Bordeaux 2019: the show must go on
Author: Mark Pardoe MW
After an extended period of uncertainty, and unless there is a new spike in Coronavirus infections, it now seems clear that there will be a Bordeaux En Primeur campaign this year, with the majority of wines being offered throughout June and into July (as we suggested in our previous update, which also explains why this is Bordeaux’s only window of opportunity).
With good reason, some customers may be asking why they are being encouraged to buy what is seen by many as a luxury product during a period of difficulty and distress for so many people. Indeed, there has been a case put by some UK merchants and journalists that the campaign should be delayed this year, for reasons of sensitivity. But Berry Bros. & Rudd will support this campaign, and we feel it is incumbent upon us to explain our reasoning.
If there is a sense that this is an example of rich château-owners seeking to line their pockets inappropriately during such a worrying period, then it should be remembered that these properties represent only a fraction of the output of Bordeaux. Through Bordeaux’s unique trading structure, the whole region is subtly interlinked. If the big names lose out, so do the small ones. The En Primeur campaign is the annual shop window for the Bordeaux region, and the jobs and livelihoods of many thousands of people are inextricably entwined with the success and reputation of its wines.
Throughout Europe, everyone is now being encouraged to return to work safely to re-float their economies and break us out of this economically crippling limbo of lockdown and furlough. The annual En Primeur campaign is Bordeaux’s route back to the market and, without it, there could be unquantifiable numbers of jobs lost. Bordeaux has to seize this moment, but unless there are merchants (and customers) willing to support it, there will be no sales. It is Berry Bros. & Rudd’s responsibility to do so.
And while it may be thought that the handful of super-rich châteaux have the resources to weather this storm, even that is a generalisation. Many renowned properties have suffered from very low crops in 2017 (due to frost) and ’18 (due to mildew), making the 2019 vintage vital for them. Others have made enormous financial commitments for reinvestment, which similarly means the campaign is crucial.
So Bordeaux needs to sell, for economic and social reasons: but should you buy? Assessing the quality of the 2019 vintage without tasting at the châteaux with the winemakers raises its own challenges. Our next post explains how we plan to address them.