An investor’s guide to the best fine wines

How to take the true measure of the wine market? A data-crunching website points the way

Image: Chris Burke

If a chap wants to be well dressed, it helps to have a good grasp of numbers: chest size, sleeve length, inside leg, waist. You need to know what’s in fashion, what’s out. And also what will endure. Much the same could be said about buying wine. If you’re looking for an investment piece, you need to know the trends – and also the vital statistics.  

Wine Lister is an innovative young company that crunches that data for you. Founded by former investment banker and wine writer Ella Lister, it assesses fine wines on a number of counts, including quality, value for money, cellaring potential (which often plays a big part in determining investment potential) and an aggregation of critics’ scores. This “360-degree” picture of each wine is then combined with the team’s own insider knowledge (what Lister calls “human overlay”), to create a Must Buy list of fine wine recommendations. “The Must Buy list ranges from top-flight Lafite or DRC right down to a £30 wine from a lesser-known region that’s on an upward curve,” says Lister. “But they’re always chosen with the serious wine buyer in mind.”

The model for Wine Lister was inspired by Lister’s time at the investment bank Lazard & Co. “When I worked in finance, I had this kind of data and analysis at my fingertips,” she recalls. “But when I started working in wine, I realised there was no one-stop shop for information like this. As a buyer, you had to rely very heavily on what merchants were telling you. I wanted to create a system that applied the same rigorous analysis to wine as you get in finance.” 

It’s the time she and her team spend on the ground that gives them the real edge, she says. “Around half of my time is spent travelling in our key wine regions, tasting and gathering the kind of intel that can’t be captured in data terms. That could be a heads-up on a new winemaker or investment at a winery that will only produce results several years down the line. It’s those kind of insights that help you get ahead of the curve.” 

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Wine Lister used to be a subscriber service. But from this month, access to the main part of the website, including the new Must Buy list, will be free for consumers. (More in-depth analysis will be available to “Pro” subscribers for a fee.) 

Lister is reluctant to give me tips off the cuff – she’s far too methodical for that. But the self-confessed nebbiolo fan has high hopes for Piedmont. “It is to Tuscany what Burgundy is to Bordeaux. It’s artisanal, smaller production, indigenous grape varieties. I think it could be the next burgundy.” If you want to get the measure of the wine market, then try this one for size.

Alice Lascelles is Fortum & Mason Drinks Writer of the Year 2019. @alicelascelles

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