week is in full swing in Bordeaux with thousands of
wines out of the barrels for tasting by journalists
and buyers who will guestimate the quality and aging
potential that determine the price of the Futures.
Subhash Arora who was present at the opening; sipping
and spitting scores of wines, reports from Bordeaux
En Primeur has long been a fascinating
week for wine connoisseurs, journalists, critics and
buyers alike. Bordeaux is all dressed up with the
wines of the latest vintage, ready to impress the
tasters and critics with their wines.
'We tried keeping various slots
of a week for these tastings but felt that the first
week of April worked the best for every one interested
in Bordeaux wines,' says Patrick Maroteaux, the President
for the last 8 years of Unions de Grands Crus.' He
adds, 'drinking less to focus on subtle flavours rather
than quantity brings connoisseurs together around
It is too early to predict the prices
for the 2007 futures. The road-show has just begun.
Uncle Bob (Robert Parker) was in Bordeaux later part
of last week and has done his tastings. Other wine
critics and writers like Jancis Robinson, Serena Sutcliffe,
Team Decanter, Joel Payne, President of Fijev and
many other well-known journalists were doing the rounds
this week, rushing from chateau to chateau and many
other tastings being organised under one umbrella.
It is almost sacrilege to predict
the prices before the tastings are over. Chateau owners
would like to sell at prices higher than the previous
year, even when the earlier 2005 had hit through the
cellar roof. But the ground realities are well known
to the old hats. The vintage has been a good though
much criticised vintage, more of a classic vintage
than the exotic 2005 and not-so-exotic 2006.
Says Elis McCoy, a well known US
journalist who penned the 'Emperor of Wine', the official
biography of Robert Parker, 'U.S. retailers are not
rushing this year. Many of their customers had been
well-invested in the 2005 and to a lesser extent in
2006. One retailer who bought futures worth $5m in
2005 was able to sell them off quickly even though
the customers complained about astronomical prices.
He bought only $1m worth last year and is skipping
the En Primeur completely.
Sherry Lehmann, a well known up-market
New York retailer is not rushing to the annual 'Show'
either. He will take his time to decide, though he
will ultimately buy. But the retailers are finding
it hard to find customers this year due to many factors.
Reasons are not hard to find. Last
year, the dollar was trading at about 1.32 to a Euro.
This year, it is at around 1.58. A fall of about 20%
in he value of the dollar implies that the wines would
be that much more expensive, even if they were sold
at the same price (in Euros) as last year. Add to
that the uncertain US economy and you can well understand
why the Americans will not be jumping the gun to buy.
The situation is not much different in UK, though
not as dismal.
Asia is not a significant En Primeur
market, anyway, says Ch'Ng Poh Tiong, the well known
wine writer from Singapore and the most knowledgeable
expert on Bordeaux wines, east of Suez. 'Wine is not
bought or sold in vacuum. We have to keep in mind
the world economy. The whole world is passing through
an uncertain phase. When the economies are booming,
people tend to splurge on wines. 2005 was a good example
of that. However, people are keeping the hands tight
this time around. 'I have not seen any fireworks at
the tastings, so far, anyway,' he surmises.
The producers are keeping a brave
front, hoping that the fall would be negligible. Talking
to delWine Pierre Lurton, the President of Premier
Cru Supérieur Classe en 1855, Chateau d'Yquem
said, 'I feel that despite many difficulties we had
with weather this year, this vintage will be regarded
as a better vintage than even the '05 or '06. But
people may not appreciate the fact at this point.
Skirting the issue of pricing, he did hint that there
may be a slight drop in the price for the king of
Eric Larramona, Director of Lafaurie
Peyraguey, a Premier Cru Classe Sauternes echoed similar
sentiments. Producer of wines which are well respected
and aging wines (I tasted a 1906 which was still fresh),
the wines sell for a fraction of Yquem, which fetched
more than 18 times its price in 2005 .
Nicolas and Christophe Baillencourt
brothers are co-owners of Chateau Gazin in Pomerol,
neighbours of the iconic Pétrus produce fine
wines which are being imported by Brindco. Says Nicolas,
our appellation being small has not been rated as
such and we do not fetch the prices we deserve. But
the quality has been as good for this vintage and
we do not think our prices will be down.
Christian Seely the charming Director
of many properties including the top second growth
of Pauillac, Pichon Longueville told delWine that
the issue of pricing is very complicated. 'Obviously,
the pricing will be determined by the quality of our
vintage we are very happy with the '07. But we have
to stay in the price band decided by the market, a
group of negociants.' He also added firmly but politely,
'Pricing should be done on a property by property
basis; some do very well in a particular year. As
a manager of a property we need to get the right price.'
Referring to their Pomerol property,
he said,' our Petit Village property is coming along
fine and has done better than last year. There is
no reason why it should be priced less than 2006.'
The charade, it looks, will go on
till the wine journalists, critics and importers of
standing give there verdict. But this does remind
one of the jobbers in the New York Stock Exchange
who like to pay the lowest to buy and highest while
selling to the buyer. The gap is narrower for the
stocks with liquidity.
En Primeur are 'futures' and to some
extent like stocks and shares. You buy a 2007 chateau
wine, hoping it will appreciate substantially by 2010
when the wine is released. However there is an added
incentive that even if there is no increase, or even
a decrease, you would still have fine wine maturing
in the cellar for self-drinking.
And if the wine is from a good chateau,
it would insure a dwindling supply- even the châteaux
sell of most of their wine in tranches before the
wine is released. The demand will also increase if
the quality gets better with aging as expected.
At the very least, you will end
up drinking better quality wine and perhaps may still
recover your investment, which always remains in a
liquid rather than the paper form.
April 2, 2008