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Bordeaux 2016 campaign makes stuttering start

Bordeaux 2016 wines have been slow out of the blocks and some merchants are calling for more big names to ignite this year's en primeur campaign. Jane Anson and Chris Mercer report on releases so far.

Château Cos d’Estournel sold well following its early release, but devastating frosts and a certain French presidential election then forced a pause on the Bordeaux 2016 en primeur campaign.

Châteaux and merchants are picking up the pace again this week, yet there is a thirst in the UK for a really big name to get things moving. The US has been even more of a slow-burner so far.

‘We have clients who are extremely interested and enthusiastic but we need to get some serious momentum going,’ said Giles Cooper, of UK merchant BI Fine Wine & Spirits.

‘The pace of a campaign can be equally important to the pricing.’

Cooper added that, of the big names so far, ‘Cos sold out pretty fast, and we’ve had a steady flow of 30-40 cases a time for the likes of D’Armailhac, Branaire Ducru and Labegorce.’

Clerc Milon 2016, rated 96 points Decanter, has been one of the biggest releases of this week, coming out 17% higher ex-Bordeaux versus its 2015 price. That increase will grow in the UK due to exchange rates and it will be an interesting test for a château that has been credited with several improvements in the past few years.

It was being sold by BI for £600 per case of 12 bottles in bond, and by Millesima in the US for just under $418 for six bottles.

This week’s releases also include Château Prieuré Lichine in Margaux at €30 ex-Bordeaux, a rise of 9% on 2015 (€27.50) and giving a price of around £480 per case in the UK. Branaire Ducru in St-Julien at €39.60 (up 6.5% on 2015’s €37.20 or £465 per case in the UK, and Château Batailley in Pauillac, releasing at €34 per bottle ex-Bordeaux, 6.25% rise or £414 per case in the UK. Cantemerle came out Friday morning at €22.20 ex-Bordeaux, up 12% on last year.

Other releases include Suduiraut at €45.60 per bottle ex-Bordeaux, the same as last year, offered at £545 per case of 12, Château d’Armailhac with a rise of 12.5% from last year to €32.40 per bottle ex-Bordeaux, or £365 per case in sterling, Château Lynch Moussas up 8% at €27.60 ex-Bordeaux or £330 per case of 12, and Château Potensac remaining stable at €18 ex-Bordeaux or £210 per case.

Even at £1400 per case, the Cos d’Estournel is seen to have been a success – coming out at exactly the same price as its 2015 for a wine that is among the best of the vintage. Château d’Armailhac is also reported to have found a good market, with others moving more slowly.

‘We sold through our entire allocation of Cos to our final customers,’ Lukasz Kolodziejczyk, head of fine wines at Cult Wines told Decanter.com.

Exchange rates have been an issue for UK buyers.

Sterling’s fall since the Brexit vote means that even châteaux that hold their prices from last year are between 10 and 15% more expensive to consumers in the UK.

The Suduiraut consumer price, for example, is 13.5% more expensive than the 2015 wine, for a bottle that came out of Bordeaux unchanged, and the 13.5% price rise of Armailhac translates to a 25% price rise for UK consumers.

‘There is a clear appetite for the excellent 2016 vintage, and the sterling issue is not as dominant as you might think,’ said Kolodziejczyk.

‘The concern is the price drift that we see most years as campaigns progress and châteaux start looking more at their neighbours and less at the market. Right now there is some momentum building and a positive interest in the wines. Let’s hope it doesn’t get killed off.’

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