Bordeaux 2013: weakest since 2007?

9th April, 2014 by Rupert Millar

Half of the merchants in Liv-ex’s Bordeaux 2013 en primeur survey have voted the vintage the weakest out of 2007, 2008, 2011 and 2012 for the first growths in terms of quality.

chateau-margaux

Margaux 2013 – both loved and hated by the trade

Fifty-one percent of respondents voted 2013 the least good of the five vintages for the five first growths and another 30% voted it the fourth worst.

The 2007 vintage was voted the worst by 42% of merchants and 57% voted 2008 the strongest.

Overall, only a few compared 2013 to vintages such as 2001 or 2004 (good years) and some went as far as to compare it to 1992 and 1997 which were notoriously bad.

In total, the 2013 vintage garnered 88 points out of 100 on average, the same as 2007, when scored on a “Robert Parker” scale.

Over 70% of merchants are expecting 20% less demand than last year, with only a bare 2% expecting more.

Despite the apparent disappointment with the first growths, they still dominated the 10 most preferred wines of the vintage which included: Yquem (at the top), Mouton, Margaux, Cos d’Estournel, Pichon-Lalande, Haut-Brion and Vieux Château Certan.

The 10 most disappointing wines included: Lafite, Pontet-Canet, Palmer, Ducru Beaucaillou and, paradoxically, Margaux again, which Liv-ex noted showed the “divisiveness” of the vintage.

Grand Puy Lacoste was pegged as potentially being the best value wine (if it releases at less than £500 a case), as were Calon Ségur, Batailley, Talbot and Léoville Barton among others.

When asked to estimate release prices of nine wines, Mouton was placed at €211 per bottle ex-négociant, Pichon-Lalande €55.50, Cheval Blanc €300 and Talbot €24.9.

Overall it was thought prices in the “basket” would drop 10% on 2012 and remain 25% above 2008 release prices.

Criticisms of the wine included terms such as “skeletal”, and “rasping” but there were positives too.

“Charming”, “pleasant” and “fresh” were common attributes and the sweet and dry whites were labelled, “excellent” and “superb” by many – Yquem’s position as top wine of the vintage is the first time it has ever been voted thus.

Joss Fowler of Fine & Rare recently told the drinks business that he may gave the white wines a low level push this year and he thought Smith Haut-Lafitte’s dry white one of the top buys of the campaign.

Followers of social media will have noted a level of friction between commentators over the treatment of 2013 and Liv-ex’s survey will no doubt stoke more debate.

Christian Seely, managing director of Axa Millesimes, told db that he wanted more “balance” in the en primeur debate this year, admitting it had been a difficult year and wasn’t “the greatest” but also that good wines had been made, in small quantities and were expensive to produce.

It is to be hoped that consumers will buy the better wines en primeur to have in their collection and to have something to drink while waiting for other, longer-lived, vintages to begin drinking.

On the other hand, as it is clearly not an investment-grade wine, why should buyers have to spend investment-grade prices in order to have them? It is around the pricing of this vintage rather than it’s quality (real or imagined) that the problem has perhaps always centred.

The full survey can be seen here

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