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Listen to the Market, Most of the Rest Is Noise

Posted: Jun 28, 2007 5:21pm ET

There seem to be a lot of unhappy people out there today on the Internet, especially now that the Bordeaux first-growths have come out with their 2006 futures prices, with the exception of Mouton. Prices at U.S. retail seem to be $500 a bottle, plus or minus $25 or $30. Haut-Brion apparently came out at 5 euros more than the other first-growths.

So what, I say! Let the market decide. If you can’t afford it, stop complaining. You can buy something else. I must sound like a broken record. Sorry.

I even heard that one of my colleagues in rain-soaked England, British wine writer Jancis Robinson, wrote that she hoped the Bordelais failed with the sales of their 2006 en primeur offerings. Why such animosity and bad will? The market will decide in the end. It always does.

Take for example when Bordeaux released its 1997 futures and wine merchants bought, even American merchants with the then-strong dollar. Consumers didn’t buy because they thought the wines were too expensive and not good enough in quality, and a few years later when the wines were in bottle, they were dumped at half the release price. The market decided then, and it will decide sooner or later with the 2006s.

The good news is that there are many good to excellent wines. So, 2006 shouldn’t be a problem for people who are going to one day drink the wines (rather than hoping to resell at a profit).

I checked with a few Bordeaux vintners, and they said that the 2006 first-growths were selling to brokers, importers and distributors. They didn’t expect a lot of action from the U.S. market on much of anything—first- or fifth-growths or anything else. Also, I heard that châteaus that got their prices wrong and didn’t drop them enough didn’t sell or barely sold their futures.

For example, a London wine merchant told me that after the release of the 2006 Cos, they only sold about 20 cases in the first few days. Over the same period last year, they sold 1,000 cases of Cos. The market spoke and it will continue to speak for a while about 2006 … the rest is mostly noise.

Chad Turner
June 28, 2007 6:07pm ET
James,Can you recommend a 2005 Bordeaux for under $100 that would be hitting its prime in 15-17 years. It's to celebrate my daughters birth and I have a hard time trusting the opinions of my local merchants. I am in the Houston area. Thanks for your help.
James Suckling
 —  June 28, 2007 8:51pm ET
Chad. Can you get your hands on Pontet Canet? That's a winner for that kind of money as well as Malescot. Let me know.
John Miller
Windsor, CA —  June 28, 2007 11:16pm ET
I'm with you James, if you can't afford 1st growth (which I can't) buy super seconds or thirds. For example, you mentioned Pontet Canet, K and L (www.klwines.com) has 2006 Pontet Cantet (you gave it 92-94 pts) for $69.99, 2004 for $52.99 (93 pts), 2003 (94 pts and #39 on top 100). Show me better bang for your buck in Napa? Sorry, Chad no 2005.
John Miller
Windsor, CA —  June 29, 2007 2:45am ET
Oops, I forgot the price on the 2003 Pontet Canet. Its $74.99.
Fred Taleghani
Palo Alto, CA —  June 29, 2007 2:52am ET
Good stuff I loaded up and got a bunch of the 05 Pontet Canet. Yes I agree the market will decide. As will the consumer. The 05's seems much like the dot com heyday. It seemed no matter where tyou put your money it was all good. I stocked up on enough 05 that I can affort to sit out the majority of the 06 futures campaign and see what happens when they hit the shelf.
Willim Tisherman
Katonah, NY —  June 29, 2007 10:34am ET
Your point about the market deciding is spot-on. But isn't that exactly what Jancis Robinson wrote as well?
William Delaney
Arlington VA —  June 29, 2007 1:35pm ET
The noise is the market.
Guus Hateboer
Netherlands —  June 29, 2007 3:19pm ET
James, just think of all the people that once enjoyed the wines of the First Growths and enjoyed having such bottles in their cellar, and presenting them at special events and dinners. For the general wine lover these wines have become impossibilities now. That is just a sad thing. I don't care that the market is always right, blah, blah, blah; these prices are simply ridiculous for the quality that 2006 offers, and you know it. Lafite: 444 euro, Haut-Bages-Liberal (same JS score): 25 euro. And now we just have to wait until the market decides that prices go down again. Yeah, let's wait, no reason to be upset, just wait.
Thomas J Manzo
Brielle, NJ —  June 29, 2007 3:54pm ET
James is right, the market will decide. People shouldn't sit around and take it personally, but should get over it and play the market - look elsewhere. Buy outstanding and classic wines from currently lower-priced regions; then, as Fred said, wait to see what happens when Bordeaux futures hit the shelves. Overall, accept the marketplace for what it is, and try to look past the fact that you (and I) can't afford first-growths, and appreciate all the other outstanding, affordable wines that the current marketplace makes available to us.
Kerstin Hallert
paris france —  July 5, 2007 1:54am ET
Whenever I taste American wines as I did at Vinexpo in Bordeaux I long for a discussion on why American red wines taste like lemonade in comparison to French wines - especially as the sugary taste is a trend spreading to the Australians plus a steady increase inalcohol strength.

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