Bordeaux's 2009 vintage has been big business. It's hard to think about the hundreds of millions of dollars that have been traded in what has to be the most famous young vintage ever for France's premier wine region. It certainly was the most expensive.
I received a press release from Farr Vintners, the London-based wine merchant that arguably sells more top-growth young Bordeaux than anyone in the world. Farr says it sold more than $80 million of 2009 futures. The majority was sold to British customers, but a lot went to the Far East.
By volume, the U.K. accounted for 85 percent of the 30,000 cases Farr sold of 2009 futures. About 15 percent went to the Far East. By value, the U.K. accounted for 60 percent and the Far East 40 percent. Farr noted that the big hole in its 2009 Bordeaux business was among American customers—although they don't sell much to U.S. customers normally, this year there were virtually none. (U.S. merchants report that Americans are buying, if at a more restrained rate.)
For comparison, the merchant provided some figures for recent en primeur sales. The only vintage that was really comparable was 2005, since it was also a great vintage and at the time considered very, very expensive. Interestingly, Farr had sold about the same number of cases of 2005 futures as of the end of July 2006 as it has of 2009 futures to date, but the 2005s generated $37.3 million in sales (using the current dollar to pound exchange rate)—or 47 percent of the revenues from the 2009 futures.
The top-selling 2009 wine by value—no surprise here—was Lafite, followed by Latour, Mouton, Cos-d'Estournel, and Haut-Brion. Pontet-Canet came in just under the Haut-Brion, which shows that the Pauillac fifth growth is in great demand in the market now.
The top-selling 2009 wine by case volume was the Lynch-Bages—one of my favorites of the vintage for the quality you get for your money. Then came Pontet-Canet, Cos, Cantemerle, Grand-Puy-Lacoste and Mouton.
"It's been incredibly busy, and the Farr Vintners sales and purchasing team have been working 12-hour days for the last month (and coming in at weekends too)," the e-mail said. "Some of us are starting to look like zombies! Demand has been extraordinarily high, and sales records have been broken on a regular basis."
It sounds a little bit more like London's City or Wall Street than the wine market. But so was life on the front lines of 2009 Bordeaux this year.