The problem with high releases
Remember spring 2011. In Bordeaux there was an early April heatwave, that added to the feel-good factor felt by producers and merchants alike. All agreed, this was a golden age for Bordeaux.
The wealthy were getting wealthier, raiding the post–Lehmann EU Agricultural Support Fund, citing 'agriculture' status so that they could construct new chais. It seemed taking the piss had become institutionalized.
By the late summer, barely 4 months after that balmy spring, it was over. The bubble had burst, but not before the world and his wife had piled into overpriced Classed Growths.
Fast forward 5 years, and the negative market sentiment created by those purchases by traditional and new En Primeur buyers has all but dissipated. The good news is those who were deeply under water on the back of 2009 and 2010 purchases are now in the shallows and feeling rather more positive about their purchases and their outlook.
This has been helped by the fact – there, I said it, by the FACT - that there hasn’t been a vintage to touch those two monumental years since. Not 2011 and 2013 of course, neither 2012 nor 2014, and surely not 2015 either. To be a great vintage Bordeaux needs to be uniformly wonderful across its communes, and 2015 was far from uniform. It’s a very good vintage overall, but not a great one. It will not join the pantheon.
The prime reason why Bordeaux suffered so badly over the period 2011-2014 was negative sentiment, and nothing fuels negative feelings like losing money on paper.
It is for that reason 2015 may well prove to be a watershed in the history of En Primeur.
Many Chateaux released at realistic prices that made their wines sensible buys – wines like Pape Clément, Rauzan-Segla and Canon, Leoville Barton, Pontet Canet, even Lafleur and Tertre-Rotebouef.
More Chateaux than not released too high. What do we mean by “too high”? After all, it’s a relative term. Our definition of too high is a price that will prove not to give a discount against future market value or which could end up having been more expensive than the future discounted secondary market value in 2-5 years’ time.
In the last few days, a few Chateaux have pushed the boundaries of credulity, releasing wines at such a high price that there is 90%-99% downside attached to buying early.
Wines such as Pichon Baron, Lynch-Bages and Palmer. As the graphs show, none offer much by way of upside and plenty of downside risk.
None of this matters to the informed, rational fine wine buyer. They simply need to say ‘no thanks’ and move on, selecting affordable back-vintages to enjoy, lay down for future drinking, or to use as a store of value.
What does matter is when less well-informed buyers are badly advised and sold into the vintage’s more expensive releases, only to find out a few years down the line that the wine has fallen in value, those losses further exacerbated by broker commissions. If you end up with enough buyers “under water” goodwill built up painstakingly over time evaporates.
In this campaign some merchants are saying things like:
Qualitatively, 2015 has been compared to previous greats of this century - 2010, 2009, 2005 and 2000 – when looking at price compared to these greats, the wines of 2015 have broadly represented good value with most estates benchmarking against these years and releasing at lower prices – which is quite refreshing.
Not only is the premise wrong, it encourages irrational buying behavior based on unrealistic expectations and stores up future negative sentiment.
This is a shame, for Bordeaux has the greatest, largest single body of wine in the world to offer. The greatest expressions should bring the greatest joy, not deliver disappointment.
Posted in: Fine wine analysis, Fine wine pricing and valuations, Market news and analysis,
Tags: #Bdx15, Bordeaux 2015, Bordeaux en primeur, Bordeaux wine, Bordeaux Wines, buying fine wine, en primeur, en primeur 2015, en primeur pricing, fine wine, wine, Wine investing,