As the wine trade prepares itself for Robert Parker’s assessment of 2006 Bordeaux, there are differing views on either side of the Channel as to probable prices.

Although nothing has been confirmed by his Maryland HQ, Parker releases his scores tomorrow, 1 May, in the Wine Advocate.

This will promote a flurry of pricing activity and signal the unofficial start of the 2006 campaign.

London merchants are not sanguine. Simon Staples at Berry Brothers told decanter.com this afternoon, ‘The vintage isn’t as good as the 04, it’s not as charming as the 01 – it’s not even as good as the 02 in many places.

‘I’m still very worried about what we’ve heard from the chateaux about prices. It doesn’t make any sense.’

Staples predicts prices will be 10% less than the 2005 release prices. But, he says, 2005 was ‘a ten out of ten vintage. 2004 is six or seven out of ten. People are prepared to pay for the best – but are they prepared to pay 10% less for something that is only 70% as good?’

At Corney and Barrow, managing director Adam Brett-Smith is slightly more positive. There are some good, even great wines, he says on the firm’s website, but ‘2006 is no 2005’.

‘There will only be a market if prices are based on the opening offer of the 2004 vintage,’ he says, but warns, ‘the market is strong enough to risk intemperate, opportunistic pricing. This would be a grave mistake.’

Over in Bordeaux meanwhile the mood is more upbeat. ‘The chateaux will come out at price sufficiently low to entice 15-20 of the top negociants to swallow up all those cases,’ Laurent Ehrmann of negociants Barrieres Freres told decanter.com.

‘I am more optimistic than the London brokers. I am sure most owners will be sensible,’ he added, though he conceded there was not nearly the same level of enthusiasm over 2006 as last year.

‘This campaign will be about the 75-100 classic, institutional wines in Bordeaux. Not the 300 wines that were sold on the 2005, when everything from 1st growths to cru bourgeois and even Bordeaux Rouge were on the market.’

Written by Adam Lechmere