Bordeaux 2017: Buy! Buy! Buy?

Like marbles pouring out of a bag the Bordeaux 2017 releases have continued apace this morning with some undoubtedly tempting offers from some of the region’s rising stars but they’re not all entirely in sync with the market.

Buy, Buy, Buy!

The last couple of days seem to have invigorated the campaign a little after a very slow start, with yesterday’s release of Pichon Comtesse viewed positively across the board and which has either sold through or soon will it appears.

Today (6 June) releases of particular note have been: Calon Ségur, Giscours, Brane Cantenac, Canon and Rauzan-Ségla – a clutch of Left Bank (and one Right Bank) estates that are rising stars for quality and – for the most part – representing good value.

First the two wines which look rather too finely balanced: Giscours and Brane-Cantenac.

Brane-Cantenac was listed by Liv-ex’s global members as a wines they hoped would be one of the ‘best value’ this campaign and by that they meant, at or below £500 a case.

As noted in our round-up of that list, however, following its 2016 release of €51 a bottle, it would have to come down quite a bit to achieve that wish.

Unfortunately, it seems to have been a wish too far. The 2017 was released today at €46.8 a bottle ex-négociant, down 9.3% versus the 2016 and giving it an in-bond price in London of £576 a dozen.

Volumes are down 35% due to frost damage and the wine has scores of 91-93 from Neal Martin (who thought it “classic”) but a few merchants contacted by the drinks business did not mention it when asked which of today’s releases had caught their eye.

Part of the problem is the 2014 with the same score can be found at a 23% discount and the 2016 – which Martin said was going to be the “benchmark against which future vintages will be compared” – is only slightly more expensive at a pinch over £600 a case. It seems as though Brane-Cantenac is destined to be a wallflower at this year’s party.

So too, in all likelihood, will Giscours. Out at €41.4 p/b ex-négoce, which is a reduction of 7% on the 2016, the wine is being offered for £510 a case.

The wine has reasonable scores but those from Martin are clearly inferior to the points he gave to the 2014, 2015 and 2016 vintages and, like Brane-Cantenac, the 2014 is 23% cheaper at the moment and the 2015 not much more expensive and the 2016 even the merest shade cheaper.

Finely balanced but, as Liv-ex notes, Giscours is a rising star and with volumes reduced by some 55% due to the frost it’s likely to find some buyers – just not many.

If the previous two have not raised much enthusiasm, the same can not be said of the other three, which Goedhuis’ chief executive, Tom Stopford Sackville, has said he expects to sell through – although Will Hargrove at Corney & Barrow joked that having ‘Canon’ and ‘Calon’ release at the same time was, “slightly inconvenient!” and caused some repetition in the office but sales had been “steady”

To begin with the “classy” Calon Ségur with its, “eminently reasonable price” (said Wine Lister) of €60 a bottle.

Somewhat paradoxically, the Saint Estèphe estate has only reduced its price by 3.8% on last year but where the wine seems to work is that all better rated back vintages are more expensive and any that are the same price or cheaper have inferior scores.

As Farr Vintners chairman, Stephen Browett, said: “Calon Ségur is – like Beychevelle – priced so that the consumer can buy at the same price or less than any other vintage on the market today. That’s what en primeur ought to be all about.”

Then the pair of estates owned by the House of Chanel: Rauzan Ségla in Margaux and Canon in Saint Emilion.

Both labels are very much ‘rising stars’, increasingly becoming ‘must buy’ wines year after year and have also been hitting it out of the park for the past few campaigns with their well-judged releases, a run they haven’t seem to have broken here either.

Rauzan-Ségla reduced its price by 12% on last year to €52.8 ex-négoce, giving it a London open price of £648 a dozen.

It has good scores from all the leading critics and volumes are 15% lower than last year and Liv-ex notes it is at a “healthy discount” to the price implied by its own ‘fair value’ method – the 2011, 2012 and 2016 also look like attractive options.

Canon meanwhile at £810 a dozen is, notes Liv-ex, “pitched above recent off vintages but below the greats” and while actually just over ‘fair value’, given the strength of the brand will likely work.

The 2014 is perhaps worth tracking down at its current price as well but Farr Vintners own assessment of the 2017 is: “If you are only going to buy one right bank wine in 2017 – this has got to be it.”

High praise indeed.

Despite the well-received releases of the three wines mentioned here, as well as Pichon Comtesse, Lynch Bages, Beychevelle, Lafleur and one or two others, interest in the campaign seems to be running rather flat, with Hargrove saying there was not, “a flood of interest” around every release and buyers seemed to be homing in on those labels they felt were really worth acquiring en primeur.

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