Story and chart updated on June 21.
The springtime frenzy of Bordeaux's en primeur tastings is over, and the next stage in the 2015 vintage's life is here: the formal release of the wine futures to the market. Merchants and Bordeaux fans alike are now learning how much the wines will cost—and deciding whether or not to buy.
The 2015 vintage offers some excellent potential: It's not superb across the board, but there are lots of potentially outstanding and classic-rated wines to choose from. In our pricing chart and our analysis, we'll provide you with updates on the most important releases as they happen, as well as thoughts on the trends emerging as the campaign progresses.
June 21: Cheval-Blanc Leads a Right Bank Charge
The Place de Bordeaux is not slowing down, turning to Right Bank releases today. Cheval-Blanc released its 2015 at 540 euros per bottle ex-négociant, up 50 percent on the 2014 release. So far, it’s selling at U.S. retail for about $700, an increase of about 52 percent on the 2014. While it’s more expensive than the past four vintages, it’s cheaper than 2010 and 2009. The estate did not submit a wine for formal blind tasting, but a barrel sample tasted at the cellars in April showed remarkable grace. Technical director Pierre-Olivier Clouet is so confident in its quality that Cheval did not produce a second wine. At that price, however, it’s targeted to a select audience, which is fine, because there are only 8,300 cases.
Cheval-Blanc neighbor Château Figeac also released today, pricing its 2015 at 102 euros per bottle ex-négociant, up 70 percent on the 2014. So far, it’s selling for just under $140 at U.S. retail, about 67 percent higher than the 2014, but still less than the 2010. Figeac’s owners have made big changes in recent years, and the moves appear to be paying off—the 2015 earned a preliminary score of 94 to 97 points.
In Pomerol, La Conseillante released its 2015 at 113 euros per bottle ex-négociant, up 71 percent on 2014. In the U.S., it’s selling for about $150 at retail so far, up 70 percent on 2014 and not far below the 2010 and 2009 vintages. On the other side of St.-Emilion, Ausone released its 2015 at 540 euros per bottle ex-négociant, up 50 percent from 2014. The winery did not submit a wine for blind tasting.
June 20: Is Lafite Rothschild Worth More Than Fellow First-Growths?
Château Lafite Rothschild became the latest first-growth to release its 2015 en primeur price—at a whiplash-inducing 420 euros per bottle ex-négoce, a 45 percent increase on the 2014. In retail terms, it's currently selling in the U.S. for roughly $545 per bottle.
While that doesn’t sound like a big increase, Lafite’s recent vintages have been more expensive than its fellow first-growths. While it didn’t raise prices as much this year, the futures are still almost 10 percent more than Mouton-Rothschild, Haut-Brion and Margaux. Lafite first-year technical director Eric Kohler fashioned a superb wine in 2015, harvesting most of the crop before the early October rains that hampered other upper Médoc estates. Still, with the Asian market relatively docile and the potential quality of the 2015s from Château Margaux and Haut-Brion, this price is a stretch. And while the price is significantly cheaper than the more than $1,000 a bottle that Lafite's 2010 sells for at retail, merchants have reported that the 2010 has not gained in value since release.
June 16: Mouton Joins a Week of First-Growths
The week of first-growth releases continued today as Château Mouton-Rothschild released its first tranche of 2015s at 384 euros per bottle ex-négociant, up 60 percent from its 2014 release. The wine is selling at U.S. retail for about $535, an increase of 64 percent on 2014 futures on release. On a visit to the château in March, a barrel sample already tasted integrated and refined, quite promising, especially since 2015 challenged Pauillac more than other areas. While the price is higher than the past four vintages, it's lower than the 2009 and 2010 at retail, and it now appears top château owners feel that is the sweet spot for their 2015s.
Ducru-Beaucaillou also released its 2015 today, at 120 euros per bottle ex-négociant, up 51 percent on 2014. U.S. retailers currently have it for around $160, up 50 percent on the 2014 futures. Once again, it's higher than the past four vintages, but cheaper than the 2010. While owner Bruno Borie and winemaker Virginie Salette did not submit a sample for formal review, a barrel sample tasted at the estate in April was big yet elegant.
June 15: Haut-Brion, La Mission Haut-Brion and Some Right Bank Stars
Futures releases from top Bordeaux names are coming fast and furious this week. Château Haut-Brion and its neighbor La Mission Haut-Brion released their first allotments of futures today, after Angélus, Pavie, La Fleur-Pétrus and Léoville Las Cases released their first wines yesterday. The pace of price increases is also increasing, with La Mission raising its price by more than 100 percent from its 2014 release.
First-growth Haut-Brion released its 2015 at 385 euros per bottle ex-négociant, up 60 percent on 2014 (and 1 euro higher than fellow first growth Château Margaux). So far, leading U.S. retailers are offering it for about $510 at retail, an increase of 62 percent on the 2014 futures. That's still lower than top vintages like 2010, 2009 and 2005 are selling for at retail. While I have yet to formally review the wine, a barrel sample in March showed a brooding yet refined wine that seems poised to give Margaux a serious run for its money as wine of the vintage, so fans of this wine may find the price worthwhile.
The Dillon family, owners of both Haut-Brion and La Mission Haut-Brion, released the latter's first tranche at 300 euros per bottle ex-négociant, up nearly 107 percent on the 2014. So far, leading U.S. retailers are offering it for about $390, a 104 percent increase on the 2014. While prices have been steadily rising in this campaign, this is an eye-opener. The wine is burly and powerful, and the price matches that.
Tuesday was a day for Right Bank stars. Angélus has a penchant in recent vintages for, shall we say, aiming high—and their initial release is hitting U.S. retail at nearly $340 per bottle, 42 percent higher than its initial 2014 offering. Bon chance, as they say. The estate did not submit a 2015 sample for independent blind tastings, so there is no official review. Troplong Mondot's 2015, a potential classic showing power and range, is available at leading retailers for $118, more than 40 percent higher than the 2014.
Château Pavie, situated in a sweet spot for 2015 wines, along St.-Emilion's limestone terrace, released its 2015 at $340 per bottle at U.S. retail, up 38 percent over the 2014. The wine is among the elite Right Bank wines of the vintage, earning a preliminary 95 to 98 points during my barrel tastings in March. Collectors will want to get some—but with the 2010 currently selling at retail for around $390, the 2015 might be one to wait on for after the en primeur campaign.
La Fleur-Pétrus, a Moueix-owned Pomerol estate, is hitting retail at around $175, a marked value over the 2010, which sells for around $320. Considering the small production level here, this wine gets the green light. Futures will disappear quickly.
Not to be outdone, the Left Bank's Léoville Las Cases also released Tuesday. The lion roared with a first tranche selling at U.S. retail for about $190 per bottle, 44 percent higher than the 2014, but markedly lower than the $343 that the 2010 now garners. One of Bordeaux's most consistent and most distinctively terroir-driven wines, the 2015 earned a preliminary 94 to 97 points.
Château Montrose released Monday and took a more modest approach for its 2015—the wine is selling for about $140, only 11 percent over the 2014's initial retail price. The estate elected not to submit a sample for independent blind tasting.
Additional updates and analysis after the chart.
These estates represent a selection of leading wineries. Our ratings are potential scores based on barrel samples. Retail prices are an average of trusted retailers we follow. To provide a comparison, we're showing prices for 2014 futures and current prices for the 2010 vintage, a classic year that is currently available.
Data compiled by Emma Balter.
|Château||2015 Score||2015 initial futures offering at U.S. retail||2014 initial futures offering at U.S. retail||Current 2010 price at U.S. retail||2014-2015 retail change|
|Domaine de l'A||92-95||$NA||$NA||$45||-|
|La Mission Haut-Brion||NYR||$402||$193||$1,066||+108%|
|Léoville Las Cases||94-97||$189||$131||$343||+44%|
|Vieux Château Certan||NYR||$195||$146||$368||+34%|
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.
Château Margaux released it first tranche of 2015 futures this morning, the first first-growth to enter the campaign. The release price of 384 euros per bottle, ex-négoce, is an eye-opening jump of 60 percent over the 2014. That should translate into an initial U.S. retail offering of roughly $550 per bottle, up 70 percent over the 2014.
First-growth estates always play in their own rarified air when it comes to prices, so this release should not come as a complete shock. In addition, the 2015 Margaux is the early favorite for wine of the vintage. While it has not been submitted for formal review yet, the barrel sample turned in a scintillating performance back in March.
It's also a sentimental bottling, as the 2015 was the last wine vinified by longtime director Paul Pontallier, who passed away in March. Those factors are already adding to demand. “We have customers asking for more, even if they have to pay more,” one prominent négociant told Wine Spectator. “And Pichon Lalande is moving well too.”
Château Pichon Lalande released at 96 euros per bottle ex-négoce. That translates into an initial price for U.S. consumers of about $130, up 48 percent over the 2014. The second-growth Pauillac was one of the stars of the upper Médoc in 2015, with director Nicolas Glumineau aiming to get the wine back to a more powerfully structured, classic Pauillac profile. The 2015 clearly shows he's on the right track.
June 9: Palmer and Cos-d'Estournel Make a Big Splash
The deep end of the pool is now open for swimming, as two major players hit the market in the past two days. On Wednesday, Château Palmer released their 2015 futures at 210 euros per bottle, ex-négoce, up just over 30 percent on the 2014, which translates into an initial U.S. retail price of about $285. By comparison, the 2010 currently sells at retail for about $425 and the benchmark 2000 vintage sells at retail for about $299, so this is one that high-end buyers will not want to miss. Though the estate did not provide a sample for an independent blind tasting, this is one of the elite properties in Bordeaux, which performed very well in a vintage that favored its appellation.
Château Cos-d'Estournel followed suit on Thursday morning, releasing at 120 euros per bottle, ex-négoce, which will translate into about $160 in initial U.S. retail offers. That's a 42 percent bump over the 2014. It will be interesting to see how consumers and merchants respond—St.-Estèphe was the weakest of the major Left Bank appellations in 2015, yet Cos made a draconian selection, with less than 40 percent of the crop going into the grand vin. The selection relied heavily on the old-vine Cabernet Sauvignon parcels situated on gravel, which drained better than other spots during the late-season rains. The wine shows promise, but no samples were provided for an independent blind tasting, so there is no formal review yet. Supply is limited, but will the reputation of the appellation be a drag on its reputation?
June 7: Big Names Hit the Market with Big Prices
The en primeur campaign is continuing the momentum created last week when a flurry of top estates released their wines. And prices are continuing to rise, suggesting that the top châteaus feel they can command top dollar.
Yesterday, Clos Fourtet jumped out aggressively, releasing its first tranche to négociants at a price 32 percent higher than the 2014. At U.S. retail, that translates to just under $100, up 40 percent over the opening retail price of the 2014. Situated along the limestone plateau of St.-Emilion, a favored spot in 2015, this estate has been in top form for several years running, and its relatively small production is likely to be snapped up quickly. Château Pavie-Macquin, another Right Bank standout with a preliminary score of 94 to 97 points, was also released and is priced at just over $70 retail, a 31 percent bump over the 2014.
Some top Left Bank estates have also released. Château Lynch Bages, a perennial favorite among U.S. consumers, hits U.S. retail at about $110, an eye-opening 37 percent higher than the 2014. While it's located in Pauillac, an appellation that was not the star in 2015, Lynch Bages' wine shows great potential, earning a preliminary 92 to 95 points.
Another top Pauillac performer in 2015, Pichon Baron went big, releasing its 2015 at 96 euros ex-négoce, which means about $130 at U.S. retail. That's a whopping 51 percent increase over the 2014. At a preliminary 93 to 96 points, it shows potentially classic quality. Still, that's nearly twice the price of Pavie-Macquin, so the smart money might go elsewhere.
American-owned Château Haut-Bailly released its first tranche as well, with the wine flirting with $90 at U.S. retail, a 51 percent bump over the 2014. The estate does not supply samples for independent tastings, so I did not formally review it.
It's just Tuesday of a busy week, and it seems things have heated up to the point where the floor for pricing from the top names is now 30 percent or higher over the 2014 wines. If the pace keeps up, château owners may be on the nearby beaches of Arcachon soon. But will consumers buy?
June 2: Futures Accelerate into High Gear
Château Canon's release earlier this week appears to have triggered the real start of the 2015 campaign. A host of prominent Left Bank classified estates released in a flurry on Wednesday, and most were raising their prices over the previous vintage by between 20 to 30 percent. Several more followed suit today.
Among classified growths, Château Gruaud-Larose released its first tranche June 1 at around $65 retail, up 20 percent on the 2014; Léoville Poyferré priced its first release at roughly $75 retail, up 23 percent over last year; and Smith-Haut-Lafitte released its red wine at about $83 retail, up 32 percent. Today, Canon-La Gaffelière released its 2015 at about $74, a 28 percent increase.
Château Cantenac-Brown also released Wednesday, and at $46, its potentially outstanding 2015 merits serious attention from consumers looking for bargains, as the Margaux appellation performed very well in 2015. St.-Estèphe estates struggled more, and Château Calon-Ségur's 2015 was on the light side, making their release at about $72 retail look aggressive. But Château Phélan-Ségur, also in St.-Estèphe and checking in at around $40 retail, is a relatively good value.
Now that the campaign appears to be rolling, it would seem early predictions of modest 10 to 15 percent increases were wishful thinking. The floor for serious châteaus looks to be around 20 percent higher than the 2014s, and some are pushing prices even more. Bordeaux lovers need to take care when they buy and see whether a wine's potential quality merits the price. The next question is whether the first-growths, super seconds and elite Right Bank properties that have yet to release will push the market higher.
May 31: When is a 56 percent price hike a good deal?
Bordeaux en primeur releases took a holiday last week, as much of the trade traveled to Hong Kong for the Vinexpo trade show. But the break ended with a bang today, as Château Canon's owners released their first tranche at 60 euros ex-négoce. Many Bordeaux merchants believe the campaign will accelerate now, as château owners and négociants work to sell the wines before summer holidays slow business.
Canon's price, which will translate to about $84 at U.S. retail, is a whopping 56 percent higher than the 2014's release. But Canon was one of the more anticipated futures of the season, with the wine putting on a terrific display during the en primeur tastings in March, earning a potentially classic score. Nicolas Audebert, in his second year as general director, has shifted the estate's focus to a purer style, and the vintage's character dovetailed perfectly with that approach. The '15 Canon is easily the best wine in years from this ideally situated estate—St.-Emilion's limestone plateau was the sweet spot for 2015. While this ins't a back-up-the-truck price, it's still pretty fair considering the potential quality. (Consumers took note too; within a day the price had risen dramatically and merchants reported difficulties getting allocations.)
Canon's sister property, Château Rauzan-Ségla in Margaux, also released and also aimed high, pricing at 50 euros ex-négoce, or about $70 at U.S. retail. That's up more than 30 percent from the 2014. Margaux was the star appellation on the Left Bank in 2015 and Rauzan-Ségla performed very well. The wine will have its fans, but it's hard to pick over Château Malescot St.-Exupéry, equally strong in '15 and markedly lower in price.
May 19: Léoville Barton arrives, and Lafite offers a hint
Things heated up in Bordeaux today with a flurry of notable 2015 futures releases, injecting some energy into the early stages of the en primeur campaign. Léoville Barton led a group of Left Bank notables, including Branaire-Ducru as well as Duhart-Milon Rothschild, the first red from Lafite Rothschild's portfolio to hit the marketplace.
Château Léoville Barton released its 2015 at $61 ex-négoce, a 21 percent increase from the 2014. That translates to about $74 at U.S. retail for the initial offering. Compare that to the 2010, currently retailing for around $130, and it seems pretty solid. I gave the 2015 a preliminary 92-95 points—it's a gutsy, mouthfilling wine from an estate that just doesn't miss a beat.
Château Branaire-Ducru released it's first 2015 tranche at $42, which means a retail price of about $52, a fair deal for arguably the purest and most elegant St.-Julien and another very consistent producer. The 2015 earned a preliminary 90-93 points.
Duhart-Milon arrives at $54 ex-négoce and around $65 retail. At first glance that price might seem to be a stretch for this estate, located on cooler terroir in the upper Médoc, where some producers struggled in 2015. While the wine was not submitted for a formal blind tasting, Lafite's new technical director Eric Kohler is off to a good start, and I was impressed with the wine when I tasted at the estate in March.
May 18: How good is Pontet-Canet's 2015?
The campaign accelerated today as Château Pontet-Canet released its first tranche of 2015 at $85 ex-négoce. It looks like a great deal at first glance—it's just a modest increase over the initial 2014 release, it should be offered by U.S. retailers at just about $100 and it's a massive drop from the $275 that the 2010 currently retails for. But keep in mind that Pauillac faced tougher conditions than other areas in 2015. Owner Alfred Tesseron didn't submit his barrel sample for blind tasting, so I wasn't able to formally review the 2015 yet. I admire this estate's commitment to biodynamic farming, but the recent shift to fermentation in concrete has dramatically changed the wines. This is one for diehard Pontet-Canet fans to buy, while those less familiar with their wines might want to hold off. The first tranche is small, so quantities will be limited for now.
Château Lafon-Rochet also released its 2015. Priced at 28 euros ex-négoce, U.S retailers should sell it for around $40. As with Pauillac, St.-Estèphe endured rains in September and early October, but the 2015 here is a charming, pure wine and this is a good relative value.
May 17: Does Clerc Milon's higher price mean a more expensive Mouton-Rothschild this year?
Last week was another relatively quiet week on the Place de Bordeaux, where négociants deal in futures, as first-growths and other marquee châteaus continue to play a waiting game. There were some offerings of note for value hunters though, and perhaps a harbinger of where the market is going.
Clos du Marquis released its first 2015 tranche at 36 euros ex-négoce. That's 22 percent higher than the 2014, which seems aggressive, but the wine will land on U.S. retail shelves for just under $50. Compare that to the 2010, which currently retails for about $70, and this is another green-light value. The estate, owned and run by Jean-Hubert Delon of Léoville Las Cases, has a track record of producing textbook, ageworthy St.-Julien.
Also noteworthy is Château Clerc Milon 2015, released at 43 euros ex-négoce, a hefty 28 percent increase on the 2014. That puts it at about $60 U.S. retail, which at first glance is only a modest bump up from where the 2013 is now. Looking back further, the 2000 can currently be found at U.S. retail for around $100. It's drinking well now, though in a more rustic vein.
Since taking over Clerc Milon (and sister estates Mouton-Rothschild and d'Armailhac) in 2004, winemaker Philippe Dhalluin has added refinement and purity to the wines. But in 2015 the upper Médoc faced the most challenges of any area, so you need to think hard before pulling the trigger. Looking ahead, Mouton's owners increased this price 28 percent and d'Armailhac by 20 percent, suggesting they may be testing the waters for a significant bump when they release their first-growth grand vin.
Château Malescot-St.-Exupéry Margaux 2015 was released and should arrive at U.S. retail priced about $45 per bottle. Owner and winemaker Jean-Luc Zuger has quietly established a very serious track record here—the 2015 scored a potential 93 to 96 points—and you could argue that Malescot is currently the only estate in Margaux within hailing distance of the two benchmarks, first-growth Château Margaux and its rival third-growth Palmer. The 2010 Malescot currently retails for about $120, which helps make the '15 a green-light buy.
May 9: Château Beychevelle and Pape Clément Set the Stage
St.-Julien's Château Beychevelle released its first tranche of futures on May 9, with the wine arriving at U.S. retail for about $70. It's a slightly aggressive offering, with the wine priced at more than 20 percent over the 2014 offering. There's a new cellar under construction here and general manager Philippe Blanc has kept quality at this blue-chip estate very consistent (the 2015 earned a potential score of 90 to 93 points), but it may be hard to justify pulling the trigger just yet, with so much more to come from other estates.
Also of note is Pape Clément, checking in just north of $80, a 19 percent jump over the 2014. Pessac performed well as an appellation in 2015 and the relatively small production means this will likely move quickly through the marketplace. If you like your wines lavished with toasty oak, then this will be up your alley. From the Right Bank, Château Gazin in Pomerol is always one of the smarter buys in an appellation rife with small-production, high-priced wines. Checking in at around $65 retail right now, this is as good a buy as Pomerol offers.
A few notable values came out in previous weeks too, including Château Fonplégade of St.-Emilion, Château Fleur Cardinale, Cantermerle, Marquis d'Alesme and Château Coutet of Barsac, all of which represent good values.