Thursday, 11 March 2010

Bordeaux 2009 (Part 2) - Prices

Following on from my previous Bordeaux 2009 post, I want to look at the potential pricing of the 2009 Bordeaux vintage.

Firstly, let's play the game of the Bordelais this time and ignore all the people that say you must wait until you've tried the wine before you judge it (a call that generally applies to journalists and merchants, not necessarily to the end consumer)...

OK, not being one to make sweeping generalisations, I think Robert Parker will like it - if not love it. I am slightly miffed by many people attacking his palate for being predictable because he does champion some beautiful wines (ref. 2001 Yquem), but I do think this vintage ticks all his boxes.

It was late, very ripe; has high alcohol levels, and high tannins [see below]. Again, one mustn't generalise but Parker will definitely like it.

So what of the prices?

Well, the first option is to price them low, to make them a bargain in order to stimulate more interest in Bordeaux. But how low? The problem is that if you price it at 2006, 2007 or even 2008 levels, you risk making all the customers of those vintages very angry indeed. You're essentially saying they paid too much for their wines (which they probably did, but that's another debate) and you're also highlighting the fact that in another superb vintage (2005) you took everyone for all the money they had. So no, I don't think it will be priced low.

On the other hand, the price tag could be set higher than 2005. Assuming that everyone reckons this is the vintage of the decade, that makes sense: it's the best wine of the last 10 years, so it should be the most expensive of the lot. But I don't think this will happen either.

Firstly, no matter how much Bordeaux everyone says they've sold in the past few years, I simply don't believe it. Secondly, with a poor economy, I think this would be a silly move, not least for the message it sends the rest of the world.

Another, albeit slightly tagential, part of the problem here is that, with all the hyperbole heaped on 2005, if 2009 is considered even better, where do the parameters of greatness fall? If 2009 is greater than the great 2005, could 2010 be greater than 2009? Of course it could.

My reckoning is that the Bordelais will market the 2009 vintage at around the same price as 2005 and incite the notion that this is a great, bargain vintage. This seems to be the only thing they can really do while (a) not devaluing any previous wines and (b) appearing to offer a good deal.

And all it will prove is that, for all those concerned with buying and drinking the stuff, 2001 and 2004 were the best Bordeaux vintages of the last decade...

  • You can download Bill Blatch's highly-detailed Bordeaux 2009 vintage report here - simply right-click on the link and left-click 'save target as' or 'save link as' and you can read it yourself! And please take the time to check out Bill Blatch - he is the Bordeaux insider's insider....

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  • Monday, 8 February 2010

    Bordeaux 2009 (Part 1)

    About this time last year I was at a Sauternes tasting in London and a very cross Christian Seely pulled me to one side to give me a good dressing-down. Over the past couple of months I'd been writing news reports on the possible state of the 2008 harvest. It was wasn't flattering, I'll be honest, but it was what was circulating at the time. I had quoted much of the French press who were playing it down, saying how bad the weather was before the harvest, etc. etc.

    Seely had taken umbrage. Essentially, he said: 'how can you make judgements on the wines before anyone's tasted them yet'. Believe me, he's not the first person in Bordeaux to have said similar things.

    So let's admit he had a point.

    Now lets also take a minute and think about how much hype has been generated within Bordeaux for the 2009 vintage. There have been endless reports on how great the vintage is. Just recently, Bill Blatch has written a huge report on, yes, the weather on Jancis Robinson MW's site. Has Christian Seely given Bill a call and told him off for talking about the weather and the wines before En Primeur? It's probably safe to assume he hasn't.

    So the first conclusion we can make is that when you hear nothing from Bordeaux it's likely to be a mediocre to poor vintage.

    And let's think about the weather for a second. A while ago I made the point that most winemakers from Bordeaux will tell you not to talk about the weather and wait until you've tasted the wines at En Primeur, after that they say you have to wait until they're bottled; once they're bottled, you have to wait for them to get a bit of age before they're ready, and then, in 20-30 years time, you open the bottle and all anyone in the room can talk about is what the weather was like during the vintage.

    Let me make a second point - about winemaking. Any winemaker who knows what s/he's doing - and there are a few in Bordeaux - will know pretty much straight away how good the wine is going to be. S/he also knows how good/bad it is compared to other years. You don't need to wait for En Primeur for that. So once again, you can assume that if all is quiet in Bordeaux, it's a mediocre year.

    But why stop the press from reporting this? Well, simply because it makes business sense. After all, last year the UGC 'pleaded' with the press to help make consumers love their wines.

    So what can we conclude? Well, if everyone was honest, we'd be able to get a general idea of the vintage from the winemakers themselves in September, six months before En Primeur. And with all the hype this year about a great vintage, how long can Bordeaux go on complaining about the bad press in the not-so-good vintages?

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