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En primeur: late sales campaign likely

Global economic uncertainty caused by the war in Iraq continues to make itself felt in Bordeaux as producers suggest their 2002 en primeur campaign may not start until the end of June or later.

While proprietors for the most part remain tight-lipped about pricing strategies, some are saying the uncertainty of world markets mean it is unlikely they will mount a traditional spring sales campaign..

Otto Rettenmaier of Chateau La Tour Figeac in Saint Emilion told decanter.com, ‘the most important question is “When are we going to market?” At the moment, no one wants to buy luxury goods.’

Adding that he would use the Vinexpo fair in June as an opportunity to ‘take the temperature of the market’ he said, ‘We will certainly see a late campaign – maybe not until September.’

At neighbouring Chateau La Serre, Luc d’Arfeuille is of the same mind. ‘If there is no market, why should I try to sell my wine?’

The general opinion on 2002 prices is that they will be lower than the 2001 vintage, although few producers are prepared to nail their colours to the mast.

Patrick Baseden at Chateau Bienfaisance in Saint Emilion said he would be selling his wine for around 17% less than the 2001 vintage – and some 38% less than the 2000.

This means that his flagship cuvee Sanctus will have a release price of €14.70 (US$16) – compared with €29 (US$32)for a bottle of the 2000.

‘We feel that the market needs to be stimulated with great wines at reasonable prices,’ Baseden said, adding that the market environment was ‘economically and geopolitically adverse.’

Chateau Leoville Barton proprietor Anthony Barton told decanter.com his prices would also be much lower than last year’s, and Otto Rettenmaier said his prices would come down a bit.

As for Robert Parker, the vacuum caused by his absence this year may well be a problem. One prominent Saint Emilion owner told decanter.com many of his neighbours base their sales on Parker points and would be hard pressed to sell well without them.

But most producers say it will be a good thing for Bordeaux to have to sell its wine without the endorsement of the world’s most powerful wine critic.

Written by Adam Lechmere in Bordeaux

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