Nothing says class quite so well as being chased by police and attempting to evade your pursuers by bombarding them with Burgundy.
That was the situation in the village of Beaune this week, when a band of burglars broke into a hotel, the Domaine de Rymska Saint-Jean-de-Trézy and made off with $430,000 worth of fine Burgundy. Police soon picked up the scent and chased the robbers' van along a motorway, but they were pelted with bottles of the ill-gotten loot as they tried to stop the thieves.
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It's a funny story, but it underlines an undeniable truth – wine is now as big a target for thieves as the more traditional bank robberies, payroll heists or diamond capers of days gone by. In fact, the thieves (presumably the same ones) had broken into the same hotel a day previously and made off with $260,000 worth of wine.
The attraction of wines for thieves (and there have been organized gangs of them striking across Europe) and counterfeiters is not exactly new, but it is confirmation that canny criminals are coming to the same conclusions as financial investors – wine offers not just a good return but a secure and stable one. Music to an investor's ears in these turbulent times.
A report released recently by the global fine wine trading platform Liv-ex demonstrated that wine was a more stable investment than equities markets across 2020. While the equities indexes all plunged with the March pandemic panic – before recovering to various degrees – Liv-ex's wine index for the 100 most traded wines sailed serenely on, barely troubled by the lockdowns and restaurant closures. Only the S&P 500 beat its performance by year's end; in fact, only the S&P 500 and the Liv-ex 100 were in positive territory by November, compared to the FTSE, Hang Seng and the Dax indices.
Overall, the Liv-ex 100 index saw a rise of 4.65 percent for 2020.
Retail prices, as tracked here at Wine-Searcher, showed that wine is definitely a stable investment, even at relatively lower price points – you don't have to rip off a crack den to afford solid wine investments.
For our "most traded" wines (i.e. our most searched-for wines) the returns are modest but solid for 2020. The top10 wines – Dom Pérignon, Mouton, Lafite, Margaux, Petrus, Latour, Opus One, Sassicaia and DRC's Romanée-Conti Grand Cru – saw the global average retail price rise by an average of 3.77 percent for the year. That was primarily driven by Sassicaia's 8.12 percent increase, along with Dom Pérignon (up 6.5 percent) and Mouton (up 6.3 percent). Only DRC showed a fall, and that was a minuscule 0.2 percent.
Looking at our most expensive wines – where logic would dictate that there can't be too much more room left to rise – and the returns are even better.
The top wines, which are Leroy Musigny, DRC Romanée-Conti, Jayer Cros Parantoux, Egon Müller Scharzhofberger TBA, Roumier Musigny, Leflaive Montrachet, Leroy Chambertin, Graham's Ne Oublie Port and DRC's Montrachet, saw an average global retail price increase of 8.42 percent.
While two wines actually fell in value over 2020 – the aforementioned DRC by 0.2 percent and the Roumier Musigny by 0.46 percent – the gains were mostly driven by two wines. The Ne Oublie's global average retail price rose by a whopping 24 percent, while the Leroy Musigny managed a 21 percent increase. That's all-the-more impressive given that it was one of the world's most expensive wines already and it still managed to add another $4000 to its average price across the space of 12 months.
Now you might have read that list of the most expensive wines above and wondered why there are only nine of them. Well, that's a story in itself. Since we updated the list for the end of the year, a bolter has come from nowhere to sit right at the top of the price charts, thumbing its nose at the price giants of Burgundy and the Mosel.
Ladies and gentlemen, we have a new champion – weighing in at an average price of $56,978 I give you Dom Pérignon Rose Gold. This rosé Champagne (limited edition, naturally) comes in at a price that would get you 270 bottles of the "ordinary" Dom, but it does come in a metal case that has been dipped in rose gold, because you would, wouldn't you?
If prices keep appreciating like this, it looks like a lot more of us might have to turn to theft in order to get our hands on some of these wines.