Merchants: 2012 an ‘uphill struggle’

26th April, 2013 by Rupert Millar

Despite an early start, the Bordeaux 2012 campaign is proving a difficult sell, say UK merchants.

Mouton Rothschild_Le Fronton copy

Mouton and the other firsts have sold well so far.

The first growths were acknowledged as being successful but there has been little enthusiasm for many others.

“It’s a completely mixed picture,” Justerini & Brooks’ Bordeaux buyer, Tom Jenkins, told the drinks business.

“Some wines like Canon, like Lafite and the other firsts have made a real effort (with their pricing) and to a certain degree have captured the consumers’ imagination.

“There’s slight disillusionment with primeurs, clients want to feel they’re getting some love from Bordeaux.

“If a price goes down 35% it’s almost tempting enough to get buyers back into the market. Doesn’t mean it will work, just that it has a chance.”

It was a view echoed by Corney & Barrow’s associate director, Will Hargrove, and Berry Bros & Rudd’s fine wine buying director Max Lalondrelle.

Lalondrelle told db: “The first few wines were showing goodwill from Bordeaux. We thought we would be in for a good campaign with good prices and good wines – because the wines are good.

“Things have changed half way through. There have been reductions but not enough. The consumer is not biting.”

Two wines in particular that have fallen flat so far are Right Bank properties Angélus and Pavie, which released yesterday with increases on their 2011 releases of 30% and 58% respectively.

“Angélus and Pavie are absolutely crazy and they’re not going to work. It’s not a campaign to put prices up,” said Jenkins.

Hargrove simply said that Corney & Barrow had not included them on their mail-outs to clients, preferring the more sensibly priced Canon and Beau-Séjour Bécot.

“The pricing is not acceptable,” he said.

Talking of the pace of the campaign, Hargrove added that while the early start had got some momentum going, there still seemed to be a lack of urgency, particularly on the part of buyers.


Pricing of Pavie and Angélus “unacceptable”

Both merchants suggested that buyers may still be waiting for Robert Parker’s scores to be released before committing, although Jenkins added that, “Parker points probably won’t breathe life back into the campaign but there will be some high scoring wines.”

Hargrove said: “Customers are pleased to see reductions and it will result in sales but I think people are waiting for the bigger picture.”

Again, both thought it possible that other wines may receive more attention once the clamour surrounding the first growths dies down.

Lalondrelle was more sceptical though, saying: “When the wine is out people go and buy it and if you miss that impulse then people generally don’t come back.”

The main problem is, as Jenkins noted, “falling prices in past few years has built uncertainty. It was always going to be an uphill struggle regaining customers’ confidence in the en primeur market.”

Lalondrelle painted a dim picture from BBR’s point of view. Despite selling a reasonable amount so far, “in comparison to what we usually do it is quite small,” he said.

“Take Cantemerle: we did 15,000 bottles in 2010 and this year 840 bottles. Over the last two years on Chasse Spleen we have sold 12,000 bottles on average, this year 60 bottles.

“In 2010 with Clerc Milon we did 4,200 bottles and this year so far 480.”

There were positives to be had from the vintage. Although admittedly patchy in uniform quality, the merchants stressed that there were some “jolly nice wines, the high points possibly higher than 2011.”

“There are some serious wines,” said Hargrove, “but a lot will be very enjoyable soon after they arrive. It’s quite a good style of vintage to be had among a collection.”

Furthermore, the price cuts from the majority of châteaux means that most 2012s are the cheapest or among the cheapest wines on the market.

“And that’s the reason for buying en primeur,” said Jenkins.

Lalondrelle finished: “Usually we do small volumes of Canon and Rauzan Ségla but this year we have done more because they’ve cut their prices quite considerably.

“The wines are fantastic I think, not all of them but if the price is right it’s the sort of vintage where we could sell a lot and we will… if the price is right.”

Even if difficult, the campaign has at least escaped the tag of “worst in recent memory”, that the merchants gave to last year’s campaign.

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