Champagne: drink straightaway or invest?

The thirst for Champagne is bubbling over as the British summer of celebrations continues.

And, according to industry experts, we don’t just want to drink our fizz, savvy investors are buying bottles of Champagne in a bid to bring in solid returns.

Skilled investors looking for places other than the static or plummeting housing and stock markets are putting their cash into the high-class booze.

And, those with a nose for a good vintage have made good profits on their investment. The price of Krug Brut 96 has, for example, gone up by nearly 50% in the last five years to £2,200

At the moment, buyers are stocking up on top-end brands like Armand De Brignac, better known as Ace, which soared into the spotlight after becoming rapper Jay-Z’s drink of choice.

Jay-Z featured Ace in his Show Me What You Got Video and it quickly became a favourite celebrity tipple, appearing in photos, music videos and song lyrics. Bottles have even been included in gift bags for the Oscars.

Scott Assemakis, founder of London-based merchant European Fine Wines says: “We’re fielding more enquiries than ever before as investors are increasingly viewing champagne as an attractive asset.”

But he is warning those who do plough their money into the drink not to be in a rush as a typical time frame for investment in Champagne to mature is between seven to 10 years.

Unlike traditional wine investment, usually in a good Bordeaux, Assemakis says Champagne is mainly for consumption rather than long-term financial gains. For those who do choose to invest, he advises looking out for top-quality brands from 1996, 1990 and 2002.

At the moment, the Dom Ruinart 2002 vintage is the most coveted by investors, with six-bottle cases currently selling for around £500.  The ageing gives the Champagne a creamier and more biscuity nose.

For Champagne to be labelled Champagne, it must be produced from grapes grown in the Champagne region of France. Grape varieties commonly used to make the drink are Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier.

Iiles Halling, of madaboutbubbly.com, who spent 10 years in France’s Champagne region, advises investors to go for “top quality, well-known brands”.

“This is not to say you can’t find some fabulous Champagnes among lesser-known makers,” he adds. “It’s just that famous brands command a premium price and will hold their value.”

He suggests investing in vintage Champagne or “prestige cuvées” such as Dom Pérignon, Cristal and Krug, which will have a longer ageing potential than their non-vintage counterparts.

But, it’s no good investing in Champagne if you have nowhere to store it. Experts recommend keeping your Champagne at 45 – 55 degrees Farenheit, not exposing it to too much light and keeping humidity to around 70%.

You can also choose to go to a specialist wine merchant who can arrange for your investment purchase to be properly stored, in the right climatic conditions, at a bonded warehouse.

But if, like me, you only have a cupboard to keep your wines in, rather than a dedicated cellar, you may be better off simply popping open your Champagne at your next special occasion and enjoying.