Tuscan Ornellaia ’04 Vintage Climbs to Record $2,670 on Liv-ex

Twelve bottles from the 2004 vintage of Tuscan estate Ornellaia sold on Liv-ex in London for a record 1,660 pounds ($2,670) this month as investors diversified away from Bordeaux into regions such as northern Italy and the Rhone.

The trade on Oct. 2 was 2.5 percent up from 1,620 pounds paid for two half-cases in late September and was followed by six bottles selling for the equivalent of 1,640 pounds a case on Oct. 21, according to data on Liv-ex’s Cellar Watch website.

Ornellaia now regularly sells for more than $2,000 a case as demand at auction for wines from Italy, Burgundy and California has picked up in recent months and appetite has eased from Asian collectors for top Bordeaux. The Liv-ex Fine Wine 50 Index, a Bordeaux benchmark, has fallen more than 5 percent since the end of March.

Top Tuscan wines, along with Champagne and Burgundy, “haven’t been subject to the ups and downs of the more speculative investor market we’ve seen in Bordeaux,” Miles Davis, partner of London-based Wine Asset Managers LLP, said in an interview. “They have been much steadier investments.” The fund has $20 million under management.

This month’s high is 34 percent above the level of 1,240 pounds a case at which 18 bottles traded on Liv-ex in November 2010, and almost triple the 560 pounds a case at which 60 bottles sold in April 2007, according to Cellar Watch data.

Tuscan Coast

The Ornellaia Estate was set up in 1981 outside the village of Bolgheri, close to the Tuscan coast west of Florence. Planted with vines the following year, its first vintage was in 1985. Known for Cabernet Sauvignon and other Bordeaux-style grapes, it also produces a single-vineyard premium Merlot, Masseto, which is sold separately through French merchants.

A case of Ornellaia 2004 sold for $3,369 at a Sotheby’s auction in New York on Sept. 21, beating its pre-sale estimate. Earlier in the year a case of the same vintage sold for $2,214 at Acker Merrall & Condit in New York on May 22, while six bottles of Ornellaia 2005 fetched 1,112 Swiss francs ($1,240) at Christie’s International Plc in Geneva in May, the equivalent of $2,480 for a full case, according to data on the auction houses’ websites. On July 27, a case spanning six vintages back to 1993 fetched 1,547 pounds at Bonhams in London.

“If you look at auctions, there seems to be much more diversity” compared with the traditional Bordeaux focus, said Stephen Mould, head of Sotheby’s European wine department. “There’s definitely been a shift in dynamic.”

Cabernet Sauvignon

The flagship brand from the main estate, Ornellaia Bolgheri DOC Rosso, is made from Bordeaux grapes Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, under the direction of winemaker Axel Heinz.

The winery has been marketing the 2010 vintage, a quarter-century after its first, and marked the occasion with a charity auction held by Sotheby’s at London’s Royal Opera House in May.

That sale raised 238,500 pounds from bids on large-format bottles incorporating designs by artist Michelangelo Pistoletto, and followed a similar auction held in New York in February which raised $55,250.

Since 1997, it has also produced a second wine, Le Serre Nuove dell’Ornellaia, using grapes selected out of the main wine, and now also makes Le Volte dell’Ornellaia, blending 50 percent Merlot and 20 percent Cabernet Sauvignon with 30 percent native Italian Sangiovese.

Its vineyards cover 99 hectares (245 acres). According to Ornellaia’s website, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot vines cover 38 hectares each, with Cabernet Franc on 12 hectares and Petit Verdot on 7. There are also smaller quantities of white Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier and Petit Manseng.

Ornellaia was founded in 1981 by Lodovico Antinori. Bordeaux-based wine consultant Michel Rolland began his association with the vineyard in 1991 and it has been owned since 2005 by Tuscan wine group Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi.

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