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First growths come out 30% down

The Bordeaux en primeur campaign has now kicked off in earnest with first growths Chateau Latour and Chateau Lafite releasing their wines at historically low prices.

UK merchants are offering the wines at £680 (€984) per case – a massive drop of 30% on last year’s offering of the 2001 vintage, which came in at around £950 (€1498) per case, and half the price of the historic 2000 vintage.

Calling the Lafite ‘very fine’, UK merchants Farr Vintners say on their website, ‘No other vintage of Lafite is available on the market at such a low price.’ Farr’s say they have sold out of their initial allocation.

Latour, in common with most of Bordeaux, produced dramatically less wine in 2002. Most chateaux made around 60% of their normal production – Latour has only 6,000 cases of the 2002 to sell.

Most merchants are delighted with such low prices. ‘Thirty per cent is a very decent drop in price,’ Tom Cave at Berry Bros told decanter.com, adding they would be able to sell all their allocation at the price.

The wine trade, which regularly lobbies the top chateaux to reduce their prices, is particularly pleased that the first growths have come out with their prices before most of the rest of Bordeaux – a very unusual move. Now they expect the rest of the region’s top producers to follow with the same sort of drop. It is now likely that Chateaux Margaux, Haut-Brion and Mouton will announce their prices next week.

‘They have listened to what the wine trade told them,’ Cave said. ‘They understand that to sell they have to reduce their prices.’

Whether the prices will be enough to attract the disaffected American market is another question. Mark Thornton of merchants claret-e online said it would be a help, but ‘there was no guarantee they would be getting over-excited’ across the Atlantic. ‘French wine is still very much a no-go area there,’ he said.

Other significant releases include major crus bourgeois Chateau Chasse Spleen (£125/€180) and Sociando Mallet (£160/€231), and second growth Gruaud Larose (£190/€275).

Also released on the left bank are Forts de Latour and Carruades de Lafite (second wines of the Latour and Lafite), Duhart Milon, Durfort Vivens and Haut Bages Liberal. From the right bank only one wine, Quinalt l’Enclos, has been released.

Written by Adam Lechmere17 April 2003

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