Final Thought: The Changing Face of the Rhône

  • Anthony Maxwell, Liv-ex Director

  • 25 Nov 2019 | News & Views

A year since our last update on the Rhône, it is time to examine the performance of this somewhat overlooked French fine wine region in the secondary market. The Rhône has undergone considerable broadening over the past decade, with the number of wines trading rising 761%. The number has doubled in the last three years alone.

In the Liv-ex Classification 2019, which ranks the wines of the world on the basis price alone, the Rhône featured with 25 wines. Two of them qualified for the most expensive category, the 1st tier: Allemand, Cornas Reynard (with an average trade price of £3,502 per 12x75) and Domaine Jean Louis Chave, Hermitage (£2,910/12x75). There were 15 newcomers from the region. 

So far this year, the Rhône 100 has matched the movements of the broader market, measured by the Liv-ex 1000, falling the same amount (-1.9%). Over one year, however, the Rhône (1.5%) is the fourth best performer, after Italy (5.1%), Champagne (3.7%) and Burgundy (2.6%). The Rest of the World 50 (-1.6%), Bordeaux 500 (-2.3%) and Bordeaux Legends 50 (-4.3%) indices have all lagged behind.

The wines of the Rhône continue to provide remarkable value for money, indicated by low price to score ratio. As examined in our August Market Report, the Southern Rhône represents the lowest entry point into the fine wine market bar Sauternes, getting 1% cheaper over the past two years. At the same time, the quality of its wines has been improving. 

Despite rising 10% in value over the same period (and costing double the price), the top wines of the Northern Rhône remain more affordable than Champagne, Piedmont, Burgundy, Bordeaux, Australia and California. When it comes to the price performance of the Northern and Southern Rhône indices in the past five years, the Northern index has risen 19%, while the Southern has risen 18%. The affordability of the wines from the south has helped them make steady long-term gains, though both groups have followed a similar price performance pattern, as indicated by chart 3.

In an increasingly active and diverse market, the Rhône has held its share of trade by value at 3% in 2019. Guigal, Beaucastel, Clos Pape and Chapoutier have been in buyers’ sights. Meanwhile, trade has been dominated by the critically acclaimed 2015 and 2016 vintages. Will the Rhône’s quality and low prices drive market demand further in the year ahead?

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