A good bottle of vintage wine isn't like a Louis Vuitton handbag — its pleasure is fleeting. Nevertheless, luxury consumers are snapping up top wines, if for no other reason than to display their wealth. "Fine wine is becoming an important component of affluent consumers' net worth," said James Miles, co-founder of The London International Vintage Exchange, or Liv-ex. "The newly rich, especially in places like China, Russia and India, have been driving up prices." The exchange, an electronic information, trading and settlement platform for fine wine merchants, tracks wines whose quality scores highly with both Robert Parker and Wine Spectator magazine. Ironically, the more that's produced, the more likely the wine will stand out. Miles said plenty of great wines come from California and the Rhone, "but Bordeaux is so heavily represented because of the massive amount the region produces."
1. CHATEAU MOUTON ROTHSCHILD 1998 One-year change in price per case: 127.4 percent 2007 price: $5,490.80; 2006 price: $2,414.73
The vineyard was purchased by Nathaniel de Rothschild of London in 1853, who then named it Château Rothschild. "The Rothschild family is clearly powerful," noted James Miles of Liv-ex. "After a lifetime of lobbying by the late Baron Rothschild, the Mouton finally became a first-grade wine in the 1970s. This Bordeaux red wine is really outperforming its competitors, even its cousin, Lafite." Said Miles, "Mouton is still really cheap, compared to other fine wines. It's playing catch-up at the moment." Wine Spectator magazine described the wine as follows: "Cigar tobacco, cedar and red fruit aromas. Medium to full-bodied, with silky tannins and a delicate finish. Best after 2006."
Prices have skyrocketed for Lafite, the big brand of Bordeaux red wine: Three of the top five vintages, in terms of price change, are from the vineyard, located in Pauillac, France. "Lafite is the brand to get," said Miles. "In terms of overall brands, it's really been Lafite which has been the number-one performer." The vineyard's Web site described the wine as: "A fine vintage....The wines from this period are onyx in color, and are very concentrated without being heavy, and have distinguished dominant tannins. It is a fine wine to be aged, because it is very structured and will benefit from a long dormant period."
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