Buying limits are being imposed in French supermarkets to stop wholesale wine merchants snapping up blue-chip wines at knock down prices in the Foire aux Vins.
As supermarkets sell blue-chip wines like Château Mouton Rothschild 2004 and Château Lafite Rothschild 2004 at €129 per bottle (£90), where the current UK price stands at £270, customers are being restricted to just two bottles per person for the most prestigious names.
The Foire aux Vins are annual wine sales where prestigious wines are found at low prices. Together, they account for 25% in value of annual supermarket wine sales across the country.
Guillaume Halley, owner of a Champion supermarket in an upmarket suburb of Bordeaux told decanter.com, ‘The 2005 vintage has brought a lot of interest because people are looking to buy well-reviewed bottles at a good price.’
Apart from the Mouton and the Lafite, other key bargains include Carruades de Lafite 2005 at £30 a bottle (UK price: £67) and Forts de Latour 2004 at £40 a bottle (UK price: £70).
For particularly prestigious name most stocks have already sold out – often to wine merchants hoping to sell on for a quick profit. Halley said, ‘In the last few years the dynamic has changed. On the first day of the fair negociants go from shop to shop, making it very hard for real clients to get hold of bottles.‘
Last year, there were reports of UK merchants buying wines in France and reselling back in Britain.
Chateau owners do their best to set prices, but many bottles end up below the original release price.
Barbara Engerer at Château Paloumey told decanter.com ‘On the one hand we are quite happy to have sold volumes en primeur so we can’t be too picky where it’s going. But on the other hand, we have absolutely no control over the price. The supermarkets might sell them as loss leaders which is very bad for the image of the Château.’
A spokesperson for Chateau Mouton Rothschild said the prices at the Foire were ‘under no circumstances representative of the actual market’.
Written by Jane Anson in Bordeaux