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Yquem to skip en primeur this year

Château d’Yquem will not be sold en primeur this year due to unfavourable trading conditions, director Pierre Lurton has announced.

Citing the poor reception that has greeted the red wines this campaign, Lurton is reported to have said he will release the 2011 Yquem at a “more suitable moment” that “suits the excellence of the wine of this vintage”.

The move is reminiscent of Latour’s announcement before the start of the campaign that it would no longer be participating in the futures market.

However, Lurton did stress that this move was not a precursor to a similar announcement and that he considered it “very important” as a system, “it is simply that we feel it is not the right moment,” he concluded.

Max Lalondrelle, fine wine buying director at Berry Bros & Rudd, told the drinks business that Yquem sitting out the en primeurs was nothing new.

“I think historically it was never released en primeur,” he said. “Up to 2001 it was always released in September when the vintage was bottled. Primeurs for Yquem are really quite a new thing so there’s really nothing new about not releasing now.”

However, there have been suggestions from within Bordeaux that Lurton is simply not prepared to drop prices to make the wine sell and Lalondrelle added that there are questions that hang over Yquem in terms of value.

It was one of the highest rated wines by Robert Parker in 2011 at 96-98 points and the highest rated Sauternes.

Sauternes has also been praised this year for the quality of its wines and the value they offer too.

Compared to most of the red wines which have dropped by 30% to 50% in price on 2010 and still failed to find a market, most of the Sauternes have recorded more modest drops of around 7% to 12% or even no drop at all and have been picked up.

Pierre Lurton dispenses Yquem at Bibendum's recent tasting

Yquem though has perhaps pushed its pricing too far since joining en primeur leading Lalondrelle to comment: “Over the past five years Yquem prices have been way too much when compared to physical vintages.”

He noted that it was possible to buy Yquem from BBR at £141.50 p/b for the 1996 and £172 for the 1997 (all in bond).

Even the famed 2001 is still £400 a bottle which is the same price as 2010. “There’s a definitive lack of incentive to buying Yquem for the consumer,” Lalondrelle continued.

“If you want Yquem to drink you can go for the 96 or 97, even the 2001 if you wanted something more special. You don’t need to buy more recent vintages.”

He concluded that brand and image conscious owners were perhaps pushing prices of Yquem and Cheval Blanc further than the wines were sometimes worth.

Luxury group LVMH acquired Yquem in 1999, while Lurton – who is often credited with upping the estate’s quality – was asked to take over as managing director in 2004.

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