Bordeaux chateaux are preparing to display their 2013 vintage for critics knowing that consumers are wary and some of their own recent back-vintages are as cheap as they have ever been.
Many Chateaux who already cut prices for the 2011 and 2012 vintages are now being urged to do so once more. Alain Raynaud, head of the Grande Cercle de Bordeaux, believes prices must drop by around 30% versus 2012 in order for 2013 wines to be attractive to consumers.
One chateau, Pontet-Canet, raised a few eyebrows this week by releasing its 2013 vintage at €60-a-bottle ex-Bordeaux, holding its price from 2012.
If you like wine and you haven’t spent the past six months in quiet contemplation in solitary confinement, you’ll probably understand at this point that Bordeaux 2013 has been unusually tricky. ‘I’ve seen things I’ve never seen before,’ one producer told Decanter.com in London last week.
As Decanter.com discovered on the ground in Bordeaux this week, there is also talk of ‘surprising’ quality among wines that have squeezed through the stringent selection regime enforced by many estates.
And yet, no one will really know anything until next week, when many of the world’s wine critics, journalists and bloggers descend on Bordeaux to put the new vintage through its paces.
What we can say, for now, is that much of Bordeaux is in a delicate state.
Exports of the region’s wine fell by 6% in value and 2% in volume last year, with shipments to China down by 16% and 18% in volume and value respectively.
Several commentators have pointed to buyers’ heightened sensitivity to price. Take Latour, which has extricated itself from the en primeur process, but two weeks ago released its 2004 at around £4,380 for a 12-bottle case.
‘The price proved just too ambitious in what’s evidently a weak market that’s buying relative value “bargains” but baulks at premiums however pristine the provenance,’ Bordeaux Index buyer Oliver Sharp told Decanter.com.
More generally, the Liv-ex fine wine trading platform reported this month that Bordeaux’s market share of trades had hit a nine-year low, albeit still accounting for 74% of trades by value.
At the top end of the market, Bordeaux is not only competing with other regions, such as Burgundy, Rhone, Champagne or Tuscany – prices for back-vintages of some Bordeaux chateaux look more attractive than they have for years.
‘This is an unprecedented period of weakness in the long history of the Bordeaux market and, while it seems eternal, it won’t be and some great wines are cheap,’ said Miles Davis, partner at Wine Asset Managers in the UK.
The 2013 vintage must navigate a route through this turbulence. For consumers, while we must wait for proper quality assessments, there is clearly the potential for some good deals – perhaps even on estates that have been out of reach to many for some time.
Follow Decanter.com and @decanter on twitter for regular updates throughout en primeur week.
Written by Chris Mercer