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Top wines ‘could reach €1000’

Bordeaux’s top 2009s could reach prices as high as €1000 per bottle by the end of summer, experts are predicting.

Setting prices for the first growths and other major properties is an arcane business, but most observers are certain they will go high, inflated by many successive ‘tranches’ or releases of stock from the chateaux.

Jean-Guillaume Prats at Chateau Cos d’Estournel said that the gap in price between the First Growths and the rest ‘will be enormous.’

‘The price of the firsts [to consumers] will be at a very high level, easily reaching €1000 over the summer,’ he said.

Robert Parker, who publishes his scores on Monday, is of the same opinion, ‘expect 2009 Lafite at €1000 by September,’ he writes on his bulletin board.

For their part, Bordeaux negociants are desperately playing down price speculation.

Fredrick Rudebeck, managing director of negociant house Beyerman noted that during the campaign for the 2005 vintage one tranche of Lafite did go up to over €1000 – but from the negociants, not ex-chateau.

‘The idea that they would have an ex-chateau price of €1000 seems crazy. But the First Growths are not orbiting around the sun, they are in another galaxy entirely.’

He added that despite the recession, ‘there seems little doubt that they will start around the 2005 price [of €300 per bottle].’

Nadege Sabras, UK sales director at negociants Audy, suggested it was unlikely the First Growths would be as high as €1000 ex-chateaux by the summer, but that they could reach €800, to be sold on by the negociants at €1000.

She added, ‘The UK merchants seem more ready to buy than the US, and more than Asia also – even if many of the wines end up there eventually. But I would worry about the Super Second pricing. They often price in line with the First Growth rises, but their market is far more delicate, and still affected by the financial crisis.’

Many negociants are suggesting the major chateaux will run to eight or nine tranches, releasing a tiny amount their production each time and hiking the price as they do it.

‘If a property releases its first tranche at €300, and adds only €100 with each release, it is easy to see how the price could reach €1000 quite quickly,’ said one observer.

Speaking at the en primeur tastings, Herve Berland, managing director of Chateau Mouton-Rothschild, said that a change in consumers’ post-recession buying behaviour would be reflected in the pricing of 2009.

‘On the positive side it’s an exceptional vintage. On the negative side, we’re still in crisis, and even as we come out of it, consumer habits have changed.

‘We are going to have to examine very carefully what the consumer is prepared to pay.’

Berland warned that consumers should be prepared for a drawn-out campaign, hinting that prices ‘will probably come out mid-May’.

‘If it is confirmed that the Mouton grand vin it is truly exceptional, then certainly the price will go high. Whether that will be higher than 2005, it’s too early to say.’

This echoes Chateau Margaux’s Corinne Mentzelopoulos telling decanter.com that she still had ‘no idea’ how her property’s 2009 would be priced.

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Written by Adam Lechmere, and Jane Anson in Bordeaux

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