Let us begin by telling you how wine industry works. It all began with a passion for wines. From there, wine professionals take off a different path than drinkers as they seek to buy what they believe in, and sell them for profits. Some sell hidden gems and artisanal efforts, whilst others trade well-known names that they have previously bought at the right timing and price. In emerging markets, sale of wines prevail - take any Asian market as an example. As it starts to develop, where a critical mass of wine drinkers having awareness of well-known wines is reached, wine trading gains popularity - take the market of United Kingdom as an example. Once the market reaches further maturity and when private clients and wine collectors start to amass considerable wine stock in their own collection, this is when wine investment begins to attract more interest.
With 10 years of 0 wine tax under its belt, Hong Kong begins to evolve, as Asia's wine hub, from a trading hub facilitating sale of wines to China and other Asian markets, to one that enables efficient wine trading and investment. In this blog, learn about the future of wine investment in Asia from an expert panel from private banking, global auction, professional wine storage and fine wine trading fields.
Valued at US$5 billion, global secondary fine wine market is a niche sector when compared against conventional investment vehicles like stocks and real estate. Largely a commercial market that traditionally runs on personal trust and specialized training, the world of wine trading does not come with as much regulatory tentacles as financial markets. The potential of wines as a financial asset has yet to be realized and if it does, according to Roland Muksch of LGT Bank (Hong Kong), it will take substantial time. Muskch also remarked that derivatives may be the more viable way to realize investment potential in wines. Consider creative products in the financial world such as index tracking funds. Century old en primeur system provides for the basis to trading of futures contract in wines. Non-movement of wines when being traded will be crucial. Not only does it save on logistics costs and minimize movement risk, the preservation and storage of wines destined for investment in a physical location also guarantees integrity, conditions and provenance.
Wine vs Contemporary Arts vs Watches: Consistent performance matters
Patti Wong of Sothebys led us through a very interesting and insightful comparison between wines, contemporary arts and watches. Within the auction world, figures show that number of bidders have been on steady increase at 2% per annum. In terms of average lot values, wines surpass both contemporary art (8%) and watches (3%) and deliver a steady growth rate of 11% in average lot value over past 10 years. Whilst wines have always been known for its heterogeneity, when compared against contemporary art and watches, wines come across more accessible and consistent. It is not uncommon for contemporary art or luxury watch pieces to be extremely limited in availability. A solo piece commanding millions of dollar in hammer value may grab immediate attention, however, the inherent rarity and potentially irrationally skewed value confirm these items as collector pieces and ultimately compromise liquidity if they are to be seen as asset. Overall, Wong considers wines a superior option over contemporary art or watches for those who might want to collect to consume whilst retain the option to resell. Wine’s proven track record of consistent price performance makes it an easier item to resell than other luxury assets. Over past 5 years, wines have taken more collector dollars away from luxury jewellery and watches auction. Total auction sales from wines, jewellery and watches has seen wines contributing a majority of 56% sales in 2019 YTD, a tri-fold increase from 2014.
Greg De’Eb of Crown Wine Cellars and Darius Allyn Master Sommelier both spoke at length about the importance of trust and provenance when it comes to wine trading. Understanding merchant reputation and provenance preempts price competitiveness. Commoditization of wines in Asian markets have seen buyers distracted by price-based promotions. Emergence of technology such as provenance tracker and conditions indicator is an encouraging development bringing buyer focus back to conditions and provenance of a bottle. Allyn cites Domaine Ponsot incorporating a temperature-sensitive white dot on their labels to help consumers understand whether a bottle has been subjected to high heat. In 2017, Domaine Ponsot added a new authentication system that involves the installation of a NFC-enabled InTact chip on the bottle. Upon scanning, wine owners will be offered information including a detailed temperature graph and an indication on whether that bottle has been opened. Both De’Eb and Allyn warn of the danger of counterfeit wines in the market. Counterfeit wines is a billion-dollar problem within the world of wines that effectively undermine the viability of wine investment. Future of wine investment of Asia will depend on heightened awareness of provenance and deployment of tools to add transparency and reliability on a wine’s authenticity claims and provenance.
Our own Mariana Lam shared her insights on the role of technology in the evolution of wine investment in Asia. Wine authenticity and traceability is one of the key areas where technology has been deployed to enhance industry capability to monitor and communicate with end consumers. It involves the use of smart sensors and tamper evident packages to add an extra layer of quality assurance to consumers. At WWX, we exclusively use NFC-enabled tags VinoGuard to track wine movement and store key provenance data. These data will soon be synchronized onto our fine wine blockchain database, so to undermine any malicious attempts of wilful manipulation of records. In parallel, since late 2018, we have been examining the application of advanced statistical model similar to those used in commodity markets to enable fine wine price predictions. Trading advisory are generated basing not only on wine prices but also insights gleaned from big data analysis on FOREX movement, Weather & Climate changes, Wine Drinking Windows (i.e. time value), etc. Delivery comes in form of virtual robo-advisory and innovative FinTech products.The impact of technology on development of wine investment lies chiefly in its potential to democratize and exponentially expand what is now a niche and specialized sector. The ultimate role of technology is to digitalize trust and establish a secure ecosystem for wine exchange and trading.
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