En primeur 2004 has kicked off with producers optimistic in the midst of the Bordeaux crisis.

But they are predicting a drop in price, if not as dramatic as Jean-Luc Thunevin’s 47% drop in the price of Château Valandraud, at least low enough to tempt buyers back after the expensive 2003 vintage.

The general opinion around the tasting rooms of St-Emilion this morning is that this is a vintage that will favour the Right Bank.

The rains that started on 10 October 2004 meant that not all the Cabernet Sauvignon had been harvested in Bordeaux whereas the earlier-ripening Merlot and Cabernet Franc – the main varieties used in St-Emilion and Pomerol – were already safely in.

It was very much a vintage that needed careful attention. Château Cheval-Blanc consultant Kees Van Leeuwen said, ‘the potential yield was extremely high in 2004, the key was yield control. Those who kept the yields down had the potential to make great wines.’

This view was echoed by winemaker Emilie Faniest at Château La Pointe in Pomerol, who described 2004 as ‘a very difficult vintage to vinify’ and said that vineyard management – in particular, two separate green harvests – was essential to ensure the quality of the vintage.

The potential size of the vintage is excercising the minds of those concerned with the final release price of the wine.

‘2004 will not be an easy campaign,’ said Cheval-Blanc proprietor Pierre Lurton. ‘A lot of people think that this is a high-yielding vintage. The negociants are thinking there will be a lot of bottles at the end of it – and they have a great influence on price.’

Lurton predicted a drop in price but stopped short of suggesting his own property would come out with anything near the half-price cut seen at Valandraud.

Written by Adam Lechmere