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Older vintages spark Bordeaux revival

Customers are being slowly drawn back to Bordeaux by the appeal of more mature vintages priced for drinking rather than speculation, according to Bordeaux Index.

“Given the turbulence in the last couple of years, people are less willing to take a long term position, but for vintages that are starting to be drunk people are prepared to dive in,” said Giles Cooper, head of marketing & PR for Bordeaux Index.

Reporting the most movement at the moment for the 1995 and ’96 vintages, Cooper explained: “it might be people who weren’t buying en primeur at that stage in their life so they don’t have those wines.”

However, he added: “The pain of the recent market, especially the ‘09s and ‘10s, is starting to make those ‘95s and ‘96s look extremely good value.”

As the merchant hosted a tasting yesterday of over 60 wines from the 2004 vintage, including all the first growths, Bordeaux Index buyer Gareth Birchley, acknowledged: “Outside the first growths and a few others there’s not really anything here for speculation, but there are a lot of really good value wines for drinking.”

With a tasting for private clients taking place later that day, Birchley predicted: “We would expect more orders off the back of this than a tasting like 2005 or 2009, which is just a box ticking exercise. With this vintage, people say, ‘These are so much better than I thought.’”

As well as their favourable price comparison with more recent Bordeaux vintages, Birchley set these mature vintages against the backdrop of rising prices elsewhere. “Look at those Burgundy 2012 prices,” he remarked. “You’re chasing a barrel or even half a barrel of wine in some cases.”

Broadening this image of the good value offered by Bordeaux, Birchley continued: “The thing Bordeaux has that Burgundy doesn’t, which is really important, is that it can make wine to a formula.”

In particular, he cited the example of Ronan by Clinet, an AC Bordeaux produced by the team at Pomerol’s Château Clinet, but which retails from Bordeaux Index at £6 per bottle, considerably lower than the company’s average bottle price of £140.

Revealing that Ronan by Clinet was “our biggest seller after Comtes de Champagne last year,” Birchley also noted the popularity of Ronan’s magnum and imperial formats.

“In Bordeaux there’s always the opportunity to use your brand and put yourself in another quality level,” he summed up. “That’s what Bordeaux has to push, that balance at the £10-15 level.”

Even among Bordeaux’s most prestigious, expensive names, Birchley pointed to some recent positive responses from consumers when they felt the price offered good value.

“Yquem hasn’t been that popular but we did an ’89 and ’90 offer last week and sold 130 dozen for £2,600 a case in an afternoon which was all we had,” he observed. “If it’s the right wine at the right price, it’s starting to be much more in demand.”

In recent years, Bordeaux Index has seen the proportion of business accounted for by Bordeaux become eroded by other regions. “Three years ago we were 85% Bordeaux sales; last year it was 58%,” said Birchley.

In particular, he pointed to significant growth from both the Rhône and Champagne “With Champagne we went from £3.5 million [annual sales] to 13m in three years and the Rhône went from £2m to £4m. That’s all filling the gap that Bordeaux left,” commented Birchley.

Despite this broadening of its sales base, Cooper insisted: “We’d really love to see a resurgence of people buying Bordeaux. It’s what the company was founded on and Bordeaux still produces more exceptional wine than anywhere else on the planet. People are obsessing about Burgundy and how Barolos are such good value but great Bordeaux is a different beast.”

Looking ahead to next month’s Bordeaux 2013 en primeur season, Cooper said: “We’re trying really, really hard not to be influenced by what we think will happen. We will go there, taste and hope, hope, hope it’s priced sensibly. I’m sure the negociants are sitting on a lot of 2012 and will want to make some space.”


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