Just a year ago, Capital Vintners was reporting on the sense of “cautious optimism” felt in the wine industry for the year of business ahead.

Though 2015 hadn’t been particularly bright, the outlook for the future wasn’t that bad either – for the first time in five years, the Liv-ex Fine Wine 100 index had ended in neutral as opposed to negative territory.

This year, after a full twelve months of gains in the fine wine market, it looks like our optimism needn’t have been that cautious.

Full speed ahead for fine wine

The Fine Wine 100 index gained 1.6% in November, amounting to twelve consecutive months of growth since December 2015. The index is now sitting at its highest level in five years, up 23.8% on the year-to-date. This is big news.

For five years, the market suffered and the future seemed bleak. But throughout 2016, despite two major political wobblies whose consequences reverberated through the financial markets, the fine wine trade has stood strong and is continuing to make gains.

“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.”

Leading the way: fine champagne and fine Italian wine

Champagne and, perhaps more surprisingly, Italian labels have led the way – the top movers being Taittinger’s 2004 Comtes de Champagne and Ornellaia’s 2009 vintage – both up over 9% in price.

Champagne sales always enjoy a boost before Christmas, but the 2000, 2002 and 2004 vintages of prestige labels are doing especially well at the moment, and the 2002 Comtes is in fact the best-performing Champagne of 2016.

Top November movers included the 2009 Léoville Las Cases and 2010 Pichon Baron as well as the 2011 DRC La Tâche, while wines that regressed were two of October’s top performers – the 2010 Masseto and Beaucastel’s 2012 Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

More gains in the fine wine market

The Fine Wine 1000 also made gains in November, rising to a new high of 296.6 in its fourth consecutive month of gains.

Despite the good news, however, Liv-ex has pointed out that the pace of the market seems to be slowing. October’s rise of over 3% was halved in November and the pattern of top and bottom performers varies widely each month.

“Overall the market strength appears robust, but as we head towards 2017, it remains to be seen whether the long period of sustained gains will continue,” cautioned Liv-ex.

It appears, therefore, that we will begin 2017 with a spot of cautious pessimism instead, and hope this time to be proved wrong, rather than right!