Bordeaux is set for a low-key en primeur campaign this year, with some describing 2013 as the region's worst vintage for 20 years and one high-profile chateau - Le Pin - already confirming it will not take part.
Pomerol-based Le Pin said that it doesn’t have enough wine to justify taking part in the 2013 vintage en primeur campaign. A 2013 vintage will be released at some stage, but it may not be until the wine is bottled.
‘We have several barrels that we are watching very closely to see how they develop,’ a Le Pin spokesperson told decanter.com.
‘We may end up only releasing the three barrels that we know today are good enough, so 900 bottles. But, it’s too early to say.’
Le Pin’s concerns are broadly echoed across Bordeaux, and among those elsewhere who deal in the region’s wines. Last week, Cru Bourgeois property Chateau Malescasse said it would not be producing a 2013 vintage.
A stuttering start to last year’s growing season was compounded by rain and humid conditions during harvest to lead some chateau owners and merchants to declare that 2013 will be the worst vintage in at least 20 years.
Top chateaux with sophisticated equipment are likely to fare the best, observers say, but even they have had to be unusually selective. Chateau Lafite, for example, will only use 30% of its grape for its first wine – its grand vin – versus 38% in 2011 and 40% in 2010.
In that way, some argue there could still be a small quantity of very good wines. But, others believe this misses the point.
‘It’s a vintage of the rich, since you needed to be rich to do everything which you needed to do,’ consultant Stéphane Derenoncourt told decanter.com columnist Andrew Jefford in his latest Jefford on Monday article.
Overall, Derenoncourt described 2013 as ‘a horrible vintage’.
Decanter’s Bordeaux correspondent, Jane Anson, reported in her latest column for Decanterchina.com that some in Bordeaux have been calling 2013 ‘the vintage that nearly wasn’t’.
Some have even questioned the point of running an en primeur this year; albeit this argument has been used before ahead of other vintages that initially failed to excite.
‘We are expecting a very low-key year and in my humble opinion maybe there shouldn’t even be an en primeur campaign,’ said Stephen Browett, chairman at UK fine wine merchant Farr Vintners. ‘There is no interest from customers in buying the wines.’
As ever, pricing will be a key part of the equation. One senior negociant said that prices would have to fall versus last year’s campaign if many estates are to sell their stock en primeur.
This year’s Bordeaux en primeur tasting week, organised by Bordeaux’s Union de Grand Crus, begins on Monday 31 March.
Written by Chris Mercer (additional reporting by Jane Anson)