Friday, 20 January 2012

Beijing, Bordeaux and the cancelled €30m contract

The Bordeaux negociant community has closed ranks and is refusing to comment, on or off record, about the alleged US$30m cancellation of a Bordeaux 2010 order.

No one, it seems, knows anything. ‘There are rumours but I don’t know any more than that,’ negoce after negoce tells me, which is pretty much the story from most of Bordeaux.

The bare facts, my spies in China tell me, are this: a single Chinese buyer committed around €30m in both back vintages and 2010s through an agent, and then cancelled the lot for reasons unknown.

I gather it was a Hong Kong company, a start up, with considerable resources and backing, servicing En Primeur demand what was described to me as ‘a bunch of rich guys in Beijing with government connections.’

My contact went on, ‘As often occurs, the Hong Kong guys seemingly did not do their research and the mainland money and connections did not deliver.’

There the speculation begins.  The negociants involved are keeping mum about what must have been a massive hit.

One, an ever-courteous – and highly experienced – Bordeaux veteran was more forthcoming. He confirmed he’d heard the rumours, that a ‘significant sum’ and ‘six or seven negociants’ were involved in the deal with ‘one client’.

Orders of that magnitude are very uncommon, he said, and cancellations unheard of. ‘I’ve been many years in the business and I’ve never heard of one.’

Would they have recourse to law? He wasn’t sure – it depends on the contract, and there must have been a contract for a deal that big.

He also stressed that it wasn’t the end of the world. ‘Everyone’s getting very excited because it’s such a big sum of money, and because it’s China. But it’s a one-off – it’s not a trend. It could have happened anywhere. And remember – no one has actually lost any money. No wine left Bordeaux. It’s a non-event.’

Indeed. And who were the rich guys in Beijing with government connections?

China-watchers are speculating one of the downstream buyers might have been the giant Aussino Cellars, which has 200 stores across China.

You’ll remember they had an attack of the vapours back in the summer when a hapless employee told Jane Anson for Decanter that they were ditching the left bank and concentrating on St Emilion and Pomerol in outrage at the prices of the 2010s.

Here's that story, and Aussino’s rather weaselly retraction.

The €30m contract was cancelled just about that time.

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