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Bordeaux 2008: en primeur overshadowed by uncertain market

As Bordeaux’s en primeur wine tastings draw to a close, the generally favourable reaction to the 2008 vintage is being overshadowed by a growing sense of unease at the likely market.

While the press and trade have generally praised the wines, there are unusual signs of uncertainty among Bordeaux’s producers and brokers as to their release strategy.

Bordeaux’s negociant trade finds itself facing the horns of a particularly tough dilemma.

With many of them still sitting on substantial stocks of the unpopular 2007 vintage, they are now being asked to take a position on a vintage which most observers are predicting will be a tough sell.

Although there are signs that the price of the 2008 wines will come down substantially – particularly at the top end – such a move would make the 2007s an ever more difficult sell.

And while for some firms such a position would lead to severe financial stress, others are prepared to take the hit.

‘Most negociants can’t buy [the 2008s] without selling [the 2007s],’ said Ronan Tremelot, export director of Cordier Mestrezat Grands Crus.

‘The banks won’t finance us if we can’t then sell the wines or even tell them when there’s any likelihood of the market picking up. But there’s no point in the chateaux keeping the price of the 2008s high just to protect the 2007s. We’ll have to take a loss on the 2007s.’

Guillaume Pouthier of negociants Dourthe agreed, saying he would like to see a reduction of 20-40% on the first growths and 5-10% on lesser growths.

‘It’s very important for the chateaux to decrease their prices for the market, and for consumers. It might jeopardise the market for the 2007s but the 2007s are already in trouble.’

Tremelot likewise warned chateaux that they must show an understanding of the market.

‘Our customers won’t buy if there’s only a small drop in prices. The market is expecting a big drop – down to 2004 prices, or even 2002.’

For chateaux which had preserved a ‘reasonable’ pricing structure in the intervening years, without huge hikes, such a drop would not be an issuue, he said.

‘But the [producers of] more speculative wines need to come back to the real world.’

The alternative, of course, is that producers maintain their price levels, and face holding on to their crop.

‘This will be the first time in a long time that some negociants refuse their allocations,’ said Tremelot.

‘After all, who is willing to put cash into an uncertain market?’

Written by Adam Lechmere in Bordeaux

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