Updated June 23
A typical en primeur campaign starts around May and drags slowly through June, when the Bordelais then wrap it up and head off for their summer vacations. Big names often release their prices on Thursdays of long weekends, stretching the process out so as not to let too much air out of the balloon early. It's a game of cat and mouse—release too early but at too low a price and the château misses out. If the château holds too long and aims too high, there may not be enough cash among the buyers left to absorb the wine.
This year is hardly typical, however, with a global pandemic canceling the influx of wine journalists and buyers into the region to taste the wines before they're offered for sale, and global markets in economic turmoil, including the highly important U.S. market.
June 20: Léoville Las Cases and Pavie Macquin Conclude a Busy Week
Another frenzied week of Bordeaux future releases came to a close yesterday with several more prominent names hitting the market. Léoville Las Cases released its allocation of 2019s at €138 per bottle ex-négociant, down 23.3 percent on the 2018 release. Top U.S. retailers are offering the St.-Julien estate’s futures for $192 per bottle, 24 percent below the 2018 futures and well below the current $350 retail price of the 2016 vintage.
On the Right Bank, Pavie Macquin released at €46.8 per bottle ex-négociant, down 11.3 percent on the 2018 release price. It’s being sold by top American shops for $67, a 10 percent drop on the 2018s. While that’s not as big a drop, the St.-Emilion winery has not raised its future prices as steeply as some of its neighbors during the past five vintages. And this price is 30 percent less than the current retail prices of the 2015 and 2016 vintages.
June 18: Margaux Arrives
The final first growth of the 2019 futures campaign has released its allocation. Château Margaux released today at €330 per bottle ex-négociant, down 19 percent on the 2018’s opening price of €408. Leading U.S. retailers are offering it for $455 per bottle, or $5,460 per case, a 21 percent reduction from the 2018 futures. It’s also 32 percent less than the current retail price of the 2016 vintage and 75 percent less than the 2015 vintage. Margaux dropped prices more than fellow first growth Lafite Rothschild, but less than Mouton and Haut-Brion. (Château Latour does not participate in the futures campaign.)
Château Ducru-Beaucaillou also released its 2019 futures today, opting for €114 per bottle ex-négociant, down 18% on the 2018 release. U.S. retailers are offering it for $156 per bottle, a 19 percent drop on 2018. The price is fairly comparable to other recent vintages of the second growth currently on the market. Over on the Right Bank, Canon-La Gaffelière released its 2019s at €49.2 per bottle ex-négociant, down 21% on the 2018 release of €62.4. Retailers are selling it for $69 per bottle, a 20 percent drop on the 2018 futures and more than a third lower than the 2015 and 2016 vintages.
Yesterday, Pichon Baron released at €94.8 per bottle ex-négociant, down nearly 17% on the 2018 wines. U.S. retailers are offering it for $131 per bottle, an 18 percent reduction from 2018. Château Léoville Barton released at €51.6 per bottle ex-négociant, down 16.5 percent on the 2018s. The futures can be found at U.S. retailers for $74 per bottle. That’s a 15 percent drop on 2018, but it’s also half the price of the 2015 vintage at retail.
With the majority of big names having released, the campaign’s finish line is in sight. The wineries have done their part, dropping prices in a challenging economy. Will consumers buy now or wait until better times?
2019 Futures Prices
These estates represent a selection of leading wineries. Retail prices are an average of trusted retailers we follow. Prices for the 2019s 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.
Data compiled by Cassia Schifter.
|Château||2019 Score||2019 initial futures offering at U.S. retail||2018 initial futures offering at U.S. retail||2018-2019 retail change||Current 2016 price at U.S. retail||Current 2015 price at U.S. retail|
|Grand Puy Lacoste||NYR||$62||$77||-20%||$108||$93|
|La Mission Haut-Brion||NYR||$257||$346||-26%||$529||$501|
|Léoville Las Cases||NYR||$192||$253||-24%||$352||$240|
|Les Carmes Haut-Brion||NYR||$NA||$103||-%||$145||$117|
|Vieux Château Certan||NYR||$NA||$290||-%||$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 15: Fast and Furious Futures
Bordeaux’s 2019 futures campaign shows no sign of slowing down, as leading châteaus continue to drop prices, signaling to consumers that they know times are uncertain.
Château Haut-Brion released its 2019 futures June 11, at €282 per bottle, ex-négociant, down 30.9 percent on the opening price of its 2018 futures. Leading U.S. retailers are selling the 2019s at $398 per bottle, or $4,776 per case, a 30 percent drop on the 2018s and well below the current retail prices of the 2015 and 2016 vintages.
Haut-Brion’s neighbor and sister property, La Mission Haut-Brion, also released on June 11, for €180 per bottle, ex-négoce, down 28.6 percent on the 2018 release price of €252. Top U.S. retailers are offering it for $257, down 26 percent on the 2018s. That’s about half the price of the 2015 and 2016 vintages.
Château Lynch Bages released its 2019 futures a day earlier, at €66 per bottle, ex-négociant, down 26.6 percent on the 2018 opening price of €90. The wine is at stores at an average price of $93 so far, down 26 percent from 2018 and lower than most recent vintages on the market.
On the Right Bank, Château Pavie released the same day as Lynch Bages, at €240 per bottle, ex-négociant, down 14.9 percent on the 2018 price of €282. American retailers are offering it for $326 per bottle, a drop of 12 percent from last year. Since Pavie and Angélus joined the ranks of Premier Grand Cru Classé A wineries in 2012, they have been adjusting their price points, taking larger increases in good years and smaller reductions in down markets.
On June 12, Margaux’s Château Giscours released its 2019 futures at €33.6 per bottle, ex-négociant, down 24 percent on the 2018 release price of €44. U.S. retailers are offering it for $50 per bottle, down 22 percent on 2018 futures.
St.-Emilion’s Château Figeac released its 2019 futures today at €120 per bottle ex-négociant, down 31 percent on the 2018 release price. The wine is selling for $172 per bottle at top U.S. retailers. That’s a drop of 28 percent on the 2018 futures.
Château Pape Clement also released its 2019 futures today, at €57.6 per bottle, ex-négoce, down 12 percent on the 2018. The wine is selling for $83 per bottle at top U.S. retailers. That’s a drop of just 9 percent on the 2018 futures and 30 percent below the 2015 vintage. Château Talbot reduced its 2019 futures by 22 percent, at €32.6 per bottle, ex-négociant. U.S. retailers are offering it for $48 per bottle, down 20 percent on 2018 futures.
Leading wineries continue to offer smaller allocations this year, holding back plenty of the 2019s for later release, undoubtedly hoping the global economy is in a better place by then. But leading U.S. retailers have expressed appreciation for the price drops, so far. The château owners know this is a challenging time to sell luxury wine and are offering solid prices.
June 9: Mouton and Cheval Blanc Go Bold
The 2019 Bordeaux futures campaign shows no sign of slowing down, with Château Mouton-Rothschild and Cheval-Blanc releasing their futures so far this week, along with several other top names.
Mouton's owners released their allocation today at €282 per bottle, ex-négoce, a decrease of 30.8 percent on the €408 release price of the 2018. The wine is being sold by leading U.S. retailers for $400 per bottle, $4,800 per case, a 30 percent decrease on the 2018s and considerably less than the average retail price of both the 2015 ($664) and 2016 ($741) wines on the market.
St.-Emilion icon Cheval-Blanc is typically one of the last top names to release its futures, but nothing is typical in this pandemic-impacted campaign. The owners released the 2019 futures at €370 per bottle, ex-négoce, yesterday, down 29.9 percent on the 2018 price of €528. Leading U.S. retailers are offering the 2019s at $495 per bottle, down 30 percent on the 2018s and 40 percent less than the 2015 and 2016 vintages.
Château Léoville Poyferré also released its 2019 futures yesterday, at €49.20 per bottle, ex-négoce, down 25.4 percent on the 2018 release price of €66. It’s available at retail for $69 per bottle, also down 25 percent on 2018 prices and just half the price of the 2015.
So far, most of the top wineries have opted for price reductions of either more than 25 percent or less than 15 percent. Both Beychevelle and Angélus opted to follow Lafite Rothschild’s example and choose the latter path. Beychevelle released its 2019 yesterday at €52.8 per bottle, ex-négociant, down 12 percent on the 2018 release price of €60. It is retailing for $76 in the U.S. so far, an 11 percent drop on 2018 futures and a 28 percent drop on the 2015 and 2016 vintages.
Angélus also released its 2019 yesterday at €230 per bottle, ex-négociant, down 8.7 percent on the 2018 release price of €252. Leading U.S. retailers are offering it for $308 per bottle, a 13 percent drop on the 2018 futures and a 20 percent drop on the 2015 and 2016 vintages.
Besides speed and consistent price reductions, the other major trend so far this campaign has been fewer futures being offered. Several notable wineries have released smaller allocations this year. That matches a recent trend, but it also is a sign that with the global economy facing an uncertain year, château owners are taking a wait-and-see attitude, hoping they can sell more of the wines for a higher price when good times return.
June 5: First-Growth Debut
Early indications that this year's en primeur campaign would be a quick one were seemingly confirmed this morning when first-growth Château Lafite Rothschild released its 2019 futures.
The real drivers of the market are the first-growths. Châteaus Margaux, Mouton-Rothschild, Lafite Rothschild and Haut-Brion typically "set" the market (Latour does not offer its newest vintage during en primeur).
Lafite's owners released its wine at €396 per bottle, ex-négociant, down 15.7 percent on the 2018 release price of €470, which translates to a U.S. retail offering of just under $540 per bottle, or $6,480 a case. That's 16 percent lower than the 2018's release price of $642 and 41 percent lower than the current 2016 vintage, which retails for an average of $892 per bottle at top U.S. stores. It's in line with current prices for the 2015 vintage and slightly above the 2014 and '13 vintages. Compared to other vintages on the market, the price makes sense, but whether or not American consumers will bite remains to be seen.
Also releasing today was Valandraud, Jean-Luc Thunevin's flagship St.-Emilion wine. It was released at €90, ex-négoce, and is appearing in U.S. retail offerings for $121 per bottle, 32 percent lower than the 2018.
With a handful of prominent châteaus, including a first-growth, reducing prices between 15 percent to 40 percent, expect the pace of offerings to accelerate.
June 3: Cos Offers a Lower Discount
Today's release of Cos-d'Estournel futures, right on the heels of Palmer's release yesterday, seems to indicate the en primeur campaign may move with some alacrity. Cos released at €110 per bottle, ex-négociant, down 23.6 percent from the 2018 futures price of €144. After moving through the distribution system, that translates to a $150 price at U.S. retail, a 23 percent drop from the 2018. While a notable drop, Pontet-Canet and Palmer opened the campaigns with price reductions of more than a third each.
Cos-d'Estournel's owners also announced that one euro from each bottle sold would be donated to the Union des Métiers et des Industries de l'Hôtellerie, an organization dedicated to supporting independent professionals working in restaurants, bars and cafés, a major segment of the wine sales market whose closings have crippled France's economy.
The other winery of note to release today was Château Malescot-St.-Exupéry in Margaux, which priced its 2019 futures at €30 per bottle, ex-négociant, down 26 percent on the 2018 price. It's selling at leading retailers at a price of $42, also 26 percent lower than the 2018s.
The only thing certain about this year's campaign is that Bordeaux is in uncharted waters. The U.S. market is reeling from the coronavirus pandemic, 25 percent tariffs remain in place for most French wines, and American consumer interest in 2019 Bordeaux seems nonexistent. The tariffs in particular add a complication—consumers won't pay them on futures now, but could end up paying them in two years when the wine is delivered if the trade spat hasn't been resolved.
June 2: Palmer Packs a Punch
Bordeaux's 2019 futures campaign forged ahead today with the release of Margaux third-growth Château Palmer at €161 per bottle, ex-négociant, down 33 percent on the 2018's opening price of €240. After markups along the distribution chain, the estate's grand vin will be offered at leading U.S. retailers for around $217 per bottle, a 36 percent drop from its initial 2018 futures price. That's also just slightly over half the current retail price of $413 for the 2015.
Under the guidance of general director Thomas Duroux, Palmer has asserted itself as an elite producer over the past decade. In addition, the estate has shifted to biodynamic farming techniques that have at times resulted in dramatically lower yields.
While the initial reaction to a triple-digit price tag might be less than enthusiastic from the U.S. market, the drop is significant and mirrors the opening release from Pontet-Canet last week. After a few days of sales, Pontet-Canet 2019 futures are now retailing for about $79 per bottle, 33 percent lower than its initial 2018 release.
A handful of other châteaus released today as well, including Château Belle-Vue and several Bernard Magrez wines, including Fombrauge and Clos Haut-Peyraguey. Château Cantemerle has released its 2019 futures at €16.80 per bottle, ex-négociant, down 17.6 percent on the 2018 release. Leading retailers are selling it for $25 per bottle.
May 28: Pontet-Canet Sets the Tone
Bordeaux has launched its annual en primeur campaign, and Château Pontet-Canet lit the fuse, releasing its 2019 futures at €58 per bottle, ex-négociant, down 31 percent on the 2018 opening price of €84. After moving through the distribution system, U.S. consumers can expect to see the wine retail at about $70 per bottle, or $840 a case. That's 41 percent less than the 2018 futures at retail. It's also about half the current retail price for the 2016 and 2015 vintages currently on retail shelves and of comparable quality.
That makes the price drops an encouraging sign. Whether or not they are low enough for the wines to sell is another issue.
"Pontet-Canet got the ball rolling and their decrease is the right direction," said Chris Adams, CEO of New York City's Sherry-Lehmann, a major retailer that typically takes a strong position on Bordeaux. "But the difficulty is we're facing a situation where we don't know what the tariffs will do. When you can't communicate to your customers exactly what the price will be, that's a nightmare. I can't come back to the customer in two years and say you owe 25 percent more because tariffs are still in place. That alone would be a huge issue. But now add in they're selling wines that essentially no one has tasted or reviewed yet, plus COVID and this really difficult economic reality, and suddenly consumption trends and what's attractive to consumers is very different [than buying Bordeaux en primeur]."
I have not reviewed any of the 2019 Bordeauxs as of yet. My annual trip in March was scuttled by the pandemic, along with the formal en primeur week that Bordeaux's producers and négociants organize to welcome international buyers and writers.
Stay at home orders in France have now been loosened, and Bordeaux is pushing to run an en primeur campaign as normal. But the paucity of trustworthy independent reviews on the wines and serious economic headwinds is a one-two punch the Borderlais have not faced before. I will review the wine when I can travel to Bordeaux safely, which will likely not be until late fall at the earliest. The choice by the Bordelais to push ahead with business as usual is head scratching at least, and perhaps a bit tone deaf.
Heading into this year's campaign, the current exchange rate of $1.10 to €1 is essentially the same as during last year's campaign, when it was at $1.12, so retail buyers will have to weigh that factor as well if they take a position.