Friday, May 28, 2010

Bordeaux 2009 - the calm before the storm

An event like Vinexpo Hong Kong (25-27 May)... they should do that every year during the futures campaign: what a bliss, this whole week without 2009 releases... finally time for other things!

I have the feeling that - later - we will be talking about pre-Vinexpo releases (part 1 of the campaign), and post-Vinexpo releases (part 2). Like last year we talked about the 2008s released before, and the ones released after Parker's verdict.

What I (and many others) fear is that the prices will get out of hand. If the expensive wines increase with the same percentage as the more affordable ones [have done until now - i.e. at an average increase of 27% compared to 2008] I think we should be quite happy. But the more likely scenario is: the more expensive the wine, the bigger the relative price raise. As we saw happen in 2005:

- Ausone 2005 * 400% above 2004
- Margaux 2005 * 330% above 2004
- Latour 2005 * 285% above 2004
- Larcis-Ducasse 2005 * 295% above 2004
- Troplong-Mondot 2005 * 290% above 2004
- Mouton-Rothschild 2005 * 265% above 2004
- Léoville-Las-Cases 2005 * 255% above 2004
- Lafite-Rothschild 2005 * 250% above 2004
- Cheval-Blanc 2005 * 225% above 2004
- Ducru-Beaucaillou 2005 * 185% above 2004
- Cos-d'Estournel 2005 * 175% above 2004
- Pavie 2005 * 170% above 2004
- Angélus 2005 * 155% above 2004
- Haut-Brion 2005 * 150% above 2004
- Léoville-Poyferré 2005 * 125% above 2004
- Vieux-Château-Certan 2005 * 125% above 2004
- Pape-Clément 2005 * 115% above 2004
- La Mission Haut-Brion 2005 * 105% above 2004
- Figeac 2005 * 100% above 2004
- Rauzan-Ségla 2005 * 100% above 2004
- Lynch-Bages 2005 * 100% above 2004
- Haut-Bailly 2005 * 95% above 2004
- Montrose 2005 * 95% above 2004
- Léoville-Barton 2005 * 85% above 2004
- Canon 2005 * 85% above 2004
- Brane-Cantenac 2005 * 70% above 2004
- Giscours 2005 * 65% above 2004
- Domaine de Chevalier 2005 * 50% above 2004
- Malescot-St-Exupéry 2005 * 40% above 2004
- Sociando-Mallet 2005 * 25% above 2004

The correlation is not perfect, there are more factors determining price (e.g. the 'Parker-effect' for Larcis-Ducasse), and the list is still quite short, but it seems clear that price and pedigree largely determine potential price raise.

And that's why there are speculations today about the premier crus to get even more expensive than they were in 2005... Lafite, Latour, Margaux... they are not just great wines, but luxury brands hunted by the same people how want to drive an Aston Martin and wear Patek Philippe.

The ordinary wine geek will probably only taste these wines upon invitation; so really, it pays to hang out with the new super riches. Too bad only, many of them buyers are from Asia, new millionaires who simply want to impress their (business) peers with the biggest names - c'est tout. We can only hope the Lafite that they pour will not be mixed with cola.

Another price-pushing factor for the premier crus is speculation. Individuals or funds who buy these wines as an investment simply push demand further beyond availability...

Anyway, it might be wise to just forget about the premier cru's; it's a different league - they're out of sight. Like I never think about buying an Aston Martin. Luckily there are lovely alternatives, e.g. the wines that I suggested in my April blog postings. You can also visit Bordoverview to get an idea about which wines might be interesting buys.

The lull before the storm. The first part of this posting was written last Friday. Now it is Sunday evening. As from tomorrow it will probably be a madhouse. For the 'dynamics' of the post-Vinexpo 2009 campaign price will clearly be the determining factor. And perhaps I should add: as always.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Bordeaux 2009 campaign in full swing

The afternoon of 20 May brings the first quiet hours after an avalanche of Bordeaux 2009 releases this week. Before the weekend it was dripping releases - some a bit interesting, some not at all - since last weekend it rained releases. To be more precise: the campaign seriously took off on Tuesday, and the most active day was yesterday (19 May).

And wow, price has really gone up. It's what we expected, but not hoped. In the end, more and more classics will get out of reach for most wine lovers. Furthermore, previous steep price raises did not quite precede good times. Pride goes before a fall... we have seen this happen in 1973 and in 1997.

But let's assume history will not repeat itself. For sure the owner of Raymond Lafon (Sauternes) is not going to be responsible for any trouble. Yesterday the Mesliers were the first and only to release their 2009 at a lower price than the year before (-12,3%). And that with very good notes, especially Jancis Robinson was ecstatic about the wine: "Very deep golden, with great tension and excitement and some green streaks, with layers of botrytis over them. Full and deep with intense botrytis. Great stuff! Unspittable, dried apricots (though so much richer than a Tokaji) and great acidity." With 19 from 20 points even 'outperforming' Climens and Suduiraut, at least according to Robinson. Neal Martin (part of the Parker team) was less enthusiastic with 'only' 92-94 points out of 100.

Chateau Raymon-Lafon 2005 Sauternes
We should all welcome this noble move and buy Raymond Lafon... yes, this move ought to be rewarded by frantic sales! You can start here: bordeaux-2009.nl.

The opposite is Château Duhart-Milon 2009. Better to be called Duhart-Milon-Rothschild. Because that last part explains a great deal of the 72,7% price raise: everyone - especially if they are from Asia - is looking for Lafite. And when the Grand Vin became too hard to find (and even harder to pay) people went to Carruades. As a result Carruades got a crazy price too, so since, I'd say a little less than a year, Duhart-Milon seems to be the next target. This combined with a big Parker-score (94-96), and the bonus of the vintage, resulted in a very high price. Nevertheless, this wine will sell.

The most interesting releases the last four days (purely subjective): Fonroque, Grand Corbin Despagne, Tour du Pin, Duhart-Milon, Poujeaux, Raymond Lafon, Du Tertre and Ormes de Pez.

For all prices of released wines see Bordoverview.com. The actual releases can also be followed via Twitter.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Why not import wine?

Dwayne PERREAULT - “Why don’t you import wine yourself?” I’ve been asked this question a number of times, and I got to wondering why. My answer is sincere and always the same: because I don’t have to. Yet if I leave it at that, the person gets a puzzled look on their face and I realize I haven’t satisfied their curiosity.

You see, in order for someone to ask that question, it must be generally regarded that there is nothing finer than being a wine importer. It’s as if that is what every person who works in the wine industry aspires to do. It’s true the Dutch have a long history of being traders and merchants, particularly in wine. A quick internet search will show you that this has not changed much in the past 400 years. Only God and the Chamber of Commerce know how many wine importers there are in the Netherlands, but Holland’s Master of Wine Frank Smulders once told me there are “far too many.” There are importers specializing in virtually every wine producing region in the world, whether it be Australia, Hungary, Canada or India (who in the Netherlands drinks Indian wine?).

Some of these people might be pure hobbyists: tourist goes on vacation, “discovers” a wine and decides to start importing it. Others are more serious, bringing a wealth of knowledge and expertise to what they do. And they are the reason I do not feel any need to import wine: I am extremely satisfied with the selection and prices of my smaller wine importers, who are able to negotiate with smaller houses.

But I have one large importer, and not your average one either. My business, wineontime.nl, is the only online wine shop which is able to buy wines from Vos & Partners, who deal exclusively in gastronomical wines for restaurants and hotels. Vos & Partners is part of the Dirkzwager Groep, the largest wine and spirit importer in the Netherlands. In this way, I am able to offer my customers the same wines they might find, for example, in the Amstel Hotel (but for more friendly prices).

Every year Vos & Partners hosts a large tasting event for its clients. This year it was held in Landgoed Duin & Kruidberg, a turn of the century estate in Sandpoort, next to the dunes. The winemakers from 33 reputable producers, including Lafite Rothschild, Jean-Claude Boisset, De Ladoucette, Faustino, Buisson-Battault and Château Fortia were assembled to present their wines. More on that in my next posting.