Sunday, June 27, 2010

Bordeaux 2009 - campaign ended with an explosion

Bordeaux 2009, the primeur campaign "Mit dem Paukenschlag". Or better: with annoying fireworks at the finale. I almost regret that I made a modest effort to write something less negative about the high prices (previous posting). Because this last week things simply exploded. There is this Disney image where eyes become dollar signs, and last week some châteaux owners must have looked like that.

The week before last week, just before I wrote my 'friendly' posting, we had seen more or less reasonable releases on Friday (18 June). Most of these wines also sell quite well.

- LEOVILLE-BARTON: +132% on 08, +26% on 05 and +113% on 00
- LANGOA-BARTON: +100% on 08
- DE CHEVALIER ROUGE: +94% on 08, +45% on 05 and +72% on 00
- DE CHEVALIER BLANC: +33% on 08, +25% on 07 and +28% on 05
- DE FIEUZAL ROUGE: +56% on 08, +33% on 05 and +6% on 00
- HAUT-BAILLY: +94% on 08, +71% on 05 and +171% on 00
- SMITH HAUT LAFITTE ROUGE: +121% on 08, +57% on 05 and +102% on 00
- SMITH HAUT LAFITTE BLANC: +31% on 08, +31% on 07 and +36% on 05
- BRANE-CANTENAC: +101% on 08, +37% on 05 and +53% on 00

So the price, on average, about doubled? Terrible of course, but only the brilliant Haut-Bailly surpassed the magic 100 euro line. So most fans can still buy some bottles. If only the price will come down again (same percentages!) for future "classic" vintages!

But then last week (also more or less the campaign's week): let's look at some crazy prices (presented are are average consumer prices including VAT):

- LEOVILLE-POYFERRE ± € 100 (+172% on 08 | +50% on 05 | +154% on 00)
(the result of the Parker 97-100 score)
- LA MISSION HAUT-BRION ± € 740! (+336%! on 2008)
(enormously overpriced wine…)
- LATOUR ± € 825! (+361,5%! on 2008)
(even out-pricing last week's Lafite)
- MONTROSE ± € 150 (+157% on 08 | +64% on 05 | +177% on 00)
(also as a result of a very good rating)
- PICHON BARON ± € 125 (+109% on 08 | +15% on 05 | +114% on 00)
(thus less extreme actually...)
- PALMER ± € 296 (+153% on 08 | +43% on 05 | +139% on 00)
(glad there's Alter Ego which is great too)
- LA CONSEILLANTE ± € 191 (+233% on 08 | +77% on 05 | +51% on 00)
(another wine that has just become out of reach)
- CANON ± € 125 (+150% on 08 | +67% on 05 | +120% on 00)
(bigger raise then sibling Rauzan-Ségla, they came from same price)
- MARGAUX ± € 740 (+315,4% on 2008)
(modest compared to Latour… if the word modest is applicable here)
- PAPE CLEMENT ± € 128 (+42% on 08 | +3% on 05 | +127% on 00)
(seriously modest from Bernard - Billboard - Magrez)
- DUCRU-BEAUCAILLOU ± € 248 (+188% on 08 | +67% on 05 | +213% on 00)
(painful, way too high, doesn't spark much interest from buyers)
- FIGEAC ± € 220 (+290% on 08 | +127% on 05 | +240% on 00)
(miscalculation from a wine dreaming of promotion to 1er GCC-A?)
- PICHON COMTESSE ± € 174 (+223% on 08 | +52% on 05 | +119% on 00)
(trying to cock a snook at the Baron? sad...)
- HAUT-BRION ± € 825 (+300% on 2008)
(following Latour, not Lafite and Margaux)
- ANGÉLUS ± € 289 (+256% on 08 | +36% on 05 | +110% on 00)
(the lunacy continues)
- COS D'ESTOURNEL ± € 289 (+223% on 08 | +75% on 05 | +265% on 00)
(some people said this price wasn't as bad as expected)
- d'YQUEM ± € 740 (+237,5% on 2008)
(in line with Lafite and Margaux)
- LÉOVILLE-LAS-CASES ± € 298 (+173% on 08 | +20% on 05 | +137% on 00)
(also as expected, monumental wine)
- CHEVAL BLANC ± € 960 (+133% on the 2008)
(who can buy this? but I'd really like to drink it…)
- VIEUX CHATEAU CERTAN ± € 215 (+311% on 08 | +63% on 05 | +117% on 00)
(extreme raise, for this brilliant wine)

So the one that we're still missing is Ausone. The wine will probably be released Monday or Thursday. What will the price be? At least as much as Cheval Blanc, but perhaps the Vautiers will make a nice round up to 1.000 or 1.250 euro. We'll know very soon.

[postscript: Ausone was released Monday 167% above the 2008 opening price, people who can find it will see a price of about 1,350 - 1,500 euro]

More pricing information: Bordoverview
Buying primeurs: (with buying tips: see the wines that are marked with a yellow or red letter "P")

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Bordeaux 2009 - slowly approaching the finish, finally

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 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.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Bordeaux 2009, WINElife, and the lovely biodynamic low-alcohol Ze Bulle Zéro Pointé

The Bordeaux 2009 campaign is a long one. But these are fun weeks, with lots of talking about prices of course. Compared to 2008 this year is expensive, but compared to 2005 and also 2000 the difference isn't always so big. Actually, some châteaux present a relatively attractive price, and at the same time some are too expensive. Compare for example the average consumer prices of the the following two second wines of second cru's:

Sarget de Gruaud Larose 2009 @ ± € 17
+14% on 2008
+7% on 2005
+2% on 2000

Les Pagodes de Cos 2009 @ ± € 51 (3x Sarget)
+82% on 2008
+71% on 2005
+151% on 2000

Pagodes is perhaps meant to be a more serious wine for the long term, but at the same time we can say it comes from the less refined Saint-Estèphe terroir... whereas the Sarget is a true Saint-Julien. Also, Gruaud Larose is in very good shape this year. I think it is quite clear which of the two is the better buy...

Before the wines were released I had listed the Pagodes as a possible buying tip, but with this crazy price I will have to take it from that list. In all actuality it doesn't deserve to be sold, and I learned that in the meanwhile the wine is offered at lower prices, implying that it's indeed a tough sell.

Anyway, the coming week some big releases are expected, which I will tweet, including the comparisons with the years 2008, 2005 and 2000. I should mention fellow blogger Gavin Quinney, who said the picture is not complete when the price comparison is limited to the two last vintages only.

Then for something completely different. I would like to promote the new Dutch wine magazine WINElife. I think it's a very beautiful new magazine, with interesting articles, and I happen to contribute to this magazine. But there is one thing that bothers me a bit, and the good thing about a blog is that I can use it to express these bothers, or even: to correct what is not perfectly correct.

The issue: above an article that I wrote about Bordeaux 2009 the editor has placed the title "Special, but not great." If you read the article you can see that this is not an accurate heading. It should have read "Special, and sometimes great." No big deal, but I wanted to have said this. For the record. For the rest my advice to all Dutch wine lovers is to subscribe to this beautiful magazine!

At last, with Bolomey Wijnimport we had a lovely tasting and dinner last Tuesday with two special guests from France, the biodynamic winemakers Philippe and Françoise Gourdon from the Saumur region, and Nicolaas Klei, the famous Dutch wine writer who has been a source of inspiration for me for over the last 10 years. For Dutch readers: if you buy Elsevier this week, you find an article by Klei about the irresistible Ze Bulle Zéro Pointé's from the Gourdons. And if you can't contain yourself... you can even buy these beauties online!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Vos & Partners tasting

Dwayne Perreault - Not wanting to post about an event far too late, I will now report on the Vos & Partners tasting that was held at the beautiful Duin & Kruidberg estate on March 29th. Representatives from 33 reputable producers were assembled to present and discuss their wines. These are some of my more memorable impressions:

Les Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) – Eric Getten, Commercial Director

Unfortunately, Château Lafite Rothschild was not presented but we were treated to Duhart Milon Rothschild 2006. David posted recently that a combined western and particulary Asian demand with anything Lafite has driven the price of Duhart Milon 2009 up by 72.7% For what it’s worth, I found the 2006 pretty average.

Jean-Claude Boisset - Gregory Patriat, Winemaker

Gregory Patriat is the wunderkind of Burgundy who was making Romanée-Conti when he was 18 years old. And he has some pretty unorthodox ideas about the closures for his bottles. He’s mad about screwcaps. He points out that they have been in use in Burgundy since 1968, when they were first used in Chalon-sur-Saône. The caps he uses are made by Alcan and are specially designed for bottle ageing. I sell his Hautes Côtes de Nuits 2005 and the wine is as fresh as a summer meadow, with hints of acacia honey and blossom. Notable is the Puligny Montrachet 1cru Champs Gains 2006, aged in one year old barrels. Soft and round already, but should reach its peak in five years.

Domaine Buisson-Battault – Francois Buisson, owner/winemaker

I’m proud to sell a number of these quality white Burgundies, including the Meursault 1er Cru Charmes 2005. The 06 is fabulous, very classical with a refined smell of semolina, and the outlook is also very good for Les Criots 2007.

Domaine de la Laidière – Freddy Estienne, owner/winemaker

I’ve previously posted on this blog about the rosé from this house in Bandol and the wine is as excellent as ever, but I wanted to call attention to Estienne’s Bandol Blanc. Let’s face it, white Bandols are not not nearly as popular here as the reds and rosés and this is not an everyday wine, but it is gastronomically an extremely useful wine made from 60% Clairette and 40% Ugni Blanc, perfect for a baked Dorado.

Château Fortia – Pierre Pastre, manager

This estate in Chateauneuf-du-Pape is a piece of French wine history. It was here where Baron Le Roy de Boiseaumarie first proposed a set of rules to classify the wines of Chateauneuf-du-Pape. This classification system later evolved into the AOC.

Like all southern Rhône producers, Pierre Pastre has a high regard for Grenache noir and cannot understand why the grape is disparaged in some circles. Even so, Fortia makes two different Chateauneuf-du-Papes: the more elegant Tradition 2006 is made from 75% Grenache and 25% Syrah, but the robust Cuvée du Baron 2007 has 50% Grenache, 40% Syrah and 10% Mourvèdre.

Grupo Faustino – Antonio Jose Pinilla / Victor Zaragoza

One of the most recognizable names in Rioja, the Faustino group also has vineyards in La Mancha, Navarra and Ribera del Duero. The Navarra wines labelled Fortius are particularly good wines for the money. The Tempranillo 2007 is very refreshing and would make a great house wine. The Merlot Crianza 2004 is darker and more complex, beautiful but still affordable.

Among the Riojas, most notable were the Faustino de Autor Reserva 2001 and especially the Faustino I Gran Reserva 1998.

And after a full day’s tasting, we sat down and ate a four-course dinner.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Vincent Mulliez of Belle-Vue dies

This evening I read the very sad news that the energetic owner of Belle-Vue, De Gironville and Bolaire died at the age of 44. Unbelievable. Mulliez has done an incredible job improving the quality of these wines over the last - more or less - six years.

I have been working with Château Belle-Vue since I started my import in 2008, and later also with Château Bolaire. In July 2009 I have visited Mulliez, about which I wrote on this blog. Jane Anson reports about Mulliez' death on