Wealth Blog: Champagne investment far from flat
Vintage champagne isn't the first thing that springs to mind for investing in wine to lay down for the future. Maybe I've been unlucky, but whenever I've had very old champagne, even the good stuff, it has maderised (cooked), turned deep yellow and gone flat. It tasted fine, but what's the point of champagne without the bubbles?
So I was surprised to hear that French champagne house Veuve Clicquot is poised to have its second offering of rare vintage bottles at auction in Hong Kong. January this year saw the first, with Sotheby's selling vintage magnums from 1921, 1929 and 1947, raising HK$239,000.
A mainland collector bought the items. No surprises there.
The 1921 vintage marked a renaissance for champagne after four years of world war.
That year also saw catastrophic frosts in April after several days of warm temperatures, causing 80 per cent losses in the vineyards. The few grapes that survived were of superb quality and the resulting bottles very scarce. The tasting notes for the 1921 vintage describe it as deep bright gold/amber. "The first nose is very earthy and mineral and then disappears to give way to tobacco, dry raisins, truffle and balsamic vinegar like flavours."
I'm reliably told by Veuve Clicquot's chief brand ambassador (how do you get to become one of these?) Fabrice Papin that even the very old bottles still taste great.
Not that Papin's able to taste much of anything at the moment, being in serious training for his kickboxing exams. This involves no alcohol, which must be a living hell for a Frenchman in the wine business. But fair dues, not only has he lost 10kg, but he has to stay home most nights to be out of temptation's way.
Champagne vintages are only declared rarely, with 1921, 1929, 1969, 1989, 1999 and 2002 among the best. The last declared vintage was 2004.
Now Veuve Clicquot is planning to stick its toe in the auction waters again, with another sale in April 2013. So what rare gems from which years will be on offer this time? No details as yet. Probably Grande Dame, the house's top tier, is all it will reveal.
For more details on indiscriminate discretionary spending, see Anna's wealth blog at scmp.com/wealthblog