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Bordeaux 2022: En primeur campaign branded ‘another missed opportunity’

Liv-ex has described the 2022 en primeur campaign as ‘another missed opportunity’ to reinvigorate the system and galvanise a new generation of wine collectors.

The global wine marketplace revealed that the average price of en primeur wines increased by 20.8% compared to 2021.

Liv-ex members had only anticipated a 7.7% increase when they were polled in May, so the price hikes significantly exceeded expectations.

Some would argue that inflation has often been close to 10% in much of the developed world over the past year, and the 2022 vintage received rave reviews from critics, so perhaps the sharp increase was to be expected.

Yet sales of the 2022 vintage fell short of 2020 in terms of both value and volume, and capital was committed to a smaller pool of wines.

Volume sales during the 2022 campaign were also lower than 2021, and merchants surveyed by Liv-ex said they dealt with a smaller customer base this campaign, limited to habitual buyers or those undeterred by the ‘bullish’ pricing.

As such, châteaux were accused of sacrificing volume sales by pushing their average prices so high this year.

Justin Gibbs, Liv-ex deputy chairman and exchange director, said: ‘The excitement surrounding the 2022 vintage at the UGC [Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux] tastings was infectious. The quality of the wines, unquestionable.

‘Sadly, the campaign, born out of pricing that made little sense in the context of the broader market, failed to live up to expectations.’

Many renowned critics agree that the 2022 vintage has the potential to rival the exceptional quality displayed in 2009 and 2010. However, their average scores for the vintage were more closely aligned with those awarded to the 2020, 2019 and 2016 vintages.

Yet the average release price for the 2022 vintage was 6% higher than the current price of the 2016 and on a par with the 2019 wines, despite both of those vintages already being physical.

Some merchants said they were forced to reduce or cut their allocations of certain wines strategically, while attempting to remain in favour with the négociants.

There were also widespread accounts of discounts being given to merchants and collectors alike in order to generate sales, albeit at lower margins.

‘There was little question of the quality of the vintage, but buyers do not just consider quality,’ added Gibbs, writing in Liv-ex’s 2022 en primeur report.

The report noted that simply holding cash in a savings account can generate a 5% annual return right now, so investors are less likely to buy an exotic, expensive asset like fine wine, which offers unknown returns, at a time when inflation is rife.

Some merchants warned that the châteaux may have alienated prospective customers by setting their prices too high. ‘Collectors were deterred by the prices, knowing that they could acquire comparable vintages with a few years of bottle age for less than the 2022 release. The wide availability of the 2018, 2019 and 2020 vintages contributed to this perception. Ultimately, the buyer’s perception of value plays a vital role in maintaining the system, and this year’s pricing left many confused.

‘The big Bordeaux châteaux have high margins, so they can afford to sell ever-decreasing volumes en primeur. But for those lower down the pecking order, the picture is far from sanguine. Already the 2023 campaign is a daunting prospect.’

The report concluded that ‘a vintage with the potential to reinvigorate the system ended with some disillusionment and with merchants and collectors alike asking what the point of this time-consuming event was’.

The average release price for Château Figeac soared by 55.2% year-on-year during the 2022 en primeur campaign.

The château was promoted to Premier Grand Cru Classé A status in the eagerly anticipated St-Emilion classification in September 2022. The quality of the 2022 vintage, a 20% reduction in volumes released and general inflationary pressures also contributed to the substantial increase.

Decanter’s Georgie Hindle rated Figeac 2022 at 98 points en primeur, adding it has the potential to develop into a 100-point wine.

She also rated Mouton Rothschild 2022 at 98 points, and it is likely to sell out, despite increasing prices by nearly 23% year-on-year, according to Liv-ex.

Lafite Rothschild 2022 was also released at a 23.4% premium compared to the previous vintage, but analysts at Wine Lister said it should be swiftly snapped up.

The Château Cheval Blanc and Château Angélus 2022 vintages were 21.5% and 37.7% more expensive than last year respectively, on an ex-Bordeaux basis.


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