Updated May 17.
On April 23, Château Palmer decided it was time to kick off Bordeaux's 2017 en primeur sales campaign. The prominent Margaux estate released its wine ahead of the pack—a rarity, as Bordeaux's top châteaus often wait to see how other wineries position themselves before wading into the fray. In addition, the Margaux third-growth released the first tranche at 20 percent below its 2016 release price.
Bordeaux watchers are wondering what the top estates will do in a challenging year for sales. Will they release the wines quickly and cut prices significantly, in a bid to interest consumers in a vintage that is not as eagerly anticipated as the previous two? Or will they move slowly? And will they keep prices high, assuming that even if consumers decline to buy the wines now, they'll buy them down the road on release?
The 2017 vintage should yield many excellent wines, but it is by no means in the league of 2015 and 2016. Conspiring against prices are the fact that volumes are low: Following a devastating April frost, Bordeaux's 2017 crop is 40 percent smaller than 2016's. To make things worse for American consumers, the current exchange rate is less attractive than during last year's campaign.
My report on the vintage includes ratings for over 250 wines, all based on blind tastings. (a href="http://www.winespectator.com/display/show?id=about-our-tastings">Learn more about Wine Spectator's tasting methodology.) Overall, the reds are fresh and pure, built on bright acidity rather than tannins, providing charming wines that will drink well in the near to mid-term. Dry whites are superb, and the sweet wines of Sauternes and Barsac are outstanding. But consumers will need to pick carefully, as a gray and dry summer resulted in a heterogeneous collection of wines that lack the punch and drive of great years.
Below you'll find regular updates and analysis on the campaign, with prices given both ex-négoce, which means before importers and retailers add markup, and average retail price, which is compiled from Wine Spectator's tracking of leading U.S. retailers. It's what you can expect to pay. Prices for the 2017s are listed besides the current prevailing retail price for 2015s, so you can gauge where the wines are vis-à-vis the most recently bottled vintage now on retail shelves.
For more on the 2017 Bordeaux vintage, watch for my full report in the upcoming July 31 issue of Wine Spectator.
Bordeaux came back from a week off, but no tidal wave of futures releases hit the market. Some notable châteaus did announce prices, offering hints about what consumers can expect this year.
Most wineries have been reducing prices, with decreases ranging from 6 to 22 percent. But because of the weak dollar ($1:1.23 euros today), the cuts must surpass 10 percent to make a significant impact on U.S. prices. The appeal of the 2017s also depends heavily on the wine: Some producers are offering good value for a less-than-perfect vintage; others are offering slim price cuts on wines that don’t measure up to 2016. Buyer be smart.
Château Clinet released its first tranche today. The 2017 (92-95 points) has been released at 56 euros per bottle, ex-négociant, a 22.2 percent decrease on the 2016 price. It’s at leading retailers for about $80 a bottle, or $960 per case. That’s 20 percent less than the 2016 hit the market at, and well under the current $157 retail price of the 2015. This could be a good value for fans of Pomerol.
Château Beychevelle (90-93) debuted May 16 at 52.80 euros per bottle, ex-négociant, down 6.7 percent on the 2016 price. Thanks to the weak dollar, leading retailers are offering it for $76 a bottle, $912 a case, nearly identical to the 2016 release price of $77. This vintage of Beychevelle is not as promising as the 2016.
Malescot St.-Exupéry (90-93) was released at 34.80 euros and is selling for $53 per bottle, $636 per case, at leading U.S. retailers. The 2016 was released at $58, making this a 9 percent decrease. The 2015 currently sells for $98. The Margaux property continues to offer strong value.
Other prominent names to hit the market this week include Duhart Milon ($70 at retail), Malartic-Lagravière (90-93, $50), Domaine de Chevalier ($60) and Talbot (90-93, $55), as well as sweet wines from Suduiraut (92-95, $65) and Rieussec ($61), a sign that the campaign may hit full speed next week.
Additional updates and analysis after the chart. The accompanying 2017 price chart for top châteaus will be updated as new releases are announced.
These estates represent a selection of leading wineries. Our ratings are potential scores based on barrel samples. Retail prices are an average of trusted retailers we follow. To provide a comparison, we're showing prices for 2015 futures and current prices for the 2010 vintage, a classic year that is currently available.
Data compiled by Cassia Schifter.
|Château||2017 Score||2017 initial futures offering at U.S. retail||2016 initial futures offering at U.S. retail||2016-2017 retail change||Current 2015 price at U.S. retail|
|La Mission Haut-Brion||NYR||$NA||$433||-||$465|
|Léoville Las Cases||93-96||$NA||$242||-||$224|
|Vieux Château Certan||NYR||$NA||$262||-||$357|
NYR means a wine has not been submitted for review yet. NA means a wine has not been released or is not sold in sufficient quantities by U.S. retailers yet to determine an average price.
Châteaus Palmer and Valandraud were the first notable red wines to hit the Place de Bordeaux, and in the weeks since, a few other futures have trickled out. Last week saw Châteaus Pape Clément, Batailley and Langoa Barton join the campaign.
Both Pape Clément (91-94 points based on a blind tasting of its barrel sample) and Valandraud (93-96) showed restraint in their pricing, with Pape Clément at 61.20 euros ex-cellar, a 7 percent decrease from the 2016. But thanks to a weaker dollar, the wine is selling at leading retailers for about $90 a bottle, or $1,080 a case, identical to 2016 futures. It's lower than the 2015, currently selling for $120.
Valandraud released at 100 euros, a 22 percent drop on 2016. It's selling at leading retailers for $150 a bottle, $1,800 a case, less than the 2016s, which debuted at $172, and the current price of $204 for 2015.
Palmer's early and eye-opening release of 192 euros a bottle was a 20 percent drop from 2016. It's selling for $284 a bottle, $3,408 a case, at top U.S. retailers, 10 percent less than the 2016 futures did and a big drop from the 2015, selling for $353 now.
Other notable releases so far include Châteaus Batailley (89-92), Dauzac (90-93, and an up and comer worth your attention), Langoa Barton (90-93) and Ormes de Pez (88-91). Langoa released at 31 euros per bottle ex-négoce, which means U.S. retail offerings are showing up around $47 per bottle (en primeur sales are typically only offered by retailers in lots of 6 or 12 bottles). Dauzac released at 30 euros, resulting in an initial U.S. retail average of $45 per bottle.Additional reporting by Mitch Frank.