Diagnosis - Terminal Apathy
Many had hoped that the fine wine market would find genuine momentum following the kick start given by Robert Parker's generous bottle scores for the 2009 vintage and a sensible en primeur campaign.
There was much talk of the Bordelais having failed to listen last year and indications from the Châteaux seemed to say “we have got the message”. After all it was a relatively simple one; don’t let the campaign drag on and make your prices cheaper than readily available back vintages including those from years of similar quality!
Of course the winemakers of Sauternes have understood this due to their current and misplaced lack of favour with the serious wine collecting and investment fraternity.
The red wine makers have seemingly not understood at least part of the message, because so far we have only seen a hand full of top wines on the market. The campaign is threatened by the danger of terminal apathy.
The Bordeaux futures market has always relied upon hype, excitement and auction fever, to create and instil doubt. Buyers need to believe that it is now or never, or that the "last train is about to leave the station!"
The problem this year is the same as last year; the Bordelais have given buyers the opportunity to think.
There are plenty of readily available wines from back vintages of better quality and to top it all, the loud and clear message from last year is……
Don’t feel pressurised, because you are not getting a bargain, you do have time to think and buy the wine later for the same price.
If wines of the great 2010 vintage are still available at approximately the same price or lower than release, does anyone actually believe that they must buy into the lesser 2011 vintage at anything other than a bargain price?
Release prices have risen sharply over the last few years and there is no logical reason for Château owners to think that they can price this year's wine 20% less than last year due to a corresponding drop in quality. The whole point of the EP system is for estates to sell their wines via agents simply and quickly.
Therefore discounts needs to be against the price at which the previous vintages have gained traction on the open market and not an artificial one that has left them languishing on merchant's lists.
It is true that Château Pontet Canet has sold reasonably well and indeed the wine is priced slightly lower than other vintages of similar quality.
However, Château Pontet Canet and Vieux Château Certan are for me the two red wines that are of real interest this year. These wines from the top drawer have performed very well this year and have a good chance of being released at a sensible price.
I am not for a moment suggesting that these wines have great investment potential, although it is possible that they could appreciate in the relatively short term. Instead, this is a drinking vintage and at the price that Pontet Canet has released, I could eventually consider drinking this wine.
I have hopes that Vieux Château Certan will also release at a sensible price. The quality of wine from this estate has been improving over the last few years, whilst prices have yet to soar beyond the reach of mere mortals.
As one of the top rated wines of the vintage, it is probably too much to hope to see it pegged against the current price for the 2008 vintage, but I would certainly hope to see it sitting midway between that and 2005.
|Vieux Château Certan
|Vinalytics Av Score
|Average Merchant Price
*Vieux Château Certan is the highest scoring red wine of the vintage following Château Cheval Blanc which was rated 95.1 by a spread of reviewers
I do not accept that reducing prices to a sensible level in lesser vintages will devalue the luxury aspiration of a brand. Sensible pricing this year will send a clear message that Châteaux owners do actually care that their products are enjoyed by true aficionados and that they are not just trying to maximise their profit by riding in on the back of speculators.