With VinExpo approaching—where the business side of the wine world meets before knocking off for summer vacation—what had been a rather sleepy en primeur campaign for the potentially tremendous 2010 vintage suddenly took on new life this week with the release of prices from a few top estates.
Both Châteaus Pontet-Canet (2010 barrel tasting score: 96-99 points) and Gruaud-Larose (93-96) released their 2010 pricing in what should spark many of their colleagues to follow suit. Château Pontet-Canet released its first tranche at 100 euros, a price owner Alfred Tesseron said he derived from the average of three tranches for his 2009, plus 8.3 percent. Château Gruaud-Larose also opened with its pricing and is now being offered at 61 euros by the trade, up from 50 euros for the 2009. The futures prices to U.S. consumers will increase as the wine moves through the distribution chain, with the exchange rate also playing a big role.
Up until now, the 2010 en primeur campaign had been decidedly quiet, with mostly a handful of cru bourgeois or petits châteaus such as Caronne-Ste.-Gemme, Citran, Fougas Maldoror, Lanessan, Paloumey and others releasing their prices. That group kept their prices basically in line with those of 2009.
“Up until today interest has been very, very light,” said Daniel Posner, owner of Grapes The Wine Company, an independent retailer in White Plains, N.Y. “And except for those people with lots of discretionary income, I expect interest to stay light, with the exception of maybe a few names like Pontet-Canet, which we have gone heavy on for several years. The pricing is pretty ugly for some of the big names, as with the exchange rate, you basically have to factor in the dollar at 1.5 to the euro, and it makes things look ludicrous.” Posner will offer the 2010 Pontet-Canet to customers for about $190 per bottle.
While the 2010 vintage is marked by classic-level quality wines on both the Right and Left Banks, there had been some trepidation going into the en primeur campaign following the 2009s, the most expensive en primeur pricing in history. Many Bordelais wondered if the global market, which is still experiencing economic woes, as well as the calamitous events in Japan, could sustain another high-priced Bordeaux vintage. And for the U.S. market in particular, was there even interest on the part of consumers, who seem to have grown tired of Bordeaux in recent years? With some of the bigger names now releasing their pricing, early signs seem to point to cherry picking, rather than widespread buying.
Château Pontet-Canet has raised its en primeur prices for its potentially classic-quality 2010 vintage.
“There’s clearly buying interest,” said Mathieu Chadronnier, general director at C.V.B.G., one of Bordeaux’s biggest négociant houses. “But selectively. In the early stages of the campaign, there was interest for selected ‘good deals.' Now the focus is very much on the strongest brands. Pontet-Canet is a roaring success for instance.”
While 2010 pricing for the most recognizable names seems likely to exceed 2009's, there are some deals to be had. Château Malartic-Lagravière owner Jean-Jacques Bonnie released his 2010 red at just under 35 euros, down from his ’09 price of 36 euros. The move seems to be helping, too.
“Yes, we reduced the price and more than half of the allocations are already confirmed, even though a lot of wines were released just after us, which had the négociants quite busy,” said Bonnie. “The advice we got was to stop waiting to release the wine and decrease the price, which was what the traditional markets where expecting. Even if China is becoming a bigger buyer, considering the expectation of the traditional distribution markets, [the decrease] has been well-received.”
You can now follow James Molesworth on Twitter, at http://twitter.com/jmolesworth1.