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American buyers: keep prices down

The message from American buyers at the beginning of en primeur week is clear: this might be a great vintage, but keep prices competitive.

Buyers for California-based importer JJ Buckley were enthusiastic about the wines but were focussing on the lower price-brackets.

‘The action is going to be at the €15 to €20 level,’ said CEO Shaun Bishop. ‘There is a lot of competition in the €50 to €100-level wines and we have already seen high-end Napa and Italian wines come down by 30%.’

Laurent Ehrmann of negociants Barriere Frères agreed that the US economy is still fragile, but suggested that the vintage would satisfy everyone.

‘It is successful on the left and right banks, red and white, and in all budget categories.’

Bishop insisted prices must come down because ‘we are tired of getting burned’, alluding to the 2005 campaign which saw record en primeur prices later matched ‘and even beaten’ by lower on-the-shelf prices.

Chateau Leoville Las Cases ‘initially sold for $250, then went up to $400 and now is back down to $300,’ he said.

‘We do not want to have the feeling that two years later we can find the same wine for less. There should be a financial incentive to put up money today and to get a good deal. If we do not get a good deal, then the system is flawed.’

Ehrmann agreed, but claimed that ‘85% of the classified growths’ in 2005 have not fallen in value compared to en primeur prices.

‘The news media loves to talk about a whole category of wines and sticks to four or five examples of wines which were maybe overpriced in 2005 and may be overpriced in 2009.

‘But most sold through the system and they are currently not available at the initial opening price,’ he said.

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Written by Panos Kakaviatos in Bordeaux

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