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james suckling uncorked

Bordeaux Barrels in the Big Apple?


Posted: Mar 14, 2007 5:51am ET

I've heard that, tomorrow, Sopexa USA and Cercle Rive Droite are holding a 2006 Bordeaux barrel tasting in New York, and I have to wonder if this is a sign of desperation for some wine producers in Bordeaux. This is the first time ever that a new vintage from Bordeaux is publicly offered to taste at such an early period, and poured in the Big Apple no less! I guess those pouring tomorrow—all producers from the Right Bank—are hoping to drum up some interest in the new vintage, which could be stillborn in the American market. I'm sure there are going to be some excellent wines in 2006, but I don’t know who is going to be interested in buying them as futures after all the money spent on the glorious 2005s. And, as we know, many of the top 2005s were the most expensive young wines ever produced.

In any case, I am looking forward to doing extensive barrel tastings of 2006 in a few weeks in Bordeaux. I will visit many châteaus, as well as conduct blind tastings of the best names in Bordeaux in various locations. You can read about it beginning March 26 in this blog.

I have heard from a number of wine producers in the region that they are very happy with the quality of 2006. Some say it equals their 2005, but I don’t see how that is possible considering the irregular growing season and difficult weather during the harvest. Seems like more Bordeaux hype to me.

Regardless, I will taste the wines, business as usual. And I am hoping for some very good ones in 2006.

However, many consumers, particularly those in North America, do not seem very pleased with the prospects of another good vintage in Bordeaux. In fact, many are very angry with the wine region over the high prices of the 2005s. There is a long thread in the Forums section of this site, which I started a couple of days ago, regarding 2006. And most of the comments were very negative. Moreover, Jean-Guillaume Prats of Cos-d'Estournel, a guest blogger on our site, has been getting some complaints as well from perturbed consumers.

Errol R Kovitch
Michigan —  March 14, 2007 11:54am ET
If I were a Bordeaux Chateau owner (hopeful wishing), I would not be happy faced with the prospect of a 50% to 75% price decrease from 2005. Furthermore, who is going to buy their 2004's that are now being released in bottle. Oh, oh.
Kirk R Grant
Ellsworth, ME —  March 14, 2007 3:38pm ET
I have to say that the soaring prices of Bordeaux do scream of greed. It is one of the main reasons I have limited my purchases to single bottles when they are released. I will save my case buys for places that offer true value like the 2004 Spanish wines, Oregon, CdP, and Germany. Bordeaux may be selling their wines at record prices...but everything in life follows a bell curve eventually. If you burn bridges the customers may decide to show their loyalty to the producers who kept their prices in a reasonable price range later on down the road. I personally think that most of the price hike comes from these famous Chateau's feeling that "cult wines" should not command more money that their wines. It seems as if it is more of an ego trip than anything else. I stuck my $200/bottle into a 6 pack of the 2001 Valdicava/Madonna and spaced out the remainder in a few Spainish & German treasures. Much more down to earth in price and will hold up over time like many of these Bordeaux's. Where did you spend your money James? Are you stocking your cellar with case after case of the 05 Bordeaux's or did you seek out the values in other areas as well?
Kevin Krawchuk
Vancouver B.C —  March 14, 2007 4:33pm ET
I looked at some 2003 first growths and thought no way. 2005's FORGET IT!!! I am hoping for a poor 2006 and still have few buy it. A clear message needs to be sent in regards to the 2005 price gouging!
David A Zajac
March 14, 2007 4:52pm ET
They did it to themselves, I don't expect much sympathy from these shores. They are smart enough to realize that what goes up must come down, and how far down is the only question. If its only an average vintage, there will be no market in this country. The first growths have priced themselves out of the average persons market, and the second are not far behind, especially the likes of Las Cases, Cos and Palmer (third growth). How can you still get wines like Barton and Poyferre for around $75 in a great year in the futures campaign (assuming you got in real early) when the others are wanting 2 - 3 times that? I love the wines, but not at $150+/bottle - Sorry JG, but you've left us behind - I bot the '01 and '02's in futures for just over $50/bottle, the '03 I bot at just over $100, what happened? $200 for the '05?
Jesse Calderon
March 14, 2007 5:46pm ET
I've always wondered about barrel tastings. Who decides which barrel is tasted? How certain can one be that the sample before you is representative of the whole lot?
Glenn S Lucash
March 14, 2007 9:23pm ET
Giving a high score for in barrel tasting only encourages some to raise their prices over the moon in futures(read Bordeaux). Why not rate the in barrel with a letter designation, A B C or D and let the specific numerical rating be made upon bottling. That might keep the prices and speculators at bay, because an A can be from 90-100 and no one is going to put down big money on a 90 pointer. Once it's in the bottle and shipped, the price will already be set.
Timothy Feather
March 15, 2007 7:17am ET
Hi James.Recently you published an article or blog about superb value Bordeaux (can't remember which). How can I find it?Thanks
Laurie Woolever
New York —  March 15, 2007 11:43am ET
Timothy:I think that these are what you were looking for:http://www.winespectator.com/Wine/Archives/Show_Article/0,1275,5933,00.htmlhttp://www.winespectator.com/Wine/Archives/Show_Article/0,1275,5903,00.html
-Laurie WooleverAssociate Editor, Wine Spectator Online
Ronald Mcmartin
March 15, 2007 1:52pm ET
So you'd rather have crap at lower prices, as long as it says Lafite? They are out in the market now. Check 1991, 1992 & 1997.
Michael Tracy
trabuco canyon CA —  March 15, 2007 3:56pm ET
James,Please let us know who believes their '06 to equal their '05. I want to make sure I sell it if I bought some (05 that is).
Karl Mark
Geneva, IL. —  March 15, 2007 9:23pm ET
Advances in wine making technique, vineyard management and several other aspects have allowed wine makers to make good wine in even bad weather. What could be better? The pricing will work itself out, so people need to get over the 2005 prices. There are plenty of good values out there.
John Lin
TW —  March 16, 2007 3:48am ET
Personally, I am sticking my purchases to the '04s (Pontet Canet still looks like good value to me) and saving my $$$ for the '06s when the future prices become available. Simply cannot justify to myself the additional cost of the '05s....but sure would like to taste some~
Anthony Clapcich
March 16, 2007 1:42pm ET
The myopic, greedy '05 pricing has resulted in consumer backlash...as it well should! You can't triple prices and then expect consumer sympathy or loyalty. The problem with many wineries (see California), is that once they've skyrocketed prices in a "great" year, they do not bring them down in a "normal-good" year. That's why we see "cult" wineries peddling mediocre juice at >$150/bottle. Let's forget first growths for a moment as they enjoy certain privileges. Mid-level Bordeaux wineries should slash their prices immediately to restore the confidence of old customers and win the palates/hearts of new customers. I was fortunate enough to cut my teeth on some outstanding bottles from the 80's/90's...I would not be a aficionado today if prices were tripled in those financially lean times. Bordeaux has the juice-- but it needs to make the choice between short-term cash outs and long-term appropriate price-quality ratio goals for its customers.
Arnar Sigurdsson
Iceland —  March 16, 2007 2:55pm ET
Strange to read about "all the money spent on 2005". Judging from WS bashing one year ago, one would expect that nothing had been purchased in the US? 2005 may be crying opportunity for US consumers but on the contrary 2004 (a true classic vintage) is indeed a buying opportunity!
James Peterson
San Antonio, Texas —  March 16, 2007 4:53pm ET
I'm very much over the 2005 prices. They didn't affect me one bit since I didn't bother to buy any. There is always good wine to be had from somewhere, and at those ridiculous prices it seems to me you're paying for the vintage moniker rather than the wine itself. I have around 10 cases of 2000 Bordeaux, bought at a fraction of the price, and I just don't see where the 2005 is that much better value for the money. Besides, I'm all about Brunello now anyway... - Jim
Charles J Stanton
Eugene, OR —  March 16, 2007 11:01pm ET
Fact is, there is a ocean of great wine out there right now, and loading up on pricey 2005 Bordeaux just isn't a priority. There are still a lot of reasonable lesser chateaux 2003's to chose from. Spain and the Rhone, and even moderate Burgundy are much better values. If the Bordelais want to take a "let them eat cake attitude", so be it.
Glenn Christie
March 17, 2007 7:52am ET
James, in answer to your question, YES - we should get over the high prices for the upper tier chateaux. The market is working precisely as it should. We can respond by substituting within wine or switching to other goods.Would you agree that, overall, the global quality of winemaking is at its highest? If so, there are lots of good QPR wines out there - which are meant to be consumed with pleasure. Of course, they are not meant to be worshipped, form part of your IRA or hedge fund, or the latest "name" to chase.
Jeffrey Fitzgerald
Chicago —  March 17, 2007 9:48am ET
Happy St. Patrick's Day firstly. Secondly, as we complain and complain about the price of Bordeaux, keep in mind the value you still get for your dollar from Bordeaux compared to California. I walked down the California Aisle at Sam's Wines in Chicago last weekend, and it was consistently $50, $100, $69, $49 per bottle of what I thought were pretty average California Cabernet producers. So, I'll pay $25 for the good Bordeaux, and $100 for the GREAT Bordeaux any day...California better be the ones to wake up, not Bordeaux.

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