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Bordeaux 2018 can crack America if prices drop, say US merchants

Bordeaux 2018 futures - or primeurs - have potential in a high-powered vintage that should suit ‘American palates’, but US merchants say price cuts will be needed.

A ripe, rich and silky Bordeaux 2018 vintage, balanced by freshness in the best cases, has garnered interest among US trade buyers.

‘We believe 2018 is the most exciting red wine vintage since 2010, even if not as homogenous across all appellations as 2015 and 2016 were,’ said Shaun Bishop, CEO of JJ Buckley in California.

‘There is more of everything in 2018 – tannin, fruit, alcohol, power, and freshness – and we believe the wines are well suited to the American palate and should be well received once released into the market.’

On the East Coast, Phil Bernstein, general manager of MacArthur Beverages in Washington DC, agreed with critics that the wines were ‘good overall’, although he added, ‘some wines were way too disjointed and some just “too much of a good thing” for my taste’.

Will the still-in-barrel 2018 vintage reinvigorate the US market for Bordeaux futures?

Prices need to come down at least to 2015 levels, and possibly more, for futures sales to work, according to several US industry representatives.

Jeff Zacharia, of Zachys in New York, said Château Angélus set a ‘very good tone’ with a 2018 en primeur release that was down 8.7% versus 2017, at €252 ex-Bordeaux. That’s the same release price as for its heralded 2015 vintage.

Several US merchants were this week offering Angélus 2018 in bond at around a 10% discount on the 2017 vintage. The wine, which was scored highly by Decanter’s Jane Anson, also received a warm response in the UK.

Looking at Bordeaux 2018 futures pricing in the US more generally, Bishop said that this level of reduction was ‘clearly not enough to create excitement and a real motivation to buy [today]’.

He said that 2018 pricing ‘should be reduced by 15-20%’ from 2017 to do so.

Some traders are also concerned at the prospect of extra tariffs on European Union wines entering the US – a move recently threatened by US trade officials within a dispute with the EU at the World Trade Organisation.

Bishop said, ‘I am concerned about potential wine tariffs, and specifically the unknown rate of such tariffs, because given the nature of futures, this becomes a much bigger issue than if the wine was sold in bottle, ready for delivery now.’

Editing by Chris Mercer

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