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Bordeaux 2015: Release overload swamps merchants

The slew of big name releases yesterday saw the en primeur campaign roar back to life but it was too much at once and many wines went begging say merchants.

May bank holidays in France and the UK as well as Vinexpo Hong Kong brought a sizeable pause in proceedings until this week.

Rauzan-Ségla and fellow Chanel-owned property, Canon, released on Tuesday, with prices many deemed sensible but yesterday (1 June), 20 châteaux including Calon Ségur, Smith Haut-Lafitte, Grand Puy Lacoste and Léoville Poyferré all released in the space of six hours.

The chief problem was the sheer volume of wines released which far outpaced an earlier ‘deluge’ last month after Pontet-Canet’s release and left merchants swamped and unable to effectively sell many of them.

Berry Bros & Rudd’s fine wine buying director, Max Lalondrelle, told the drinks business: “As usual the Chateaux have very little sympathy for the merchant who, for as little as 4% net margin distribute their wines globally. We are missing on a lot of opportunity to properly distribute their wines and represent their brands in the best possible way.

“If you imagine a sales person wanting to sell a wine to one of their already very annoyed customers, trying to sing the praise of a particular cru and having to cut the conversation short because there is another wine coming out in its trail. We have been waiting for 6 weeks and yet again we are subjected to an onslaught of releases. Like for like we are behind last year in volume if we remove the top 10 wines.”

David Roberts MW, buying director at Goedhuis, agreed that the volume of releases had raised, “issues both administratively and from the perspective of buyer fatigue.

“It is also inevitable that certain wines from some of the less acclaimed estate are overlooked – had they released earlier they would have received more attention. The prices are at the higher end of our estimates which works for the best wines of the vintage but has made sales more difficult for some of the mid-tier wines.”

Price increases were often hefty (over 30% above 2014 releases was common and Canon was over 50% higher) but, as usual, some will have been mis-judged while others worked.

Corney & Barrow’s Joe Muller, said it was certainly a “mixed bag”. He added: “Rauzan Ségla sold exceptionally well and with justified reason, whilst the anticipation of Calon was almost certainly going to work below £700 a case. Léoville Poyferre continued this theme of quality at a pleasing price point, where I’d hope sales of this continue strongly over the next two days – a second wine of such pedigree at this price deserves credit.

“Once again Calon Ségur released at a price that works, giving the devoted Calon follower and general Claret lover a bargain. The later releases this afternoon offer some fine drinking but I think it is fair to say at less compelling prices.”

Likewise, Lalondrelle said that despite the struggles in some areas of this campaign, “all is not lost as we have some very good releases with Giscours, selling 15,000 bottles, Pape Clement, Rauzan Segla, Pontet Canet, Smith Haut Lafitte, Leoville Barton, Calon Ségur, Cantenac Brown, Alter Ego, Climens, Du Tertre, Moulin St George all selling in big numbers.

“Margaux as a region as well Pessac Léognan and St Emilion are so far proving very popular with customers and our hard earned large allocation are finally paying off! So, overall, no too gloomy but a lot can still go wrong.”

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