The en primeur campaign for the 2008 vintage may not happen, warns Château Petrus owner Jean-François Moueix.
Moueix, one of Bordeaux’s most influential figures, told France’s Nouvel Observateur newspaper that he ‘can’t exclude the possibility that there will not be an en primeur campaign in 2009’.
The owner of Petrus – which is currently selling at around £10,000 a case on the 2007 vintage and at well over £2000 a bottle for the 05 – said the classified growths of Bordeaux have been in a dangerous speculative bubble since 2005, and that price drops in subsequent vintages have been insufficient.
‘The châteaux believe they are victims of the financial crisis, but they have orchestrated the problem [of excessive pricing],’ he said.
‘If négociant houses can’t buy or obtain lines of credit for their allocations, the wine will remain at the châteaux. And if there are not enough takers of allocations, there won’t be any en primeur sales.’
While Moueix’s comments have ignited a furore in Bordeaux, some merchants agree.
‘The fact that the quality is better than 2007, or that the yields were low, is absolutely of secondary importance this year. I don’t think there is one person in the distribution chain or a private buyer who cares,‘ Laurent Ehrmann of négociant Barriere Frères told decanter.com.
‘It is now time to return to the fundamentals of finding the right price. The en primeur window of opportunity is a spectacular one, and if a large number of wineries aren’t capable of coming to the meeting point, then there may be no campaign, or half a campaign.’
One Bordeaux grand cru classé owner spoke on condition of anonymity said ‘the quality of 2008 is far better than expected, so châteaux may prefer to keep hold of their stock rather than to sell it on for very low prices.’
One London merchant, Stephen Browett of Farr Vintners, said if prices were not going to fall, then he’d prefer not to have an en primeur campaign.
‘If the producers wish to…pretend that there is no financial crisis in the world, then Farr Vintners would certainly prefer that there was no en primeur campaign next year. That would be far preferable to a campaign at the wrong prices.
‘Clearly prices need to return to 2004 vintage levels, when we sold 1st Growths at £950 and seconds at under £300. If not, then they can forget about selling their wine in the UK.’
Adam Brett-Smith of Petrus agents Corney and Barrow said owners needed ‘imagination and lateral thinking’ and prices must fall. He added that ‘an entire cultural philosophy like en primeur’ would not be dismantled easily.
The Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux would not be drawn into the discussion.
‘We have many members who may all have very different opinions,’ said a spokesperson.
Written by Jane Anson in Bordeaux