Bordeaux 2009: our thoughts so far
Author: Simon Staples
Having just returned from a break-neck few days in Bordeaux with our buyer, Max Lalondrelle, our early thoughts on the vintage are… .that we really can’t say for sure! Dull, I know, but we only tried a handful of finished wines and only twice that amount in barrel samples – and that’s just not broad enough to hang a “Greatest ” tag on…just yet!
However it plays out with the full tastings at the end of March, what is clear is that we are onto something spectacular again. What we have tried so far are all superb, rich, powerful, sexy beasts with great structure, depth and almost magical promise. A few specific wines which will be worth keeping an eye on the release of are:
Both the Grand Vin and Pagodes de Cos, which were sublime. Cos itself was every bit as spectacular as the magnificent 2005 perhaps a tad fatter but with brilliant balance. Pagodes, with almost half the Grand Vin declassified into it, is off the scale. It’s without question the most impressive Pagodes I have ever tried and if you didn’t have the Gran Vin to compare it with you’d say it was a great Cos!! Jean- Guillaume thought his second wine could have rivalled many of his Grand Vin from years gone by…
Slightly further south in the heart of Margaux, the irrepressible Alexander Van Beek showed us the component parts of his two estates. The ever-improving Chateau du Tertre (right)and the very famous Chateau Giscours, proclaiming that they are the finest he has ever produced in his 13 years of managing them. I have to say, tasting both Chateaux Merlot, Cabernet and even Petit Verdot was breathtaking and I really can’t wait to taste the final blend at the end of March. We had a bash at blending and even our amateur attempts were sumptuous. A highlight from across the river in Pomerol was the spectacular Chateau Petit Village. We have been watching this potentially great estate for a few years now. It has a fabulous location overlooking Le Pin, Vieux Chateau Certan, Conseillante and, if you go on tiptoes, Petrus. Its 2008 was very special but its 2009 is on another level all together. Oh, one more to mention was the impressive, understated Chateau Bellefont in St Emilion. Nestled in the centre of Troplong Mondot, Larcis Ducasse and Tertre Roteborff, this could be a little gem in 2009.
It’s too early to speculate on pricing, but having said that, the ‘market’ dictates what prices the wines sell for and with an ever increasing demand, especially from Asia, Bordeaux 2009 won’t be cheap – but the wines look to be brilliant and we will find our customers some great value. So turn off the heating, sell the car/kids/excess organs to save up for and sign up with us for the rollercoaster ride that will be Bordeaux 2009!!
Re: 2009 pricing and demand from the Far East.
Here’s my thesis:
I think there’s going to be a major issue here, in that the chateaux will expect to be able to price en primeur off the scale.
But the market in fine wine over the last 18 months has largely been kept going by Hong Kong/ China and it seems to me that they are driven by brand more than vintage.
For them, why buy 2009 Mouton, say, for £4k when you can get the 2008 for £3k, and the 2004 for £2k? The earlier vintages still say Mouton on the label and frankly you’ve only been tasting wine for 18 months so you can’t really tell the difference, and neither can your friends. And besides, 2008 was the lucky Beijing Olympic year, so 2008 remains a more appealing purchase.
Examine the serious price rises in investment level 1st growths over the last 18 months, and they have all been in ‘off’ vintages (except Lafite, a special case.) e.g. 2001, 2002 and 2004. 2005 has remained flat or dropped over the last 12 months.
The people who go crazy for vintages are the UK and the US market, and yet they don’t have the money to buy because our economies are still in deep trouble.
I forecast extreme problems selling this vintage among the 1st and super 2nds, because the chateaux will feel honour bound to price incredibly high (and I’m sure the wines are great), but the only people with the money to buy into them (the Chinese) won’t be attracted by it in comparison with other years, which are, after all, already available to drink.
On the other hand, if the Cos 2nd wine is as good as you say, i reckon that will be bought into by loads of buyers as the UK winelover still will want a bit of 2009, as also the relatively minor classed growths (Pontet, Beychevelle, the usual crowd…): they just won’t have the bucks to get the mega wines.
Equally, I forecast renewed demand for 2008 because everyone will see what good value they are relative to 2009, and after all, the Parker scores are excellent for 08.
Apologies for the delay in responding to your post. I believe you have hit the proverbial nail here. This is a distinct concern of mine.
The Hong Kong explosion really has only affected Lafite, Mouton and Latour so far and I really don’t see that abating in the near future and they will continue to drag other Chateaux with them, I’d presume the other First Growths but there’s no guarantee. The desire and demand on Lafite came from absolutely nowhere. Who’s to say what will follow suit? I do agree with you to a point on being brand driven (just look at Carruades and Duhart Milons meteoric rise on the back of the Grand Vin) however, I still believe that the greater vintages will sell for more, even in Asia. If you ask me now, I could imagine Lafite, Mouton and Latour being at current Petrus prices in a couple of years ie. great years £30,000/£40,000 a case and less attractive £10,000/£15,000 per case.
If Petrus makes c.2500/4000 cases and the three First Growths mentioned make/release 10,000/15,000 cases each it really won’t take much to quadruple the demand as China, the rest of Asia and India develop a thirst.
As for the other wines this year I totally agree with you. Even if more of the wines prove to be outstanding I doubt many old market drinkers will wade in on the Super Seconds (unless, of course, that these take the place of the Firsts Growths for Old World drinkers. We have seen, even with totally unbelievable wines, like 2005 Palmer and Cos Estournel, that the market is not prepared yet to pay much more than £100 per bottle for young non First Growths).
We shall have to wait and see what happens but one thing is for sure – that the market will dictate the price, and if a few cheeky Chateaux try it on and don’t sell, even to the Negotiant, it soon corrects itself.
Whatever lays in wait for us I know it’s going to be fun and there’ll be lots of cussing and fighting before we are done but there will be some wines that will show a sibilance of value and I hope we can track them down and buy them.
Do let me know if there is anything you are looking for (apart from a palate of 2009 Lafite….I have that well and truly covered!!)
Ps. I agree on your position on 2008’s but really only Lafite/Mouton and Latour. Mouton especially!!
Pps. With Carruades going crazy c.£2000 Forts de Latour at £1000+ ….Petit Mouton at £600/£800?????
Simon – I’d be interested in what you think of the following article in last Friday’s Independent. How much have prices been driven up in the last 5-10 years by wine investors rather than wine drinkers? In the end, the bottle stops with a wine drinker and there are limits to what they will pay…. it will be interesting to see if this has an imact on 2009.
Châteaux splash out – on their own wine
French scramble to prop up prices as the world’s biggest trader sells stock
By John Lichfield in Paris
Friday, 12 February 2010
Leading Bordeaux châteaux are scrambling to buy back their own wine from America to prevent a “fire-sale” by a dominant US trader from tipping the world market for luxury claret into free fall.
The world’s biggest single buyer of top-price Bordeaux wines – DC&E, a US subsidiary of the British drinks firm Diageo – has been liquidating its entire stock of the most prized châteaux at discounts ranging from 30 to 60 per cent.
Full Article: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/chacircteaux-splash-out-ndash-on-their-own-wine-1897156.html
We’ve known that this company has been doing this in the US and to be honest, it hasn’t had a huge impact (if any tangible impact at all) on the market. People soaked up the dumped stock quite happily. If this hadn’t had been the case, then things could’ve been different.
Another thing to bear in mind – this is stock (on the whole) that is in the US and therefore has little trading value over here anyway (because of US strip labels etc).
This story came out a few months ago, and speaking to a couple of US merchants/brokers, they say that the surplus has disappeared anyway.
In short – I’m not sure the doom and gloom element to the article is quite accurate for the fine wine (global) market as a whole.
Now that the top chateaux in Bordeaux have had time to reflect and assess the prices that were set for the 2008’s, do you think there is a feeling amongst them that the prices were too low?
We can always hope that there isn’t a vast difference between the 2008 the 2009 prices, if there is, then clearly this would cast a shaddow over what turned out to be a very good vintage, producing quality wines.
I think that apart from a handful of Chateaux (e.g Lafite/Latour/Mouton) I dont think they regret their reasonable prices. To be honest most were delighted/amazed to have actually made decent wine after such a dreadful Summer, I think. Having been down there twice this year and had dozens of conversations with owners/managers, the price they have in their head is 2005, or maybe less, rather than a % rise up on 2008’s, I fear. Having said that I am incredibly excited to try all of them next week. What I tasted in February was really great and there are going to be some legendary wines from 2009. I’ll keep you posted.
Again relating to pricing I think if we look at the relative
quality of the vintage against the FTSE 100 when prices are released (ordinarily May of the following year) this should give us an indicator.
Starting in the 2005 vintage when prices leapt, the FTSE 100 stood at 5724. In 2006 although generally seen as a lesser vintage, the FTSE hit 6621 allowing us to suffer the burden of still high pricing for a good vintage. The 2007 was poor but again the FTSE 100 had only dropped to 6054 (higher than it was when the ’05 was released). Most of the 2007 vintage was released at a price less than 2006. Although we still feel the pricing of the ’07 was poor (judging by the amount unsold) the FTSE benchmark does indicate how the pricing may have been misled. When it came to May 2009, the FTSE stood at 4418, a huge drop. Taking into account the change in the euro (only for us of course) as well, the ’08s were priced at a much lower level for a generally good vintage.
If we step forward a couple of months we will be on the verge of an election, and with the FTSE 100 currently trading around 5600 may expect a slight rise leaving it somewhere between the level of the ’05 and ’06 level on release. This would then back up your suggestion of an increase in price back to the level of the ’05s if the quality is as high as we expect.
Which would perhaps indicate 1st growths above £3,500, even edging to £4,500. Cos always looking to buck the trend may come in at around the £1,100 (less than £100 per bottle). Old favourites like Leoville-Barton and Montrose may edge the high end of £500 possibly even tipping in the £600’s.
A shame perhaps for drinkers but in a truly great vintage (one hopes) there will be plenty of lesser wines as you already note that will offer exceptional quality for a fair price.
Good luck with the tastings this week and look forward to hearing your thoughts.
Why does US stock (with strip labels, etc) have little trading value over here? Is this due to fears over the effects of trans-Atlantic travel on the wine? Or something else? I have seen reference to US strip labels on wine merchants’ websites (usually for lower-priced wine) and wonder what these things actually look like. However, I’m more interested in the reasons why tese things depress wine prices on thus side of the pond.
Mark, US stock being less trading value is due to the perception that thay do not take care of their wine, especially at the early 80s, 90s. The wine might be left at the port under the sun for weeks. They also like to take their wine out of the owc and put them on polystyrene box. With most of the original packaging missing, putting the provenance in question. There are always more reasons for their price being a bit lower. However, the more recent vintages may not be the case.
You have hit the proverbial nail when you say about the trans Atlantic effect. This is, I admit, derived from fairly historical information that some US importers did not use temperature controlled containers or even temperature controlled warehouses. Over recent years the US really hasn’t bought very much French wine (since 2003 vintage) and there are concerns that if warehouses aren’t perfect the wine might not be at its best. Really not sure if this is the case but thats the reason. We are seeing a lot of older US stock being sold at Auction in Hong Kong.
Is there any hope that the Asian markets will find a new way to show other people how rich they are? I mean really; the prices that even crap vintages of Lafite are selling for is utterly ridiculous. Are people really enjoying the wines per se? Doubt it. I’m really hoping that some anthropologist can tell us that they’ll lose interest in Bordeaux sooner or later…
Alternatively, can someone twist a few arms at Roederer to get the price of Cristal jacked up even more? Perhaps we just need to make something other than first growths the best targets for conspicuous consumption.
So now we know the 2009 pricing more or less, what are your thoughts on how the prices will behave once the issues of tight supply and huge relative demand self correct with the 2nd and subsequent releases from the chateaux? Do you believe a great wine like Pontet Canet can sustain £1200-£1500 a case? Will the China factor favour chateaux like Lynch Bages which has built a strong brand there? What’s expensive in a vintage like this: Lynch at £950 or Palmer at £2500? Has the market changed forever or will we see serial cases of Mission Haut Brion 2006 when a serious hike was knocked back over a period of time by the market?