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Fine wine buyers shun Bordeaux for Napa

Buyers are shunning “boring” Bordeaux for an “eclectic” collection of fine wines, particularly cult Californian Cabernets, according to Fine & Rare director of fine wine, Joss Fowler.

Following a drinks business story on the rising demand for California’s Screaming Eagle in Asia, Fowler contacted db and reported a surge in sales for the label in 2013, including a £100,000 deal this week.

“We are selling a shedload of top-end American stuff at the moment, and we’ve sold something silly on Screaming Eagle – around £560,000 this year, including £100,000 on the day before yesterday.”

Fowler believes the call for the cult Cabernet, which sells for over £1,000 a bottle, stems from the wine’s “genuine rarity” and the fact it’s “different”.

“It’s genuinely prestigious and interesting,” he also stated.

He speculated that fine wine buyers are demanding Californian, along with Italian wines, because they are looking for something other than Bordeaux, which is increasingly deemed unexciting.

“Bordeaux is boring,” he said.

Furthermore, its image has been damaged by the rise and fall of prices on the secondary market.

“Bordeaux has been tainted by the commodity thing, the up and down of prices – even hyper-Bordeaux like Le Pin and Pétrus has been affected.”

Aside from Screaming Eagle, Fowler recorded rising demand for other Californian fine wines such as Bond Estate, Shafer Vineyards, Paul Hobbs, Harlan, Colgin and Sine Qua Non – with the latter in particular demand.

Explaining Fine & Rare’s success with these wines, he added, “I doubt many other merchants [in the UK] have sold as much as we have of this kit because we have been very good at sourcing it.”

Beyond the top-end Californian Cabernets, Fowler told db that Fine & Rare was selling a lot of Italian wine, from the traditional regions, such as Brunello di Montalcino, to the more modern Super Tuscans.

As for Bordeaux, he said sales were focused on mature wines, recording a recent sale of 1990 Château Lynch-Bages.

Summing up, he said, “We are selling the most extraordinary, eclectic mix, leaning a bit towards Italy… we are selling wines that offer value, or wines with romance.

“But what is slightly more difficult to sell today is the wine which selling five years ago was like shooting fish in a barrel: we’re no longer selling pallets of classed growth Bordeaux to speculators.”

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