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Bordeaux 2009: high prices risk ‘alienating’ US market

As American merchants express concern over pricing trends for Bordeaux 2009, a Bordeaux chateau representative says that the US market is being alienated.

At Sherry Lehman in New York, owner Chris Adams says that there is ‘great excitement’ for the vintage but he calls the futures campaign ‘uneven’.

He said that some lesser-known wines that had had good press reports had done well.

‘But my early feeling is that things are getting more dangerous, mostly because there are some chateaux that I would like to offer this year, but the way the pricing is heading, I might be passing.’

Release prices for Gruaud Larose and Giscours for example were not welcomed at Washington DC based importer Calvert Woodley.

Co-owner Ed Sands said there is ‘not much demand for Gruaud Larose at $60 (up 68% on 08) and ‘almost nothing’ for Giscours (up 43% on 2008), which is ‘too high for the score and the image of the wines’.

‘We have bought very heavily in the smaller, value-oriented wines and have been successful,’ he added.

Philippe Larché at Bordeaux-based negociant Vintex said, ‘the financial crisis is still with us and that is the problem’ but he believes that a strengthening dollar will help the American market.

‘And even if people are complaining, many end up buying the wine because they know it is a great vintage.’

At JJ Buckley Fine Wines in San Francisco, Shaun Bishop suggested the ‘customer frenzy’ was not the same as with the 2008 vintage.

‘It’s harder for us to make a commercial argument for the 09s because, although the critical reaction was of course great, the prices have more than matched that.’

Bishop said only two wines – Duhart Milon and Gazin – had sold out, and another big seller had been St Emilion’s Barde Haut.

‘They came out early in the campaign and now I can’t get any more. But almost everything else is available at more or less opening prices.’

Bishop said he thought US buyers who unhesitatingly bought cases of the 08 would only buy three to six bottles this year – because ‘they still don’t want to miss out’.

But a Bordeaux chateau representative who did not want to be named wrote in an email that too many chateaux are relying on the Asian market and risk alienating traditional markets with the 2009 futures campaign.

‘The US market is no longer into Bordeaux wines and we are perceived as too expensive, even though the dollar is now higher and many California wines or Italian Super Tuscans cost more than us. It is all about perception.

‘A few idiotic chateau owners only see Asia and the Chinese buyers. They forget their core markets. I think lots of people in Bordeaux are too greedy, and that greed will eventually blow up in their faces.’

Bordeaux 2009 prices, comprehensive reviews and more on decanter.com

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Written by Panos Kakaviatos, and Jane Anson in Bordeaux

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