Primeurs 2009

This has to be one of the longest Bordeaux Primeurs season ever… The first release was soon after the tasting week, on April 12. More than 2 months later we’re still at it. Last year Angelus was one of the first to release, in an effort to extend an olive branch to the market (especially to the negociants). This year, although we expected the big names to wait until after Vinexpo, none have released yet. I have been receiving reams and reams of offers for wines nobody cares about — except possibly their winemakers — and apart from the odd release of a semi-famous wine (including yesterday of one of my favorites, La Lagune, and of Korea’s favorite, Talbot), it’s been an intensely boring season.

I have spent the last few weeks poring over the Féret learning about wineries I really don’t want to hear about ever again, and beefing up on châteaux that may or may not be of interest one day. Meanwhile, clients are doing more or less the same, that is, they’re passing time any goddamn way they please, waiting for the big names to come out, and not buying anything in the mean time. Meanies. One client cum friend told me “to be honest, I am selling a lot of stuff, as I have too much [wtf? editor’s note :-)] and I want to buy more Burgs.” You my friend are getting dangerously close to the bottom of my Christmas card list…

In terms of price increase, the winery owners have been greedy, again. It’s like the myth of Sisyphus really. A never-ending chain of events that repeat themselves over time: a rise in prices over a few years, every good vintage being the vintage of the decade — hello 2005 and 2009; gradual exasperation of the patrons of this system over the gradual, and sometimes not so gradual gouging; a mix of financial crisis, bad vintage, overstocking (speculation is a very common phenomenon, fueled by runaway prices of a few wines); and there you go: rinse, wash, repeat…

This year, the closer we get to the top, the greedier the owners have been, so far. From a few % (over 2005) to 50%+. Speculations are running wild about Lafite’s release price. It could be as high as 8,000 GBP, I heard recently. I hope not, but it is definitely a possible. 2005 is now over 10,000; 2008 is around 8,000. And of course, a 2009 vintage being released at 8K would drag upwards the older vintages — 2006 is under 7K, it’s a bargain (sic) at this price, and give it a week or so, and it’ll be in the 8K camp too…

Madness, really. A famous winery owner said to me once that the Primeurs system would implode soon — many wines never see their value appreciate over their shelf life, whereas a few steal all the limelight. Especially the ones with the DBR and arrows logo. Why bother pre-financing wineries that don’t bring value to the financiers? Much as I hate to agree with this gentleman, and on the surface, the mind-numbing, month-and-a-half long release of wines nobody gives a, pardon my Francais, flying fuck about would seem to prove him wrong, but in the end, wines being released and wines being purchased are two different things. Time will tell.

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