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Bordeaux 2013: Lynch-Bages release buoys wary merchants

Chateau Lynch-Bages has earned many merchants' praise for dropping its 2013 price by 17%, but there is concern that not enough estates will follow suit after a day of ups and downs in Bordeaux.

2013 vintage wines on show for tasters during en primeur week

Many of those charged with physically selling Bordeaux 2013 en primeur to consumers were dismayed that Chateau Montrose chose to maintain its 2012 price when the wines were released early yesterday (10 April) at €57.60 ex-Bordeaux – even though several of them enjoyed tasting the wine itself.

‘Montrose is another chateau that fails to recognise that with 2013 we have a weak vintage with weak demand in a depressed market,’ said Stephen Browett, chairman of Farr Vintners. ‘We are listing the wine for sale at £630 in bond but, sadly, we don’t expect to sell a single case.’

Some merchants found themselves torn. ‘We told customers that we like the wine but we don’t really like the price,’ said Will Hargrove at Corney & Barrow.

Despite the high costs and low volumes associated with the challenging Bordeaux 2013 vintage, several merchants have argued release prices must fall significantly versus 2012 if the wines are to sell en primeur. ‘It is imperative that the 2013s are the most affordable vintage on the market by a substantial margin,’ wrote Jamie Strutt, of Goedhuis & Co, in a company blog.

The market’s mood brightened after Lynch-Bages chose this afternoon (10 April) to release its 2013 wine at a 17% discount on 2012, putting it at €50 ex-Bordeaux. The allocation comprises 65% less wine than released in 2012.

‘A 2013 primeur at £200 per dozen cheaper than any physically available vintage. If only other chateaux would follow this sensible policy,’ said Browett.

A spokesperson for Lynch Bages told Decanter.com, ‘We’ve heard the market and we want the wines to sell through to end clients.’

Gus McLean, fine wine buyer for Laithwaites, said, ‘I feel they did make the right pricing decision here. Pricing is clearly very difficult this year, and ownership structure of the chateaux must make a difference, in terms of whether there are shareholders involved and other elements. But Lynch-Bages is showing itself to be consumer-orientated. We will definitely be buying.’

Corney & Barrow’s Hargrove added, ‘We would have liked it to be down more, but it’s the cheapest Lynch-Bages you can buy and that’s what you want in a drinking vintage, which is what this is. There’s wine to be sold if the prices make sense.’

Turning back to Montrose, Berry Bros & Rudd buying director Max Lalondrelle said the release was likely linked to brand repositioning following ‘huge investment’ at the property in recent years. ‘This is reflected in the price,’ he said, although he questioned whether consumers were ready to understand that rationale.

While Berry Bros is listing most wines released, it has only specifically recommended a handful of estates to consumers so far. Of those, Chateau du Tertre sold a quick-fire 250 cases following its release at a 3% discount to 2012, at €18.6 ex-Bordeaux.

‘It’s not really wines at this price point that need to heavily reduce, but at £16.50 this is an utter bargain,’ said Simon Staples, sales director for Berry Bros & Rudd in Asia.

Fourth growth Chateau Beychevelle also released today (10 April) at €38.40, down 6% from its 2012 price of €40.80.

Chateau Batailley received praise from the trade after releasing at €20 ex-Bordeaux, equal to last year’s price. ‘We are always very cautious with our pricing for all vintages, we don’t go up or down like mad,’ said manager Philippe Casteja, whose family owns the estate.

Other chateaux releasing in the past two days include fifth growth Chateau Lynch Moussas at €18.90 ex-Bordeaux, down 3% on its 2012 price of €19.50, and Fleur de Bouard at €15.50, a drop of 7% on last year’s €16.75.

Written by Chris Mercer & Jane Anson in Bordeaux

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