The high prices of the 2009 en primeur campaign have further widened the gulf between Bordeaux's top estates and the ordinary winemakers who produce the bulk of the region
According to figures from Bordeaux courtiers (wine brokers), theaverage price rises for the 400 wines sold en primeur stands at 18.6% on 2005, and 47.6% on 2008.
The most sought after wines showeven steeper rises, and over twelve labels will see an average openingconsumer price of well over €700 per bottle.
At the sametime, the official price paid by merchants for a tonneau (900 litres, or the equivalent of 1,200 bottles sold in bulk) of AOC Bordeaux red hasdropped to around €600 per barrel – less than the ex-chateau price for a single bottle of any of the top wines.
Most producersreport that actual transaction fees are dropping as low as €500 pertonneau.
Bernard Fargues, president of Syndicate ofBordeaux (which represents over half of the regions’ 8,000 winemakers,all producing AOC Bordeaux and AOC Bordeaux Superieur) told decanter.com that around 90% of his members were in difficulty, with at least 50%suffering serious financial problems.
That figure accountsfor around 2,000 winemakers.
‘Winemakers who are in realdifficulty are in no position to resist the ever-decreasing pressure onprices, as they need cash flow of any kind to survive,’ he said.
‘Bordeaux wine merchants spend half of the year on the en primeur campaign,promoting the top wines of the region, while the rest of us getforgotten about,’ said winemaker Regis Chaigne, speaking at a conference held by Ertus Consulting on the marketing of Bordeaux wines.
‘And this is not just true in Bordeaux itself – merchants around the worldhave to spend so much time and energy waiting for en primeur prices that normal wine shipments get put on hold.’
‘We may all make a product of the vine, sold in a bottle with a cork, but we are not onthe same planet as the top wines,’ said Fargues.
‘Theremay be envy over the prices, but not jealousy – if none of the big names were in Bordeaux, we would all suffer. But we worry that, in the shortterm, these high prices contribute to a negative image of the region.’
Written by Jane Anson in Bordeaux