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‘Correct’ Barton release price has merchants worried

Allocations of Chateau Leoville-Barton were released today with its price prompting both fear and understanding among UK wine merchants.

The release price of their 2006 offering – situated midway between that of 2004 and 2005 at just under £400 a case – seemed excessive on paper, said observers, but was justified in the context of previous Barton releases.

Tom Mann at London-based Bordeaux Index said that although on paper the price seemed excessive, owner Anthony Barton ‘had been underpricing for years.’

‘When you see what the market has done [to the price of Barton wines], you can understand that they yield to commercial pressures, as it were,’ he said.

Stephen Browett at Farr Vintners agreed.

‘It seems excessive, but when you look at the current price of the ’04 the release price is correct,’ he said. ‘The ’04 was reasonably priced on release and is now selling for much more.’

However, merchants are worried that Barton’s stance could influence the rest of Bordeaux. Browett said that ‘blinkered’ negociants and brokers might see Barton as ‘setting the standard’.

‘The price is right for Leoville-Barton, but not for others,’ he added.

Adam Brett-Smith at Corney and Barrow said, ‘As long as this is specific to Leoville and Langoa Barton, I think it’s fine. We sold out of our allocation in three hours, so he must have got it right. But if the pricing is used by the rest of Bordeaux as a template, that would be unfortunate.’

Further exasperation was aired by the merchants when quizzed about the sluggish nature of the 2006 campaign.

‘What’s more annoying than anything is the lack of speed,’ Mann said. ‘It’s June and we’ve only had two releases of note. I think producers are very very worried about where to put their prices and there’s the usual nonsense about saving face and not pricing less than your neighbour.’

Brett-Smith said that this was a campaign that would benefit from being ‘early and fast’ but that producers may well be waiting for Vinexpo in June to benefit from ‘better-tasting’ wines and a higher Bordeaux profile in the media. His position, however, was clear.

‘Interest will not grow by people being kept waiting,’ he said. ‘They are trying people’s patience.’

Written by Oliver Styles

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