The Value of a 99
The 100 point rating system, pioneered by Robert Parker, led to a mythical status being afforded to a handful of wines given the full 100 point score by the famous wine critic. These wines are inherently more valuable than their lower-scoring peers and, as Robert Parker has ceased to rate Bordeaux en primeur, these wines will appear more legendary as time goes on, as supply diminishes and as demand increases.
A positive or negative rating by Parker could, famously, make or break a wine, and the market which had become inexorably linked to his ratings would invariably reflect his opinion, with prices soaring or crashing.
At Finewineinvestment.com, we only select wines for clients’ portfolios which are approved by our in-house data algorithm tool. The majority of these wines are 100-point wines from the very best recent vintages (2005, 2009, 2010), but as the Liv-Ex Fine Wine 100 index continues to soar, there is increasingly value to be had at lower entry levels: from the second wines of the first growths, to good but not great vintages, to wines rated 93, 94 and 95 points.
So what then of the 99-pointers, the wines that so nearly achieved immortality among st oenophiles. Is there value there, are they overpriced or are they a rich vein of investment potential?
The table below shows a selection of Chateaux which have produced both a 100 and a 99 point rated wine (by Robert Parker) since the year 2000 and how those wines have performed in the two and five years since release, plus overall performance to date.
First Growth problems
Driven by increasing demand and inflation from the Asian market, which snapped up 100 point wines by the container ship-load, Haut Brion 2005 saw exceptional returns in its first two years since release but was hit badly, as were all the First Growths, once the financial market collapsed, meaning a 57% overall increase since its 2006 release, which is increasing fast as the market continues its strong recovery.
Compare then the lesser-rated 99 point 2000 offering from Haut Brion, five years earlier: after appreciating modestly it has slowly and consistently grown in value, shrugging off the financial crash to post a respectable 185% return on investment, three times the performance of its 100 point, 2005 stablemate although some of this can be put down to longer time on the market as a physical asset. In the last 12 months, the 2000 has appreciated by 21% whilst the 2005 has increased by 20%. First Growth’s are always in demand, and it would appear that the overall difference in performance between a 99 and a 100 point offering is negligible.
A tale of two St Émilions
Pape Clement’s 100 and 99 point offerings are more closely matched, posting 46% and 50% increases in the first two years since their respective releases, whilst the 99 point 2005 was hit along with the rest of the market by the financial crash it has since recovered and shows a strong 60% ROI, though not nearly as impressive as its 100 point stablemate which returned 80% on investment. The results are a little muddy here, as the 2005 has had to recover from the financial crash and has rallied to post similar percentage increases in the last two years to the 100 point 2010. The graph below demonstrates how consistent and resilient the 99 point 2005 has been, showing that it does indeed offer value.
Cheval Blanc, whose 100 point 2010 and 99 point 2009 offerings have both wildly underperformed after being overpriced offer a similar narrative. In its first five years, the 99 point wine depreciated consistently less than the 100 point, demonstrating a modest loss of 11% since release. However, in the last two years (as the graph below demonstrates) the 2010 has started to accelerate and is outperforming its brother. The St Émilions demonstrate that whilst a 99 point wine is less volatile that a 100 pointer, the wines with full marks tend to perform well in the medium to long term.
Montrose has produced two 100 point wines in recent years: 2009 & 2010. In comparison to its 99 point brother from 2003, the 100 point 2009 performs better in the short term. However, in the last two years performance has narrowed between the two, with the 99 pointer performing best in the last 12 months.
What the graph also shows is, yet again, how relatively consistent the 99 point offering is over the longer term, suggesting market stability that the hyped up 100 pointers cannot match.
can occasionallyMy analysis barely scratches the detailed surface of the differences in performance between 99 and 100 point-rated wines. However, in most cases, the 99 point wines offer stability and are less prone to market-related drops than their 100 point cousins, which be more volatile. However, the evidence is very clear than in the long term (and remember that fine wine as an asset is a medium to long term investment), 100 point wines rise to the occasion, batting away market fluctuations. The headline for the 99 pointers is that they perform nearly as well (and in some cases better) and so, assuming that they meet other criteria like liquidity and production levels, they absolutely merit consideration for inclusion in fine wine portfolios.
At finewineinvestment.com we consider a range of data when building tailored fine wine portfolios for our clients, as well as market trends and historical data. To receive a portfolio proposal, with no obligation, enter your details on our become a client page.