Large sections of the global wine trade and fourth estate gathered in Bordeaux and its outlying châteaux this week for a preview of the 2012 vintage at the annual en primeur tastings. Last year’s vintage was the second challenging one for Bordeaux wine producers and there are contrasting reports as to the quality of last year’s wines. According to visitors to this year’s tastings, such as the Liv-Ex team, “those who had hoped for a clear picture of the new vintage may feel frustrated - reports on 2012’s quality are varied and there is little consensus as to which are the stand-out wines”. Berry Brothers & Rudd Fine Wine Buying Director, Max Lalondrelle, commented that “2012 is an extremely variable vintage” and is not one that he could make any obvious comparisons with from previous years.
But perhaps as much of the quality of the vintage, the issue of price has been uppermost in people’s minds this year. As Max Lalondrelle commented following a brief visit to some of the châteaux last month, “it also looks to be another ‘Wine Merchant’s vintage’ where price will be a key issue and customers will need all of the advice, expertise and information they can find to select the best buys”. According to Liv-Ex, a current popular rumour is that the First Growths will release at 250 EUR/bottle ex-chateau, which translates to around 300 EUR/bottle ex-negociant. This equates to a London release price of approximately £3,400/12x75. “At this price several First Growths may have difficulties in finding a market”, believes Liv-Ex: “Haut Brion, Margaux and Mouton all have cheaper back vintages available. Latour is now irrelevant. Lafite is a law unto itself, and £3,400 per case would be a solid reduction on its 07, 08 and 11. But as the worst performing First Growth of the last two years, perhaps even it too will struggle”.