Parker: Bordeaux primeurs ‘largely dead’

The practice of buying Bordeaux en primeur has lost all its appeal for collectors unless the vintage is exceptional, according to wine critic Robert Parker.

Robert Parker

Robert Parker

In an exclusive interview with the drinks business earlier this month – just before Parker announced his decision to stop scoring Bordeaux en primeur – the world’s most influential wine critic said that Bordeaux had destroyed its futures market by overpricing poor vintages, and needed to be held accountable for its approach.

“I think that the en primeurs market – except in a great, great vintage – is largely moribund, it is largely dead, for now,” he stated.

Continuing, he said, “Bordeaux has to have a reckoning soon about their pricing.”

Explaining his comments, he said that classed growth châteaux owners had set release prices so high that there was no longer an advantage in buying the wine before it is bottled.

Looking back over his 37-year career tasting Bordeaux from barrel, he recalled that over 20 years ago collectors benefitted from buying the top labels before the wines were bottled. “You could buy futures of ‘82 in 83 at remarkably fair prices…and by the time the wines came onto the market they were at a higher price, and that continued for 2 to 3, to 4 years,” he said.

However, following this period, he recorded a change in the pricing policy among the top châteaux. “Then they started raising the prices higher and higher, so you were being asked to pay prices for unbottled wines two years before you received them for prices that will essentially be the same as when they came out, and the prices could actually even drop – and we’ve seen this trend for the last 20 years.”

He added that he understood the urge to increase prices in exceptional vintages, but couldn’t see the sense in retaining these high prices in lesser years. “I have always told the Bordelaise that I have no problem if you are going to charge an extraordinary price for a great vintage – we know 2009s, 2005s, 2010s are great – but when you have a so-so vintage, this is when you can really build market share, and they have lost market share,” he remarked.

Indeed, Parker said that Bordeaux had destroyed its market. “They’ve lost consumers and restaurants – you go to an American restaurant now and there is very little Bordeaux on the list,” he recorded.

Blaming the near disappearance of Bordeaux from the US market on recent high pricing of lesser vintages he said, “2011 was a mediocre vintage that was overpriced, 2012 was a little bit better vintage that was still overpriced, 2013 was generally a poor vintage that was overpriced, and now we have 2014, and I think they [the Bordelaise] recognise that they have a backlog of unsold Bordeaux, and that people aren’t speculating in Bordeaux, and that the Chinese are out of the market in terms of speculation.”

Furthermore, he expressed his frustration that the Bordelaise had chosen to ignore his advice to bring down release prices in poor vintages.

“There are so many people that I know well, that I consider professionals acquaintances, that I have enormous respect and admiration for what they achieve in the vineyards and wineries, and yet when they come to pricing their wine they totally ignore me.”

Continuing, he said, “They certainly recognise that here is a person who travels the world, and understands the Chinese market, the Japanese market, the Korean market, the European market, the American market, that here is a person who has a perspective that has been gained through 37 years, and yet you dismiss that because you don’t want to sell your wine at a few euros less, or half a euro less than your neighbour? That doesn’t make sense, but they’ve been doing it, and the chickens are going to come to roost unless they really drop prices in 2014.”

And when Parker was asked by db how much he believed prices should fall, he said that interest in buying Bordeaux en primeur would only be “rekindled” if “prices dropped 20-30% across the board.”

Parker’s sentiments are similar to those of the UK wine merchants, who recently penned a letter to the Bordeaux trade requesting a lowering of en primeur prices to 2008 levels, although the châteaux are laughing at the idea that this year’s en primeur campaign will see prices close to 2008, according to Bordeaux wine critic Jean-Marc Quarin, who is based in the region.

5 Responses to “Parker: Bordeaux primeurs ‘largely dead’”

  1. Ron Freund says:

    Dear Mr Parker, from our point of view – the point of view “investment in wine”, you are right.

    Wine Index Last % 3 Months % 6 Months % 1 Year % Perf. / Overall Perf. / Year

    WIN 100 -3,35 % +7,62 % +6,35 % +14,13 % +1.031,94 % +13,48 %
    BOR-I -0,08 % +7,50 % +7,51 % +14,74 % +791,53 % +12,08 %
    BUR-I -0,13 % +16,75 % +16,17 % +21,49 % +1.390,58 % +15,12 %
    CHAM-I +0,03 % +1,65 % +15,28 % +13,89 % +1.288,35 % +14,70 %
    ITAL-I -0,03 % +19,47 % +16,60 % +24,44 % +979,68 % +13,20 %
    USA-I +0,12 % +10,55 % +12,57 % +30,83 % +1.124,86 % +13,95 %
    AUS-I +0,01 % +5,99 % +3,47 % -2,40 % +570,19 % +10,42 %
    PORT-I +1,01 % +7,29 % +14,44 % +19,30 % +738,50 % +11,72 %
    GER-I -0,03 % +6,90 % +23,56 % +2,79 % +825,00 % +12,29 %
    WIN 50 +1,07 % +13,12 % -3,70 % +16,26 % +667,03 % +16,71 %
    WIN 500 -0,36 % +8,13 % +6,76 % +11,13 % +310,19 % +11,30 %

  2. Fred Fedail says:

    It’s about time that someone of Robert Parkers prestige said something. I stopped offering futures to my customers years ago, and I also stopped buying them for my store in Pasadena. Parker is right, if you wait, the prices drop quite a bit. Thank you Robert Parker

  3. Ron Freund says:

    Top 100 wineries with the highest performance last 12 month

    Angelus on 8, Petrus on 80, Lafite on 89

    Rank Region Vineyard Perf.Overall Ø Last Year Trends Wine-Stocks Points
    1 California Sine Qua Non 159,70% 41,79% 28.036
    2 Burgundy Jayer Henri 673,95% 20,08% 27.318
    3 Burgundy Rouget E 119,54% 23,88% 27.156
    4 Burgundy Jayer Georges 270,63% 29,50% 27.124
    5 Burgundy Leroy 172,22% 17,35% 26.982
    6 Burgundy Krug 158,90% 17,47% 26.879
    7 Champagne Moet Chandon 229,59% 68,47% 26.859
    8 Bordeaux Angelus 119,06% 20,42% 26.790
    9 California Heitz 163,48% 21,28% 26.357
    10 California Mayacamas 348,47% 37,32% 26.282
    11 Champagne Salon 130,76% 19,67% 26.249
    12 Piedmont Conterno Giacomo 132,36% 16,60% 26.199
    13 Burgundy Arnoux Robert 87,82% 30,57% 26.199
    14 Burgundy Rousseau A 289,46% 10,34% 26.157
    15 Rhone Noel Verset 1674,56% 39,51% 26.093
    16 Burgundy Engel Rene 268,43% 28,22% 26.077
    17 California Screaming Eagle 73,40% 24,20% 26.023
    18 Portugal Niepoort 215,90% 29,92% 26.003
    19 Australia Yarra Yering 108,56% 77,89% 25.918
    20 Rhone Chave Jean Louis 108,54% 14,14% 25.887
    21 Burgundy Hudelot Noellat 98,48% 20,47% 25.824
    22 Burgundy Cathiard Sylvain 151,24% 18,45% 25.820
    23 Australia Chris Ringland 61,00% 36,45% 25.800
    24 Burgundy Roumier Georges 226,80% 9,15% 25.763
    25 Portugal Dow 152,89% 32,15% 25.726
    26 Burgundy Domaine d’Auvenay 212,10% 14,75% 25.665
    27 Piedmont Mascarello Bartolo 113,68% 16,73% 25.609
    28 Portugal Sandeman 246,75% 95,47% 25.569
    29 Burgundy Dujac 108,80% 10,52% 25.527
    30 Bordeaux Pavillon Blanc 98,54% 39,52% 25.525
    31 Rhone Gentaz Dervieux 2031,28% 167,43% 25.507
    32 Rhone Saint Prefert 54,19% 107,06% 25.490
    33 California Ridge Vineyard 94,38% 16,98% 25.479
    34 Rhone Jaboulet Aine 136,66% 16,26% 25.448
    35 Languedoc Domaine de la Grange des Peres 89,34% 19,91% 25.432
    36 Burgundy Barthod 125,29% 39,44% 25.421
    37 Champagne Sabon R 118,28% 117,46% 25.329
    38 California Phelps 72,68% 17,34% 25.327
    39 California Diamond Creek 165,45% 15,16% 25.280
    40 Tuscany Biondi Santi 99,40% 23,55% 25.278
    41 Portugal Justino Henriques 817,12% 115,00% 25.246
    42 Rioja CVNE 91,76% 31,04% 25.233
    43 Portugal Churchill 243,97% 81,52% 25.199
    44 California Verite 63,04% 19,70% 25.091
    45 Rhone Dervieux Thaize 1448,55% 70,00% 25.028
    46 Bordeaux Forts de Latour 105,21% 14,10% 25.027
    47 Tuscany Ornellaia 77,08% 14,43% 25.018
    48 California Clos du Val 239,63% 29,79% 25.000
    49 Burgundy Drouhin Joseph 132,52% 9,32% 24.997
    50 Champagne Dom Perignon 87,27% 11,55% 24.987
    51 Portugal Quinta do Serrado 175,50% 68,88% 24.981
    52 Murcia Bodegas El Nido 89,77% 28,63% 24.940
    53 Burgundy Esmonin Frederic 170,03% 24,08% 24.926
    54 Provence Domaine Tempier 91,42% 33,08% 24.924
    55 Burgundy Roulot Guy 82,81% 19,69% 24.913
    56 Burgundy Chezeaux Jerome 109,19% 39,61% 24.900
    57 California Corison 149,32% 29,39% 24.873
    58 California Inglenook 181,71% 36,05% 24.872
    59 Bordeaux Bahans Haut Brion 113,23% 23,19% 24.860
    60 Burgundy Domaine de la Romanee Conti 312,35% 4,07% 24.848
    61 Bordeaux Latour Haut Brion 252,49% 17,89% 24.842
    62 Bordeaux Liger Belair 71,68% 11,65% 24.836
    63 Bordeaux Beaulieu 69,89% 20,32% 24.836
    64 California Opus one 91,37% 13,51% 24.822
    65 Burgundy Ramonet 44,24% 26,01% 24.810
    66 California Dominus 48,83% 20,66% 24.770
    67 Portugal Leacock 461,78% 97,64% 24.769
    68 Burgundy Maume 132,94% 25,44% 24.767
    69 Bordeaux Pavillon Rouge 99,62% 14,42% 24.713
    70 Burgundy Gaunoux M 148,11% 24,57% 24.683
    71 California Forman Vineyard 80,28% 40,82% 24.626
    72 Champagne Bollinger 137,22% 8,14% 24.593
    73 Rioja Lopez de Heredia 56,15% 94,05% 24.577
    74 Burgundy Mugnier 128,83% 6,29% 24.547
    75 Burgundy Prieur Jacques 44,16% 24,04% 24.538
    76 Portugal Quarles Harris 102,52% 60,71% 24.457
    77 Castile en Leon Vega Sicilia 104,13% 11,24% 24.432
    78 Portugal Andresen JH 79,18% 68,18% 24.424
    79 Burgundy Dauvissat Rene et Vincent 161,21% 17,13% 24.380
    80 Bordeaux Petrus 163,03% 5,04% 24.377
    81 Piedmont Grasso Elio 72,51% 51,92% 24.376
    82 Portugal Taylor 83,01% 20,89% 24.370
    83 Bordeaux Clerc Milon 93,58% 26,53% 24.366
    84 Burgundy Esmonin Michel 297,02% 54,78% 24.355
    85 Portugal Blandy 73,77% 32,49% 24.294
    86 Piedmont Mascarello Giuseppe 82,91% 19,80% 24.283
    87 Loire Nicolas Joly 104,83% 22,32% 24.243
    88 Burgundy Coche Dury 64,36% 10,12% 24.221
    89 Bordeaux Lafite 186,91% 4,22% 24.212
    90 Bordeaux Caillou 164,62% 44,41% 24.207
    91 Piedmont Conterno Aldo 32,11% 28,05% 24.172
    92 Portugal Cockburn 281,66% 8,55% 24.144
    93 Bordeaux Latour 89,27% 5,67% 24.143
    94 Provence Domaine de Trevallon 61,59% 24,21% 24.132
    95 Burgundy Giroud Camille 113,44% 15,07% 24.122
    96 Rhone Gardine 99,02% 41,68% 24.119
    97 Rhone Mathilde et Yves Gangloff 52,59% 78,02% 24.037
    98 Portugal Warre 112,50% 21,93% 24.013
    99 Germany Schloss Eltz 199,90% 148,28% 23.972
    100 Portugal Kopke 251,55% 22,40% 23.958

  4. Great article and I think it is a great way to read it.
    Most people criticize Parker, but he has decades of experience and regarding Bordeaux En Primeur, I think he is fairly right.
    Let us wait for 2014 then.
    Cheers,

    Alessandra Esteves
    http://www.alessandraesteves.com

  5. Jason says:

    Bang on and I am glad someone is finally standing up to this crazy pricing. I bought en-primeur in 2007 / 2008 and since 2009 and 2010 prices have remained stupid. Cases are now being sold in 6’s at the same price in 2007 / 2008 you could buy a case of 12, so Robert Parker’s 20-30% price drop is, in my view, still not enough. I also see less and less Bordeaux in restaurants and I also question some of these >90 scores, maybe we’ve lost touch with what a 96 / 98 / 100 scored wine should actually be. Wines rated in 80-90 bracket probably ought to be in the 70’s, when did a wine last scored less than 75 – in which case maybe the cores should be 0-25 and not 0-100. Something has gone very wrong and pricing a 86 score wine at prices that used to be a 96 scored wine says it all.

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