It was no pretty picture that had been painted before we headed out to Bordeaux to try the much maligned 2013 vintage earlier this week. The press have not been scared to jump on the usual band-wagon before any wine had even been tasted, reporting that 2013 was a tricky growing season for Bordeaux. A fact that, rather unusually, the majority of the Chateaux owners have not been afraid to admit to also.
'With this type of vintage, nature reminds you that she's the boss in the end, you know you won't make the vintage of the Century’ said Olivier Berrouet, head of winemaking and vineyards at Petrus.
While consultant Stephane Derenoncourt told Decanter.com 'It was a war against nature, and it's very difficult to win.'
Tasting at a Negociant
We must remember though, that at the time they were released, 2002 & 2007 were considered poor vintages. Now however, many respected critics are praising those vintages as a joy to drink. It could be another 10 years before the 2005’s are fulfilling their promise, while it is vintages like 2013 that will sooner rather than later provide pleasure. If 2013’s are released somewhere lower than 2011 & 2012, and the wine made our list (or your preferred critic’s list), then it will certainly be worth looking at. We should not judge a wine by its vintage, and that is an important thing to remember.
Even a poor vintage does not have to mean it will be a poor En Primeur campaign. Especially if the pricing is correct.
Where wine merchants have in recent years boasted up to 90% of their turnover coming from Bordeaux, a more recent picture shows that this figure is dropping fast, due to what is seen as insignificant price decreases on release. Rather than making money on the vintages of the century (2009 & 2010), those who were prepared to put their money in to a product that wouldn’t be physically available for a further 2 years, have actually lost money.
The ‘average vintages’ of 2011 & 2012 didn’t help much either, as pricing was cut, but not by nearly enough.
It would seem a pretty simple problem to solve right? Cut prices enough and the wine will sell. And when better a time to do that than in the average vintages, especially where quantities are lower and it will cost less to do so.
The 3 key reasons for buying En Primeur:
- To obtain a better price for investing your money in a product that is not physically available another 2 years.
- To obtain future allocations. (Particularly useful in vintages such as this, where demand will not be as great).
- To get the formats you like (Halves; Magnums & Double Magnums etc.).
The new barrel room (Chai) at Montrose
The truth is that for the private customer, En Primeur is an exciting time in the calendar – as it gives the consumer an opportunity to purchase the wines they want at a cut price, in return for their early investment. We, the UK wine trade, would love to be involved in the trading of Bordeaux. Traditionally the strongest & most revered of all wine producing regions, it is with great hope that the Chateaux in Bordeaux price this campaign to work.
A couple of releases already have hinted that the campaign may not go the way we would like, but it’s too early to call yet, and we remain hopeful of some prices that will make sense to the consumer to come back to Bordeaux En Primeur.
One thing that does need to be understood however is that as long as there are cheaper vintages readily available in bottle, more expensive Primeurs will not sell.
One of our favourites: Calon Segur
But, let’s not write off the 2013 Bordeaux campaign just yet. It’s difficult to call a particular region, or a left/ right bank vintage, every appellation has produced some lovely wines, just not very many of them. Some of the Chateaux may well surprise us with their pricing – there were some very good wines produced, and if you’re not bothered about which vintage is on the label, and you’re more concerned with the quality in the bottle – provided the prices are right, these would be our top picks:
Calon Segur (& it’s cheaper stable mate, Capbern Gasqueton)
Domaine de Chevalier
Pavillon Rouge de Margaux
Grand Puy Lacoste
* Top 3
Domaine de Chevalier
Of course, we haven’t tasted all of the wines that Bordeaux has to offer, and the above only applies to the top 150 or so Chateaux in Bordeaux. The remaining 90% of Chateaux will have found the vintage very difficult without the expensive harvesting teams and sorting equipment.
If you would like to be kept informed on any particular Chateaux during the campaign, please do let us know. Our regular updates will be going out throghout the course of the campaign: If you would prefer not to receive these, please do let us know.