A number of London wine merchants are reportedly furious with Bordeaux negociants for forcing them to buy another chateau's wines along with their allocations of Lafite 2011.
Rieussec: bundled in?
In a practice known as ‘bundling in’, Bordeaux – according to the wine merchants Decanter.com has spoken to – demands that a merchant take a certain amount of cases of Chateau Rieussec in Sauternes at what merchants claim is an unrealistic price, or their allocation of Lafite and its second wine Carruades de Lafite, and sister wine Duhart-Milon will be compromised.
Merchants say they are now having to sell Rieussec – a Sauternes first growth – at a loss. It was released by negociants at €48 a bottle, which at standard margins would sell in London for over £500 a case.
This is far beyond the ‘real value’ of Rieussec, merchants say. It is on the market now for between £350 and £375 a case, meaning merchants make no money on it.
‘The situation is farcical,’ Farr Vintners director Oliver East told Decanter.com. ‘We are always annoyed by it but this year we have vented our annoyance.’ He said he had written to negociants but with no response.
Berry Bros director Max Lalondrelle said the main annoyance lies in the fact that Rieussec – owned by Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) – is ‘force-fed’ to merchants.
‘We are all very happy to sell it as a stand-alone. We would love to sell the wine for what it is.’
Merchants agree that Rieussec is an excellent wine, particularly in a very good Sauternes year such as 2011, but it is overpriced.
‘We are awash with Sauternes from previous vintages: the sweet wine market has not moved on with the rest of Bordeaux,’ East said.
Lalondrelle agreed, saying they had €350,000 of Rieussec from previous vintages which they had still to sell.
He said he had taken 300 cases of Rieussec and would expect to sell about half that. He had sold 120 cases of Suduiraut, he said, as an indication of how much Rieussec he would take if it was separate to Lafite.
Another major merchant, Corney & Barrow, also agreed the situation was not ideal. ‘It’s deeply frustrating,’ associate director Will Hargrove said, adding that it was not clear-cut.
‘It’s not explicit, it’s very varied between negociants, but in the end it does devalue Rieussec.’
In Bordeaux, negociants are reluctant to comment on the record. One told Decanter.com, ‘We too are very annoyed, that the boys in London are dumping Rieussec. That is not respectful.’
He said, as did another prominent negociant, ‘there is no tie-in’, stressing at the same time that merchants need to respect ‘the necessity to defend the various labels of a family’s wine. I might politely remind a merchant buying Lafite, “don’t forget Rieussec”.’
The negociant added, ‘DBR have never, in my 20 years in the trade, said that if you drop your allocation of Rieussec then we will drop your allocation of Lafite.’
Asked to comment on negociants’ denials, one merchant said, ‘they would say that. They are all terrified of losing Lafite.’
Jeannie Cho Lee MW, reviewing Sauternes 2011 for Decanter, gave Rieussec 5 stars (18.5 points), praising its ‘Great concentration of flavours and amazing complexity…A precise, detailed wine with a long finish’
Written by Adam Lechmere