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Bordeaux slow but will First Growths be as high as 2005?

As more prices trickle out for the 2006 Bordeaux campaign, sales remain slow.

While negociants may be buying because they have low stocks of 2005, they are having difficulty placing the wines, one proprietor said.

‘The campaign isn’t going as well as it might,’ Jean Christophe Mau of Chateau Brown and négociants Yvon Mau told decanter.com. ‘For the chateaux themselves, sales aren’t too bad, as most négociants have low stocks from last year and so are making purchases. But onward sales aren’t materialising.’

Consumers are waiting to buy 2005s in bottle rather than the 2006, Mau said. Exchange rates are also hurting the campaign – with the US and Canadian dollars, and the yen all weak. ‘This means the export market is barely there, and the only clients buying in large quantities are the French and Belgian supermarkets.’

Pierre Lawton at Bordeaux negociants Alias agreed: ‘The price decrease does not compensate for the weakness of the dollar,’ he said. ‘There is little interest from the US.’

The big chateaux who have released this week include Chateau Pavie Maquin (down from €38 to €27.50), Chateau Clos Fourtet (down €38 to €27) and Chateau Beychevelle (down from €24 to €22).

One chateau, however, has bucked the trend with a huge rise. Chateau Cantenac Brown – recently purchased by British multi-millionaire Simon Halabi – has gone from €18.55 in 2005 to €36.50 for the 2006, an increase of almost 100%.

Director José Sanfins told decanter.com, ‘We don’t think of this as an increase, but as a new positioning. This year the selection both in the fields and the cellar was drastically increased, and we have only 30% of the harvest in our first wine.’

Although the increase is based on a modest 2005 price, it has raised eyebrows. Ian Ronald, CEO of major UK merchants John Armit, called it both ‘outrageous’ and ‘bold’ and said they would not be buying it as a result.

Other wines, Ronald said, had managed to get the ‘price-quality balance right’. Lynch Bages was one they had ‘strongly pursued’, and at €370 they had sold well.

So far none of the top properties have released their prices. This might be because properties are waiting until Vinexpo to drum up interest from buyers and press.

‘That is an unrealistic strategy,’ Mau said. ‘Buyers today use the telephone to put in orders for wines they have decided upon in advance. A face to face meeting during a wine fair isn’t going to make a big difference.’

As to how high the prices of the top properties will be, there have been few hints, but many suggest prices will be not much lower than 2005, given the interest from the Far East. One well-placed insider said, ‘They are shrewd business people and they recognise demand.’

See also: Bordeaux first growths still up in the stratosphere? in the decanter.com blog

Written by Jane Anson in Bordeaux, and Adam Lechmere

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