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Chateau Latour sued for cutting allocation

A Bordeaux wine merchant has successfully sued Chateau Latour for dropping its allocation of en primeur wine - and plans to return to court to demand further compensation.

Bordeaux Magnum annually received 15 cases of both Chateau Latour and its second wine Les Forts de Latour until July 2004 when it was informed that it would not be receiving its usual shipment.

On April 5 this year, a Bordeaux tribunal awarded the merchant damages of €39,620 for ‘a sudden interruption of its en primeur allocation’.

‘After 20 years they said no more, but they did not give any credible reason,’ owner Maxime Hamma told decanter.com. ‘They said we didn’t buy enough, and that they have less and less wine. But they are keeping back wine to push up the price.’

Other negociants agreed that some chateaux reduce their en primeur allocations as a commercial strategy to push up the price, to have more to sell as bottled wine, and to control volumes.

‘This [speculation] is the phylloxera of the 21st century,’ Hamma said.

The system of en primeur is further complicated by the fact that few chateaux have contracts with the merchants who receive their allocations – it is done through longstanding arrangements with negociants.

Hamma is in the process of appealing the award, and will return to court to ask for the full €118,000 amount he originally sued for. Christine Jais, the lawyer for Latour, who was not available for comment today, has said, ‘We will defend our reasons in court.’

The director of another Medoc classified growth, who did not wish to be named, said, ‘Surely it is the prerogative of the chateau owner to decide his commercial strategy, and which merchants he wants to work with. That is just the natural way of doing business – and today having partnerships with negociants you can trust is more important than ever.’

Written by Jane Anson in Bordeaux

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