Monday, June 16, 2008

The only thing rising in Bordeaux is the rain meter

The rain in Spain may stay mainly on the plain, but in Bordeaux it just stays. And it is getting colder.

"C'est le bordel," is how Jean-Luc Thunevin put it this morning, Monday 16th June. A bordel is literally 'a brothel', but the translation is more along the lines of an effing mess.

Included in the bordel is: the endless rain, the warm temperatures, then the cold ones, the mildew risk, the mud that is making it difficult for the tractors to get into the vines and spray, the wet flowering – although Thunevin says that this has, for some unknown reason actually been OK – and the fact that everyone is working flat out spraying when they can, deleafing and dealing with the fact that replanting in the rain is a pain.

Not included in Thunevin's bordel comment this morning are the primeurs. But they can't be helping.

All the first growths bar Yquem are out now, at the amazing, but not amazing enough apparently, reduction of 26% - meaning 200 euro ex-château, 240 to the trade.

Which makes them lower compared to 2006 but still expensive compared to what they were selling for in 2004 – about 80 euro ex-château. Although, compared to 2004 the big difference is that 2007 is available for sale and the 2004 is harder to find. So you do have to take that into account.

Whether Yquem will come out or not is apparently in doubt. They don't always sell en primeur anyway, but even so, it will be seen I am sure as another indication of a dismal primeur campaign.

A call to Hubert de Boüard was slightly more positive. Yes, the rain is a bordel, or as he put it 'le bazar' – I think that's how it is spelt anyway, it means much the same thing, only without the image of red dresses dumped all over the room. And on the upside Angélus is out – 85 euro ex chateau, 23% down on 2006, 100 to the trade – and the phones are hopping with calls from courtiers. A call to another négociant however reveals that at his end for Angélus, 'the phones are not ringing off the hook'.

The message of lower prices helping sales does seem to be getting through at last however. As I write, Léoville-las-Cases has just come out - down about 29% on last year. That one was also rumoured not to be coming out.

The trouble is that for the campaign as a whole, despite everyone having their individual story about why and how their price is like that, it is, quite simply, overpriced.

And when everyone comes round to buying it in shops it will still be overpriced, compared to other vintages and compared to other wines from France and the rest of the winemaking world.

Please take note: I, and about million other people, foresee great bargains in supermarkets come the Foire-Aux-Vins in September 2009.

But, oh why didn't they lower their prices, goes the chorus. And why, can't the first growths come out first and set a good example? Gnashing of teeth and wailing. Not in our time, the response to the responsorial psalm.

Now, even as we speak a war of nerves is most likely being played out between Cheval Blanc and Ausone as to who will blink first and release a price. Only to be trounced, no doubt by the other. Ausone is expected, by the way at 30% up on the first growths, so 260 ex-château?

Anyway. It is all very well in local terms, and great for gossip, but what does it actually do for the consumer? Zip. But, who knows, I bet if it was all nice, and orderly and according to plan, the greatest out first, with nicely lowered prices, and the rest following, people would be complaining that the romance had gone.

Oh my god. It has actually stopped raining for a moment. No. Sorry. It has started again.

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