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Bordeaux 2012: Negociants ‘serene’ about 2012 but worried about effect on 2011

Bordeaux negociants say they are ‘serene’ about the quality of 2012, but most agree that it will severely affect the saleability of the 2011 vintage – for the time being.

‘We’re happy with residual stocks’: Ehrmann of Barrières Frères

‘2012 will kill 2011’ is the view of many in Bordeaux. Stephanie de Bouard, managing director of Chateau Angelus, used those exact words to Decanter.com this week.

One German wine merchant said the same: ‘Most of us got a lot of 2011 when we didn’t want it – 2012 will kill 2011’.

De Bouard said the problem would come with pricing – ‘2012 is better than 2011 and it will be cheaper’ – leaving chateaux and merchants with stocks of 2011 that they can’t sell.

Negotiants agree, but they are also convinced that 2011 will ‘find its slot’ in due course.

Sichel export director Charles Sichel said, ‘2011 will be difficult to sell and we have to be prepared to store it for a while. But when the economy picks up it will fit into a slot. I’ve seen this happen with 07, 06, 04 and plenty of vintages. Eventually they will sell.’

‘We’re going to have to sit on it,’ John Kolasa, who manages Chanel-owned Chateau Rauzan Segla as well as negociants Ulysses Cazabonne, said, adding that he was ‘serene about the quality of 2012 but not about its marketability.’

Mathieu Chadronnier, managing director of the €141m-turnover CVBG Dourthe Kressman said he was ‘unconcerned’ about 2011.‘Each vintage must find its market. 2008 was released cheap and it sold quickly, and 07 became a good deal because 08 flew out of the window. 2011 will be the same.’

Bordeaux is also counting on the fact that, during the boom years, Bordeaux lovers bought large amounts of back vintages, leaving a dearth of accessible wines in the market. Negociants hope 2011 will fill that gap.

‘We have residual stocks of 2011, but I’m quite happy about that as there are many people who want the physical wines [2011 will be bottled in June],’ Laurent Ehrmann of major negociant house Barrières Frères told Decanter.com. ‘There is low stock of good, reasonably-priced vintages like 2001, 02, 07 and 08.’

And with 2012 they never tire of repeating that price will be key. But the big problem with 2012 undercutting the two previous vintages, and making them difficult to sell, is not the difficulty of physically storing 2011 and 10, but of tying up capital in a difficult economic environment. This problem becomes acute when the price of the first growths is taken into account.

Despite being a great vintage – one of the greatest, many say – negociants still have stocks of 2010, especially when some major orders from China were cancelled early in 2012, including one $30m contract.

‘I am worried about the amount of money I have tied up in the first growths and the super seconds from the last two vintages,’ Kolasa said. The biggest negociants can cope, perhaps, but for smaller operations, ‘the banks are going to tell them to get rid of stock [of 2010s and 2011s] in order to free up cash, so you can then buy 2012s and keep the business moving along.’

Another major consideration that Bordeaux seems to be taking to heart is that, for the first time in a decade, Bordeaux is a buyers’ market, and that has shifted the balance of power in favour of the negociant, and the wine merchant.

Traditionally a buyer, whether negociant or wine merchant, had to be careful to show faith with their supplier, buying in lean years in order to be sure to get an allocation in great vintages.

Now, that ‘old faithfulness’ has gone, Kolasa pointed out. ‘Even those who cut their allocations last year won’t have much difficulty in coming back.’

Written by Adam Lechmere

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