During the bull market that drove the fine wine market to its peak in June 2011, the second wines of the Bordeaux First Growths saw exponential price rises. This was largely due to brand-driven Asian buying: “Little Lafite” and its peers were seen as extensions of the Premier Crus by Chinese buyers. By offering access to the brands at lower price points, they were first in line to benefit from rising prices, as Liv-ex observed in October 2010.
Eight months later as the market rolled over, they were first in line to fall. As the chart above shows, the price movements of the First Growths and their second wines have been following a similar path since: dropping until June 2014 and running roughly flat over the year that followed.
Since July last year, however, the two groups appear to have parted course. While the First Growths have dipped – down 1.3% – their second wines have climbed 4.5% since July. When ranked by performance over 2015, three of the top ten wines within the Bordeaux 500 Index are second wines – and Petit Mouton takes the top spot by a comfortable margin. The Chateaux’s first wine, Mouton Rothschild, was the best-performing First Growth but achieved only 16th place in the table.
It is likely that the recent success of the second wines can still be linked to the strengths of their brands in Asia. With the current climate for buyers in China – where a weakened Yuan makes fine wine more expensive – not favouring high-priced First Growths, the more accessibly priced seconds look particularly interesting.