Bordeaux producer André Lurton announced exclusively to decanter.com this week that he plans to withdraw Chateau La Louvière from the en primeur marketplace in Bordeaux.
Lurton, who earlier this year put the first white Bordeaux cru classé under screwcap with Chateau Couhins-Lurton, plans to sell direct, or through one of three appointed négociant houses.
Marie O’Riordan, sales director of UK fine wine importers Chalié Richards, said this new way of working would help protect the wine from the price instability of the en primeur system, which creates a great deal of price fluctuation.
‘It is a system that rewards the big names but can be difficult for quality chateaux that don’t have the 1855 classification to bolster their prices. There are many excellent chateaux that fall into this category, and I would imagine this move will be watched closely by many of them,’ she said.
The usual rules of the market place see most labels being purchased by an average of 40 négociants. This can be a problem in the modern marketplace, with supermarkets competing for the same wine.
Andre Lurton marketing director James Ryland told decanter.com this could be ‘highly destructive’ for commercial relationships and for the reputation of the brand.
‘The final straw came earlier this year, when La Louvière 2001 ended up in a price war between two major supermarkets, Auchan and Carrefour. The price was driven down to below en primeur levels, meaning the public were buying the wine for significantly less than our traditional merchants had been doing several months before.’
La Louvière had other problems besides supermarket price wars. It is well respected in France, but internationally its Pessac Léognan label is less well-known, so sales opportunities were being missed.
‘A lot of chateaux must be in a similar situation,’ Ryland said. ‘I am not predicting the end of the Bordeaux marketplace, and we still believe that négociants have a very important role to play, but I would not be surprised to see other chateaux following our lead in this.’
Written by Jane Anson in Bordeaux