Updated June 25, 2021
A month into Bordeaux's latest futures campaign, it's becoming clear that owners of many of the top wineries in the world believe the global economy will come roaring back in 2021. Price increases of 15 to 30 percent in early weeks have given way to wines going for 40, 50, even 60 percent more than last year's futures. What's more, they are releasing smaller quantities of futures than last year, a sign that they believe the 2020 vintage will only grow more valuable in coming years as the world begins to put the COVID-19 pandemic in the rear mirror. But are consumers as confident as the winemakers? And who is buying the futures?
A year ago it was hard to fathom how Bordeaux would conduct a futures campaign, selling their latest vintage as a global pandemic raged. But they managed to pull it off. Now conditions in many of their leading markets have improved, but it is hardly a typical year.
American wine lovers and merchants were curious to see if top châteaus would repeat last year's pause on big price increases. With the global economy so uncertain, most wineries kept price increases fairly small. A strong dollar also helped. Many of the best-known wines sold well. Now the dollar is weaker against the euro, meaning châteaus could release futures at the exact same price, but Americans will pay more. (One bright side: The U.S. government has paused tariffs on French wines, removing a big extra cost.)
No Holds Barred
And châteaus are not releasing futures at 2019 prices. This week has brought three more first-growths to the campaign. Château Mouton-Rothschild released its futures June 25 for €432 per bottle ex-négociant, up 53 percent on the 2019 release. Leading U.S. retailers are selling the futures for $627 per bottle, or $7,524 per case, 55 percent higher than the 2019 futures on release.
Château Margaux released its 2020 futures on June 22 for €432 per bottle, ex-négociant, up 30 percent on the 2019’s opening price. Leading U.S. retailers are selling it for $629 per bottle, or $7,458 a case, a 37 percent increase on the 2019s. Ironically, that price may still represent good value. It’s still well below the current prices of the 2016 and 2015 vintages.
Château Haut-Brion released its 2020 futures on June 23 for €432 per bottle, ex-négociant, up 53.2 percent on the 2019 release. Leading retailers are offering it for an average price of $628 per bottle, a 58 percent increase on the 2019s. Haut-Brion offered the lowest price among first-growths last year, and its futures have risen the most steeply so far—Latour does not sell futures. Haut-Brion also released a 30 percent smaller allocation of futures compared to last year, which suggests they expect the 2020s to appreciate and want to hold on to stock.
Across the road, sibling winery Château La Mission Haut-Brion released its 2020s for €252 per bottle, ex-négociant, up 40 percent on the 2019’s opening price. U.S. retailers have it for $366 per bottle, an increase of 42 percent on 2019. And that matches what many other top names have done in the past week. Château Lynch-Bages released at €90 per bottle, ex-négociant, up 36.4 percent on the 2019’s opening price. It’s at leading retailers for $134, a 44 percent jump on the 2019 futures.
Cos-d’Estournel released at €150 per bottle, ex-négociant, up 36.4 percent on the 2019 release. It can be had at retailers for $223, a 47 percent hike from the 2019s. Château Smith-Haut-Lafitte released its 2020s for €96 per bottle, ex-négociant, up 48.1 percent on the 2019 release. You can find it for about $140 a bottle at retail, a 54 percent increase from the 2019s and almost identical to the current market price of the highly rated 2015 and 2016 vintages. Château Palmer issued its first allocation of 2020s for €240 per bottle, ex-négociant, up 49.1 percent on the 2019 release. It’s at U.S. retailers for about $342, a 58 percent increase.
Other top names raised prices, though not as steeply. Pichon Longueville Lalande released its 2020s at €132 per bottle, ex-négociant, up 26.3 percent on the 2019 release. It’s at retail for $197 a bottle, a 29 percent increase. Across the street, Château Pichon Baron released at €110.4 per bottle, ex-négociant, up 16.5 percent on the 2019 release. With the strong euro, that translates to $162 at U.S. retail, a 24 percent increase. Château Pape Clément released at €62.40 per bottle, ex-négociant, up 8.3 percent on the 2019 release. Retailers are selling the futures at $96 a bottle, a 16 percent increase.
But how are the wines?
The quality verdict on the 2020 vintage is incomplete. Some members of the trade have been able to taste barrel samples of top wines, but not many. Some wineries have attempted to ship samples around the globe with mixed results. After inconsistent shipping, Wine Spectator's lead taster for Bordeaux, senior editor James Molesworth, has opted to hold off on tasting the wines until he can conduct official blind tastings of all the notable wines.
The 2020 growing season was not perfect. A very rainy winter gave the vineyards ample water reserves, but the rain stretched into spring, leading to mildew pressures. From there the season turned hot and dry, until a significant rain event on the Left Bank in mid-August, while the Right Bank stayed mostly dry. Harvest ran on the early side, spurred by the heat. The crop is down 20 to 40 percent from 2019. Leading producers tell Molesworth it is a heterogenous vintage, with the Right Bank favored over the Left.
2020 Futures Prices
These estates represent a selection of leading wineries. Retail prices are an average of trusted retailers we follow. Prices for the 2020s are listed alongside the current prevailing retail price for Bordeaux's recent benchmark vintages, so you can measure where the wines are vis-à-vis those currently on retail shelves. You'll find more updates and analyses below the chart.
Data compiled by Cassia Schifter
|Château||2020 Score||2020 initial futures offering at U.S. retail||2019 initial futures offering at U.S. retail||2019-2020 retail change||Current 2016 price at U.S. retail||Current 2015 price at U.S. retail|
|Grand Puy Lacoste||NYR||$77||$62||+24%||$108||$93|
|La Mission Haut-Brion||NYR||$366||$257||+42%||$529||$501|
|Léoville Las Cases||NYR||$308||$193||+60%||$352||$240|
|Les Carmes Haut-Brion||NYR||$128||$98||+31%||$145||$117|
|Vieux Château Certan||NYR||$NA||$235||-%||$379||$402|
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.
June 11: Lafite Joins the Party
After a few relatively quiet weeks that have seen steady releases of smaller estates and second wines, the 2020 Bordeaux futures campaign picked up steam this week. The biggest name was Château Lafite Rothschild, which released its 2020 futures today for €475 per bottle, ex-négociant, up 19.9 percent on the 2019 release. It's the first Left Bank first-growth to release its 2020.
Top U.S. retailers are offering the wine for about $700 per bottle, or $8,400 per case. That's up 31 percent on the 2019 futures. The high-scoring 2016 vintage is currently selling for $892 per bottle.
June 10, Château Rauzan-Ségla released its first allocation of the 2020 vintage at €66 per bottle, ex-négociant, up 22 percent on the 2019’s opening price. The Margaux wine futures can be found at leading retailers for $100 per bottle, up 30 percent on the 2019 release price. That's a steep jump, but it's less than the current prices for the 2015 and 2016 vintages, and the quality of the estate's grand vin has been on the rise over the past decade.
Château Talbot released its 2020 vintage at €39.60 per bottle, ex-négociant, up 17 percent on the 2019’s opening price. Leading retailers are selling it for $59 a bottle, up 21 percent on the 2019, but well below current prices for the 2016 and 2015 vintages.
So far, most wineries are pricing their 2020 futures 15 to 30 percent higher than their 2019s, reflecting confidence that the global economy is coming back strong. Will prices soar even higher as more first-growths join Lafite?
May 20: The horse is out of the barn
Cheval-Blanc made a splash, kicking off the campaign. Typically one of the last estates to release futures, it was the first big name to hit the market. The 2020 was released at €380 per bottle, ex-négociant, up 2.7 percent on the 2019. It’s being offered by top U.S. retailers at an average price of $575, or $6,900 per case, an increase of 16 percent on the 2019. While it's not cheap, it's more than 30 percent cheaper than the current market price of both the 2015 and 2016 vintages.
Angélus, Pavie and Léoville-Barton joined the campaign a week later. Angélus went big, a trend since the estate was promoted to the top ranks of St.-Emilion's classified growths. It released its futures at €260 per bottle, ex-négociant, up 13 percent on the 2019 opening price of €230. Leading U.S. retailers are offering it for $380 a bottle, 24 percent higher than the 2019 but 15 percent less than the 2015 and 2016 vintages.
Angélus' St.-Emilion neighbor Château Pavie released its 2020 futures at €240 per bottle, ex-négociant, the same price as its 2019 release. U.S. retailers are selling it for about $240 per bottle, a slight increase on the 2019 futures and more than 20 percent less than the 2015 and 2016 vintages. It's a promising deal for fans of the Right Bank property.
On the Left Bank, Léoville Barton released its 2020 futures at €60 per bottle, ex-négociant, up 16.3 percent on the 2019 release price. Top retailers are offering it for an average price of $88 a bottle, or $1,056 per case. That's almost 20 percent higher than the 2019 release price, but 40 percent less than the 2016 and 2015 wines on the market.
Stay on top of important wine stories with Wine Spectator's free Breaking News Alerts.