Most Champagne from the classically rated 1990 vintage traded sideways from 1997 to 2003, until the next strongest vintage, the 1996, appeared on the auction block in 2004. The wines from 1996 showed price gains right out of the gate, and those from 1990 followed suit. Now 1996 cuvées from many top champagne houses including Veuve Clicquot, Krug and Pol Roger, are at the same price levels as the 1990 vintage.
A perfect example is Moët & Chandon's Dom Pérignon. The 1990 (90 points, $110 release, $254 current) traded in the $100 to $125 range through the fourth quarter of 2003 and during that time, collectors walked away with case loads of the bubbly for as little as $70 a bottle. Beginning in 2004, however, the wine crossed the $125 barrier and has increased steadily in value, now trading at an average of $250 with individual sales reaching into the $300 to $350 range.
Meanwhile, the 1996 (93 points, $125 release, $243 current) began to appear at auction in the last half of 2004 trading at its release price. Soon after it broke through the $150 mark and has since doubled in price.
There are a few ways to view the parallel rise in price for the 1990 and the 1996 vintages for top Champagnes and what it means for those in the market for bubbly. One could say it signifies that the 1990 vintage is still undervalued since the wines are more ready to drink and have already proven their ageability, and that this represents a buying opportunity. Another school of thought says that demand from overseas collectors and the excitement over the 1996 vintage have reawakened passion for great Champagne and have inflated prices for the older wines.
Collectors interested in adding Dom Pérignon to their cellars can place their bids at two upcoming sales. Hart David Hart's Feb. 2 sale includes a mixed lot of three bottles of 1990 and one bottle of 1988 for a per-lot estimate of $700 to $1,000 and Zachys' Feb. 8 sale in Las Vegas includes a case of 1990 with an estimate between $2,200 and $3,000, or $183 and $250 a bottle.
|This data comes from the Wine Spectator Auction Index, a composite of average prices for wines sold at commercial auctions. This chart plots the average price of Dom Pérignon 1990 against that of the 1996.|