Prices of the 2005 Bordeaux vintage are likely to be stratospheric – in some cases 300% up on last year – experts reckon.
The quality of the vintage is considered so extraordinary that excitement reached fever pitch almost before the grapes were off the vines. Some proprietors say they are already getting faxes and emails from merchants pledging more than the asking price for a good allocation.
Consultant Denis Dubourdieu told decanter.com that 2005 is better than any vintage he had seen since he came to Bordeaux in 1972, surpassing such legendary years as 1982 and 2000, a sentiment that has been echoed across the region.
Last week Berry Brothers sales director Simon Staples raised hackles by announcing he was ‘speechless’ after tasting the ‘incredibly decadant’ 2005, with its ‘lashings of fruit and lots of soft tannins.’
He awarded Cos d’Estournel 19/20 points a full six weeks before the en primeur barrel tastings start on 3 April, and namechecked Trotte Vieille and Batailley, giving them 17 points each.
The London trade has reacted with annoyance to this breaking of the convention that merchants avoid discussing the vintage before en primeur. One senior commentator said it was ‘ridiculous’ to score the wines so early, and Jancis Robinson said many would wish Staples had kept to his initial promise of speechlessness.
The chief objection to breaking ranks is the effect it may have on prices. Sam Gleave of Bordeaux Index said, ‘I see no benefit to the consumer. It simply gives a blank cheque to the owners.’
Many however argue that Bordeaux can hardly be unaware it is sitting on a winner.
‘It is arguably a legendary vintage,’ Laurent Ehrmann of negociants Barrieres Freres said. He stopped short of agreeing a 300% increase was possible but said the first growths might well release a first tranche at 100% above the 2004 price, with possibly a similar increase on subsequent tranches.
‘But there will inevitably be a cooling off period,’ he cautioned.
‘Prices will be high,’ Gleave said. ‘Some will be sensible and value the wine according to status, but others will go for a big raise. Somewhere like Montrose could go up 300% and get away with it. And if Ducru Beaucaillou went up that much on 2004 it would not be unusual.’
On jancisrobinson.com, Robinson says she ‘fears the worst’, with the top tier ‘drawing away from the pack’ and being priced only for the ‘super rich.’ Further down the hierarchy she also fears the ‘soft underbelly of the left bank classed growths’ may go for ‘robust prices.’
As for the chateaux themselves, few will comment before their wines are released. One proprietor, Anthony Barton of Chateau Leoville-Barton, who prices ‘for consumers’ rather than investors, put out a general plea for calm.
‘The market will go crazy, there’s no doubt of that, and prices will zoom up because in the US in particular they will pay any price. I just hope people will be sensible.’
Written by Adam Lechmere