Out of the blocks well ahead of the pack on Wednesday was flying fifth Pontet-Canet.
Tongues immediately began wagging as to how sensible a move it was and if setting the price at the same level as last year was justified before the wine had even been tasted.
“I doff my cap to him (Alfred Tesseron),” Joss Fowler, director of fine wine at Fine and Rare, told the drinks business. “He’s got everyone talking about his wine.”
Co-owner Melanie Tesseron told db that most négociants had moved quickly to secure their allocations – some even asking for more than is actually available.
However, as Justin Gibbs, co-director at Liv-ex pointed out: “A wine that sells out, is a wine that sells out off international merchants’ lists.”
With no merchants offering the wine until their buyers have tasted it, he said Pontet-Canet had released “into a vacuum” with a market “yet to form” around it.
He did though think that Tesseron’s example about setting a price that was best for “brand” Pontet-Canet was both an indicator of what other estates may do as well as being an example it would be wise to follow this campaign.
“What it signals more than anything, is that château this year will be pricing to their own feelings, not following their neighbours,” he thought.
“Time will tell if Pontet-Canet’s pricing is right but the sentiment about doing what’s right for your wine is a good sentiment.
“Châteaux will need to read the mood. If someone prices their wine at X which doesn’t reflect the mood and it doesn’t sell then don’t follow it.”
With most merchants and press set to descend on Bordeaux this weekend, the vague worry is that Pontet-Canet may have set a precedent that some château may try and follow but otherwise the feeling is that this year’s pricing game will be “interesting” and essentially a question of those who need to preserve their cash flow and those that wish to preserve their brand.
Going back to Pontet-Canet, Fowler admits that, “over the past few years Alfred’s proved himself quite good at getting the price right.
“The question is, in 2013 who’s the price right for? Him or us? The wines may be fine but whether they’re worth buying en primeur, that’s all down to price.”
Max Lalondrelle, fine wine director at Berry Bros & Rudd is expecting (or hoping for), “a lot of very different things. Some will need to sell, they need the money. Others, run by big corporations, may not need to drop their prices.
“People who have worked hard to make the best wine and promote their brand might try to carry on and if there’s only 20% of the wine anyway why drop the price? Some of the properties who can afford it may hold or reduce by a token amount. For them it makes sense though it doesn’t for the market at all.”
“It’ll come down to who actually needs to sell the wine,” agreed Fowler. “Some owners may feel a price that we think is too high for the consumer preserves their brand.
“Is that right or wrong? I don’t know.”
As for how BBR greeted the release, Lalondrelle said: “It took us by surprise but we went on with the day and sold a lot of Vouvray actually.”