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2009 Bordeaux en primeur: will it succeed?

The major event of 2010 is sure to be the 2009 Bordeaux en primeur campaign. If early reports are to be believed, quality is on a par with some of the region’s finest vintages ever.

With the last three campaigns having been mediocre at best, there will surely be an attempt to increase prices to maximise revenue. This is particularly true of the first growths, which released the 2008s at prices significantly lower than both 2007 and 2006.

Is the 2005 release price a likely target? Since the summer of 2006, currency movements have been far from kind to UK and US consumers. A return to the price of the 2005 vintage in euro terms would make it the most expensive vintage on record, by 30% for UK buyers and 26% for those in the US.

This would also make the vintage a pricey option when compared to other currently available years – only 1982, 2000 and 2005 would fetch a higher price.

With this in mind, what is the best buying strategy for the 2009 campaign? The answer may be somewhat surprising. The last vintage released at a big premium to the general market was the 2005 – which was priced higher at release than all other generally available years, bar 1982.

As the chart below (which shows the % price increase of 33 leading châteaux from July ‘06 to Nov ‘09 in selected vintages) shows, the 2005 vintage has actually been the worst performer since its release.

It is the comparatively lesser years of 2001 and 2002 that have shown the greatest returns, with both showing a price rise of 89% over the period. Indeed, the average price increase of all other vintages in the chart equals 63%; 18% higher than that shown by 2005.

In essence, the high price of the 2005 vintage sparked price rises among its lower priced peers. If the trend of four years ago is repeated, then 2006 and 2008 are likely to represent the best opportunities for investment. The 2004 vintage and those of the mid ‘90s also look extremely cheap.

So just how successful will the campaign be? In general the outlook is positive. The buzz surrounding the vintage is enormous and collectors and merchants who have largely sat out recent campaigns may well return. There are, however, a number of caveats to consider.

With exchange rates against them and the recovery still fragile, collectors in the US and UK may tread carefully, particularly at the very top end.

Asian demand for a big en primeur campaign is also uncertain. Traditionally Asian collectors have chased brand and value, looking for the cheapest examples of the wines they favour. They also prefer to buy wine when it is physical. Will buying expensive wine on a futures basis appeal?

It seems unlikely that Asia will replace the demand lost in the UK/US completely. There are certainly no guarantees that general demand will return to the levels seen for the 2005 vintage and the châteaux will need to price the wines carefully to support the still fragile market recovery of the past 12 months.

Nevertheless, a blockbuster vintage will attract publicity and new money – this can only be positive for the market in 2010.




Jack Hibberd, research manager, Liv-Ex

Taken from the Fine Wine Monitor in the January 2010 edition of the drinks business

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