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Cazes: We’ll lower our prices to a reasonable level

Sylvie Cazes, director of Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande has admitted that prices for the Bordeaux 2011 vintage will have to come down to a reasonable level.

“Our 2011 prices will have to come down, but it’s a case of what’s reasonable – we’re looking at 10-15%”, she told the drinks business yesterday at the château’s en primeur tasting.

“Our 2010 prices were up 10% on 2009, so there’s no question we have to come down as 2011 isn’t as spectacular a vintage,” Cazes added, emphasising that she wants a quick campaign this year, and for prices to be released in time for Vinexpo Hong Kong at the end of May.

Despite being in the shadow of 2009 and 2010, Cazes is confident about the quality of Pichon 2011: “It has good acidity, wonderful freshness, good structure and depth, and slightly lower alcohol,” Cazes told db, admitting that the secret to success in 2011 was avoiding over-extraction.

She compared the vintage to both 2001 and 2008, describing it as softer than the former and more concentrated than the latter.

“Sorting was vital to success – we had our team picking berry by berry,” she said.

As to whether the Asian market was losing interest in Bordeaux, Cazes is unconvinced: “People say the Chinese are moving on to Burgundy and the Rhône but we’re expecting a swarm of visitors in the next two weeks.

“They’ve latched onto the fact that primeurs runs for three weeks and are visiting either side of the main week,” she said.

Meanwhile, Francois-Xavier Borie, owner of Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste, agreed with Cazes that 2011 prices need to drop.

“We’ll listen to the market and price accordingly. I’ve already had a few messages from négociants telling me what they are willing to pay,” he admitted, adding, “I sold all my 2009 and 2010 stock en primeur, so I want to hold some 2011 back this year.”

David Allen MW, fine wine buyer at Coe Vintners, stated that if the Bordelais don’t put their prices down significantly then speculators “might take their money elsewhere and put it in gold.”

Allen predicts many châteaux will come out too high, believing a drop of 10-15% to be “a gracious move.”

“I’ve still got some 2009 and 2010 stock at close to release price for investment and people will buy 2007 and 2008 to drink, so they’ll need a very good reason to buy 2011,” he told db, revealing that he’d sold more Opus One than Bordeaux to China in the last six months.

In Sauternes, Pierre Lurton, director of Château d’Yquem, revealed the superb quality of 2011 Yquem was the “big surprise” of the vintage.

The abnormal weather conditions in 2011, including a summer-like spring and rainy August, lead to a rare burst of noble rot creating fully botrytised grapes.

“Our 2011 Yquem is better than both 2009 and 2010. The wines have 145g of residual sugar but retain amazing freshness and balance,” he said, comparing the vintage to both 2001 and 2005, and describing the wines as having “the purity of a diamond.”

In terms of pricing for the reds, including Château Cheval Blanc, which he also runs, Lurton agrees with Cazes that they must come down.

“2011 is not the same story as 2009 and 2010 – a different positioning is needed. The Bordelais should lower their prices by at least 20-30%,” he admitted.

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