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The Bordeaux “Super Seconds” See a Surge of Interest in 2021

LiveTrade Team

1 February 2022

While the five first growths and comparable top Right Bank wines remain the Holy Grail for many fine wine collectors, the so-called ‘Super Seconds’ can offer excellent value for their quality, along with strong investment returns.

Exactly which châteaux the esteemed Super Second club is formed of remains open to debate: there is no definitive list, but Super Seconds largely refer to classed growth estates (and a few Right Bank wines) that perform above their ranking, consistently producing wines approaching first growth quality, marking them out as labels worth seeking out and laying down. So ‘flying’ fifth growth Pontet-Canet is widely considered part of the club, and LiveTrade includes Right Bank estates Angelus, Pavie, Figeac and Canon among its grouping.

While in recent years Champagne and Italian wines have increased in recognition, diversifying activity in the fine wine market, interestingly the Super Seconds have maintained a constant share of LiveTrade volumes, implying their share of Bordeaux activity has been rising.

Figeac

Figeac to the future…

When it comes to standout estates, Figeac delivered an extremely strong performance across all vintages in 2021.

Trading activity was joined by strong price appreciation with two vintages of Figeac featuring in LiveTrade’s top 20 movers. With the next Saint-Emilion reclassification due imminently – though not now including three of the top estates in the region, Cheval Blanc, Ausone and Angelus – savvy speculators had been snapping up back vintages of Figeac and Canon prior to their possible promotion within the league table.

The consistently strong-performing pair were the highest risers among traded Bordeaux brands on LiveTrade last year, more than doubling their volumes. Figeac’s performance on the platform over the last 12 months is rather remarkable, considering that the château was hovering in the middle of the Super Second league table just five years ago.

“Figeac really benefited from the dual factors of the potential classification upgrade and the ongoing excellent quality of recent vintages having taken the wine’s reputation in the market to another level,” observes LiveTrade CEO, Matthew O’Connell.
“It is perhaps natural that estates awaiting an upgrade received more attention than those in the previous upgrade – Angelus and Pavie – however, it seems clear from market activity that Angelus is cutting through and gaining market interest at a good rate, perhaps driven by a combination of a focus on a more sensitively handled wine profile and also strong marketing by the château.”

Thirst was strong last year for prime vintages, with 2005, 2010 and 2015 all performing well for Angelus, while the ‘off’ vintages of 2011, 2012 and 2013 posted minimal gains.

As to whether the new Saint-Emilion classification will have a noticeable effect on LiveTrade sales, O’Connell believes the market has already moved the needle.

“Our expectation is that 2021 saw the re-tiering of the wines (particularly Figeac) ahead of the reclassification, so ultimately the market has done the work that the formal system will not be able to, given the various withdrawals,” he says. “While it will be interesting to see what this year brings in market trading terms, I think the bulk of the price re-alignment in this Saint-Emilion segment is probably done and movements upwards will be more homogenous.”
Chateau Angelus

Best of the rest

Among the other top-performing Super Seconds on LiveTrade last year were Lynch-Bages and the impressively consistent Pichon Lalande, which saw volumes led by strong demand for the 2016 vintage; with Leoville Las Cases following closely behind. Buyers were drawn to classic vintages of Lynch-Bages, with 2005, 2009 and 2010 all performing well.

On average, the Super Seconds have turbo charged their sales by 34% over the past five years, with Canon leading the pack, posting astronomical sales gains of 226% last year versus its five-year average. Figeac similarly outdid itself in 2021, growing its sales by 169% compared to its five-year average, while the two Pichons, Ducru-Beaucaillou and Palmer were also among the highest volume climbers within the Super Second league table. At the other end of the scale, Beychevelle and Gruaud-Larose saw lower activity last year, posting volumes less than their five year average.

Pichon Lalande

En Primeur influence

We continue to see a direct relevance of En Primeur pricing on subsequent secondary market volumes for Super Seconds in particular.

It is no surprise that the most active wines in this category during 2021 tended to have been most measured with En Primeur pricing and therefore catalysed broader buyer interest in the respective chateau’s wines. To this end it is noteworthy that Super Second trading tends to be more concentrated in European – and indeed UK – buyers, further supporting the En Primeur / secondary market connection given EP is ultimately most active in UK and Europe.

Prime Performance

When it comes to vintages, the Super Seconds shine in prime years, with 2009, 2010 and 2016 emerging as the top three most-wanted vintages, led by front-runner 2016.

While Saint-Emilion’s Château Canon enjoyed a 14% price appreciation across LiveTrade vintages last year, 2016 was the star performer for the estate, buoyed by the continued enthusiasm for this highly collectible vintage.

For LiveTrade CEO Matthew O’Connell, the inherent investment appeal of the Super Seconds is clear:

“As first growth prices rise, it’s natural that collectors turn to the next best thing at a lower value point, and the Super Second châteaux that saw the highest trading volumes in 2021, such as the two Pichons, Palmer and Figeac, were those where quality is consistently sky-high, which causes corresponding price rises in the market. The interest in Bordeaux is really high all over the world at the moment, and the Super Seconds are benefiting in their own right from that,” he says.

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