It's stupid: one gets accustomed to practically anything. Even Bordeaux prices that explode in a good vintage. We hear and read complaints everywhere, but the complaining is not surprising so we get used to it, and such is the fact with the prices themselves.
The next thing I am going to say is undoubtedly quite politically incorrect: the Bordeaux price level is actually becoming quite Burgundian. Take, for example, the brilliant Haut-Bailly 2009. This is one of the very best Bordeaux's to be found these days. It costs you about € 105 which is what you pay for a good Grand Cru in Burgundy, not even a brilliant one.
One reaction to this could be: in Burgundy prices are more constant. But that is also largely the result of the difference in commercial systems: the open Place de Bordeaux enables the Bordeaux market to function as a financial market. Wines become stocks, and even more so when drinkers become investors.
Needless to say, as a wine lover and merchant I am unhappy with these high prices, as I'm also unhappy to pay that money for great Burgundies.
With what we've seen happen during the last week I can already quote myself after 3 weeks. On 28 april I wrote: "The more expensive the wine, the bigger the relative price raise" (and I added some 'proof' from the 'conquered' 2005 vintage). The average relative price raise this week was about two times as high as it was before this week. All details can be read on the Liv-ex Fine Wine Market Blog.
What I find interesting is that some wines sell, and some just don't, and the aspect relative price (raise) clearly plays a key role here. I always remember the advice from a real estate agent that one should set the price a fraction cheaper than expected so that buyers attack like vultures.
Of course, I should give examples. In my perception smart prices were given to (in no particular order) Du Tertre, Cantenac-Brown and Cantemerle. These wines sell well, they simply rendered value above expectation. The most striking price, in the positive sense, was from Château Raymond Lafon, and as I blogged earlier everyone should buy this beautiful Sauternes, if only to say thank you to the Mesliers for pricing their wine so friendly. Jancis Robinson found the Raymond Lafon one of the best Sauternes she tasted this year!
It is hard for me to understand why a château would set an un-smart price, thus a bit too high. It probably isn't really un-smart, and a strategy behind it might be to reposition a wine, or - what I read somewhere - to make the previous vintages look cheaper in order to push demand for those wines. Interesting, but that seems like shifting the problem to the next vintage.
Some examples of wines that have been released too expensive: Pagodes de Cos, Beauséjour Duffau-Lagarrosse and l'Evangile. The real estate agent's theory: if it doesn't sell, there something wrong, and if there's something wrong, it doesn't sell anymore. With the result that the price will eventually come down. I can imagine it's not what the château-owner wants. As I reported earlier, I heard this already happened with the Pagodes.
For all new prices see Twitter (also comparisons with the years 2008, 2005 and 2000) and Bordoverview. There you will also see Lafite's micro-release at about 755 euro consumer price, so 'micro' that it can virtually be found nowhere.
From a quality perspective 2009 was already a vintage that needs careful selection. For the price it's the same story. As most of you probably know, apart from being a blogger I am also a merchant, and on my offers page bordeaux-2009.nl I indicate which primeurs I think have good value (there's a yellow or red "P" behind the name of the wine). Despite the price, which will make every sensible person think first.
But on second thought the wish to purchase some 2009 might eventually lead to a purchase. And then there are great - affordable - wines to find. It really doesn't always have to be Lynch Bages or Pontet-Canet. What about great value wines such as La Tour du Pin, or Ormes de Pez, or Clos du Jaugueyron, or (there he is again!) Raymond Lafon. Buying these will not lead to your bankruptcy; you will have some splendid 2009s in your cellar.
I hope next week will be the last week of this long campaign. I am actually looking forward to doing some other things, such as playing with my lovely light red Loires. The stuff that costs a fraction of all these Bordeaux's yet can make me as happy as a child.
Beware, next week we will see some extreme releases. We can only hope things won't get too extreme.