I looked out the window of my apartment today in Bordeaux and saw hundreds of cars lining up in front of Château Smith-Haut-Lafitte for one of the trade tastings of the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux, a promotional organization for many of the top châteaus. Smith was hosting the 2009 Bordeaux barrel tasting for the members in the region of Pessac-Léognan. It was the second day of the tasting.
The weather was horrible. A thick sheet of rain fell over the winery and vineyards, and participants walked through the rain-soaked gravel paths into the building. Despite all that, about 1,000 people showed up to stick their noses in the glass of 2009 reds and whites.
Winemakers and négociants in the region say there is unprecedented interest in the region's newest vintage. And at least from the attendance of the UGC events, it looks like they are not full of hyperbole. Whether anyone buys is another thing, however. But I am sure they will, or at least, some will.
No one looks worried in Bordeaux about the current market for his or her new top wines. I mentioned such negatives as a weak global economy, overstock of good wines in the marketplace (including Bordeaux), lack of new buyers in key markets such as the United States, the disappearance of Diageo Château & Estate, the Far East's reluctance to buy futures, general prejudice against Bordeaux, and even France's chances in the World Cup or the probability of Carla Bruni doing an LP with her husband—and I get the same smile and positive comment: "We will sell."
They all think that America is going to be a big buyer again too. Many told me that Americans always buy in top vintages, and they haven't really bought futures since the 2005 vintage. There is still a lot of money in the United States, they said.
I cracked bread and drank wine with some U.S. wine merchants this past week, including David Sokolin of Sokolin, Tristen Beamon of Wine Exchange and Chris Adams of Sherry-Lehmann, and they all thought their customers were going to buy 2009 futures. And my friend Stephen Browett of Farr Vintners in London, arguably the biggest trader of fine Bordeaux in the world, said he has already received loads of inquiries from all over the world about 2009 en primeur.
It all makes me worried when it comes to pricing for the very top wines. I am not concerned with the majority of Bordeaux. Like I said, something like 95 percent of the production of Bordeaux sells for 15 euros or less a bottle from the winery. But the other 5 percent, or even less, the other .5 percent? That is where the folly will begin. I hear that the prices will not come out until June for the top wines, but who knows? And they will not be cheap. That is for sure.
I just received a crazy e-mail from a wine merchant friend in Switzerland who said that there are rumors that the first-growths and other trophy wines in 2009 could trade for over 1,000 euros a bottle as futures. I hope it was another one of his funny e-mails. The only problem is that April Fool's Day isn't until tomorrow.