Bordeaux 2011: Primeurs offers being met with 'stony silence', merchants report

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  • Tuesday 8 May 2012

American merchants say they are buying very little Bordeaux 2011 because prices are too high for the quality - and because they still hold unsold stocks of the more expensive 2010.

Bordeaux en primeur wine tastings

And in Britain, wine merchants are ambivalent but there are few who believe the campaign has any momentum: the release of Chateau Beychevelle has been met with ‘stony silence’, one reported.

US merchants are grumbling that the Bordeaux 2011 campaign has not taken off because expected price decreases are not low enough.

Chris Adams, of New York importer Sherry Lehmann, came back from Bordeaux en primeur tastings last month ‘genuinely excited about the prospects for the campaign’ but now calls the high prices ‘a shame’ so far – ‘and really surprisingly so,’ he said.

‘There’s been no incentive for me to take any positions, as I still have decent stocks of 2010s that haven’t sold through, and the price decreases aren’t significant enough for me to see any real value for the consumer.

‘I can only congratulate the chateaux for having developed such international markets that they can price the wines this way, because they won’t sell in America.’

Shaun Bishop of JJ Buckley in California, a retailer which sent a team of 14 to Bordeaux for the primeurs, said that prices for the majority of the 2011 wines released so far will not appeal to the US market.

‘More specifically, we believe the less expensive wines, those below US$25, will sell better once they are physically in the market,’ he said. ‘And for the high-end wines, we need to see an additional 15-20% reduction beyond what their peers have done so far.’

Lack of interest in 2011 does not surprise merchants who did not go to Bordeaux, such as Mark Wessels, of MacArthur Beverages in Washington D.C.– his first absence since the 2002 campaign: ‘I’d like to sell more 2010s, before I start buying 2011s,’ he said.

In London, Fine & Rare’s Simon Davies said that Beychevelle at £495 per case, ‘looked like a great buy - most other vintages are £700-800 per case. However the release … was met with stony silence from our customers.
‘If this is the response to a well priced wine from a well respected property then I think we can safely say that the campaign has stalled: we get the message.’

Roberson Wines, a medium-sized merchant in West London, was more upbeat. ‘It seems they have listened to the market regarding prices; this offer makes the 2011 the cheapest available vintage of this wine on the market - surely an incentive to buyers,’ the retailer told its customers.

Another mid-sized merchant, Lea & Sandeman, sent its customers an email entitled ‘Beychevelle – another gun to the head’.

Partner Charles Lea said the wine was the ‘least-interesting’ of the St Juliens, and suggested the price had more to do with its Chinese market than quality.

He asked his customers, ‘Seeing as this is otherwise a pretty dull wine at a bubble price, the question is do you fancy your luck?’

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