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Bordeaux 2008: chateaux have ‘misread’ the market

Major trade buyers of Bordeaux in Japan, the US and traditional European markets have stayed away from this year’s 2008 campaign, complaining that the chateaux have ‘misread’ the market following Parker’s scores.

Despite Bordeaux chateaux being lauded for their low pricing strategy and the high praise from US critic Robert Parker, it appears consumer demand remains low.

‘There hasn’t been a lot of interest in the 2008 campaign in California, with just a slight rise even after Parker’s notes came out,’ Steve Coburn, director of fine wines at Southern Wine and Spirits in California, told decanter.com. ‘Economic concerns have outweighed everything, and there was no real interest in wines at those prices, particularly as we are still concerned about selling the 2007 wines.’

Tadashi Yasuda of Enoteca Hong Kong, said that his parent company in Japan bought very little 2008s, but that the campaign was stifled following Parker’s notes on the vintage.

‘Until Parker came out, the prices were reasonable and the campaign was good,’ he said. ‘But after that chateau owners started dreaming, and prices became unrealistic.’

There is a widespread concern that the first growths have released second and subsequent tranches at far higher prices than their first tranches.

Chateau Lafite is now on the market to merchants at €300 a bottle, and Latour is now €280. Both wines were first sold by negociants to merchants at €130 a bottle.

Negociants – who buy direct from chateaux and sell on to merchants – commonly add 15-20%. These figures demonstrate that second tranche prices have been considerably higher than the first tranche.

‘They are misreading today’s real consumer market,’ said Yasuda.

Privately, senior figures in Bordeaux agree. ‘I agree they have misread the market,’ one prominent producer-negociant said. ‘It is all a matter of ego.’

Traditional European markets, particularly the French supermarkets and Belgian buyers, were similarly unimpressed.

‘The Belgians have been sidelined for so long by the Bordelais as they searched for the new markets. The idea that a few price drops would bring back the traditional markets has not proved to be correct,’ said Dirk Samyn, a Belgian wine consultant and buyer for cash and carry stores in Belgium and Holland. ‘The Bordelais forget that while they have been chasing new markets, we have looked elsewhere and now have commitments with the rest of the world.’

Written by Jane Anson in Bordeaux

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