The fine-wine market has started 2017 in robust health. “January […] got off to a flyer,” remarked Goedhuis senior broker, Toby Herbertson. “Trade has remained brisk across February,” confirmed Simon Larkin MW, managing director of Atlas Fine Wines. Liv-ex’s Cellar Watch report stated “March was an active month.”
This time last year the trade was nervous about whether the turn around would last, as previous years had seen first-quarter gains undone in subsequent months. This year the sentiment is different—much more assured. Views remain split, however, as to what Brexit still has in store for the international fine-wine market. “It would appear the market has absorbed the recent political and economic upheavals and found a strong footing,” says Herbertson. Larkin has a different perspective, arguing that the wine market is strong because of, rather than despite, the Brexit vote: “Political turbulence and accompanying currency fluctuations have been key to the fine-wine market’s value growth,” adding, “there is little chance of this abating as the UK moves forward with its Brexit agenda.”
Both these views equate to a positive outlook. What neither Herbertson nor Larkin takes into account, like the vast majority of pundits in wider political and economic spheres, is that Brexit has not yet taken place. All that has happened so far is that the value of the pound has plummeted relative to global currencies. This has helped boost trade in fine wines old in pounds to Americans, Asians, and Europeans suddenly finding it much more affordable. The UK remains part of the EU for now, however, and we are none the wiser as to what its departure will actually entail. The UK has been the global fine-wine hub for over a century, but what would new, less conducive trading arrangements with the continent mean, and how would the global market absorb such a sea change? Only time—and actual Brexit—will tell.
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