Looking ahead to the forthcoming Bordeaux En Primeur release, it seems like there'll be plenty to be excited about, at least from a quality perspective, and there's already a good deal of speculation about release strategies.
It's fascinating that Chateau Mouton Rothschild has come out with a similar announcement to Chateau Latour's 2013 En Primeur campaign withdrawal. It amounts to essentially the same thing, nuanced differently.
"Sales of our wines in bottle are growing a lot and we've got to the point where we don't have enough bottles left in our cellar."
"We won't be buying our wine back but we will be releasing less of it en primeur as we have to rebuild our inventory."
"We haven't lost faith in the en primeur system but you have to be reasonable with your pricing as there are so many reference points for consumers now."
This roughly translates, into words that you and I will understand, as: "in an increasingly transparent world where discerning consumers can analyse and evaluate young wines by their relative value to past vintages, the only way we can get an en primeur campaign away is by pricing at a discount to comparable previous vintages, that recognises the end-user buyer needs a reason to buy early. That doesn't seem to make a great deal of sense if we wish to capitalise on growing worldwide demand. Going forward, we would rather not give that discount away to more than a tiny number of en primeur buyers who will help us establish (hopefully higher) future secondary market pricing. That will create the preconditions for us to capture a much bigger slice of the downstream value of our wines, satisfying shareholder requirements for income growth and capital (land) appreciation."
With Latour and Mouton effectively 'out', how will the remaining Firsts respond next year?
Last year there were only a small handful of wines worth buying early. That's not to say there were not plenty of lovely wines made in 2014, but very few were sufficiently well priced to justify tying up cash. Given the overall superior quality of 2015, producers will hike up their prices, possibly quite a bit. Given that, it's quite likely that savvy wine buyers will do well to continue to focus on relative values from comparable back vintages and revisit 2015 in a few years' time. Meanwhile the impending campaign is bound to throw a spotlight on 2000, 2005 and even the better values within 2009 and 2010.