The 2008 Bordeaux en primeur tastings have drawn to a close and while wine writers have been pleasantly surprised by the quality of the vintage, their thoughts are still consumed with one gloomy question, how on earth are these vintages going to fare in the troubled market? Suzannah Ramsdale looks at what they have to say about Bordeaux 2008….
UPDATED 16 APRIL
Jancis Robinson shares her views of the ‘fascinating vintage’ on (www.jancisrobinson.com). She praises the reds for having ‘good healthy colours, excellent acidity, ripe tannins and enough fruit’ and expresses delight that there was ‘none of the dangerous vapidity of the 2007s. None of the overripeness that some producers headed for in the early years of this century in a misguided attempt to copy California Cabernets. Nor, in the same vein, was there evidence of excessive oakiness.’ Jancis even goes so far as to call the level of wine on the right bank ‘inspiring.’
Jancis also comments that the quality of the 2008 vintage could be to the detriment of the chateau owners. ‘It would have been much more convenient for many interested parties, and especially the top Bordeaux château owners, if 2008 had been even less successful than the 2007. That way, in recognition of these extremely straitened times, they could have dramatically reduced the opening prices traditionally announced at this time of year, or even abandoned altogether the relatively recent tradition of the primeurs campaign whereby proprietors manage to sell the new vintage two years ahead of delivery. There would be no loss of face and no knock-on effects on the prices of other recent vintages.’
Keeping an eye on the campaign, she observes that ‘the prices are positively tumbling out now, folks.’
UPDATED 8 APRIL
James Suckling from www.winespectator.com still maintains that despite the outstanding first-growths, he fears a drop in price is not going to be enough to persuade the consumers to buy the 2008 futures.
He points out that ‘the economic situation is just too uncertain right now, despite some gains in the stock market and lots of positive talk in the press about economic recovery. Moreover, I would be afraid to put my money in the hands of many wine merchants for a couple of years on 2008 futures, when I couldn’t be 100 percent sure if they will be in business to deliver my wines.’
He adds that he hopes that the chateaux reduce their prices ‘close to 100 euros, or slightly less, to the trade in Bordeaux. That would put futures prices for the U.S. consumer at about $200 per bottle or just below.’
UPDATED 8 APRIL
Roger Voss of Wine Enthusiast (www.winemag.com) admits his surprise at the ‘range and depth of the quality’ of the 2008 vintage and relays a conversation he had with Tristan Kressmann of Château Latour Martillac who told him, ‘every year we have been saved by September. But this year, we weren’t just saved, we were given a blessing.’
Although he was pleased with the whole of Bordeaux, he declares Sauternes and the Graves (including Pessac-Léognan) to be clear leaders, ‘but they are closely followed by Saint-Emilion and Pauillac. Only in Margaux and the southern Médoc are there huge variations in quality.’
He too continues to speculate over the pricing of this year’s vintage, saying, ‘for the first time in a long time, the greatest of the great, Margaux, Haut-Brion, Lafite, Mouton and Latour among them, are expected to announce prices within two weeks. They could fall by 50 percent or five percent.’
Pierre Lurton of Chateau Cheval Blanc gave him an insight into his pricing strategy. ‘We just have to be reasonable. We are going to be offering high quality wines at a low price. It will be our response to the crisis.’
Lurton added that consumers could find themselves on the end of a ‘catastrophic’ price cut.
UPDATED 8 APRIL
Chris Kissack on www.thewinedoctor.com reports that while the suggested antidote to a slow market is to lower prices, some, such as Jean-Guillaume Prats of Cos d’Estournel, still intend to release at a high price.
Chris Kissack writes, ‘his reasoning is simple; a high price protects the buyers of the 2007 vintage (which is one way of looking at it, I suppose), the 2008 vintage is of high quality and yields are low, and thus the wines are worthy of the price. And although the wines are expensive the cost to Prats, as he pointed out, is the cost of production not of sale, and it seems he is prepared to absorb that cost for the moment.’
Kissack goes on to praise the ‘breathtaking’ wines from the right bank saying, ‘from Cheval-Blanc and Ausone, through Vieux Chateau Certan and Conseillante, through to less exalted names such as Beauregard and Clos Fourtet. The wines possess rich fruit, good acidity and, in the best examples, vibrant aromatics too.’
UPDATED 8 APRIL
Neal Martin from www.erobertparker.com has, so far, split his commentary on the en primeur tastings into two sections: Saint Estephe and Pauillac.
Within his Pauillac notes he described the Chateau Latour as ‘masculine, aloof and minerally,’ the Château Mouton-Rothschild as having ‘more structure and more masculinity than previous vintages’ and the Château Pichon Baron as ‘an absolute “corker” dare I say a wine that will rank alongside the 2005.’
Overall, he found there to be ‘a strong showing from this most aristocratic of appellations.’
As for Saint Estephe, Martin says the Chateaux Montrose was ‘austere, aloof and lacking a sense of nascent joie-de-vivre,’ he found the Chateaux Cos d’Estournel to be ‘undoubtedly a brilliant wine; one that I commented was exceptional for its unerring precision.’
He sums up by saying that aside from the big names and a few exceptions ‘the tannins are rather abrasive and similar to other appéllations where properties were unable to apply conscientious pre-emptive vineyard husbandry earlier in the season, they were caught out by the cool, rainy August and were unable to compensate despite the clement weather from mid-September.’