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‘Best’ wine of 2013 released

The “best” wine of the 2013 Bordeaux vintage, Château d’Yquem, has released at €250 per bottle, the same price as the 2011.

Château d’Yquem photo credit: Gerard Uféras

This is the Sauternes estate’s first release since the 2011 vintage (no sweet wine was produced in 2012) and despite the laurels it has already accrued, at €250 per bottle ex-négociant there has been no rise on the price between the two vintages.

The 2013 vintage in Bordeaux was a difficult and often disappointing year for the region’s red wines but it was a triumph for the whites both dry and sweet.

Robert Parker praised the whites in his overview of the vintage calling them “excellent” and hailing Yquem in particular as “one of the all-time great d’Yquems I’ve ever tasted”.

Neal Martin rated the wine 95-97 points calling it “honeyed” and “rich” with a “luscious” palate full of ‘Seville orange marmalade, fresh apricot, a hint of spice and passion fruit.”

The Liv-ex buyers’ survey of the 2013 vintage named Yquem as “wine of the vintage” too, the first time a white wine had ever taken the top spot in the survey.

On the other hand, Yquem has historically struggled in the secondary market since its 2005 “repositioning” (along with fellow LVMH-owned property Cheval Blanc).

In 2013 it was noted that post-2005 vintages have generally struggled to hold their value following their release, particularly those over £2,000 per case of 12. The 2011 is no exception, hitting the market at £2,900 p/cs at the end of September 2013, the 2011 has since slowly dipped by just over 23% in value. Is the same in store for the 2013?

The evidence is not encouraging. As Liv-ex co-director Justin Gibbs told the drinks business: “Whichever way you look it’s difficult. The problem here is, it’s nothing to do with quality. It’s everything to do with current market prices and money lost on vintages stretching back to ’05.”

The 2013 is hitting the market at £2,400 per dozen, the 2011 (having dipped) is being offered at £2,225, the similarly great 2007 is down from £3,900 to £2,350. One can go all the way back to the 1998 – which is not quite as good – and find a case for £1,400.

The litany of disappointment continues. The 2005 was released at £4,000 and is now being offered at £1,950 in the marketplace and the 2006 has gone from £3,230 on release to £1,650.

Only two wines in the past 10 years are currently more expensive than the newly released 2013 and they’re the 2009 and 2010 and even their current prices of over £3,000 p/cs mask respective dips of 31.8% and 29.3% from their starting prices. The truly excellent 1989 Yquem meanwhile is being offered at £2,500 p/cs and the equally renowned 1990 at £2,300. Are they more attractive offers to the “casual” Yquem buyer?

As Gibbs continued: “It makes it quite tricky for merchants to go out and sell Yquem when collectors have found they’ve lost lots of money. All the prices are clearly becoming far more sensible than they were but there are still lots of issues to work through especially the fact that you can buy any comparable back vintage cheaper.”

There have been no bids on Liv-ex for the 2013 “so far”.

It “leaves a bit of a bitter taste,” agrees Corney & Barrow’s fine wine director, Will Hargrove, but it is worth bearing in mind the exchange rate as well; the euro having dropped hugely against the pound and US dollar over the past year – which explains how the 2011 and 2013 could have released at the same price and yet the 2013 is close to £500 cheaper on release.

Both Berry Bros & Rudd’s fine wine director, Max Lalondrelle and Hargrove told db they didn’t think the price was “bad”, Lalondrelle still thought it a bit “too expensive”, but neither expected a “stampede” either. Lalondrelle said BBR had sold around 200 cases of the 2011 and he was “hoping to sell some of the ’13 though the demand is not as big,” while Hargrove thought its quality and early-drinking potential would make it an attractive buy, especially in half bottles.

Both were appreciative of Yquem’s material support and willingness to “engage” with merchants.

Also out today was the 2014 wine of Yquem’s dry white, “Y” d’Yquem, which is being offered at around £465 per six in bond. The wine is aged in oak, a third of which are new barrels, and the lees are stirred regularly for 10 months. The blend is predominantly Sauvignon Blanc with a few select lots of Sémillon.

Hargrove noted there had been reasonable demand for the Ygrec, particularly in magnum, “which is fun.”

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