Bordeaux 2019 EP going ahead?

Discussion in 'UK Wine Forum' started by Edward Bolland, May 16, 2020.

  1. I have received emails today suggesting that the trade is expecting a Bordeaux EP campaign to get going later this month.
    It will be interesting to see what appetite there is for it at the moment.
  2. If you sniff the sample, do not forget to remove your mask Ed.... or you may think you have a symptom...
  3. Mooted decent discount on a first tranche.
  4. Armit email ? Reduced offering just to set the bench mark for prices, and very little sold. Massive back log
    Of wine from previous vintages has to come out too at some stage. It all points to prices headed south imo.
    As the saying goes, anyway I’m a Burgundy man.....
  5. Yep. Also a method that I've seen suggested elsewhere. May be pre critic scores or pre most of them.
  6. On the positive side:

    2019 seems to have been a jolly good vintage.​

    On the negative side:

    The market is already awash with pallets unsold (Bordeaux) and cases unopened (London).

    Suggestions that 2019 release prices will drop by 15-20% on 2018 strike me as wishful thinking. For some time the big names of Bordeaux have considered themselves luxury brands rather than agricultural producers – any drop in pricing (irrespective of the reasoning behind it) on 2019 will make fine recent vintages (such as 2015 and 2016) look overpriced, while duffers still clogging up chais and négoce warehouses across Bordeaux (the likes of 2013 and 2017) will become so much dead weight. Looking at things cynically, why should producers want or need to drop pricing now?

    The absence/paucity of critical reviews will hobble merchants and customers whose purchasing decisions have come overly reliant on scores; more serious merchants (capable of forming their own opinions) may have access to samples, but not in the context of the UGC and other large-scale tastings in Bordeaux and elsewhere. I've always found the latter most informative in my own considerations – a wine's intrinsic quality is one thing, but I still think judgement of value is best measured by objective comparison with that wine's peers?

    It does seem that the relative quantities of each vintage offered en primeur have dropped steadily over the years: cash-heavy producers are holding back good vintages to sell further down the line (the Latour model), while I still wonder to what degree lesser vintages might subsequently be employed to anti-Hermitage the final blends of better vintages. In contrast however I note that merchant and customer allocations now seem pretty much a thing of the past, outside the first growths – I remember the first time a prestigious merchant from whom I’d never bought a bottle of anything confidentially offered me Lafleur ‘no strings attached’. Having said that, one wonders how much further the patience of loan managers and overloaded négociants will reasonably stretch...

    2019 appears to have been an abundant vintage – one Médoc producer told me they’ve made half as much wine again as in 2018. So the idea that 'the amount of wine offered will be less than last year' indicates either a transparent ploy from Bordeaux or a panicked attempt by UK merchants to stem the relentless fall in en primeur sales. The wines of Bordeaux are not especially rare (certainly not by Burgundian standards), but compared to a few years ago are now so expensive that people drink them far less often – I really can’t see that stock of 2019 will be thin on the ground for a few years yet?

    From an insular perspective, I can't see who the Bordelais can now credibly posit as the 'driving force' for demand – over the years we have seen America, Russia, India and China rise and fall as big players (real or imagined) in convincing British customers to overspend. New Zealand, perhaps?

    Every vintage one sees spirited attacks on the en primeur system, ably countered by robust (and perfectly valid) defence from the likes of Alex R. I love and will always love the wines of Bordeaux, but for me the en primeur model started breaking down the moment that money overtook wine as the power source – somewhere between 2005 and 2010 all the warning lights on my dashboard flashed up one by one...​

    I’m not going to start on factors outside the wine trade (trivial considerations such as COVID-19, the world economy and Brexit), but I do hope that everyone involved in any campaign this summer should and will think very carefully about why they’re involved.
    Last edited: May 24, 2020
  7. It’s a pass for me. (With the exception of one ) So many bites at the cherry..
  8. Why would producers wish to drop prices. To sell their wine?!
    If there’s plenty of ‘13 & ‘27 lying around might be indicator or being overpriced, lower quality or both?
    Maybe it’s time the Bordelais should look up Adam Smith?
  9. The Bordelais think and act like OPEC. For a long time you can rig the market, but demand can also fall dramatically as tastes and/or spending power change, and even the collusional pricing approach won’t save you then. Of course we say this every year, but as Christopher says the red warning lights for EP have been flashing for some time now.
  10. I'd love to see negative prices for Bordeaux! That could get me into the market...
  11. Plenty of 'negative' EP prices have already been around, especially for 2009 and 2010.
    Tom Grande likes this.
  12. You knew what I meant (which isn't secondary market discounts on a high opening price)

    I can't say I have any sympathy for the Bordeaux cartel, but only for the large swathe of low key producers sitting underneath the famous names, who as Alex keeps telling us are just producing wonderful drinking and food wines - better than has ever emerged from the region
  13. I did not realise that it was permissible to inter-blend vintages and if so I wonder how prevalent that is.
    Leon Marks likes this.
  14. It's up to a certain percentage Graham - not sure exactly how much but in the order of magnitude of 10%.
  15. I note from Jancis' FT column this weekend that she is not participating in tasting 2019 barrel samples to be sent to her residence by UdGC for appraisal. Hopefully the other critics will sit out as I don't see that anyone particularly has the appetite right now for reading about the new vintage of the century. If there is any sense, the UdGC should skip hosting an EP this year and re-schedule so that a socially distanced and safety enhanced Bordeaux EP 2019 can take place in the new year allowing a more meaningful appraisal so long as there is not a second surge in Covid19.
    Last edited: May 17, 2020
  16. In the US it's only 5%, but it's hardly surprising that figures aren't widely circulated for any wine region – I've found a single non-specific and unreferenced article claiming that 'depending on the producing country, that ratio must be comprised of 75 to 95% same-crop grapes to legally use the term single vintage'. Informed opinions on Bordeaux, anyone?

    Elsewhere I've previously expressed concern over the relationship between cask samples and finished wines: producers have every interest in showing critics and merchants ripe, fruit-forward expressions of a vintage, even if those samples might be mildly unrepresentative of their overall crop or of their eventual blending choice. And when the wines are in bottle and shipped, what self-respecting critic or merchant will risk their livelihood and social circle by saying 'I got this one completely wrong – what tasted fabulous two years ago is now a shadow of its former self'?

    So while I'm not suggesting that everyone (or even anyone) in Bordeaux is taking advantage of a perfectly legal (but little publicised) opportunity to reinforce lesser vintages and stretch better vintages, it must surely be a difficult matter to police... ;)
    Last edited: May 24, 2020
  17. The 2008 vintage saw my final 'trophy' purchase en primeur, as Pontet-Canet followed Léoville-Barton (last purchase 2006) out of my 'I might just still drink it one day' affordability window. That case is currently worth £100 more than I paid eleven years ago, while I've stumped up about that much in storage fees. :confused:

    Twelve months later the same expenditure got me EIGHT cases of 2009 cru bourgeois-level claret (the likes of Charmail, Paveil de Luze, Coutelin-Merville, Rahoul, Grand Enclos de Cérons, Saint-Christophe and Bournac) from across Bordeaux; all of which have been in my cellar since landing. Buying those wines in 2011 would have cost me perhaps 40% more than my eventual en primeur outlay; buying them today would probably cost me twice as much again.

    Not only does that economy on 'wonderful drinking and food wines' represent to me the essential point of en primeur, but in hindsight those ninety-six relatively humble bottles were a far better investment than my twelve Pauillac – even though Parker described the latter as 'a candidate for the wine of the vintage' that 'should still be in superb form circa 2060'. By then, my eight cases and I should be long gone... :D
    Last edited: May 18, 2020
  18. I've been trying to track down the AOC regulations but my old links don't work. Blending from different vintages is not allowed at all and would trump any other country regulations. So even if the US or UK have their own regulations for the wine to be AOC Margaux (or whatever) it has to be 100% from that vintage. But I guess in practise it would be difficult to detect and police but I suspect they police themselves. Even the smaller non-classified wines are multi-million pound businesses I doubt you'd risk that just to add a small correction to a vintage, as for classed growths worth many tens or hundreds of millions that would be utter madness. Though of course I guess we could be in the same territory as VW and their diesel engine scandal...
  19. Well, we all have the option to smoothen a "rich" 2009 with a dollop of "refined" 2008 in our kitchen or decanter... no law forbids this... Champagne does it on a routine basis.;).. with some success... and Cote Rotie producers even put some Condrieu in it.
    Gareth Powell likes this.
  20. In Bordeaux at least they can use a blend and can change the composition etc. Same luxuries not afforded to single grape wine regions when it comes to managing the excesses of a vintage.
  21. The Bordelais should start buying up under-ripe cab franc from the Loire - to achieve a sort of reverse-Hermitagisation. Watch those tankers head south from Chinon ;).
  22. Back to the future
    Mark Gough likes this.
  23. Christopher wrote,

    “The market is already awash with pallets unsold (Bordeaux) and cases unopened (London)”. I’ve been reading exactly the same comment for God knows how many years. And the prediction that the bottom will fall out of the market. Most such predictions have been wrong, but I concur that the present situation is highly unusual.

    Once again, it must be said that this thread only concerns the top end of the market, the one percent. The worst case scenario here is that prices drop. Significantly. I don’t see any tremendous drama with that, or the collapse of the en primeur system.
    On the other hand, wine from the less exalted appellations is well and truly in deep doodoo, and distillation seems inevitable.

    I have a journalist friend in Copenhagen. He is receiving tons of barrel samples. He bristled when I said that this was not the best way to taste them. I mentioned how important the freshness of samples is, plus the possibility of tasting a slew of wines from the same appellation side by side (as opposed to receiving them in dribs and drabs from all over), not to mention the opportunity to meet château owners or winemakers.
    As for the last point, my friend said that these people only stand in the way and complicate things!
    Finally, the en primeur tastings are precious for networking with professionals from all over the world. Unique.

    I point I didn’t make to my friend, but should have, is that the world’s most famous wine critic, Robert Parker, came to Bordeaux regularly. Oh, he retasted back home, but nothing beats going to the region of production, especially when the wines are in barrel.
    This also gets away from scoring seen as the clinical rating of disembodied products, without a thought for the particularities of a given estate in a given year.

    Will the “absence/paucity of critical reviews hobble merchants and customers”. That’s a very good question. I’m tempted to say yes, but if the campaign does not go well, it will be hard to what degree this is a factor.

    You hit the nail on the head when you wrote “The judgement of value is best measured by objective comparison with that wine's peers”. Yes, yes, and yes.
    If you receive samples of, let’s say, Branaire Ducru (hopefully soon after shipment…) on Tuesday, but others of Talbot a week later, that yardstick simply isn’t there – which is why the UGC tastings are so precious.

    As for pricing and offerings per tranche, etc. one can have feelings and intuitions, but the simple fact is that this is extremely complicated and it is virtually impossible for anyone other than brokers on the Place de Bordeaux to have a good handle on the truth.
    There are too many variations to generalize.

    By the way, what Latour has done (successfully) is only because they are Latour. There has been no mass movement to follow them because their strategy entails an enormous risk.

    As for the Médoc producer who told you that “they’ve made half as much wine again as in 2018”, I think you need to take that with a grain of salt – or not take his reality as representative.

    Best regards,
    Alex R.
  24. Why not just price the wines to sell? It could be done. The market would be grateful and responsive and cashflow would be positive for the owners and trade.
  25. you mean like in 2008? I must confess, I did buy a bit in 2008 because of the big price drop (VCC, Chevalier, Leo Barton in 6 packs, even a few bottles of Lafite, the 2 Pichon and a Pontet canet...). This strategy worked with me.
    Ian Hampsted and Graham Harvey like this.

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