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Bordeaux 2011: one first growth ‘will be half price’ of 2010, other chateaux set release date

At least one of the first growths will come out at half the price of last year, Decanter.com has learned, while a group of chateaux has announced a release date for prices.

A highly-placed source in the Medoc confirmed that at least one of the top five chateaux would release ‘low and not too late’ and at between €300 and €350. ‘That price is in the ballpark. We are back to normal.’

Although by no means cheap, it is considerably less than the €550-€600 some of the first growths charged last year.

It will thus be taken as a gesture to the wine trade and consumers, as Chateau Mouton-Rothschild’s €100 release on the 2008 vintage was intended.

There are clear parallels: at the release of the 2008s, Mouton owner Philippine de Rothschild told Decanter.com, ‘It won’t help the financial crisis but it will show that we have come down to reality – and it will give Bordeaux a new impetus.’

Decanter.com’s source also indicated the chateaux were aware of the danger of seeming cynical if a very small tranche were to be released at the lower price only for subsequent releases to be more expensive.

‘There will have to be a decent amount, ‘because the negociants don’t like it if there is too little.’

At the same time, he said, ‘The leading chateaux have a responsibility to smaller properties. ‘If you are a €15 Côtes de Bordeaux and the first growths come down by 50% then your customers expect a considerable drop in price as well, which obviously you can’t do.’

Meanwhile, up to thirteen Medoc chateaux, which normally sell in the traditional en primeur manner, have announced in advance the dates of their wine futures release, all of which are set to be within the next few weeks.

The estates, ranging from Chateau d’Arsac, Chateau Paloumey, Chateau Cambon la Pelouse and Chateau Caronne Saint Gemme, will release between April 10 and April 19.

Rendezvous Medoc, as it has been called, is a first for the en primeur system, where timing of price releases is highly secretive.

The brokerage house Les Grands Crus is behind the initiative, reportedly in response to the complaints over last year’s protracted campaign, and has been working on it for the past three months.

Francois Dugoua, commercial director of Bordeaux negociant Ulysse Cazabonne told Decanter.com the estates have agreed to release the wines very soon after the tasting at lower prices than last year.

‘It is clear we need a quick campaign, and we need to give a reason to purchase. Because the chateaux will hold these prices for a set time of around eight days, and then put the price up, there is a clear benefit for getting in early’.

Renaud Mommeja, owner of Fourcas Hosten, said, ‘For us, it is an interesting opportunity to create impact, and not to be lost among 200 names all coming out at once. We hope it will become a real point of interesting for starting the campaign. We decide the prices on our own, but have the same philosophy of value for money’

As to a first growth releasing at half price, some observers greeted the news with a good deal of scepticism. One senior proprietor said, ‘Why would they want to do that? They can set any price they like and still sell their wine many times over.’

Written by Jane Anson and Adam Lechmere in Bordeaux

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