American merchants wary of Bordeaux 2007

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  • Friday 29 February 2008

Some American merchants will skip the Bordeaux en primeur barrel tastings next month due to the high Euro, mixed vintage reports and apprehension of high futures prices.

Merchants cite a lack of interest on the part of the consumer, a poor vintage and high prices as reasons for not attending. Although many will attend to ensure a good quota of wines in future vintages, strategic pricing on the part of the chateaux and negociants has alienated some importers.

'They will screw you in a good vintage anyway,' one anonymous US merchant told decanter.com. ‘Future allocations? Rubbish. Who says I want to buy next year? And if 2008 turns out to be an A+ vintage, my experience is that they end up reducing your allocations anyway.'

‘None of us are going,’ said MacArthur Beverages' Mark Wessels, speaking for several important wine merchants in Washington DC. ‘I have heard from some Bordeaux negociants that many other Americans are not going, either. 2007 is a vintage in which I predict my customers will have little or no interest.’

Wessels said that although he was sure good wines had been produced in a difficult vintage, production would be reduced due to much stricter selection in the vineyards and the cellars.

‘[This] means prices will not likely be low enough to garner interest, especially with the euro being as high,’ said Wessels.

Other importers and retailers agreed.

‘We see no reason to go this year,’ said Michael Sands of Calvert Woodley, also in Washington. ‘We went last year in part to taste many smaller chateaux from the 2005 vintage – but no such interest this year.'

New York importers are still considering their options. A strong Euro remains a major factor against going to Bordeaux in April, as is the quality of the vintage.

‘We have heard mixed reviews on 2007 and are not likely to pursue it as strongly as the '05s and '06s,’ said Beekman Liquors owner David Frieser.

Those with firm plans to go to Bordeaux this year travel with an equally firm message: please lower your prices.

‘I am starting to pick up information that the first growths are going to open at €200, first tranche, which will mean over US$300 per bottle,’ said Michael Aaron of Sherry-Lehmann. ‘I am hoping that the first growths take a deep breath, look at the importance of the American market, and start below €200.’

Ralph Sands, Bordeaux expert for K&L wine merchants in California, one the largest Bordeaux wine sellers in the country, pointed to the lack of demand for top-end wines. All the first growths, he said, as well as chateaux Ausone, Cheval Blanc, Palmer and Angelus were wines which ‘have moved their price up rather drastically, and [US] demand for those wines has gone way down’.

‘The quality of those wines is exceptional, but the incremental price increases of these estates have alienated many more people than the Bordelais think,’ he said.

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