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Raising the Curtain on Bordeaux's 2010 Futures Prices

Châteaus Pontet-Canet and Gruaud-Larose are the first big names to announce their 2010 en primeur prices
Photo by: David Yellen

Posted: Jun 9, 2011 11:00am ET

With VinExpo approaching—where the business side of the wine world meets before knocking off for summer vacation—what had been a rather sleepy en primeur campaign for the potentially tremendous 2010 vintage suddenly took on new life this week with the release of prices from a few top estates.

Both Châteaus Pontet-Canet (2010 barrel tasting score: 96-99 points) and Gruaud-Larose (93-96) released their 2010 pricing in what should spark many of their colleagues to follow suit. Château Pontet-Canet released its first tranche at 100 euros, a price owner Alfred Tesseron said he derived from the average of three tranches for his 2009, plus 8.3 percent. Château Gruaud-Larose also opened with its pricing and is now being offered at 61 euros by the trade, up from 50 euros for the 2009. The futures prices to U.S. consumers will increase as the wine moves through the distribution chain, with the exchange rate also playing a big role.

Up until now, the 2010 en primeur campaign had been decidedly quiet, with mostly a handful of cru bourgeois or petits châteaus such as Caronne-Ste.-Gemme, Citran, Fougas Maldoror, Lanessan, Paloumey and others releasing their prices. That group kept their prices basically in line with those of 2009.

“Up until today interest has been very, very light,” said Daniel Posner, owner of Grapes The Wine Company, an independent retailer in White Plains, N.Y. “And except for those people with lots of discretionary income, I expect interest to stay light, with the exception of maybe a few names like Pontet-Canet, which we have gone heavy on for several years. The pricing is pretty ugly for some of the big names, as with the exchange rate, you basically have to factor in the dollar at 1.5 to the euro, and it makes things look ludicrous.” Posner will offer the 2010 Pontet-Canet to customers for about $190 per bottle.

While the 2010 vintage is marked by classic-level quality wines on both the Right and Left Banks, there had been some trepidation going into the en primeur campaign following the 2009s, the most expensive en primeur pricing in history. Many Bordelais wondered if the global market, which is still experiencing economic woes, as well as the calamitous events in Japan, could sustain another high-priced Bordeaux vintage. And for the U.S. market in particular, was there even interest on the part of consumers, who seem to have grown tired of Bordeaux in recent years? With some of the bigger names now releasing their pricing, early signs seem to point to cherry picking, rather than widespread buying.

“There’s clearly buying interest,” said Mathieu Chadronnier, general director at C.V.B.G., one of Bordeaux’s biggest négociant houses. “But selectively. In the early stages of the campaign, there was interest for selected ‘good deals.' Now the focus is very much on the strongest brands. Pontet-Canet is a roaring success for instance.”

While 2010 pricing for the most recognizable names seems likely to exceed 2009's, there are some deals to be had. Château Malartic-Lagravière owner Jean-Jacques Bonnie released his 2010 red at just under 35 euros, down from his ’09 price of 36 euros. The move seems to be helping, too.

“Yes, we reduced the price and more than half of the allocations are already confirmed, even though a lot of wines were released just after us, which had the négociants quite busy,” said Bonnie. “The advice we got was to stop waiting to release the wine and decrease the price, which was what the traditional markets where expecting. Even if China is becoming a bigger buyer, considering the expectation of the traditional distribution markets, [the decrease] has been well-received.”

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James Molesworth
Senior Editor, Wine Spectator —  June 9, 2011 12:23pm ET
Another sleeper property whose 2010 price was just released is Château Fleur Cardinale (91-94 points in barrel). It was released at 21 euros (up from 19 for the '09) - there are some excellent buys to be had in the Bordeaux 2010 futures campaign, if you do your homework...
Kelly Carter
Colorado —  June 9, 2011 5:03pm ET

Have you seen anything on the 2010 Pavie Macquin pricing? The 2009 could be acquired for around $80, but relative to JS's score a bargain with long-term aging potential.

Do you think we are likely to revisit the $200/bottle level we saw back in 2005?
James Molesworth
Senior Editor, Wine Spectator —  June 9, 2011 5:27pm ET
Kelly: I haven't seen Pavie-Macquin offered yet. I'd be surprised if they more than doubled their '09 price. That is the barometer they seem to be using, rather than '05. It looks like the majority of well-known chateaus are going for %10-%15 more than '09. The first growths and a few others will probably go beyond that...

Smart chateaus who want to move their wines and perhaps gain a following of loyal customers, rather than cherry pickers, would be smart to follow Jean-Jacques Bonnie's lead and price their '10 at or just below '09 levels....
Kerry Winslow
San Francisco, California, USA —  June 9, 2011 6:32pm ET
Pontet-Canet is now a first growth in quality, but no great deal on 2009 and 2010, though the 2008 is a steal, for my money the PC 08 is the best bet!

Futures here don't look promising......

Thanks for the quality reporting and thoughts!

Michael Haley
Eugene, OR —  June 9, 2011 11:51pm ET
I am sorry, but what does it matter, and who cares? The Bordelais/French keep jacking up their prices and very few of US care. I for one can enjoy the fruits of WA and OR vintners without the slightest bit of regret/remorse that I am missing something special. Between the excellent quality of recent OR "burgundies" and WA "bordeaux/rhone" style wines, the overpriced (in general) French wines can slip into irrelevance.
Gerry Ansel
Fullerton, Calif —  June 10, 2011 2:11pm ET
Michael - I completely agree. I have yet to consume a Bordeaux that really moved me the way a mature Burgundy or Rhone wine does - or even a really good Napa Cab. The bordeaulais marketing machine is fine tuned to position every vintage as "The Vintage of the Century," and why not? They have shareholders to answer to.
Karl Mark
Geneva, IL. —  June 12, 2011 3:22pm ET
Michael and Gary I would argue that many Americans do care about Bordeaux, which is why they stopped buying it when the prices became inflated and why you hear so many people upset with prices. They are losing an entire generation of wine drinkers in this country and they will only have themselves to blame.
Ivan Campos
Ottawa, Canada —  June 12, 2011 8:51pm ET
so much for continuing some verticals this year, like those second growths that were priced really well for their '08s.

James: speaking of which, any views on the 2010 Ducru-Beaucaillou? Can't seem to find notes for it...

Also agree with Karl. Delving into 'top bordeaux' is not a cheap proposition. As a professional with hard-earned discretionary income, it's a no-brainer to instead put the bulk of your wine budget toward exploring interesting, high-quality regions like the Rhone, Ribera del Duero, or Barbaresco. Even if you don't enjoy a moderately pricey wine from these areas, it likely won't have set you back more than $30
James Molesworth
Senior Editor, Wine Spectator —  June 13, 2011 9:10am ET
You are all touching on the main issue for Bordeaux right now: some châteaus are willing to chase the dollars in any market that will bear it, while others still are committed to the U.S. market and believe in more realistic pricing (Anthony Barton of Leoville-Barton and Langoa-Barton has long been a proponent of consumer-friendly pricing and his wines are superb).

In addition, there are many châteaus out of the limelight making good wine who are trying to elbow their way into the consumer conscious (Malartic-Lagraviere, Brown, Jean Faux, Dalem, Fleur Cardinale and many more), but it is not easy. Price yourself at $30 and some consumers will assume your wine in not good, because it's not expensive - a result of the prevailing image of Bordeaux...

I can understand those who want to wave off Bordeaux in response to high prices, while plumbing the wines of the Rhône and other wines. But nonetheless, it doesn't take much digging to find excellent Bordeaux at sane prices...

As for Ducru-Beaucaillou, the château did not want to submit its wine to my blind tasting (they were of course invited)...
Karl Mark
Geneva, IL. —  June 13, 2011 6:40pm ET
Unfortunately it does take some digging to find good quality Bordeaux outside of Bordeaux, or New York. Restrictive shipping laws and decreased shelf space is making it much much harder for me to find those wines that you are talking about James. I'm lucky that I can order wine direct from wineries within the USA, as some can't even do that.
James Molesworth
Senior Editor, Wine Spectator —  June 13, 2011 7:20pm ET
Karl: Yes, with Bordeaux being an open market, many importers/distributors don't see the value in bringing in the less recognized names. They feel they have to 'work' the market to move them, and then their work can be undermined by any other importer who then decides to bring in the wines. That can be frustrating for consumers...

I think you'll start to see more of the smaller properties agreeing to work exclusively with importers (so importers feel their turf is protected) and eschewing Bordeaux's traditional distribution system to ensure their wines make it here. Down the road, only the big boys will be placing their wines on the open market...
Jon Burdick
U.S.A. —  June 13, 2011 7:36pm ET
While I understand the "under $30 bargains", for en primeur 2 years away from delivery, and only barrel scores, a lot can go wrong between putting down cash and receiving the bottle. There are many Washington State wines that are outstanding and available at the store.

I'm even less enamored with the "structured" and "tannic" descriptions of the 2010 vintage....I have a cellar full of 2005 Bordeaux, and while I bought selective 2009s, will probably not buy a single bottle of 2010 until they are in stores and at a reasonable price. With the en primeur pricing of 2010, it is all an easy pass for me.
Heath Chapman
SAMMAMISH, WA —  June 15, 2011 6:16pm ET
Looks like I will mostly be on the sidelines this year. The price on quite a few of the chateaux I already own from previous vintages are up $30-40 per bottle from even last year. Too rich for my blood!
Heath Chapman
SAMMAMISH, WA —  June 15, 2011 6:22pm ET
James, I am excited to see you mention Fleur Cardinale several times. I first had this wine in Paris last year and it was fantastic. It seems kind of hard to find in the US but I have since purchased some and I will probably buy some of the 2010. Truly a great Bordeaux value given the pricing out there.
Timothy J Mcintosh
San Antonio, TX —  June 16, 2011 1:41pm ET
James, How can I expect to pay $71 on futures for my value favorite Chateau Talbot when the 2005 are selling at my local wine store for $55, and the 2009 is equal if not better rated, is also lower priced. Are the Bordelais pushing the limits of the consumer on the '10s?
Charles W Beebe
Atlanta, GA —  June 16, 2011 4:57pm ET

Which wines ($100 or less per 750ml)would you recommend for laying down as birth year wines from Bordeaux? I'm more intersted in magnums but in Atlanta magnums are hard to come by if you don't buy early (interested in your response on '08 Bordeaux as well).
David Boyer
Austin, TX —  June 16, 2011 5:02pm ET
At the invitation of Union des Grand Cru de Bordeaux, I will be tasting the '10s Monday afternoon at Vinexpo in Bordeaux. I expect from everything I have gathered so far that a lot of the 2010s will be as good as the '09s but that it won't be quite as across-the-board.

Bordeaux is doing what Bordeaux does and I do wonder if there is volatility and possibly danger, in the strategy of continually pursuing whatever price the market may bear. There's a history of more than two centuries of Americans becoming enamored of Bordeaux and it seems that this relationship is becoming strained as American buyers express some sentiments of betrayal. At some point China will surely go through it's boom and bust cycle like so many other countries before it, and where will Bordeaux go from there?

I'm still drinking '82, '89 and '90 Bordeaux and as often as I try many other great wines, I still cannot be convinced there is any better wine in this world.

David Boyer
James Molesworth
Senior Editor, Wine Spectator —  June 17, 2011 11:08am ET
Charles: Are you asking about '10s to lay down? If so, I'd try to find some values in St.-Julien (Gloria) or the reds from Pessac/Graves which excelled in the vintage, that would be able to last in the cellar.

As for '08, it's not a strong vintage for the reds, so you may be able to 'splurge' on some top names at reduced prices, for laying down.

In either case, magnums are encouraged for better cellaring.

Timothy: You've answered your own question. If you're not willing to buy, then yes, the Bordelais are losing their US customers. So far, the general US market reaction seems to be pretty blasé towards the '10 en primeur...but the Bordelais have other markets now.
Charles W Beebe
Atlanta, GA —  June 17, 2011 8:03pm ET

Thanks for the note - these wines will sit in my cellar on their side. I will focus on Magnums (especially in '08).
Kind regards,

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