2012 salon, le mesnil-sur-oger grand cru (750ml)
Why We're Buying
Few estates have higher standards than Salon. As a result, few estates command higher prices. This legendary Champagne stands out as the gold standard for bubbly, with critics comparing it to a white Burgundy with bubbles. The 2012 Salon vintage almost didn’t exist. In 2014, Salon's president Didier Depond had reportedly said there were no great vintages since 2008. Time has a way of changing people’s minds, though. The evolution of the 2012 vintage was undeniable, yielding a sweeping and structured Champagne with a tightly knit core of stone fruit, acids, oyster shells, brioche, and creamy mousse. Critics have uniformly praised 2012 Salon since its release. The Wine Advocate’s William Kelley called it “after the 2008, the finest Salon produced this millennium.” Meanwhile, wine critic James Suckling gave the vintage a 98-point rating, praising it as “layered and refined with wonderful complexity.” The Final Sip: When it comes to portfolio-worthy Champagne, it doesn’t get much better than 2012 Salon.
Like white Burgundy with bubbles, this fine-knit version has a spine of vibrant acidity and a minerally oyster shell overtone, with the plush mousse carrying a delicate mesh of yellow plum, pickled ginger, Marcona almond and dried white cherry flavors that lingers on the racy finish. Drink now through 2035. Drinking Window: 2021 - 2035
Champagne is the original gold standard. For centuries, this famous fizz has been synonymous with opulence, celebration, and romance. Combine that preeminent status with surging demand, and Champagne offers a surefire way to add sparkle to any portfolio.
Why We're Investing
Champagne is the most famous and lauded producer of sparkling wine in the world. While other wine regions have imitated this bubbly beverage, none have duplicated its success. Its trademark on the word has only reinforced the region’s reputation as ground zero for authentic Champagne. Unlike most prized wine regions, Champagne experiences cool temperatures that can slow ripening and leave grapes more acidic and less sugary. While the conditions contribute to Champagne’s unique style, frost poses a perennial problem. A single cold front can devastate an entire harvest. As a result, great Champagne vintages are exceedingly rare (e.g., 2004, 2008, 2012). The solution: a reserve stock system. The region’s governing body requires that Champagne producers store 20 of their wine during bountiful years to meet demand during lean ones. This uniquely Champagne safety net provides a hedge against poor vintages and allows houses to manage supply and prices. That way, buyers see less volatility in price performance than in other regions. Stability isn’t the only reason we’re investing. Champagne has been the best-performing wine region over the last five years. It also ranks second best since 2003, behind only Burgundy. That’s not all. According to the Liv-ex Champagne 50, an index that tracks top Champagnes, the region has appreciated every year since the index’s inception, save for 2015. While glitzy brands like Dom Pérignon, Krug, and Louis Roederer dominate the headlines, Champagne’s hallowed grounds are also home to the humble yet equally compelling grower Champagne. This name typically refers to Champagne made and bottled by the same person. By contrast, most Champagne houses use a blend of grapes from dozens or even hundreds of regional growers. Only produced in small batches, these eclectic wines have made stars out of Jacques Selosse, Ulysse Collin, and Cédric Bouchard and have brought more demand to the region. Here’s the most important part. While the most expensive Burgundies will cost you a small fortune (re: tens of thousands of dollars), Champagne has relatively affordable entry prices, on par with those from Napa Valley and Bordeaux. With this blend of performance and accessibility, it’s easy to see why Champagne is the toast of the fine wine industry.
What's the Latest
If there is a limit to the global demand for Champagne, we have yet to reach it. Clever marketing and shifting consumer tastes have fueled continued growth despite headwinds, including rising inflation and a sluggish global economy. In 2021, Champagne exported a record 179.6 million bottles. That figure marked a 37.31 increase from the previous year, and a 15.1 increase from 2019, before the Covid-19 pandemic. The surge in demand has cascaded into the secondary market. A decade ago, Champagne accounted for only 2 of trade share by volume. Today, it is the third most traded region at 8.4, trailing only Bordeaux (38.8) and Burgundy (21.4). Buyers are also becoming more adventurous. More than 570 different Champagnes were traded on the secondary market, a sevenfold increase in the past ten years. The strongest demand has come for large format bottles, which are rarer than the 750 mL format and a uniquely Champagne offering. According to Liv-ex, big bottles have risen from 5.9 to 18.0 of Champagne’s trade share over the last three years.
The white-hot performance makes Champagne a coveted region amongst any wine enthusiast. With the prestigious brands, relative value, and global demand, there’s reason to think this trend is here to stay. Even though trade is concentrated among a few well-known houses, the region has more than enough depth to appease all degrees of connoisseurs. The numerous strengths should buoy Champagne even in choppy economic waters. That’s in part because of Champagne’s reputation as a luxury good and connections with French luxury holding companies like LVMH and EPI. Luxury goods tend to fare better than other sectors during downturns thanks to steady demand from high-net-worth clients. The extra layer of recession resistance will serve Champagne collectors well no matter what the future has in store.