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Bordeaux 2014: US buyers ‘back on track’ for en primeur

There is greater interest in Bordeaux 2014 en primeur wines from US buyers, according to merchants on both sides of the Atlantic, but many continue to be wary over prices.

US merchants and consumers have been largely seen as having stepped back from the annual Bordeaux en primeur campaign for the last three vintages. But, some believe the trend may at least be patially reversed this year.

‘They’re back on track,’ Philippe Larche, sales director for Bordeaux negociant Vintex, said of US buyers a few days before the start of en primeur tasting week. ‘They’ve not been buying for four years now and may need to replenish their stocks, especially if they feel that 2014 is a good vintage,’ he told Decanter.com.

Mark Wessels, of Washington DC-based importer MacArthur Beverages, said he was returning to en primeur for the first time since the 2010 campaign. ‘It is reputed to be a good vintage,’ Wessels said of 2014. ‘Not having done a campaign in 2011, 2012 or 2013, I hope my customers will be ready to buy wine this Spring.’

A stronger US dollar could help, too. On the eve of en primeur last year, the euro was worth nearly $1.38. For the 2010 campaign, the rate was nearly $1.42. But this year’s rate was below $1.10 at the time of writing.

For Total Wine, one of the largest U.S. importers of Bordeaux, the stronger dollar raises expectations for lower prices.

‘Bordeaux prices go up and down based on vintages and on demand, but my hope is that with the rise in the value of the U.S. dollar – and coming off a few tough vintages for Bordeaux – the market may be a little hesitant to accept astronomical prices for 2014,’ said Tim Hong, sales representative for Total Wine.

But, a continued strengthening of the dollar against the euro could also work against the futures campaign, if merchants decide to hold fire for bette rates. ‘There is a concern that if the US dollar continues to improve for the next 12 to 18 months, I would then be likely to buy the wines cheaper next year than this year,’ Wessels said.

Although US merchants expect 2014 to be a better vintage than 2013, most expect lower prices: ‘I look back on the 2008 vintage as a good point to begin the discussion,’ said Chris Adams, chief executive officer of New York based importer Sherry Lehmann.

Several UK merchants have already called on Bordeaux chateaux and negociants to use 2008 as a guide. But, that was before any 2014 wines had been tasted.

There will also be speculation this year about the possible effect of Robert Parker’s decision to stop scoring Bordeaux en primeur wines, handing over to Neal Martin. ‘A great score from Bob, and conversely a not-so-great score, can have a huge impact on the release price from a chateau,’ said Michael Sands, of Washington DC importer Calvert Woodley.

See more Bordeaux 2014 coverage:

Bordeaux 2014

Written by Panos Kakaviatos

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