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2014 Bordeaux Moving – If the Price is Right

Well-priced wines from Bordeaux’s 2014 vintage are making a splash, but merchants are ignoring some big-name wines whose prices are a turn-off for buyers.

Heavyweight châteaux Haut-Brion and Cos d’Estournel, as well as the highly respected Tertre Rôteboeuf released their en primeur wines on Tuesday, following last week’s releases of Angelus, Palmer, Lynch-Bages and others.

The campaign so far has been one of « fits and starts », Corney & Barrow’s Will Hargrove told Wine Searcher, but « the idea that this should be the best campaign since 2010 might still happen ».

Hargrove was boosted by the release of three wines from the Mitjavile stable in Saint-Émilion – Francois Mitjavile’s Tertre Rôteboeuf, Roc des Cambes, and L’Aurage, which is owned by his son Louis – but was less enthusiastic about last week’s releases, particularly Palmer and Angelus.

« The Mitjavile wines are slightly down in price and are going well, which is great, but Palmer and Angelus [prices] are pretty ambitious. »

The first Right Bank release, Angelus is €180 ($202) per bottle ex-negociant, up 9 percent on 2013; Margaux third growth Palmer shows a similar rise, up 7 percent at €160 ($179). Hargrove said they would not be offering the latter: « We really liked the wine but just don’t feel we would be doing our customers a favor at that price level. »

London merchant Bordeaux Index’s Giles Cooper agreed. « The main market for Angelus is Asia, and there’s not much activity there. We’ve sold more Palmer, but we’re not talking large volumes. »

Greg Sherwood at another London merchant, Handford Wines, said he was seeing a lot of interest in mid-price Cru Bourgeois and good-value second wines.

« People are tired of the expensive icons. They look at Palmer at £1500 ($2279) a case and think you could buy a hell of a lot of Brunello or Rhône for that. »

The most excitement was generated by the early release of first growth Château Mouton Rothschild, which Corneys has sold out of, along with much-respected Pauillac fifth growth Lynch-Bages.

Haut-Brion (€240 or $269 per bottle ex-negociant) and Saint-Estèphe’s Cos d’Estournel (€84.50 or $95) have been greeted with less enthusiasm.

The trading platform Liv-ex notes that the Pessac-Léognan first growth « is the second-cheapest vintage on the market, though only marginally; the 2006 and 2008 have higher scores and are available at just a small premium on the 2014 release price. »

This led Liv-ex managing director James Miles to tweet pithily: « Too much value in back vintages for this to work. #shame. »

Reactions may be lukewarm, but the en primeur campaign as a whole still has life. There are some wonderful wines out there, Cooper said, and there is momentum.

« It may sound terrible that our best-case scenario is the relative indifference of clients, » he told Wine Searcher, « but the one thing we feared was that prices would be so high that people would feel they were being taken advantage of. This has not happened – customers are not getting angry as they were in previous years, and that’s what ripped the energy and momentum out of it before. »

There are still « significant releases » such as Pichon Lalande, Léoville-Las Cases, Grand-Puy-Lacoste and Domaine de Chevalier to come, he said, and if they’re at the right price then the momentum will continue…

Wednesday, 06-May-2015

Adam Lechmere

Wine Searcher

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