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Fine wines from Italy and California surge according to Liv-ex Classification 2021

Higher prices and increased trading have driven eye-catching gains for Italy and California in the 2021 Liv-ex Classification, offering more evidence of a broadening fine wine market.

There were more than double the number of wines from Italy and the US in the recently published 2021 Liv-ex Classification, versus the previous version of the fine wine ranking in 2019.

Several California wines made their debuts in the top tier of the ranking, which places wines into five price bands.

While Liv-ex is a global marketplace for the trade, its classification offers insight for collectors on the direction of the wider fine wine market.

To qualify in the 2021 ranking, a fine wine must have been traded at least 15 times on Liv-ex in the year to 30 June. Trades must also have encompassed at least five vintages of the wine. Prices in the top tier start at £3,060 ($4,218) per 12-bottle case in bond.

California wines in Liv-ex Classification 2021

Several top California wines are already known for high pricing, but Liv-ex said trading on a number of names has increased – reinforcing earlier reports of the region gaining wider international appeal.

New-entrant California wines in the top tier in 2021 include:

  • Colgin Cellars, Cariad – averaging £3,972 (12x75cl in bond)
  • Eisele Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon – £3,488
  • Hundred Acre, Kayli Morgan Vineyard – £4,049
  • Promontory – £5,643
  • Screaming Eagle, The Flight – £6,922
  • Sine Qua Non, Eleven Confessions Collectors Case – £4,409

These new entrants sit alongside California wines that retained their top-tier rank from 2019, including Screaming Eagle, Cabernet Sauvignon (averaging £27,397), Harlan Estate (£9,221), Scarecrow (£6,622) and Colgin, IX Estate (£4,334).

The US had 22 wines in the classification in total, all from California, compared to 10 in 2019.

Italian wines in Liv-ex Classification 2021

Italy saw 83 wines included in the 2021 classification, reflecting growing interest in Piedmont and Tuscany in recent years.

Four Piedmont wines were promoted from the second to the first tier, including Bartolo Mascarello, Barolo and the three single-vineyard Barbarescos from Gaja: Costa Russi, Sori San Lorenzo and Sori Tildin.

‘There may be more Tuscan labels in the classification as a whole, but these northern Italian wines are starting to deliver on their nickname of the “Burgundy of Italy”,’ Liv-ex said.

Bordeaux and Burgundy lose market share

Gains for California and Italy coincided with smaller representation for Bordeaux and Burgundy in the fine wine ranking.

Bordeaux constituted nearly 29% of wines in the 2021 classification, versus 37% in 2019, with Burgundy making up 20%, down from 29% two years ago.

Yet the market overall has been relatively solid in the past 18 months and several merchants have noted ongoing strong demand for ‘blue chip’ Burgundy this year.

Top Bordeaux wines, too, have seen a resurgence on the fine wine market over the past 12 months, according to merchants and analysts.

UK-based merchant Bordeaux Index recently reported that prices on younger vintages of Bordeaux were rising more quickly than for mature wines as collectors sought to fill their cellars.

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