Bordeaux should not pin hopes on Asian market

en primeur, Asian wine buyers, Chinese wine buyers, Berry Bros, Aussino News Wine News
  • Tuesday 8 April 2008

Asian buyers may not pay over the odds for the 2007 Bordeaux, contrary to perceived wisdom from the wine trade.

The expectation has been that Asian buyers - eager to get on the Bordeaux ladder - may be less price-sensitive and take up some of the slack left by Americans. But response during en primeur tastings indicates this may be wishful thinking.

Yasuhisa Hirose, president of Enoteca, Japan’s top chain of fine wine shops, said that while he found the wines ‘charming and approachable’, his main concern is price.

‘Since the 2005 vintage, we have been losing our traditional Bordeaux wine lovers in Japan,’ he said.

‘As a Bordeaux oriented wine merchant, I believe the 2007 vintage will be critical in determining whether we can get our customers back. We strongly request that the chateaux price 2007 with a sense of balance.’

Similarly, response in Hong Kong - which just scrapped all duty on wine and should theoretically be hugely receptive to the 2007s - has been clouded by uncertainty in the global economy.

‘The 2007 Bordeaux primeurs come at a time of dollar weakness and uncertain financial markets,’ said Nicholas Pegna, managing director of Berry Bros. in Hong Kong.

‘This underlines the need for value from the 2007 Bordeaux vintage. Buyers in Hong Kong are cautious and have a keen nose for a bargain, so a well-priced vintage may well excite some interest.’

Even in Singapore, where the local currency has remained stable against the euro - and has risen about 20% against the dollar and sterling - interest in 2007 is muted.

Hervé Aymond, co-founder of Corndale Consultants in Singapore - which experienced exuberant sales of the 2005 and 2006 vintages - said 2007 would be a challenge, as the market is ‘fatigued’.

‘At the moment there is little interest in the 2007 vintage. Unless the Place de Bordeaux returns to prices such as for the 2004s, it seems unlikely that the vintage will garner much interest.’

Finally, cultural factors may affect sales to mainland China.

‘Chinese customers do not have a clear picture of how en primeur works,’ said Robert Shum, founder of Aussino, the largest wine retailer in China.

‘They have not yet established concrete confidence in the investment process. The level of interest is really at the beginning stage.’

  • Ch'ng Poh Tiong is a long-standing Decanter columnist and wine writer. He also publishes The Singapore Wine Review.

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