The wine trade’s been remarkably silent on the subject of price this year.
Since 1750 it’s been an article of faith that the British wine merchants will hyperventilate when they get on the subject of en primeur release prices.
Stephen Browett at Farr Vintners usually leads the charge. He even threatened to boycott the campaign if the chateaux didn’t promise to reduce prices on the 2008 vintage. Adam Brett Smith at Corneys will put a note online – a very polite suggestion that they just won’t be able to sell the stuff if it’s too pricey. BBR’s Simon Staples lets his feelings be known. The smaller merchants squeak a bit (but not so much as to endanger their allocations).
Then the negociants in Bordeaux pitch in. But this year, not a peep.
It’s China which has done it. Until the bubble bursts, Bordeaux, at the top end, is simply not going to produce an off-vintage again. The first growths and their siblings – a dozen or so properties – will sell their wine whatever happens. The Chinese buy by brand, not by vintage.
‘There is a consensus in the wine trade that it is very unlikely that prices will come down on last year, and likely that they will stay the same,’ Jean-Guillaume Prats at Cos d’Estournel says.
He also says that if there’s an increase, it will ‘probably be accepted’.
Why aren’t the merchants howling? Because they’re making an awful lot of money. Farr sold £62m of Bordeaux last year, a third of it to the Far East. Berry’s sold £110m.
They hardly had to pick up their blackberries to do it, and the 08s and a dozen other vintages are flying off the shelves on the back of the 09.
Of course the merchants aren’t complaining about release prices – why worry, when you can flog it all to China at any price you care to mention.