Throughout 2018, Italy made steady gains on the secondary market. In November, its share of trade by value broke a weekly record. This helped its monthly share to double on October. So far this year, its trade accounts for 7.9% of trade by value, contributing to the broader theme of a broadening market. If activity remains strong in December, the region might even replace Champagne as third most traded regional group, behind Bordeaux and Burgundy.
Over the past three years, the number of unique Italian wines traded on Liv-ex has increased by 129%. However, recent vintages continue to dominate: 2015 accounts for nearly a quarter of all Italian trade in the past year, followed by 2013 (17.4%) and 2010 (14.1%). Vintages pre-2005 represent just 3.2% of trade.
The Super Tuscans—Sassicaia, Solaia, Masseto, Ornellaia and Tignanello—have led trade by value. November’s star, Sassicaia 2015, has been the most active wine by value in the last 12 months. When it comes to volume, the top spot belongs to another wine from Tuscany, Altesino Brunello di Montalcino 2013. Sassicaia 2015 is in third place by volume. It is perhaps unsurprising that Tuscany has such a strong presence compared to other Italian regions: it produces a high volume of quality wine and is home to several strong brands.
Despite healthy trading, prices for Italy have been treading water on the whole: the Italy 100 is up just 1.6% over one year. While big names from Tuscany have driven trade, they have failed to push the index up. Within the Super Tuscans, only the Sassicaia and Tignanello indices have risen on last year, by 3.1% and 2.6% respectively. Solaia, Tignanello and Masseto have fallen.
Instead, wines from Piedmont have elevated the Italy 100. The Giacomo Conterno crown jewel, Barolo Riserva Montorfino, is the top performer from the North; its index rising by 92% over the past three years. The second Giacomo Conterno label—Cascina Francia—follows behind with a gain of 80.5%. (Because the index is volume weighted, these have a smaller impact that their Super Tuscan counterparts.)
Nebbiolo wines outside the index have also made steady gains. Following the death of the Barolo and Barbaresco producer Bruno Giacosa in early 2018, his label has been on the move, gaining 17.7% on average. His Barbaresco Asili Riserva 2004 has risen by 38.1%. Produttori del Barbaresco has also been moving up the gears in an otherwise steady market. The brand has gained 30.7% on last year, with Montefico Riserva 2011’s price rising by an impressive 145.5%. It last traded at £700 per 12x75.
Tuscany might steal the trading spotlight, but Piedmont is seeing the price movement. Investors might benefit from a diversified portfolio, for the south offers liquidity and acclaim, while the north attracts with relative scarcity and better returns. Italy has the best of both worlds.
Readers should take note that the views of this author represent those of a company with an interest in the wine trade. Liv-ex operates the global marketplace for fine wine. It offers trading, data and settlement services to professional buyers and sellers of fine wine. Private collectors can view Liv-ex prices and value their portfolios using Cellar Watch and find regular market analysis on the blog. The opinions of Liv-ex are their own and do not represent those of Robert Parker Wine Advocate or Wine Journal. Liv-ex contributes articles to Wine Journal that we feel are of market relevance to readers, but we do not specifically endorse this company.