Bordeaux 2016: Is anyone really trying anymore?

After a turbulent night in British politics and the pound looking a bit wobbly the Bordelais have decided that the best way to cheer up UK buyers is with a fresh wave of extravagant price increases.

Pontet-Canet, Pichon Comtesse and Haut-Bailly are this morning’s prospective candidates, following in the less than gilded footsteps of Smith Haut-Lafitte yesterday afternoon.

Unfortunately, despite being the sort of labels that merchants would normally bank on as well-scored, well-priced crowd pleasers they can sell truckloads of in a top vintage like 2016 – broadly speaking… they’re not.

Smith Haut-Lafitte chose to release at €76.80 per bottle ex-négoce, a 28% increase on the price of the 2015.

Run through Liv-ex’s ‘fair value’ system it was, by the skin of its grapes, on the ‘right’ side of justified when compared to the last 10 back vintages. Whether anyone will buy it in any volume is another question.

Pauillac second growth Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande was first out of the blocks this Friday morning, a day after its near-namesake and rival, Pichon Baron, emerged yesterday.

Surprisingly, it is more expensive than its baronial counterpart, out at €120 p/b to the other’s €114, so is £1,420 a case to the £1,350 Pichon Baron was being offered at yesterday (bearing in mind prices may now have shifted with sterling’s dip in the wake of the political announcements overnight).

Both wines received the same score from The Wine Advocate’s Neal Martin, 96-98, and it’s the best TWA score Pichon Comtesse has received in the last 10 years, better even than the 2009 and 2010 vintages received. It’s also the most expensive Pichon Comtesse on the market although it’s score perhaps just about justifies that.

Will buyers like it though? Normally Comtesse is a shade cheaper than Baron even with the same or occasionally even superior score.

It might have the same score from Martin and Antonio Galloni gave it a slightly better score than Baron – with 100-point potential in fact, but elsewhere it’s Pichon Baron that has the edge – with an 18.5 (versus 17-) from Jancis Robinson MW and 98-99 (vs 96-97) from James Suckling.

Corney & Barrow said its team had a slight preference for the Pichon Baron in its offer yesterday so it might come down to which wine merchants liked best. Goedhuis for example has taken a shine to Pichon Comtesse, Georgina Crawley saying that given the wine’s evident quality – with comparisons made to the 1982 and 1996 – “it gives the customer value over the long term as it’s definitely a wine to lay down. It’s been a real winner for us.”

Haut-Bailly was another big name release with a hefty price increase on 2015 – up 27% to €84 p/b.

Liv-ex’s analysis suggests it sits slap bang on the trend line when compared to its back vintages of the last decade.

At £996 a case it’s a shade less expensive than the 2015 – which has a slightly inferior TWA score to the 2016 (Martin rated it 96-98) – and the 2009 and 2010 vintages.

If one can find them, however, then the 2012 and 2008 vintages might look attractive at serious discounts but as the 2016’s being billed as one the ‘greatest’ wines produced by the estate by the likes of Martin and Galloni, it may hold some appeal.

The most egregious release of the day is undoubtedly from Pauillac fifth growth, Pontet-Canet.

Yes, its 95-97 point spread from Martin, who called it “extravagant”, is the best Wine Advocate score since 2010 and it has picked up top points elsewhere too: 98-99 from Suckling, 18 from Robinson, 96-99 from Galloni, 98-100 from Chris Kissack – though a slightly calmer 95 from Tim Atkin MW.

On the other hand, it’s 44% price increase is the steepest of the campaign by far. Is it really more than 40% better than the 94-96 point 2015 and worth nearly 50% more than the 2008, which has the same score?

Liv-ex’s method suggests the price is not justified, long time buyers may disagree.

Speaking of the releases overall, Corney & Barrow’s fine wine director Will Hargrove said: “[We’ve] No issues with the quality of the wines today but the prices are pushing the limits, we were happy to say people with a collection or who follow these estates that they will probably find it is the best time to buy them but it is hard to see people buying in any volume.”

There’s a very palpable feeling that prices have been creeping up in these latter stages of the campaign, exactly the same thing as happened last year with the 2015s. The campaign’s well into its second month, it’s failed to pick up any head of steam in the process and one gets the impression even the Bordelais aren’t really trying anymore at this stage.

2 Responses to “Bordeaux 2016: Is anyone really trying anymore?”

  1. Stevie Evans says:

    Quintessentially members are not tempted by the 2016 en primeur campaign wines which are bombarding inboxs currently. The wines are too expensive, even for the ultra rich. Consider by example the eight 2005 vintage Bordeaux red wines listed below are exceptional quality, and are better buys.

    These eight wines all score at least 94/100 (USA) or 18/20 (Europe) with the most prominent critics, and are each less expensive then the latest vintages of the same wine. Unlike the 2016 en primeur wines these 2005 vintage wines can be consumed now. Most of the Labour is done. You can also cellar them for at least another ten years if you like.

    (Prices are indicative UK market under bond.)

    Beau Sejour Becot, 2005, £750
    Beausejour Duffau, 2005, £750
    Cheval Blanc, 2005, £6500
    Cos d’Estournel 2005, £1600 (The Top Pick)
    Haut Bailly, 2005 £1050
    Mouton Rothschild, 2005 £5400
    Palmer, 2005 £2650
    Vieux Chateau Certan, 2005 £1950

    The eight 2005 vintage Bordeaux red wines listed above are exceptional quality, and are better buys than the wines offered in the 2016 en primeur campaign. Cos d’Estournel 2005 is in my opinion the best buy. It offers the holy trinity of an exceptional wine, that is drinking now, and is excellent value for money.

    A day post the UK election I suggest that you May drink history, but avoid futures temptation.

  2. Kevin says:

    This is ALL the top wine reviewers fault. High scores equal over priced wine. Maybe all the top critics should stop posting their scores before the futures are listed. Let the Chateaux taste and price their own wine.

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