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Looking back: Langton’s Classification II

The second edition of Langton’s Classification appeared in April 1996. It was an exciting time, with the wine market on an investment-driven roller-coaster ride.

By Adrian Read

In the 1990s Langton’s experienced high levels of interest in wine as an investment -- hardly surprising when many of the best Australian reds increased in value by between 30% and 250% over the course of the decade.

A young business founded only a few years before (in 1988), Langton’s was then Australia’s only specialist wine auction house.

2018 is also a Classification year! In September, we will release the 7th edition of the Langton’s Classification of Australian Wine — the foremost form guide to the best performing wines in the Australian market and the preeminent wine classification of ‘new world’ wines.

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Rightly or wrongly, Langton’s Classification of Australian Wine, first edition 1990, quickly became the ‘form guide’ for buyers seeking wines, not to drink, but to resell at a profit. 

Classification I included just 34 wines. But with Classification II in 1996 the number had almost doubled, to 63, reflecting a vibrant market in which interest in fine Australian wines had grown at the expense of European or ‘Old World’ wines.

The criteria for Classification had not changed: a minimum of 10 vintages produced; consistent volume (and value) of both supply and demand; and past performance or track-record.

We said, in Langton’s Australian Fine Wine Investment Guide (1999):

‘The integrity of the Classification lies in the fact that it is the critical mass of fine wine consumers, as expressed by volumes and values of demand at auction, who decide which wines should be included. Reputation is the key factor, transcending the instabilities of vintage, wine show results and personal opinions’.

The change that attracted the most attention in 1996 was the expansion of the ‘Outstanding (A)’ category from a single wine -- Penfolds Grange -- to three with the elevation of Henschke Hill of Grace Shiraz (Eden Valley) and Mount Mary Quintet Cabernets (Yarra Valley).

Wines that retained their ‘Outstanding’ ranking…

Penfolds ‘Bin 707’ Cabernet Sauvignon -- South Australia
Petaluma ‘Coonawarra’ Cabernet Merlot
Wynns Coonawarra Estate ‘John Riddoch’ Cabernet Sauvignon
Yarra Yering ‘Dry Red Wine No.1’ Cabernet blend -- Yarra Valley
Wines promoted from ‘Excellent’ to ‘Outstanding’… Brokenwood ‘Graveyard Vineyard’ Shiraz -- Hunter Valley
Henschke ‘Cyril Henschke’ Cabernet Sauvignon --Eden Valley
Henschke ‘Mount Edelstone’ Shiraz -- Eden Valley
Leeuwin Estate ‘Art Series’ Chardonnay -- Margaret River
Moss Wood Cabernet Sauvignon -- Margaret River
Mount Mary Pinot Noir -- Yarra Valley
Petaluma Chardonnay -- Adelaide Hills
Tyrrell’s ‘Vat 47’ Chardonnay -- Hunter Valley

Wines that retained their ‘Excellent’ ranking…

Cape Mentelle Cabernet Sauvignon -- Margaret River
Chateau Reynella Vintage Port -- McLaren Vale
De Bortoli ‘Noble One’ Botrytis Semillon -- Riverina
Hardy’s Vintage Port -- McLaren Vale
Lake’s Folly Cabernets -- Hunter Valley
Lake’s Folly Chardonnay -- Hunter Valley
Lindemans ‘Limestone Ridge’ Shiraz Cabernet -- Coonawarra
Mount Mary Chardonnay -- Yarra Valley
Penfolds St Henri Shiraz -- South Australia
Petaluma (‘Hanlin Hill’) Riesling -- Clare Valley
Pipers Brook Vineyard Chardonnay -- Tasmania
Sally’s Paddock Cabernet blend -- Pyrenees
Tyrrell’s ‘Vat 1’ Semillon -- Hunter Valley
Virgin Hills Cabernet blend -- Macedon Ranges
Wolf Blass ‘Black Label’ Cabernet blend -- South Australia
Yarra Yering Pinot Noir -- Yarra Valley
Yarra Yering ‘Dry Red No.2’ Shiraz -- Yarra Valley

Wines entering the ‘Excellent’ category for the first time in 1996…

Bannockburn Chardonnay -- Geelong
Bannockburn Pinot Noir -- Geelong
Bowen Estate Cabernet Sauvignon -- Coonawarra
Coldstream Hills ‘Reserve’ Chardonnay -- Yarra Valley
Craiglee Shiraz -- Sunbury
Cullen (‘Diana Madeline’) Cabernet Merlot -- Margaret River
Dalwhinnie Cabernet Sauvignon -- Pyrenees
Dalwhinnie Shiraz -- Pyrenees
Grosset ‘Polish Hill’ Riesling -- Clare Valley
Grosset ‘Springvale’ Riesling -- Clare Valley
Hardy’s ‘Eileen Hardy’ Shiraz -- South Australia
Jasper Hill ‘Emily’s Paddock’ Shiraz Cabernet Franc -- Heathcote
Jasper Hill ‘Georgia’s Paddock’ Shiraz -- Heathcote
Jim Barry ‘The Armagh’ Shiraz -- Clare Valley
Leconfield Cabernet Sauvignon -- Coonawarra
Lindemans ‘Pyrus’ Cabernet blend -- Coonawarra
Mountadam Chardonnay -- Eden Valley
Orlando ‘St Hugo’ Cabernet Sauvignon -- Coonawarra
Penfolds ‘Magill Estate’ Shiraz -- Adelaide
Penfolds ‘Bin 389’ Cabernet Shiraz -- South Australia
Pierro Chardonnay -- Margaret River
Pipers Brook Vineyard Riesling -- Tasmania
Rosemount ‘Show Reserve’ Chardonnay -- Hunter Valley
St Hallett ‘Old Block’ Shiraz -- Barossa Valley
Tahbilk ‘1860 Vines’ Shiraz -- Goulburn Valley
Wendouree Cabernet Malbec -- Clare Valley
Wendouree Cabernet Sauvignon -- Clare Valley
Wendouree Shiraz -- Clare Valley
Wynns Coonawarra Estate (‘Black Label’) Cabernet Sauvignon
Yeringberg Cabernet blend -- Yarra Valley
One wine left the Classification: Rothbury Estate Hunter Valley Semillon.

Yet to make their impact are modern market staples such as Bass Phillip and Torbreck, and others, new and old, that survived the cult wine roller-coaster ride of the 1990s: the likes of Greenock Creek, Three Rivers/Chris Ringland, Clarendon Hills, Noon, Wild Duck Creek Estate, Fox Creek, even d’Arenberg.

Langton’s pointed out at the time that wine investment was… ‘a minefield of factors all massaged and hyped by wine critics, public relations machines, entrenched prejudices, popular mythology and more than a little wishful thinking’.

We also offered Five Wine Investment Maxims which remain as valuable today as they were 20 or more years ago…

1. Understand the market.
2. Buy only good vintages.
3. Beware of hyperbole.
4. Pay attention to cellaring conditions.
5. Read more than one wine critic.

Langton's holds more than 250
fine wine auctions every year,
closing every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday.

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