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Bordeaux pricing ‘immoral’

The polemic over the Bordeaux primeurs increased this month with publication of an article saying prices of €500 a bottle for the 2007 vintage would be ‘immoral’.

Alain-Dominique Perrin, former head of the world’s second biggest luxury group, Richemont, told French magazine la Revue du Vin de France that first growth pricing must fall.

Speaking of the 2007 harvest, Perrin said, ‘are they going to try and sell us bottles at €500 (£371, US$724)? If there is a moral in this wine world, all the top ones must go back to €100 (£74, US$145).’

The article goes on to claim that the production costs of a bottle of first growth wine is around €12 (£9, US$17).

‘To make a bottle of Chateau Mouton Rothschild or similar, all payments included, it comes down to between €10 and €12 at most,’ Perrin said.

In total, he said, consumers were paying about 80 times cost price for top Bordeaux primeurs, when the most expected in the luxury industry was 17 times cost of production.

Perrin, who is now executive administrator of Richemont – which owns Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Montblanc, Piaget and Dunhill – has several wine estates of his own, including the much-lauded Chateau Lagrezette, in Cahors.

He owns no properties in Bordeaux.

When asked about production costs the five first growth chateaux mainly declined to comment.

‘I don’t want to get into a polemic with him [Perrin] but it is evident the costs of production are much higher than that,’ said Paul Pontallier of Chateaux Margaux.

Asked for an estimate of costs he said it was impossible.

‘It depends so much on the vintage, the proportions of first, second and third wines, the treatments, it depends on what costs we include. I cannot give a number without giving a three page explanation,’ he said, adding that some vintages cost two to three times more than another.

Herve Berland, commercial director of Mouton Rothschild, also refused comment on the costs of premier cru production.

However insiders in Bordeaux confirmed that the €12 was ‘about right’, with the maximum cost of around €15 per bottle.

When asked about pricing strategies for 2007, both Pontallier and Berland said it was impossible to talk about prices before the annual April primeur tasting.

Written by Sophie Kevany in Bordeaux

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