Allegrini 2018

From Masseto to Opus One, the role of La Place de Bordeaux in the success of wine brands

In 2009, the entry of Frescobaldi’s iconic wine opened the doors to the revolution: today on La Place there are 108 labels from 11 different countries

It is the oldest and most prestigious fine wine distribution network in the world, and, in the last century, it was the engine of the international success of Bordeaux wines: today La Place is a hub capable of welcoming hundreds of producers and a network of 300 négociant, which sell in 170 countries around the world. A club for the few, which has its main strength in centuries-old know-how, which guarantees privileged access to the most prestigious niches of foreign markets. But also, an organization capable of grasping change. And ride it. In fact, since the 17th century, La Place has been at the exclusive service of the Grands Crus of Bordeaux, opening, for the first time to a different wine, only in 1998, when it welcomed the Chilean brand Almaviva, however, owned by Baroness Philippine de Rothschild (Château Mouton-Rothschild).
It was only an anticipation of what inevitably happened sometime later. The fine wine market, as we have been saying for years, has experienced a slow and inevitable revolution, which began in 2010. At the time, the secondary market for great wines was the prerogative of Bordeaux labels, which represented, in value, 95.7 % of exchanges. A year earlier, in 2009, La Place welcomed the first wine with no connection whatsoever with Bordeaux: Masseto 2006. A milestone on the way to a now evident change: in the autumn the new vintages commercialized by La Place will be presented, 108 wines from 32 different regions and 11 countries. The revolution has served, and the autumn appointment has now become more interesting than the en primeur of Bordeaux, whose wines, to this date, are worth 34.1% of the trades on the Liv-ex, as recalled by the report “La Place de Bordeaux and the expanding fine wine market”.
The Place and the secondary market for fine wines, thus, seem to move in parallel: Bordeaux, and the en primeur system, have lost positions, while demand, on all other fronts, from the internal one (Burgundy, Champagne, and Rhône) to the external one (Italy, USA, Spain and beyond), has continued to grow. Thus, pushing La Place to look around, always focusing on labels of enormous prestige. Which, for their part, have almost always built a profitable relationship with the French distribution system. The almost is related to those cases (few, actually) in which the company has given priority to price rather than to building a global brand. The exact opposite, for example, of what Masseto did, a case history that illustrates well the positive role of La Place on the success of a label. Just in the last three years, the prices of Masseto have grown by 40.5%, more than Ornellaia (+ 38.2%) and Solaia (+ 37.2%). Over time, it has become the second most traded wine on Liv-ex behind Sassicaia: between 2005 and 2007, so before landing on La Place, Masseto was only the ninth most purchased Italian wine on the secondary market, when labels exchanged were surely less than today. No randomness: the strategy of Giovanni Geddes da Filicaja, at the helm of Ornellaia and Masseto (Frescobaldi), and one of the most experienced managers in the world, to make Masseto a globally successful brand, also thanks to La Place, which distributes it in every corner of the world, with the exception of Italy, the USA and Canada.
Italy on La Place, however, is not just Masseto, on the contrary, it is by far the most represented country after France. Along with, Ornellaia, Ornellaia Bianco, Serre Nuove, Le Volte, and Poggio alle Gazze, pass exclusively through the Place de Bordeaux for Asia, the Arab Emirates, Africa, and South America. As well as the Solaia, and, in small quantities, also the Tignanello and the Cervaro della Sala of the Antinori family, and three more mythical labels of wine Tuscany, such as the Colore di Bibi Graetz, the Galatrona di Petrolo, a company symbol of the Val d’Arno di Sopra by Luca Sanjust and the Caiarossa. In 2018, Orma also lands on La Place de Bordeaux, the Supertuscan born from the vineyards of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc of Podere Orma, the Bolgheri brand of Tenuta Sette Ponti, the Tuscan company of Antonio Moretti Cuseri who, two years later, he makes an encore with the Oreno, accompanied, from October, by the first vintage (2019) of the last born at Tenuta Sette Ponti: “Sette”.
In 2019, however, it was the turn of the first Brunello di Montalcino, with the wines of Luce della Vite, also by Frescobaldi, followed by Brunello and d’Igt “La Quinta” by Giodo, the Tuscan winery of oenologist Carlo Ferrini. Two labels that, unlike all the others, La Place commercializes all over the world, with the exception of course of the Italian market, always guaranteeing a positioning of Giodo’s wines at the top end of the market. More recently, arrived the debuts of the first Etna Rosso, that of Giovanni Rosso, the historic label of Langa, from which comes the first Barolo (and first label in Piedmont), Michele Chiarlo’s Barolo Cerequio 2018, brought to the French distribution network by Timothée Moreau (Bureau des Grands Vins), director of two other key entries: I Sodi di S. Niccolò 2018 in Castellare di Castellina and the two crus of Allegrini, La Poja 2017 and Fieramonte 2015, the first Amarone on La Place. It is easy to imagine that it did not end here and to understand where the new entries could come from, another interesting fact of Liv-ex could be interesting: in 2022, after Tuscany and Piedmont, the two Regions that led the exchanges were, up to now, Veneto (50.9%) and Abruzzo (27.9%).
Putting Italy aside for a moment, among the most successful brands that have chosen La Place, or that have been chosen by La Place, we must certainly mention Opus One and Philipponnat. The US wine market on the Liv-ex went from 2.3% in 2019 to 7.6% in 2021, and Opus One, in the Bordeaux distribution network since 2004, was the forerunner for everyone, from Inglenook to Joseph Phelps and Promontory. Linked to the Rothschilds, the Napa Valley label with the 2018 vintage, the latest on the market, saw a price increase of + 8.7%, and 2017 is even better: + 8.8%. Having landed on La Place just a year ago, even a label that needs little introduction like Philipponnat seems to have benefited: the 2012 of the Clos des Goisses recorded a price increase of 42.9%, and the 1996, put back on the market directly from the cellar, an increase of 50%.
Ultimately, although less “exclusive” than a few years ago, La Place is undoubtedly an important ally for the great international wine brands, but it is certainly not, on its own, the panacea for all ills: balance is needed, between pricing policies and building a global brand, able to stay on any market and worth the requested price.

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