Some US wine merchants are becoming increasingly optimistic for the Bordeaux 2015 wines ahead of the en primeur tasting week, but there is an air of caution until prices are known - and purchases may focus on lesser known estates.
Professor Denis Dubourdieu – Decanter’s 2016 man of the year – said in his freshly translated Bordeaux 2015 vintage report this week that the in-barrel wines were ‘outstanding in terms of both quality and quantity’.
The vintage ‘perfectly aligns all five conditions necessary for a great red wine vintage’.
Such high praise has fuelled anticipation across the Atlantic Ocean, where US merchants will have a say in the success of this year’s Bordeaux en primeur campaign.
‘I am excited because everything I have heard is that this will be the best vintage since 2010, with a lot of exciting wines,’ said Jeff Zacharia, of Zachys Fine Wine in New York.
Zacharia said that, if critics confirm vintage quality during their tastings, then higher prices should be expected when the wines are released to the primeur market. ‘In a strong vintage, people are willing to pay a little more,’ he said.
Price rises have become a source of strong debate, and recent figures show a number of wines from recent vintages have dropped in value since their initial en primeur release.
Mark Wessels, of MacArthur Beverages, said Bordeaux negociants and chateaux needed to be careful. ‘2015s that score at or below their 2014 [equivalent] should go up no more than 10% above the 2014 price,’ he said.
One concern looming on the futures horizon is that a strengthening euro currency has dented potential exchange rate benefits for US buyers.
The current rate (nearly $1.13 per euro) is far more favourable than back in mid-2011 (about $1.45 per euro) – when Bordeaux 2010 wines were being offered as futures. However, it is less favourable than just a few months ago, when the dollar was trading at near euro parity. ‘The euro has firmed up,’ Wessels said. ‘I was pricing 2014 based on 1.10 $ per euro.’
It also remains to be seen whether a perceived return to form for Bordeaux wines on the secondary market – and particularly in US auction rooms – can be translated into demand for en primeur wines.
One US retailer will be searching for less celebrated wines that tend to excel in bigger vintages.
‘The nuances lie in finding hidden gems that not everyone knows about,’ said Michael Sands of Calvert Woodley, in Washington DC.
‘Whether it’s a cru bourgeois or a pretty well-known name that hasn’t gotten a ton of attention lately, there are lots of under-the-radar wines and that’s why we spend the time to visit negociants and taste as many wines as possible when we’re there,’ Sands said.
Editing by Chris Mercer.
Updated 22/02/2016: Original article wrongly stated that Zachys was based in Chicago. It is based in New York.