JESS LAMB MEETS SAVILLS DIRECTOR TREVOR KEARNEY TO TALK ALL THINGS LUXURY, FROM SUPER-PRIME PROPERTY TO DOMAINE D’AUVENAY
BY JESS LAMB
The world of fine wine is intimately related to a diverse range of other fabulous luxury goods and assets, from whisky and cigars to supercars and watches. However, high-end property and ultra-fine wines are particularly close cousins; not only is it imperative to have a fantastic home cellar in which to store your collection, but wine and property markets can each tell us a great deal about the other and where we may be headed in the future.
Chelsea Vintners Head of Marketing Jess Lamb sat down with Trevor Kearney, Savills Director and Head of London Office, to get his unique take on the ways in which the worlds of wine and property collide – enjoying some incredible anecdotes and reminiscing about favourite bottles in the process!
How did you find your way into the luxury property market?
Like most agents that find themselves dealing in the world of super prime, I started off selling houses in the mainstream markets. My career began at a small independent agency in Claygate, which is a small village next door to Esher – quite quickly I became a big fish in a very small pond! When Savills opened their newest Elmbridge office in Cobham, I was excited by the opportunity of both this location and joining Savills. It felt like the right approach for me to go on and further my career with Savills, which I believe is the best real estate brand in the world.
Backed by reputation and success combined with a lot of perseverance, I climbed to a position where today I advise and transact in the ultra-high net worth and super prime ecosystem. This has been built through strong relationships, which are created by always delivering and doing what we say that we will on every occasion, to the highest of standards.
What for you are the most exciting things about the world of luxury property?
For me it has always been people over property. It’s the about the people that we get to meet and enjoy a glass of wine with, more than the houses that they live in. The homes, however, are of course incredible and it is a privilege to be trusted with the sale of one of a client’s most financially valuable assets. I come from incredibly humble beginnings, so this is not the world that I was used to or that I grew up around – I have always aspired and wanted more, which this industry has afforded me to achieve. Now I feel totally at ease and comfortable within this world. I am an intrinsic part of the super prime property world and a voice of authority within the industry, which gives me a great deal of pride.
The homes I work with are at the forefront of design, style, taste and technology within real estate. We really do get to see and sell some of the finest homes in the world. We are seeing cutting edge designs and finishes going into super prime houses right now that historically have only ever been used in the commercial space due to the scarcity and cost of unique materials. I look at the relatively recently created ‘Shoe Heaven’ at Harrods, for instance; the level of detail, including the use of marble, joinery and bespoke finishes, is incredible. I can now see features such as those being translated into residential properties, which I think is amazing. It’s the finishes, the detail and the choice of materials that makes these homes stand out from the rest. Our clients desire the very best, not only when it comes to wine but homes too!
What makes your role within Savills so special?
We offer a totally bespoke service at the very top end of the market for both buyers and sellers. We are able to give our clients, the sellers of these houses, a level of access to buyers that I believe that nobody else can match – I genuinely believe that we have the best ‘little black book’ in the industry. We have the best contacts in the world from the likes of Chelsea Vintners and McLaren to family offices, wealth managers and private jet and yacht brokers. We are deeply and intrinsically immersed within the world of luxury 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, and can bring all our contacts into play for our clients. Savills, my London office team and Savills Sports & Entertainment teams are all an inherent part of the luxury lifestyle eco-system and very proud to be so.
What are your views on the short/medium term future of the luxury property market? Any thoughts/top tips for investors?
We are entering a very interesting time, both politically and economically. What is particularly fascinating is that in July 2022, the value of stamp duty receipts recorded by HMRC stood at £1.5bn. Despite the economic backdrop, the previous month recorded £1.4bn; a full hundred-million- pound increase month on month shows us in real time that the market remains solid despite the uncertainties we all face and the obvious challenging headwinds. It shows us that there is still trust and belief in the UK housing market and that people still want to buy and sell houses, including the super prime markets. My short-term view is that over the coming months there will be a period of stabilisation. In my opinion, stock will increase and there will be more options for buyers, so the supply vs demand balance will stabilise. We have over the last couple of years had periods where the buyer to seller ratio was as much as five buyers registered to buy to every one property listed for sale, but this has and will continue to ease as more properties come to the market.
The Savills five-year forecast is that prices will increase about 20% across that time frame, so I have belief and knowledge that markets will continue to be strong and will continue to grow. And that’s supported by the simple fact that we still have more buyers than we do sellers!
What parallels do you see between the luxury property and fine wine markets? Wine has even started to outperform property in some years… what are your thoughts on this?
Being as central as I am in the super-prime property market and all things ‘high end’, I track and watch the luxury asset markets forensically. Whether it’s fine wines, super cars, vintage cars, art or antiques, I think that all these categories follow a similar trajectory, mirroring and relating to one another much more than we realise. When the luxury property market is booming, we see that the luxury wine market follows suit and at the moment that’s reflected in the number of record prices that are being achieved.
Chelsea Vintners have shown me evidence from recent times that suggests wine is actually capable of outperforming property. I believe that there is one particularly good reason for that… vintage. When you look at any great name from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti to Petrus, there are always certain years that are in huge demand but of course the nature of a vintage wine means that stock is always finite. Meanwhile, collectors continue to buy and store; but most importantly, I am seeing that a large number of these wine lovers are buying and drinking more than ever, even at the most exclusive end of the scale. Therefore, vintage wines become more and more exclusive, with buyers willing to pay a huge premium for certain vintages.
In houses this is slightly different in that buyers can compromise on the history of house they buy or even on the location a little. We can change and develop what we thought that we wanted and desired in real estate but in wine that is rather different. Our taste buds cannot be convinced otherwise!
How important is top-notch wine storage for your clients?
Wine storage is big business in the world of premium property. So many of my clients care deeply about their wine storage and wine investment and are making decisions on the houses that they are building or buying based on wine storage and in some cases how to display their collections. This can be in the form of anything from a luxury tasting room, a temperature-controlled facility or an underground wine cellar. The tradition of storing wine in our homes goes back hundreds of years (we often see amazing wine cellars within important country houses and estates) but the trend we are seeing more and more is the creation of wine rooms and cellars in brand new super-homes. Self-made first-generation wealth is now focusing more on wine today than I have ever seen before in my two decades in property. Wine is high on the agenda – wine lovers want to store it, drink it and show it off.
Do you have any advice for buyers and renters on what to look for in terms of ensuring home cellaring?
What clients need to be careful of is efficient climate control and exposure to light. There are some truly spectacular bespoke wine rooms that I have seen in my time, but what I notice on occasion is wine storage facilities focused purely on aesthetics, forgetting the key functions of temperature control and light exposure management. This can be a fundamental error, particularly for older vintages which need extremely careful cellaring to remain at their best.
We have just seen a client move into a rental property which had extensive wine storage facilities, perfect for his collection of some incredibly rare vintages but also his day-to-day drinking wines – most of which were sourced and bought expertly through Chelsea Vintners! Unfortunately, the wine storage was not temperature controlled and had underfloor heating running through the chillers as well as a cooling facility. This was a major design fault on a new-build property which of course caused havoc with the temperature controls and resulted in the wine being spoilt. It wasn’t spotted during summer when the underfloor heating wasn’t in use and the temperatures monitored… six months later with the heating on but no-one keeping an eye on the wine temperature gauge, we had a problem!
My advice is to always work with the professionals. There are plenty of excellent wine storage experts and cellar designers who can offer excellent advice on storing your wine if it is being kept at home and create a dream facility in which to do so. Also… keep an eye on the thermostat!
What’s the most amazing home wine cellar you’ve ever seen?
For me, it has to be the wine cellar at Pickhurst. Pickhurst is a country estate just south of Guildford that I sold for a lovely British family of property tycoons. It had the ultimate cellar, holding several thousand bottles of wine, but also featuring a stunning tasting room. It was a pared back design with a beautiful antique furniture and the most natural beautiful aroma – the ultimate room for any wine connoisseur. We see some fabulous cellars housing with fabulous wine storage facilities, but I always go back to Pickhurst. It was a proper cellar and it just blew me away. (The owner’s wines were also very good, as you might expect!)
In fact, drinking and learning about wine in that very wine cellar is one of the many experiences that gave me my personal passion for wine. It totally inspired me; I wanted to sit around that table, understand what I was tasting, and gain a deeper level of insight into what I was enjoying and why. I’ve had great fun exploring my palate ever since.
What are your personal wine preferences/passions?
Screaming Eagle today remains my number one wine closely followed by much of the Mouton Rothschild stable. However, for day to day drinking at home (especially in spring and summer) we open a lot of white wine and for me that means Domaine Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet – my go-to every single time. I’m a massive fan of the Puligny-Montrachet region of Burgundy and have been lucky enough to enjoy many tastings and cases of these very special wines.
If I could only have one last bottle of wine right now, not taking affordability into any consideration, it would have to be a bottle of Domaine d’Auvenay Montrachet Grand Cru 1998, perfect for sunshine drinking. Having said that, as the winter months draw in, I’m sure that my path is going to change and I’m going to be choosing Screaming Eagle 1997 or 2010. I can but dream!
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