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Demand high for Burgundy 2021 wines, say merchants

Collector thirst for the top Burgundy 2021 en primeur wines has been strong, according to merchants, but the campaign also played out to a backdrop of pricing concerns and mixed views on the market's direction.

There have been reports of good demand for Burgundy 2021 wines released during this year’s en primeur campaign, even if the vintage was unusually small. Production of some Côte de Beaune white wines was down by 70% or more, as previously reported.

Jason Haynes, director of UK-based Flint Wines, told Decanter that ‘overall demand from collectors (private customers) feels very strong’.

The small size of the 2021 crop makes it difficult to directly compare en primeur interest to the campaigns for the 2020 and 2019 vintages, he said earlier this month. ‘We can only really say that we don’t have enough wine to satisfy demand and with many growers, even if we had five times as much, we still wouldn’t have enough.’

Sam Clarke, director of Stannary Wine, Flint’s private client arm, added, ‘The vintage has also seen wines that were once readily available becoming tightly allocated.’

Decanter’s Charles Curtis MW wrote in his Burgundy 2021 en primeur report that there are excellent wines to be found, despite growers’ frost and mildew challenges.

‘Given the weather patterns of the year, it is nearly inevitable that whites and reds alike have fresh acidity, light body, moderate alcohol and firm structure,’ he said, describing 2021 as ‘a classic Burgundian vintage and almost a trip down memory lane for experienced Burgundy lovers’.

David Roberts MW, Burgundy buyer for UK merchant Goedhuis & Co, said at the beginning of February: ‘We’ve still got some wines to sell, but we are very pleased with [the campaign].’

Nearly all major white wines sold out, he said. For reds, sought-after domaines sold incredibly well, as always. ‘The demand for the grands crus and premiers crus has been very strong,’ he added.

Release prices, and the sustainability of prices more generally, have again been significant topics during the recent campaign.

Liv-ex, a global marketplace for the trade, said release prices for Burgundy 2021 wines rose 25% on average as producers sought to cover costs.

Yet Roberts said it’s hard to generalise and pricing strategies have differed ‘domaine by domaine’. Some well-known producers were up 5%-10%, with others increasing prices 15%-20% and a few by significantly more than this, he said.

Mixed views on Burgundy’s secondary market direction

Alongside the campaign, a Liv-ex Burgundy report entitled ‘for the few, not the many’ highlighted concerns about price sustainability.

Prices have not just risen at the grand cru tier, it said, reporting that the average trade price for a case of ‘village’ wine rose by around 57% last year.

It also warned that Burgundy’s secondary market momentum has looked ‘increasingly fragile’, noting the bid-to-offer ratio for Burgundy on Liv-ex had fallen to 0.26, down from 1.1 in January 2022.

Justin Gibbs, Liv-ex deputy chairman and exchange director said, ‘Burgundy prices soared to record highs last year, but as the macro-economic environment deteriorated so the buyers began to melt away.’

Still, Liv-ex’s Burgundy 150 index rose by 0.4% in January, while other regional indices declined. The Burgundy 150 was also up by 19.6% over 12 months, and by 63.5% in two years.

Liv-ex 1000 indices chart (Source: Liv-ex)

How the Liv-ex 1000 regional sub-indices have performed in the past year. Credit: Liv-ex.

‘Buyer interest remains strong’ for top wines

‘Blue chip’ Burgundy wines at the very top of the market continue to attract attention, Bordeaux Index said in a recent trends report.

‘The pace of increase of Burgundy prices slowed in [the second half of] 2022, with somewhat quieter trading, but buyer interest remains strong,’ said Matthew O’Connell, CEO of Bordeaux Index’s LiveTrade trading platform.

‘Given that the price rises have been driven by intense demand for a tiny quantity of the top wines, this is not something we see unwinding itself any time soon.’

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