Long-distance crus



David Jones, Senior Account Manager in Hong Kong, reports back on the growing local demand for the less-renowned vintages of Burgundy and Bordeaux

In our business in Hong Kong, over the course of the last six months or so, there has been a noticeable upsurge in appreciation for the value, quality and character typical of Bordeaux wines from past vintages such as 2001, 2002, 2004 or 2007. These are good vintages, but not in the ‘great’ category with 2005, 2009 and 2010, which have attracted so much attention in recent years. There is some inconsistency in these more difficult vintages yet, for the canny buyer, some gems are to be found – wines that are drinking superbly now, offering delicious maturity and complexity, and at very reasonable prices.

There may have been a feeling in the past that interest for Bordeaux in Hong Kong was all about the superstar châteaux and their legendary vintages, but it appears there is a developing awareness of the attractiveness of these older, less celebrated vintages from châteaux other than the top First and Second Growths. Some particular favourites of late have included 2007 Ch. Haut-Bailly, 2002 Ch. Du Tertre, 2001 Ch. Batailley, 2004 Ch. Giscours and 2004 Ch. Pavie Macquin.

Interest in producers such as these has always been an important part of the traditional Bordeaux business for Berry Bros. & Rudd in the UK. It was where the reputations of châteaux such as Ch. Lynch Bages or Ch. Haut-Bailly first started. These wines are now recognized and regarded as being the equivalent of Second Growths. It could be viewed as a natural part of the maturation of the Hong Kong market that a local interest will develop in learning about those châteaux offering consistent quality and value. What are the Ch. Lynch Bages and Ch. Haut-Bailly’s of the future? Batailley perhaps? Or Domaine de Chevalier?

With the 2013 Burgundies just released, it’s interesting to see this change relating to the interest in and demand for Burgundy. The equivalent of the Bordeaux First Growths are, of course, the famous Grand Crus from a few, select domaines. As has been reported via various news sources in recent years, Hong Kong and China have been the fastest growing markets for Burgundy. There are signs even that this interest is beginning to extend beyond the well-known Grands Crus and famous domaines, where it was initially focused.

Berry Bros. & Rudd have, for some time now, been championing a new wave of talented winemakers, those who have taken over management of domaines or set up their own businesses – the likes of Olivier Bernstein, Benjamin Leroux, David Croix, Pierre Vincent and Bruno Clavelier, to name a few. The interest in the Grands Crus and top Premiers Crus from these producers has been high for the last few vintages. Yet we are now seeing a growing appreciation for wines of similar value and quality from less well-known Premiers Crus, such as Aux Thorey and Les Damodes in Nuits-St Georges, Champeaux in Gevrey-Chambertin, or Clos de la Caves des Ducs in Volnay. We even witnessed a major success recently with a promotion for the Bourgogne Blanc of Dominique Lafon. It may take a bit of time before Burgundies at village level are selling out soon after the en primeur release, but the beginnings of a trend are there to see.