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Bordeaux 2013: Calls for price cuts as chateaux gear up for quick-fire campaign

Chateaux, negociants and buyers expect a short-lived en primeur campaign for the 'early drinking' 2013 vintage, amid growing calls for the top estates to drop their prices.

Several chateaux could release next week on the basis that there is no point waiting around with a 2013 vintage which is not expected to excite those buying wine for financial returns.

‘The light is orange and it will turn to green very soon,’ said Hubert de Bouard, of Chateau Angelus in St Emilion and also a consultant to around 60 estates in the region.

‘Demand will be small because of the reputation of the vintage,’ Justin Onclin, managing director of Chateau Prieure Lichine told Decanter.com. ‘This year, en primeur will be calm. There’s just not a big demand.’

Despite several producers referring to 2013 as one of the most expensive vintages to produce – thanks to a combination of low yields and extra effort required to battle bad weather – there are calls for prices to drop.

‘Even if it were symbolic, we would prefer to see a slight change in prices,’ said Christian Moueix, of Lafleur-Petrus and also the negociant business Jean-Pierre Moueix.

At Dourthe, managing director Patrick Jestin, told Decanter.com, ‘The question is will you keep the same price or will you go down, not will you go up.’

Of the first and second growths, he said, ‘I think they should go down, but we will see.

Some have named €200 as a ‘magic number’ for first growths. ‘If they say €200, they still have money. €200 is a good price,’ said Jestin.

It does, however, depend on the particular chateau’s circumstances. At Angelus in St Emilion, executive manager Stephanie de Bouard said the chateau had ‘no regrets’ about raising its price by 30% last year. The estate is pleased with the wine that is has produced in 2013, albeit at lower volumes, and de Bouard said it would make no sense to erode last year’s increase by a significant margin.

Jestin said estates further down the pricing ladder will have a tougher time. ‘It depends on the price of the estate in the past. When you have cru bourgeois selling wine for €8, it will be hard to go down by a lot.’

Several buyers in Bordeaux for en primeur week have told Decanter.com that they do not expect to buy en primeur this year, but would prefer to wait for the wines to be released in-bottle.

However, others point out that a key reason for buying would be to secure an allocation of the top estates, particularly because volumes are down by around 30% to 40% in many cases.

‘It’s not a wine to age for 30 years,’ said Sophie Schyler-Thierry at Chateau Kirwan. ‘It lacks concentration and thickness of Cabernet Sauvngnon, but you still have very decent wine. It’s hard to tell about the campaign. We will be reasonable, we will be around 2012 [price].’

Philippe Dhalluin, of Chateau Mouton Rothschild told Decanter.com in an exclusive interview prior to en primeur week, ‘As we were at the end of the winemaking presently very surprised by the quality of this vintage so I will say simply that and of course there is a clear interest with this vintage.’

‘We will receive many people [during en primeur week] and we have registered exactly the same number of people as last year.’

Steve Winter, a buyer for Newfoundland Labrador Liquor Corporation, said ‘I will be buying and I think this vintage will sell in our market. It should be comparable to 2012 in pricing.’

There have been several French supermarket buyers at en primeur week, and there is a general feeling that 2013 could perform well in the market, as well as in restaurants. Chateau owners also believe the best wines could still age for around 20 years.

Written by Chris Mercer

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