps, you slip off this mortal coil. But the money is fantastic and better than that – you'll be protecting the queen!
Now, the job of a sommelier was not only to taste to assure it was safe to eat and drink, but also to make sure it was to the taste satisfaction of the royal family. As time evolved the job description has changed and sommeliers were requested in the hospitality industries to pair the chef’s food with the wine of the cellar.
Sommeliers were required to have a great vast knowledge of wine, spirits, cheese, spices, and etiquettes.

Some of the older secret wine society of Europe still carry these values, But in 1977 a marketing group that wanted to tap in to the Restaurant and Hotel industry, formed a group called “Court of Master Sommelier”. This “Court” is for anyone to join and take the “test” for a fee. They pay to play in the hospitality industry to manage a “Profitable” beverage list for their employer.

The CMS, does have a rigorous test in the “book” knowledge of wine, as in any profession you can go to college and learn thru the books. Or you can get hands on training. The CMS ask that you have at least 3 years in the “wine services”. Now I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I want a wine pairing advice from a wine stocker of a wine store, or from a wine salesman from a distributor, (they may know their portfolio very well, but I want a larger option, and I want to pair them with food).
The TRUE art of a sommelier is lost with the CMS and their marketing propaganda. They are the most recognized group in the Sommelier profession due to the large advertising, but so is NIKE in the sneaker business, but does that make them the best shoes?

A ligament Sommelier is picked to join because he or she posses a higher than normal taste palette and can distinguish the flavors and spices that comes with pairing wine with food. A Sommelier will match the best wine to compliment your food, not the profit of the restaurant. There are some wines at $15 that pair better than a $45, but don’t tell that to a “MS”.
A true sommelier works for the client, to make sure they get the best taste experience offered, profit is the last thing on a true sommelier mind.

These MS get on restaurant groups that have 5 or more restaurants under their umbrella and they have the same wine list at each restaurant. The food may be different but the wine is the same. They do this to get the “case” discount to maximize the bottom line and you get stuck drinking the same old, same old. This is what they have learned from working in the shipping department of the wine stores before paying the fee to enter the CMS program.

So the next time you go to a restaurant and ask for the advise of the sommelier whom is a member of the Court of Master Sommelier, ask your self, did this person ever have the dish I order with the wine he just recommended? Or did he just recommend a wine that will help him meet his end of month bottom line?

Monday, March 30, 2009

Ketchup or Glaze?

Over the weekend, we invited some friends over for dinner. As I am always the "Teacher" I asked our guest to bring the wine, I advised them that I was cooking "Italian Style Roast Beef". Leaving the wine selection to my guest. I returned back to preparing dinner,I seasoned the roast with garlic powder and salt and pepper. Place in a slow cooker,added mushrooms and onion,combine seasoning mix and tomato sauce,poured it over all. Cover and cook on low 8-10 hours. To thicken the gravy, I made a paste of melted butter and flour,added tomato paste, then stirred in some meat drippings from the bottom of Crock Pot. Covered and cook on high until thickened.

Waiting with anticipation to see which wine my guest was pairing my dinner with, finally came 10 min. later when they arrived on time.
Handing me the wine bag,I dug my hand in and wrapped it around the bottle. What I pulled out was a 2000 Joseph Phelps Insignia.

Now, in my friends defense I have to say he does know that this is one of my favorite wines, But What I asked he to bring was a wine for dinner.

So, to teach my guest a life long lesson, I went down into my cellar and pulled out a 2001 OBERTO BARBERA D'ALBA GIADA with it's classic cherry pie, hint of cedar, black currant & vanilla nose and it's very silky, covers & coats entire palate, nice blackberry, cedar box, massive flavor.
I set the table and included 2 wine glasses, on the right I poured the Joseph Phelps and on the left I poured the Oberto. Not telling my guest which was which we sat down to dinner and I let the good times roll.

The conversation of today's politic and economics carried to the table. As I cut the roast and served everyone a slice. We started eating and making small talk,then something happened,someone said out loud how great the dinner tasted and how good the wine on the left complements it. I let this stir for a min. or two, everyone was tasting the meal with the wine on the right and the wine on the left. By a margin of 6 to 0 the Oberto Barbera won.

I confessed to my guest that I have chosen a second wine. I wanted them to taste and understand that even though Joseph Phelps is a great wine it is NOT a dinner wine. The same can be made with most California wines, while they are good to drink on their own, the 90+ points they receive is not relative when matching with food.Too big of a wine and you just poured Ketchup over your dinner.

The right wine is the one that compliments the time and love put into the meal. The meal is the physical love that the wife put out for the guest to eat, the wine is the love the man set out to show is participation in the love, Together they show how each one goes together hand in hand.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Investing in Wine

“Let’s face it, in a worst-case scenario, you can literally drink your investment into oblivion”

Up 522% in the last 10 years

If you’ve never given thought to investing in wine, just look at a recent issue of Global Mutual Fund Investor. My friend Eric Roseman points out that First Growth Bordeaux wine (1990 vintage) has risen by 522% over the last 10 years, beating out stocks.

Roseman says, “Some of the world’s finer vintages have severely outpaced the S&P 500 Index - especially from 2000 to 2002 when the American broader market crashed 40%. Wine truly has no correlation whatsoever to the S&P 500 Index and offers key asset allocation diversification as an investment“

According to “The world’s most expensive bottle of wine that could actually be drunk today is also the most expensive wine ever sold in America, a Montrachet 1978 from Domaine de la RomanÃe-Conti that was hammered down at Sotheby’s in New York in 2001. The lot of seven bottles fetched $167,500, or $23,929 per bottle.”

The NYSE of the Wine Investing World

The wine investing market is actually developing into a “pseudo stock exchange” for finer vintages, Roseman says. For example, “The offers secure trading in fine wine to international buyers and sellers on a real-time, first-come, first-served basis.”

There’s actually a wine price “ticker” running across the bottom of the web page.

The wine investors themselves don’t see wine investing as a joke at all They see a supply of fine wines from good years constantly shrinking pushing prices ever higher. It’s Economics 101, they say - supply is falling while demand is increasing.

If you’re into wines, you may get a kick out of a few web sites that are out there

* The site offers its Fine Wine Tracker, which allows you to chart wine prices just like stock prices, going back to 1978.
* The site points out some of the big risks and pitfalls.
* offers the positive case.
* And there’s even a wine fund:

Good investing (or, if it doesn’t work out, drowning your sorrows).

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Fine Wine Investment Advice

There are two major reasons for fine wine investment:

* Firstly as an investment in future drinking - buying young wines at the initial release price which, when mature, would be considerably more expensive to buy.
* As a strictly financial investment - buying wines with the sole intention of reselling later for a profit.

For many people who keep a cellar, both factors will influence investment.

The global demand for fine wine, which is produced in very small quantities, has increased enormously over the last two decades. Wine can, and often has, outperformed the FTSE 100 and the Dow Jones, offering significant returns without the volatility of the stock market.
Wine Investment Essentials

* Focus on the top wines from the best vintages. Only a fraction of wines produced worldwide will increase with value if kept.
* Store the wine correctly and, preferably, in professional temperature-controlled cellars.
* If purchasing in Europe, buy and store wines 'under bond' so sales taxes do not become payable.