Leading UK wine merchants, including Berry Bros & Rudd, Bordeaux Index and Corney & Barrow, have launched a pre-emptive strike ahead of this year's Bordeaux en primeur campaign by calling on chateaux and negociants to drop prices to revive consumer demand.

Consumer demand was weak during the Bordeaux 2013 en primeur campaign, according to merchants

An open letter signed by 12 UK merchants warns that many consumers in the UK and beyond have stopped buying Bordeaux wines en primeur, because they see no value in it.

While the letter’s signatories say they still support the en primeur system and want to participate in the Bordeaux 2014 campaign, they blame high release prices for lower consumer demand in recent years.

‘We are very concerned,’ says the letter, also signed by Farr Vintners, The Wine Society, Armit and Fine & Rare.

‘Generally speaking, we feel the market has for some time now needed a correction to return pricing levels to those of the 2008 vintage.’

The value of the global fine wine market, which is largely driven by Bordeaux, has declined since mid-2011, making some wines more affordable.

Following the highly rated – and highly priced – 2009 and 2010 vintages, many chateaux did drop their prices for the subsequent 2011, 2012 and 2013 vintages. But, consumer demand has been sluggish and the group of UK merchants believes more is needed.

‘The [en primeur] price should represent value for money in that the wine will not be available at a later date for a lesser amount. This has patently not been the case with the last four (arguably five) vintages,’ says the letter.

‘Bordeaux has a great opportunity to win people back this spring with a return to more sensible pricing levels that better reflect sentiment in the market.’

Some chateaux earned praise from merchants last year after cutting prices for their 2013 vintage en primeur wines. Lynch-Bages was particulatly well received after dropping its price by 17% versus 2012.

One negociant who did not wish to be named told Decanter.com that English merchants were complaining because, having created a secondary market, ‘now Bordeaux negociants are selling direct to Hong Kong and [Mainland] China, they are dismayed to see a further erosion of their margins’.

(Extra reporting by Jane Anson)

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Written by Chris Mercer