Chateau Margaux will set its prices this year so they do not exceed those the 1999 vintage now commands.

Speaking at Margaux this morning, director general Paul Pontallier said the chateau needed to rekindle relations with its regular customers, who had been put off by the prices of the 2000 vintage.

‘It looks obvious,’ he said. ‘If we want to bring our customers back we should decrease the price. A lot of regular buyers have not followed the chateau since 2000.’

Saying they ‘had always been sensitive to these things,’ Pontallier suggested a realistic price would not exceed the current level of the 1999, even though he considered the 2001 vintage was better than that.

‘The 2000 was an exceptional year,’ he said. ‘We should forget about the 2000. It would not be healthy to try to follow its price. The level of the 1999 would be the maximum price, although I don’t know at all what the price might be.’ According to UK wine merchants, the 1999 is fetching anything between £80 and £110 (€130-180) a bottle at the moment.

Other Bordeaux chateaux are likely to follow suit. First growth Haut-Brion is understood to consider a small increase on the price of the 1999 is the best plan.

Many chateaux, negociants and merchants are worried that the high release prices last year alienated their loyal customer base. UK merchants earlier this month warned chateaux that any move to repeat the pricing of the 2000 would be seen as ‘commercial cynicism’.

Pontallier also told decanter.com that he had seen the letter written by the UK merchants suggesting chateaux keep their prices low this year and said he agreed with its sentiments. ‘They know markets much better than we do, but they address us as if we were the people who decide the price – that’s not the point. The main factor is the market and we set our prices according to what it wants,’ he said.

Written by Adam Lechmere in Bordeaux27 March 2001