Wine investment was traditionally the preserve of the wealthy, the aristocratic, or those with large country house cellars. The profits would subsidise future purchases and reduce the net cost of consumption. Recently, however, these profits have brought more investors into the market looking solely for capital growth.
Investment has been dominated by the Bordeaux First Growths (Premiers Crus Classés) and Right Bank equivalents, the second growths and a few other top properties, totalling no more than 30 or so names. These wines have a good track record of investment performance, in some cases going back centuries, and equally importantly, enough production to sustain a ‘liquid’ secondary market. Outside of Bordeaux, a small number of Burgundy domaines are traded widely, along with some select names from the Rhône Valley, Tuscany, Piedmont, California and some exceptional wines from other regions.
The rise of fine wine investing coincides with the popularity of American wine writer Robert Parker who rose to fame following his championing of the great 1982 Bordeaux vintage. His 100 point system brought perceived objectivity to wine buying and allowed for easy comparisons in value. Parker retired in 2016, but the publication he founded (now owned by Michelin) continues, with ‘Parker Points’ awarded by a number of critics writing it, including Lisa Perotti-Brown MW and William Kelley. Other critics such as James Suckling and Jeb Dunnuck have also entered the market, with Neal Martin (formerly Parker's representative in Bordeaux, now of Vinous.com) one of the most influential.