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Cheval Blanc, Angélus releases kick-start Bordeaux en primeur

Châteaux Cheval Blanc and Angélus have released their 2022-vintage wines with significant price increases versus last year’s campaign, as some analysts note that vintage context is important for buyers to consider.   

Château Cheval Blanc 2022 was released at €470 per bottle ex-Bordeaux this morning (9 May), up by 20.5% on the equivalent debut price of the famous St-Emilion estate’s 2021 vintage, according to Liv-ex, a global marketplace for the trade.

It said Cheval Blanc 2022 was offered at £5,760 per case (12x75cl in bond) in the UK, and its data showed that, despite the price, it was still cheaper than the highly regarded 2019, 2016 and 2015 vintages.

Fellow St-Emilion star Château Angélus was released at €350 per bottle ex-Bordeaux, up 32% on the 2021-vintage release price. It had a UK case price of £4,296 (12x75cl in bond), Liv-ex said.

Today’s releases from these two big names have effectively begun this year’s en primeur campaign.

There is considerable excitement around the vintage, despite intense heat causing issues in vineyards last summer. Decanter’s Georgie Hindle said in her initial Bordeaux 2022 vintage analysis that a ‘surprisingly large number of vineyards and growers prevailed against the odds to create a wealth of exceptional wines’.

Coming soon: Our full Bordeaux 2022 verdict with en primeur scores and tasting notes

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‘A potential 100-point wine’

Decanter’s Georgie Hindle rated Cheval Blanc 2022 at 98 points during the recent en primeur tastings in Bordeaux, adding it was a ‘potential 100-point wine’ to watch.

‘An extremely gorgeous 2022 taking the best from the vintage in terms of power, concentration and structure and presenting it with elegance, purity and a kind of quiet confidence that Cheval does so well,’ Hindle wrote in her tasting note.

Cheval Blanc’s technical director, Pierre-Olivier Clouet, said everyone was surprised by a freshness in the wines after the growing season’s largely hot, dry conditions.

‘We can explain the texture, the power and the concentration, but not the freshness, that is something else that no-one understands,’ he said. Rain in June helped, and Cheval Blanc also began picking Merlot in August, earlier than usual.

Hindle scored Angélus 2022 at 97 points. ‘An excellently constructed and impressive Angélus in 2022 with tension and detail,’ she wrote.

‘Lovely clarity and layering of flavour, some strictness coming from the Cabernet Franc at this point, but there’s such class, finesse and detail. One for the long haul and will reward cellaring.’

Price analysis and vintage context

Prices were broadly expected to rise versus last year’s en primeur campaign for the more challenging 2021 vintage.

Following Cheval Blanc’s early release, analyst group Wine Lister said: ‘This release may well set a trend for the campaign of prices 20-25% up on last year.’

Early debuts from major châteaux can sometimes contribute to the tone of the wider Bordeaux en primeur release season, although each estate also has its own context and strategy.

For Angélus, Liv-ex said the 2022 wine has instantly become one of the most expensive Angélus vintages on the market.

Wine Lister said Angélus 2022’s recommended onward selling price of £368 per bottle in bond represented a 38% and 41% increase on the equivalent debut prices for Angélus 2021 and 2020 vintages respectively.

Looking at en primeur more broadly, a key question could be whether the high quality of Bordeaux’s 2022 vintage can overcome a prevailing sense of buyer caution across the fine wine market in the early months of the year. It’s too early to know whether prices will prove compelling for buyers.

Steep year-on-year release price increases may be eye-catching, but some merchants and analysts argue that releases should also be judged against the market position of similarly rated vintages in an estate’s back-catalogue.

Wine Lister said of Cheval Blanc 2022: ‘Though entering the market 22% above last year’s release, the 2022 is below the 2019 and well below 2015 and 2016 prices, suggesting that the price is likely to make sense over the medium-term, even if it is not the en primeur discount that consumers dream of.’

Cheval Blanc sits within the fine wine portfolio of luxury goods group LVMH. Liv-ex said the group told the trade prior to release to expect a ‘step change in price’, versus the previous three vintages.

According to Liv-ex, LVMH also referenced ‘current market prices for 2015, 2016 or 2019’, and also said: ‘In line with our guiding principles, we believe that Cheval Blanc 2022 will represent a compelling offer to our distribution partners and to their customers.’

Around two thirds of total production would be released en primeur, with the remaining third remaining in the cellars until the wine enters its drinking window.

Liv-ex said the release offered ‘an exciting opportunity for buyers’. Its data suggested the new release was around 16% cheaper than the current market price of highly regarded Cheval Blanc 2016.

It also noted that buyers looking for alternatives to the new release could consider Cheval Blanc 2020.

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