‘Liquid Gold’ for Christmas: Sauternes in 2020

Just in time for the festive season, the wine world welcomed two sweet releases from Sauternes. Yquem and Rieussec 2018 were sold through La Place in September and were offered at considerable discounts on last year’s releases. Quality was reportedly high. Yquem 2018 received 97 points from Jane Anson who called it “excellent” and praised its “power and balance”. Anson also liked the 2018 Rieussec (94), describing it as “highly attractive […] elegant and fine”.

Still, numerous physical vintages from Sauternes remain available below these new releases on the secondary market. Moreover, the top wines of Sauternes continue to provide the cheapest entry point into the fine wine market. On average in 2020, one could buy five cases of Sauternes “First Growths” for the same price as one case of red Bordeaux First Growths. Jolly news for buyers given that Sauternes is the most expensive wine to make in Bordeaux.

But with all this ‘good value’ choice, what should buyers be selecting as their Christmas pudding?

In part due to its comparatively higher value, Yquem has continued to be the most popular Sauternes on the secondary market: in 2020, it has accounted for over half the trade by value (52%), with lower-priced Rieussec and Suduiraut both taking just 10%. On a vintage level, the critically regarded 2009 and 2015 have dominated. Currently, the highly rated 2007 vintage trades at 24.8% discount versus its release price in 2008. By comparison, the Liv-ex 100 is up 19% over the same period.

Year-to-date, the Sauternes 50 index, which tracks the price performance of the last physical vintages of the five most sought-after Sauternes wines, is up 1.7%. Within it, one finds a more nuanced story. Suduiraut is the top-performer, up 4.6%. It is followed by Rieussec, up 3.2%, and Yquem, up 2.6%. Coutet has dipped 2.4%, while Climens is down 8.6% so far in 2020, following dips over the past two months. It seems that Bordeaux’s “Liquid Gold” is ripe for Christmas.