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Bordeaux 2011: Latour and Cheval Blanc, similar prices meet with different reactions

Bordeaux superstars Chateau Latour and Cheval Blanc are the biggest releases of the day – and they have had radically different reactions from the trade.

Cheval Blanc: pricing itself out of the system?

, one of the finest wines of the vintage for many critics, has come out at €450 ex-negociant and is on the market in the UK for around £4,800 a case.

Cheval Blanc, co-owned by LVMH, whose chairman Bernard Arnault is a business rival of Latour’s owner François Pinault, came out at €465, down 48.3%.

It is on the market for around £4,500 a case – merchants are pricing it cheaper than Latour despite it coming out at a higher price.

Merchants are describing Latour as a must-buy – this vintage is the last to be offered en primeur. According to Bordeaux insiders the first allocation is sold out and a second tranche is expected today.

They have different things to say about Cheval Blanc, however.

Charles Lea at Lea & Sandeman joked that the renowned St Emilion property – the 2011 was described by Berry Bros as ‘ethereal’ – had trumped Latour ‘by withdrawing from the primeurs system a year earlier than Latour. Like Figeac yesterday afternoon, it has achieved this by pricing its wine at a level which means that there is no real reason to buy it en primeur.’

Another merchant, Farr Vintners, told its customers that although the 2011 ‘is delicious… at £4500 you can buy the magnificent 1998 vintage from us and for £1000 less we have the 2006, 1995, 2001, 2003, 1999 etc etc. The list goes on.

‘Why on earth they think that our customers will pay more for an en primeur vintage than ready-to-drink vintages of the same quality is beyond us.’

Cheval Blanc’s prices have caused controversy for a number of years. Last year’s €900 a bottle opening price on the 2010 had merchants rebelling: BBR for one said they ‘could not endorse’ such an ‘incredible’ price.

St Emilion’s Chateau Figeac released yesterday at €72, down 57.14% from last year’s €168, a discount that found little favour. Farrs’ Stephen Browett told Decanter.com they have not sold a single case.

Lea agreed. It is ‘way down compared to 2010,’ he said, ‘but then we did not sell a bottle of that, so where’s the real market?’

On the Farr Vintners website Browett said, ‘You can easily find Figeac 2008, 2007, 2006, 2004 and 2002 for sale in the market at under £600 per case so there’s little enthusiasm for buying the 2011 en primeur [at £750].’

Other releases today include Latour’s second wine Forts de Latour at €114, down 29.63%, Cheval Blanc’s second wine Petit Cheval at €112, Chateau Canon at €62.50, down 30.5%, Chateau Pavie at €114, down 49.3% and Bellevue Mondotte €108, down 52%.

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