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Millesima boycotts Latour for ‘undermining’ en primeur

Bordeaux wine merchant Millésima is refusing its allocation of Chateau Latour because 'what (the chateau) is doing undermines the whole system [of en primeur],' owner Patrick Bernard said.

Bernard: ‘clearly something is not working’

Yesterday, Chateau Latour released its first offer of older vintage wines under its new system of opting out of the decades-old en primeur market – the 1995 Chateau Latour, 2005 les Forts de Latour and 2009 Pauillac.

‘I made decision with my son Fabrice (also a director of Millésima) yesterday, after much reflection,’ said Bernard, speaking in front of an audience of over 150 chateaux owners, journalists and wine bloggers at a tasting of 2011 Bordeaux.

‘We strongly believe that en primeur is an excellent opportunity to get your wine brand in to the public consciousness and to raise its value. We believe what Latour is doing undermines the whole system, and that a chateau that doesn’t sell en primeur does not respect how Bordeaux works.

‘Much of our turnover is dependent on the system of futures selling – that is how top growth Bordeaux operates, and when one party decides to retain almost all the profit, clearly something is not working.’

He further reminded the audience that the reason they managed to achieve such high prices in 2009 and 2010 was because the low prices in 2008 ‘reminded consumers that they system can work in their favour.’

Jean Garandeau, commercial director at Latour, told Decanter.com Millésima’s decision was ‘an exception’ and that most of the feedback they had received so far had been ‘positive. We are working closely with the Place de Bordeaux to ensure a good relationship with our négociants. They are still the key to our commercial strategy.’

In the UK market, most sellers were reporting a healthy response to Les Forts de Latour, with Latour selling also, but more slowly.

Adam Brett Smith at Corney and Barrow said, ‘The offer was deliberately – and wisely – small. A toe in the water. I suspect if it had been bigger it would not have succeeded.’

Stephen Browett at Farr Vintners said, ‘The price is about 15% over the UK market price but it could certainly be argued that this is an acceptable premium for a wine that’s never left the property and been held in stock by them for 18 years. I think that wine collectors around the world will probably accept this price.’

‘Assuring the provenance of the wine is our key intention,’ said Garandeau, ‘A wine that has been stored in the chateau will always taste better in the glass than one that has been round the globe three times. This is one of the key assurances that we want to be able to make to our clients.’

Written by Jane Anson in Bordeaux

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