En primeur 2015 – the word inside Bordeaux – Decanter


En primeur 2015: The word inside Bordeaux It started innocuously enough with a headline on Monday morning in the local Sud Ouest newspaper that proclaimed the Bordeaux 2015 vintage was the ‘last chance to save the en primeur system’. We’ve all heard that before of course. This time around it was an interview with the president of négociant company Vintex, Patrice Ricard, who organises one of the most popular ‘off-circuit’ tastings for buyers and journalists. It was a great interview from local journalist César Compadre, a pretty searing analysis of the primeurs but nothing that we don’t already know, detailing too many years of overpriced wines, small releases, unsold stocks piling up in merchants’ cellars. ‘Thankfully interest rates are still low,’ Ricard said, ‘which means it doesn’t cost too much to finance the stocks sitting in the distribution chain. If they were higher, the whole thing would have already blown up’. Ricard mentioned the superb châteaux that are available to buy between €10 and €20 and lamented the focus on the big names that often directs attention away from these smaller properties. This is the part where you know the drill. I tell you what is happening behind the scenes but don’t tell you who told me. This time it is a number of small châteaux owners who were both relieved and rather thrilled to read Ricard’s ‘courageous’ (their words) views that suggested both that they should be given more of a chance and how the system is stacked in the favour of the big guys. Their pleasure was short-lived, however, when they heard that by mid-afternoon on the same day of publication Ricard had sent a letter to a number of major châteaux owners refuting the interview (which he referred to as ‘an informal conversation’) and underlining their continued importance. The reason that this is of interest is that it shines a light on one of the real potential issues with the en primeur 2015 campaign. The wines are, by are large, pretty great this year. Not vintage of the century maybe, but there are a tonne of extremely lovely bottles out there. And the soft supple tannins and rich fruits in many ways suit perfectly the smaller châteaux. They might not age as well as vintages such as 2010 of course, but for the smaller properties, nobody plans to cellar the wines too much anyway. So in theory labels such as cru bourgeois or the St-Emilion satellites or Graves reds have an excellent opportunity in 2015 to sell en primeur (or at the very least to have orders confirmed now for delivery and payment when in bottle) when in more difficult years nobody is interested in buying at this level. Successes for both big and smaller châteaux are the true mark of great vintages – remember that in 2005 92% of wines put onto the en primeur market sold down through the sales chain to a final customer (according to Bordeaux wine broker figures). In 2009 this figure …Continue reading »

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