Last week, the first-growths set a price record for young Bordeaux, with their first release to the trade at 120 euros per bottle (about $102) -- a 71 percent increase from 1999 prices. Following the example of those massive hikes, most estates that released their wines on the market in the last 10 days have been pricing them about 50 percent to 70 percent higher than their 1999 wines. Yet, despite complaints from the wine trade and consumers about the high prices, nearly every allocation of top wines has been bought.
"The fact is that my customers in one breath say how crazy the prices are, but they then ask for more and more wine," said one merchant in Bordeaux.
Now, wine merchants in Bordeaux, or négociants, are deciding at what price they will sell the first-growth wines to their clients. (The young 2000 wines are being sold as futures, or en primeur, meaning that they are traded while they are still aging in barrel at the châteaus.) Most were reportedly averaging the first and second releases and arriving at their cost as 135 euros, or $114, a bottle. Then, after adding their markup, most négociants will be selling the first-growths for between 170 and 180 euros a bottle ($143 to $152) to customers around the world, including U.S. importers.
U.S. consumers could pay well in excess of $3,000 a case for the first-growth wines after the margins of the importers, distributors and retailers (depending on the local distribution system) are added on. That would place the 2000 wines at or near the same price level as the first-growths' top-rated, mature vintages currently on the market, including 1996, 1995, 1990 and 1989. The quality of the 2000 vintage is clearly better than 1996 and 1995, but not as great as such classic years as 1990 and 1989.
Veteran traders of classified-growth Bordeaux called the price hikes "crazy" but said customers are buying as much of the top wines of the vintage as they can get their hands on. Some merchants were concerned that speculators were driving prices extremely high. "It's not our fault," said another négociant in Bordeaux. "It's the end user who is sending the prices up into the sky."
Most of the Bordeaux super seconds (the top second-growth estates) had released their prices by late last week. Top wines such as Pichon-Longueville-Lalande and Ducru-Beaucaillou sold to the Bordeaux trade at around 48 euros ($40) a bottle, up about 60 percent from last year. Prices for Lynch-Bages and Pichon-Longueville-Baron were up slightly less, at about 42 euros ($35).
A number of Bordeaux négociants said prices for the super second wines were not out of line considering they were at the same level or slightly less than the current global prices for those estates' wines from respected vintages such as 1995 and 1996. "Where the prices will go after their release is hard to say," said one merchant, who had already sold his allocation of Pichon-Lalande and Ducru to his best customers. "But considering the market, they are sure to go up."
Learn more about the quality of the 2000 Bordeaux wines:
Wine Spectator Online's exclusive, comprehensive coverage ofBordeaux's 2000 vintage, tasted in barrel, including more than 400 scores and tasting notes from senior editor James Suckling. For his report on the first-growth estates, check out James Suckling's Diary Dream Wines.
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