The first huge price rise of Bordeaux 2005 has sent the UK wine trade into a predictable flurry.
St Emilion’s Quinault L’Enclos has been released and will sell in the UK at around £250 per case – an increase of 85% on last year.
And while many in the trade shrug their shoulders, others are explicitly blaming Robert Parker for the inflation.
Adam Brett-Smith of London merchants Corney and Barrow says that he ‘admires and respects’ Parker, as do his customers, ‘but we don’t use him’ – that is, they don’t quote his scores.
Corneys consider a ‘reasonable’ price rise is 10-20% on the 2003 price (2004 is discounted as ‘irrelevant’ for the purposes of pricing).
‘If a price goes into orbit because of Robert Parker, or the Wine Spectator, or any number of influences, then we wouldn’t buy that wine,’ Brett-Smith says.
But major Bordeaux merchant Farr Vintners worries that Parker’s score for Quinault (‘a wine that we didn’t particularly like… [it] cannot be recommended’) has prompted the rise and will influence other chateau owners.
‘With an impressive 92-95 point score in The Wine Advocate the owner has seized the opportunity to increase the price by a staggering 85%,’ the company says, adding that this sort of price rise ‘is certainly not to be encouraged’.
Meanwhile, Simon Staples at Berry Brothers confesses he is ‘perplexed’ by some of Parker’s results. Though he agrees with the American critic’s views on the Medoc and Left Bank in general, ‘we are slightly confused that he has given very high ratings to many, mostly of them on the Right Bank, which we found over-extracted, over-oaked and totally un-Bordeaux in style.’ This, Staples says, is misleading.
But why should merchants not simply ignore Parker and trust their customers to follow their – the merchants’ – counsel? Brett-Smith is happy to do that, though he concedes it would be ‘regrettable’ if the Quinault price had a knock-on effect.
But for Stephen Browett at Farrs, which has a much larger en primeur operation, it’s a different story.
‘Our en primeur campaign will be ruined if all the chateaux put their prices up by 85%. We must show producers that just because they have a good Parker score they can’t increase prices to that extent and expect people to accept it.’
In this respect, Browett says, he’s not displeased that he’s only sold two cases of Quinault so far.
‘We’re not particularly attacking Quinault, but it is a good thing it’s not selling. It should encourage the others to keep prices reasonable.’
The Bordelais themselves are phlegmatic. Quinault’s proprietor Alain Raynaud has the reputation of a maverick. ‘He has done great things but he is extreme, and unreliable,’ one senior member of the trade said, and added, ‘in no way is he a reference for the rest of Bordeaux.’
Laurent Ehrmann of negociant firm Barriere Freres the Quinault price ‘would have no impact on the Cru Classe market’.
He added he was ‘immensely confident’ there would be no knock-on effect. ‘You won’t be seeing 80% increases across Bordeaux. The first growths might show huge rises but they don’t need to look at Quinault L’Enclos to sharpen their pricing position.’
Alain Raynaud was not available for comment at the time of going to press.
Other releases include Sauternes Doisy Daene, Doisy Vedrines, d’Arche Lafaurie Cuvée Madame and Filhot, and St Emilion vins de garage La Gravière and Lucia.
Written by Adam Lechmere