Updated June 20.
Bordeaux's 2017 futures campaign is winding down quietly. Top wineries did cut prices, significantly in some cases, but have those prices sparked consumer interest in a vintage that is not as eagerly anticipated as the previous two?
Overall the 2017 campaign saw average drops ex-négoce of 10 percent to 20 percent, a sign that châteaus understood the need for discretion this year. Even with dramatically reduced quantities in some areas (frost damage was not evenly distributed across the region), the overall quality of the vintage isn't enough to support prices near 2015 and 2016 levels, two vintages that are markedly better.
The question now is: Will the end consumer bite? Négociants are now carrying the water for this vintage, as they essentially have to take their allotments from châteaus in order to maintain long-term relationships. Several négociants told me that trading on the place de Bordeaux has been rather quiet.
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 ($1:€1.17, as of June 5) 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. (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 prices 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 July 31 issue of Wine Spectator.
A Trio of Right-Bank Stars
With a trio of Right Bank giants joining the futures campaign this week, the 2017 en primeur market now seems set. Châteaus Cheval-Blanc, Vieux Château Certan and La Fleur-Pétrus released their 2017 futures, and now all of the prominent first-growths are in play (save for Latour, which no longer participates in futures campaigns).
Cheval-Blanc released its grand vin at 432 euros per bottle ex-négoce, a drop of 22 percent from the 2016. The U.S. retail price is around $616 per bottle, a drop of 11 percent from 2016 (varying exchange rates are behind the difference in decline). Cheval-Blanc made one of the wines of the vintage in 2017, a year marked by a severe spring frost that lowered the region's crop by 40 percent overall. Sitting along the border of Pomerol, Cheval-Blanc lost nearly one-third of its crop, resulting in yields of barely 1.5 tons per acre, one factor that may support the still-lofty price. The other factor is quality, as Cheval-Blanc used the late-running growing season to its advantage, picking slowly through September and into early October, resulting in one of the standout wines of the vintage.
Just across the border in Pomerol sits Vieux Château Certan, on similar clay and gravel soils. Here, Alexandre Thienpont has assembled a sterling track record during his 30 years working the vineyard and is now joined by his son Guillaume. VCC is another star among the 2017s. While the release of the wine at 168 euros per bottle ex-négoce (down 13 percent from 2016) and the resulting U.S retail of $241 per bottle (down 8 percent) might seem high at first glance, lovers of this wine shouldn't let a quality vintage go by without taking their share. (Neither Cheval-Blanc nor Vieux Château Certan submitted samples for blind tasting, so they will be rated on release.)
Christian Moueix's La Fleur-Pétrus also hit the market June 19, checking in at U.S retail with an initial average price of $234 per bottle. It earned a preliminary score of 93 to 96 points, based on a blind tasting of its barrel sample, putting it among the elite wines of the vintage.
For all the latest releases, check out our price chart below.
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||$332||$433||-23%||$465|
|Léoville Las Cases||93-96||$206||$242||-15%||$224|
|Vieux Château Certan||NYR||$235||$262||-10%||$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.
Mouton-Rothschild opened the gates—since it released its first tranche of futures on June 12, its fellow first-growths—Margaux, Haut-Brion and Lafite Rothschild—have all followed suit. (Château Latour no longer participates in en primeurs.) Margaux released its 2017 on June 13 at 348 euros per bottle ex-négociant, down 17 percent on the 2016 release price. It is being sold at leading U.S. retailers for an average of $505 a bottle, or $6,060 per case, a 10 percent decrease on the 2016. It’s also far cheaper than the 2015, currently on sale for $1,700. That wine was the wine of the 2015 vintage. The 2017 offers the first-growth’s usual, exemplary quality.
Haut-Brion started June 14 off by releasing its 2017 futures for 348 euros per bottle ex-négociant, down 17 percent on the 2016 release. (The estate also released its white wine, at 600 euros per bottle, unchanged from 2016.) The red is selling for $495 at U.S. retail, $5,940 per case, down 10 percent on the 2016. Tasting all five first-growths in barrel, I gave the preliminary edge to Haut-Brion and Lafite Rothschild.
Lafite released its first tranche the same day, pricing the wine at a price of 420 euros per bottle ex-négociant, down 8 percent on the 2016 release. It is selling for about $600 per bottle, $7,200 per case, at U.S. retail, down 9 percent on the 2016.
The first-growths play by their own rules in any campaign, and they all chose to drop prices roughly 10 percent from last year. Many of the region’s other top wineries aimed for 15 to 20 percent. La Mission Haut-Brion released its futures at 240 euros per bottle ex-négociant, 28.6 percent lower than the opening price of the 2016. It’s selling at retail for about $330, a 24 percent reduction. The white wine was released at 480 euros, identical to both 2015 and 2016.
Ducru Beaucaillou released its 2017 at 120 euros per bottle ex-négociant, the same price as the 2015 release and down 13.8 percent on the 2016 release. It’s selling for $172 per bottle, down 9 percent from last year. The wine earned a preliminary 93 to 96 points based on its barrel tasting. Fans of the property can buy the 97-point 2015 today for $190.
Moving to the Right Bank, Angélus released its 2017 at 276 euros per bottle ex-négociant, down just 6 percent on the 2016 price. With the current exchange rate, the wine is at retail for $392 per bottle, up 3 percent from the 2016. Frost reduced volumes by about 20 percent in 2017, but the owners have also decided to reduce the amount of wine being sold as futures. Angélus 2017 earned a preliminary 93 to 96 points based on its barrel tasting. Pavie released its 2017 at 276 euros per bottle ex-négociant, down 6.1 percent on the release price of the 2016. It’s available at U.S. retail for an average price of $392, also up 3 percent on the 2016. The wine earned a preliminary 93 to 96 points based on its barrel tasting.
Château Figeac released its 2017 at 120 euros per bottle ex-négociant, down 20 percent on the 2016 release. Leading U.S. retailers are offering the wine, which earned a preliminary 92 to 95 points based on its barrel tasting, for $172, down 15 percent from the 2016.
June 12: Mouton-Rothschild leads a bevy of new releases
The 2017 futures campaign has hit the gas pedal this week. Château Mouton-Rothschild released its 2017 futures today at 348 euros per bottle ex-négociant, a 17.1 percent decrease on the 2016 release price. It is selling at leading U.S. retailers for $504 a bottle, or $6,048 per case, an 8 percent decrease on the 2016 and nearly $100 less than the 2015. While the 2017 has not been formally rated yet, a barrel tasting at the château revealed a promising wine.
Several other top names released today at more attractive prices. Léoville Las Cases released its first tranche of 2017 at 144 euros per bottle ex-négociant, down 20 percent on the 2016 release. Leading U.S. retailers are offering it for about $208 per bottle, $2,496 per case, a 14 percent dip from 2016. The wine earned a preliminary 93 to 96 points based on a blind tasting of a barrel sample, down from the 2016’s 97- to 100-point preliminary score. The 2014, a similar quality wine, is on sale currently for about $160.
Pontet-Canet released its 2017 at 80 euros per bottle ex-négociant, down 26 percent on the 2016 release. With the current exchange rate, the average U.S. retail price is $116 per bottle, $1,392 per case, 14 percent less than the 2016 release price and attractive to fans of this estate, which employs biodynamic farming methods. The wine earned a preliminary 90 to 93 points based on its barrel tasting. The 2014, rated 93 points, is on sale at retail for about $95.
June 5: Can Pichon Lalande’s impressive price wake up consumers?
The trickle of big-name releases in the 2017 en primeur campaign has failed to spark impressive sales so far. But a top name in Pauillac released its first tranche today and made a significant price cut. It's an eye-opening drop, but will it be enough to spark interest in the vintage with buyers?
Pauillac second-growth Château Pichon Longueville Lalande released its 2017 grand vin at 90 euros ex-négoce. Leading U.S. retailers are offering it at a price of approximately $129 per bottle, or $1,548 a case, a 20 percent decrease from the 2016. The wine earned a preliminary 92 to 95 points based on its barrel tasting, showing the sleek tannins and fresh acidity that mark the vintage in general. General director Nicolas Glumineau has helped raise the bar at this historic property in recent years, and the 2017 price falls squarely on the sane side of the price ledger, with most wines released so far coming out with drops of around 15 percent versus the 2016s.
On the other side of the page is Château Gruaud-Larose (91-94), which released its first tranche yesterday at 51.75 euros per bottle ex-négoce, down just 2 percent on the 2016 release price. At the current exchange rate, that means an average U.S. retail price of $77 a bottle, $924 per case, an increase of 5 percent from 2016. The 2014 can be bought today for slightly less.
May 22: Lynch-Bages offers an attractive price
The 2017 en primeur campaign continues to churn forward, gaining some momentum this week with the release of Château Lynch-Bages. The château is a familiar name to American consumers, many of whom are likely to be cheered by the release at 75 euros ex-négoce, which translates to a U.S. retail offering of about $107, or $1,284 per case. It's down 18 percent from the 2016's release price and well below the 2015's current average retail price of $142 at leading U.S. retailers.
Pauillac was one of the few Bordeaux appellations in '17 to be spared the frost damage that ravaged other areas—Pauillac's '17 crop is the same size as in '16. And along with St.-Julien, Pauillac offers some of the vintage's best wines. Lynch-Bages earned 92 to 95 points for its '17 barrel sample. For a blue-chip, ageworthy estate, this is a very square price and another good harbinger for the '17 futures market in general.
May 17: Clinet, Beycheville and Malescot St.-Exupéry—the campaign picks up
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.
May 9: The campaign's cautious start
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.
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