Although the arrival of a new year may often seem like nothing but the arbitrary passing of time, it nevertheless offers a comfortable, if illusory, starting point from which to contemplate the future.

The reality is that the fine wine market ran mostly flat last year – the ‘ups’ of summer 2014 failed to carry through and sustain any significant growth in 2015.

And with China’s economy looking continuously bleak, the on-going decline of the euro, and a hike in oil prices thanks to Saudi Arabia and Iran’s diplomatic fall out, why should 2016 be any different?

A ‘glass half-full’ perspective for fine wine trade

As with anything, it’s the details that matter. Last year really wasn’t such a bad year – for the first time in five years, the Liv-ex Fine Wine 100 index ended in neutral as opposed to negative territory.

“The shape of the market is back to what it was before China even happened,” says Liv-ex co-founder, Justin Gibbs. “The bubble has gone, the market has normalised.”

And despite the Chinese economy lacking signs of recovery, their thirst for investment-grade wine does not seem to have suffered. On the contrary – figures show that in Q3 2015, China imported the same amount of French wine as it did in the whole of H1, and numbers are still escalating, reports Philip Staveley.

Top Bordeaux wine bounces back

As for Bordeaux, despite ever-falling prices in 2015, clouds in the region came with their fair share of silver linings.

Trade in the 2005 and 2012 vintages boosted following reviews by Robert Parker, and there are even signs of buyers returning to the 2010 vintage as prices settle for the first time since the recent bull market.

December saw Bordeaux’s trade share climb to 84.8%, it’s highest level since July 2013. Most importantly, there are high hopes for the 2015 vintage – it’s success will now depend on the strength of this year’s campaign.

Slow but steady growth expected overall

With Burgundy, Champagne, Italy and Napa now a permanent fixture on the proverbial table, all no longer rests on the shoulders of the Bordelais and there is evidence of steady growth in all regions.

California has just the right combination of enough volume to allow for rarity, great reviews and the attraction of being relatively new and interesting to maintain its upward climb. Italy is set to keep rolling with its Super Tuscans and Piedmontese wines, and Champagne will continue to churn out new vintages well into 2020.

The picture in 2016 is therefore likely to be not only one of slow but steady growth, but of further changes in overall trade distribution and consumer demand arising from an ever-diversifying fine wine market with lots more to offer.

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