Bordeaux 2017: Is Carruades’ release ambitious or just right?

After a slight slowdown in releases following various May bank holidays in France and the UK, there was a surprise release from a Bordeaux first growth this week.

Too hot or just right?

Carruades de Lafite, the second label of Château Lafite was released yesterday (29 May) on the opening day of Vinexpo Hong Kong.

With the big trade fair still going on many négociants have not yet released their stocks but a few have and have stuck with the price Carruades was released at last year, €135 a bottle.

If others follow this course then the wine will be offered in London for around £1,650 a case, the same in sterling terms as the 2016.

Lafite is widely considered to have produced, even “by a whisker”, the best first growth of the 2017 vintage but the same can’t quite be said of its second label.

The wine received an 89-91 point score from Neal Martin who thought there wasn’t much depth to it and Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW scored it only slightly better at 90-92.

What to make of the release then – at least on the current assumption pricing will stay the same as the 2016?

On the one hand, the en primeur sceptic could justifiably say this is a cynical effort from the estate born out of a knowledge that négociants will accept Carruades at any given price, as they have with Rieussec and L’Evangile, in order to secure allocations of the grand vin.

On more of a numbers game however, this doesn’t look like a bad release at all. The 89-91 points awarded by Martin are the same as he gave to the 2016 and if the wine is of comparable quality then one would expect a release at an equivalent price.

Even if the prevailing sentiment is that estates need to lower their prices in this campaign versus their 2016s, there is an argument that this can also depend on how a particular label performs in the secondary market.

If the point of an en primeur price is to give collectors the chance to buy at the best (cheapest) possible price then now is certainly the time to buy Carruades.

Such is the strength of the brand (“especially in Asia,” hence the timing of its release to coincide with Vinexpo, noted Wine Lister) that scores and prices are of only passing concern.

Carruades, and the other second labels, are among the strongest performing brands in the secondary market at the moment and the Carruades index on Liv-ex has gained 22% in the last 12 months.

To give an example of the utter lack of correlation between price and score, even the abysmally scored 2013 (78 from Martin) currently trades for over £2,500 a case.

Even at the same release price as the 2016, the 2017 will be almost £1,000 cheaper than that vintage and by far the cheapest Carruades on the market.

Liv-ex noted on its blog: “Given the track record of Carruades as a sound en primeur investment, today’s opening price looks attractive for buyers who are able to source stock.

“There is no correlation between price and score, instead the newest offering tends to normalise with the market prices of vintages trading in the secondary market within months. Already the wine is being bid on Liv-ex at £1,006 per 6×75, a premium of 20% to the expected ex-London open.”

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