As another difficult Bordeaux harvest nears its close, wine merchants in the UK are already calling for chateaux to reduce their prices after next year’s barrel tastings.
Although many in the trade will not predict the outcome of next year’s en primeur tasting of the 2008 vintage, what is clear is that, if the current financial situation remains, prices will have to come to come down.
‘If the wines were released today, it would have to be the best bargain in 10 years or not a sausage will buy it in the UK and Asia,’ said Simon Staples of Berry Bros & Rudd.
Robert Lench at Bordeaux Wine Investments said that new markets outside the UK, Europe and the US, would also be unlikely to invest.
‘Russia doesn’t buy en primeur,’ he said. ‘And although a lot of producers are barking on about the Chinese buying 2008 because eight is a lucky number, I’m not sure Far Eastern businessmen are that naïve.’
Lench added that ‘one or two’ UK merchants have talked about boycotting the 2008 barrel tastings next year.
‘Whether they will or not is another thing,’ he said.
Although harvest news currently coming out of Bordeaux remains unswervingly upbeat – Chateau Petrus owner Christian Moueix recently claimed 2008 remined him of 1983 – those in the industry remain unconvinced.
‘It looks to be, weather-wise, similar to 2007,’ said Stephen Browett at Farr Vintners.
Most merchants agree that last year’s prices were high for a mediocre vintage.
‘You can have one vintage where the public will give Bordeaux the benefit of the doubt,’ said Browett, talking of the 2007 en primeur campaign. ‘Now, assuming the vintage is similar to ’07, they owe the punters a favour.’
‘The chateaux owners suffered last year from looking greedy,’ he said. ‘They have made so much money in the last few years. If they released today, no-one would buy it.
The market needs a bargain vintage to reboot.’
However, whether or not chateaux owners in Bordeaux will heed the calls from the UK remains to be seen.
‘What I hope will happen and what I think will happen are two different things,’ said Lench.
Emmanuel Coiffe at Bordeaux-based négociant Salin, remain confident that the wines ‘have always found a market’, and that the châteaux should have no problems selling their 2008s.
Written by Oliver Styles