Investment – Spotlight on: POP Scores

As you may have noticed, we have recently updated The Finest Bubble website to include a Champagne Investment section. With breakdowns of the fine wine investment market, its financial benefits, the role of Liv-ex, the investment process itself and indications of the investment potential of some of the more popular Champagnes, most of the information is fairly self explanatory to anyone with an interest in Champagne investment. However, one aspect that may require a more in-depth explanation (and, as you’ll find out, exploration) is the value measurement, POP.Coined by Liv-ex, the leading fine wine exchange, POP stands for price-over-points. This ratio, calculated by dividing the price of a nine-litre case of wine by a shortened 20-point score, provides a loose measure of the value of a wine. Commonly used by Liv-ex to compare the value of different vintages of the same wine, or to compare different houses’ productions of the same vintage, it is certainly useful for basic comparison.

However, there are a few things to consider when analysing POP, and it certainly should not be considered a gospel guide to investment.Firstly, when discussing Champagne investment, Liv-ex typically uses American wine critic Antonio Galloni’s tasting scores. Whilst he is undoubtedly one of the principal and most respected wine critics, not just in America but globally, basing an investment decision (or even merely providing investment advise) solely on the opinion of one man, is risky business. Wine investment is usually a large financial commitment, with a minimum investment of £5,000 – £10,000 suggested by most advisers. That in mind, I know if I was considering investing thousands of pounds, I’d certainly like a more in-depth and robust measurement of value than something that revolves entirely around one chap’s nose and palate…World’s Best Wine Critic or not.

So, what happens to the POP scores of recent Dom Pérignon vintages, when we aggregate the scores of several top wine critics, instead of just one? Let’s take a look. Below are the POP scores for the last seven released Dom Pérignon vintages, calculated solely on Antonio Galloni’s scores (noted under ‘AG score’).

As we can see, Dom Pérignon 2004 has the lowest POP score, at 54.1. This means that, relative to the cost of the vintages and Antonio Galloni’s reviews, the 2004 vintage gives you the best bang for your buck.

Dom Pérignon POP scores by vintage
Vintage Av. case price AG score POP
1996 £1,700 97 100
1998 £1,410 92 117.5
1999 £1,000 92 76.9
2000 £1,050 94 75
2002 £1,080 98 60
2003 £858 94 61.3
2004 £920 97 54.1


So let’s all head to The Finest Bubble homepage and invest in Dom Pérignon 2004, right?! Well, maybe not. If we take the scores from Antonio Galloni, Robert Parker and Jancis Robinson MW, arguably the top three voices in the world of wine, and aggregate their scores for the Dom Pérignon vintages, then recalculate the POP scores based on this more representative reviewing, which vintage comes up trumps?

Dom Pérignon POP scores by vintage
Vintage Av. case price Av. score POP
1996 £1,700 96 106.3
1998 £1,410 89 156.7
1999 £1,000 92 73.3
2000 £1,050 94 75
2002 £1,080 98 60
2003 £858 92 72.7
2004 £920 95 61.3

As you can see above, whilst the general pattern of declining POP scores is unaltered, the finer figures tell a different story than before. Here, the vintage with the lowest POP score is Dom Pérignon 2002, at 60.0, compared to Dom Pérignon 2004’s score of 61.3. A small difference, yes, but according to these figures, the 2002 now offers the best value for money.

Important also to note is that fine wines, and particularly the leading brands of Champagne, are constantly being tasted and re-tasted by the world’s top wine critics, and for very good reason – as we all know, Champagne matures and improves with age. Antonio Galloni himself, upon revisiting Dom Pérignon 2002 four years after release, upped his original scoring of 96 points to 98 points. Thus, figures regarding the value of wine, especially relative to a critics scoring, are subject to change: potentially to improvement, yes, but also potentially to depreciation.

Frustratingly, this updated version of POP, although more representative, is not without its flaws. Most notably, Jancis uses a 20-point system when scoring Champagnes, whereas both Galloni and Parker score them out of 100. Thereby, data mis-comparison could occur when translating Jancis’ rating into a 100-point score (here, we have multiplied Jancis’ scores by five, e.g. an 18/20 = 90/100). By rating Champagnes out of 20, Jancis doesn’t have the option to acutely distinguish between Champagnes of a similarly high quality, whereas Galloni and Parker do. The result is that Jancis’ scoring may be distorted when converted to a 100-point range and thus has the potential to abnormally alter the average.

The lesson here is not to ignore the facts and figures popularly quoted by merchants and brokers in the wine industry; it’s to take them with a pinch of salt. Investing in Champagne is fairly simple and can yield high returns, but only specific brands and particular vintages will accrue value. Do your research, read around the subject carefully, and seek expert advice on the areas you don’t fully understand. Once you feel comfortable with the topic and you’ve looked at the relevant and representative figures, then you can head to The Finest Bubble homepage and invest in Dom Pérignon 2004.