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Bordeaux 2010: Cheval Blanc ‘got the price wrong’, say merchants

A senior executive at Chateau Cheval Blanc has vigorously defended the company's policy on pricing the 2010 vintage.

The LVMH-owned St Emilion first growth’s opening price of €900 from negociants, 21.4% more than its 2009 price of €700, has been received with a good deal of hostililty by wine merchants, and on Twitter.

‘They have simply got the price wrong,’ Stephen Browett of Farr Vintners told Decanter.com, adding that he had sold 40 cases, half of them to Hong Kong.

‘We were offered hundreds more by the chateau, which we turned down.’

Comments on Twitter either expressed amazement, or were satirical. ‘Insane’, was one tweeter’s view.

Browett’s problem is that Cheval Blanc 2010 is almost double the price of the 2005, which is now selling at £6,200 a case. ‘Why would you want to buy the 2010 at £10,000 when you can get the 2005 so much cheaper?’

Berry Brothers has the same problem with the wine, choosing not to list it at all and only buying on demand.

‘We were very disappointed with the incredible price Cheval was released at, and didn’t feel comfortable endorsing it. Consequently we have only sold 20 cases, five in the UK and 15 in Hong Kong, and I can’t imagine we’ll sell more. As a contrast we have sold 750 cases of Mouton,’ wine director Simon Staples told Decanter.com.

At Cheval Blanc, chief financial officer Arnaud de Laforcade insisted that it was too early to tell what the reaction would be to the price.

‘The price is set by the owners, LVMH and [Belgian financier] Albert Frere, in consultation with Pierre Lurton and myself.

‘Of course it worries me [that UK merchants are hostile] but It is too early to say if it will be a success or not.’

He added they took the unusual step of releasing 50,000 bottles (4,100 cases), which is 75% of the first wine’s production, in order to give merchants ‘some ammunition in the market’.

De Laforcade told Decanter.com the UK and Europe was a ‘very important market’ for Cheval Blanc and its second wine Petit Cheval.

He said only 30% of their en primeur sales went to China and that accusations that they were intent on wooing the Chinese market were nonsense.

‘Traditionally our sales have been one third to Asia, one third to Europe and one third to the United States. The UK, Germany and Benelux are very important markets.

‘The rumour that China buys all that we make is wrong.’

  • Ultra-exclusive Pomerol property Le Pin has released its price on the 2010 vintage at €1300 a bottle. That price translates up to £16,000 per case from wine merchants in the UK – Berry Brothers have already sold ten cases. Less than 1000 cases from the tiny property are made. Le Pin is one of the last of the great Bordeaux 2010 wines to release.

Written by Adam Lechmere

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