The star releases of hors Bordeaux 2023: part 1
The runners and riders are now finally assembled for the September edition of La Place’s hors Bordeaux campaign. Our Bordeaux correspondent Colin Hay sets the scene, reveals the new entrants, and marks his card with a first set of tasting notes.
The typical depiction of La Place de Bordeaux is of an arcane, dusty and deeply conservative set of institutions established in an almost mythic past now long forgotten and that has hardly changed ever since. To some extent that is true. But La Place has always been a rather more dynamic entity than such an image credits, above all today. Whilst its unique and traditional tripartite structure (of property, courtier and négociant) remains, that tradition is in the process of being reinvented.
The incorporation and now institutionalisation of the annual September ‘beyond Bordeaux’ (or hors Bordeaux) campaign is a case in point.
Whilst this began almost three decades ago with the first release of a non-Bordeaux wine (Almaviva) through La Place, it was not until the release of Masseto in 2009 that the services of La Place can genuinely be said to have become available to properties not already firmly part of the Bordeaux firmament. And it is not really until the last two or three years that hors Bordeaux has become an established feature of the calendar of La Place – with the September campaign (and, if to a lesser extent, the newer March campaign) becoming key dates in the year almost as significant as en primeur itself.
The confirmation of that is the slow – if, presumably, somewhat grudging – acceptance by London based merchants and brokers of ‘hors Bordeaux’ as a thing. For the first time this year I see a number of key actors on la place de Londres (as it is sometimes called in Bordeaux) sending to their key customers the same kind of advance purchase orders that immediately precede the en primeur campaign.
As this suggests, the world has changed dramatically since the same brokers and merchants received their allocations for these wines directly from the properties themselves – without the intermediation of Bordeaux courtiers and négociants.
They are acutely aware of that and, perhaps more significantly, they are adapting themselves to the new rules of the game. Whether – and to what extent – Brexit has played a role in this is an interesting question for another day (and one that I hope to return to soon).
The depiction of this in London is no less illuminating than it is fascinating. In the terms of one leading London-based broker and merchant, “Imagine an en primeur campaign that surpasses all expectations—the Global Icons Releases 2023.
This collection showcases a myriad of international powerhouses, each garnering exceptional ratings within their respective categories. Starting from the 1st of September, a slew of extraordinary new wines will hit the shelves, boasting top scores and an undeniable allure that cannot be overlooked”.
And, as another puts it, “given their global reach, logistical expertise and breadth of customers, [La Place de Bordeaux is] the ideal platform for prestigious domaines to showcase their new releases. What started with just the yearly release of Opus One [sic] has grown over the past two decades to feature over 100 wines, from five continents, and become a permanent fixture on the wine trade calendar”.
Praise indeed. This makes hors Bordeaux sound like a great success. And it is. Up to a point. But it is important not to get carried away here and to remind ourselves of the context:
- The global market conditions this September are particularly challenging;
- The March campaign was not as successful as many had hoped, not least for a number of the new entrants, for many of the same reasons;
- Despite the quality of the vintage, the Bordeaux en primeur campaign has been widely judged as something of a damp squib; and
- Some of the ‘global icons’ have turned out to be a little less iconic than was imagined the day before their first release.
Crucially, not all those who have come to La Place in recent years are convinced that it is working well for them today.
The reasons for that are complex and, once again, a (fascinating) story for another day. For now, suffice it to note that this September’s campaign (which in fact starts in the last days of August with new releases from Caro and Chateau d’Aussières today and with Domaine de la Chapelle and Domaine de Baronarques following tomorrow) is likely to be seen as something of a test of the viability of the hors Bordeaux process in times of economic turbulence.
Some are asking whether La Place is now better able to make the market work hors Bordeaux than for en primeur itself. The stakes, in short, are high.
What is clear is that the tricky market conditions have not reduced the perceived desirability of consigning iconic labels to La Place, judging at least by the number of new releases this September.
Amongst well over 100 releases, over 20 labels are new. These come from France (including Caroline Frey’s Hermitage La Chapelle and Hermitage Le Chevalier de Sterimberg, Domaine de Baronarques, Domaine Barons de Rothschild’s Chateau d’Aussières, La Bouche du Roi and Philipponnat’s extremely rare micro-cuvée champagne from within Le Clos des Goisses, Les Cintres).
Also from Italy (with Giorgio Primo joining the already long list of Tuscan superstars), and from Spain (with De La Riva Macharnuda, Dolio and Matallana joining Yjar and Marqués de Riscal’s Tapias), and from the US (with Paul Hobbs bringing Cristina’s Signature from Napa to La Place to join Cobos from Mendoza, Peter Michael bringing Au Paradis and Les Pavots to La Place from Sonoma and Ernst Loosen’s Appassionata Fortissimo being the first release from the state of Oregon on La Place.
From Chile there have been first releases from Clos Apalta and Vigna Maquis in the Colchagua Valley, and from Argentina (with the first release of the joint venture between Nicolas Catena and Domaines Barons de Rothschild, Caro).
From Australia there is Yalumba The Octavius Old Vine Shiraz.
Finally, we have the first releases on La Place from New Zealand in the form of Craggy Range’s Le Sol and Aroha cuvées.
Amongst the already established stars of hors Bordeaux we will also see exciting releases from:
- Inglenook, Beaulieu Vineyard, Quintessa, Favia, Pym-Rae, Maya and Morlet in Napa Valley, California
- Masseto, Solaia, Bibi Graetz, Tenuta Sette Ponti, Petrolo and Allegrini in Italy;
- Marqués de Riscal and Yjar in Spain,
- Beaucastel in the Rhone Valley;
- Philipponnat, Clos Lanson and Leclerc Briant in Champagne;
- Almaviva, Seña and Vinedos Chadwick in Chile;
- Catena Zapata, Cheval des Andes, Cobos, Zuccardi and Bedega Monteviejo in Argentina;
- Wynns Coonawarra, Cloudburst and Jim Barry in Australia;
- Kracher in Austria; and
- Klein Constantia in South Africa.