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Liv-Ex Market Report
by, January 2006

Activity in January was extremely robust with the Exchange notching up its strongest start to the year since its launch in 2000. Exchange turnover was up 35% month on month and 70% year on year. Stock held by the leading merchants increased a fraction, despite January sales. The Liv-ex 100 showed no signs of weakness, rising a further 1.9%, taking its 12-month gain to 22%.

(much more analysis and charts by region in the full report)

Major Movers
The table below shows the major movers, month on month, in January. Beyond the surge in demand for Montrose 2003 (one of the wines of the vintage), the market developed an insatiable appetite for Petrus from the most recent top right bank years. Of the fallers, there were few. Some softening was seen in the stars of last year, but this was limited.

(the featured wines are analysed in detail in full report)

Critical Corner
A somewhat uncharacteristic email from Robert Parker appeared on Mark Squires Wine Bulletin Board in mid January. Uncharacteristic in that most missives from the great man appear in formal publications rather than open forums. Its effect however, was not diminished. He had just returned from Bordeaux and made a few general observations that were poignant enough to move the market.

First, he said there were “no real surprises with 2003s…. except they [were] fresher and not nearly the freaks a few people made them out to be.” He highlighted the northern Medoc and the limestone/clay terroirs of St Emilion as the areas of strength in the vintage. The market reaction? Lafite, Latour, Margaux and Montrose all ticked higher. Pavie also found buyers. The perception that the top scorers in the vintage would be confirmed in his April missive was supported by the Wine Spectator, which upgraded Leoville Barton to 98 (was 95-100) and Ducru Beaucaillou to 96 points (was 92-94). Both have moved up solidly in the past two weeks. Another that seems to be catching the wind is Leoville Poyferre although we have yet to see a rerating.

Second, he said “2004s are tasting better……..with some surprisingly top wines from Margaux……much better than I thought 10 months ago.” The market reaction to date has been muted, perhaps because there remains plenty of supply. But one to watch.

And third he said, “2005 is the real deal… truly has everything…… actually appears very consistent in all AOCs.” Hold on to your seat. This en primeur campaign looks set to match the 2000 for its breadth of quality and its wide reaching popularity. A full cast of Americans and Asians are expected in Bordeaux for the UGC tastings in early April- a group notable by their absence last year.

So it is all eyes on the publication of The Wine Advocate due out at the end of April. With 2003, 2004 and 2005 all in focus (and all, it would seem being confirmed as good to great years), the market is sure to remain active.

Final Thought
As we remarked in last month's report, the Rhone market has somewhat died a death in the last few years. The region only accounted for a pathetic 1.5% of Liv-ex's business in 2005. This has partly been down to a softening in the US market, where there is a big following for the top Rhone wines, but as we intimated last time it is also down to a run of bumper crops. Indeed, after a dearth of decent vintages in the early 1990s, all vintages except 2002 have been good to excellent since 1998. This has left a lot stock in the supply chain and left the end consumer a little jaded. Nevertheless with so many great wines to choose from and with the market's attention elsewhere, we thought that there must be some bargains to be had.

(the featured wines & the Rhone are analysed in detail in full report)

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