Bordeaux 2013 en primeur could shake up wine industry

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Bordeaux’s 2013 en primeur campaign may well be a “damp squib” thanks to a poor vintage and lack of interest from top journalists, but it could shake-up the trade and consumers.

While some critics are calling for the campaign to be called off, the Bordelais are imploring the trade and media to give the wines a chance, and merchants believe a bad campaign could revitalise the industry.

Gavin Quinney, commentator and owner of Bordeaux’s Chateau Bauduc, appealed for journalists to give the wines a chance, after Tim Atkin MW called for the 2013 campaign to be called off in the face of one of the” very worst post-war vintages”. On top of that, the Wine Advocate’s Robert Parker, whose April visits and tasting notes kickstart the campaign, will not be arriving until June, due to other commitments.

Quinney told Harpers: “It’s no secret that 2013 has been the most difficult growing season for many a year. But a poor growing season doesn’t necessarily equate to poor wines. Let’s not confuse the two.”

He added that the advances in viticulture and viniculture in the past 15 years meant you could not compare an “off” vintage now, to one from say 1984. “No way Jose,” said Quinney.

“You shouldn’t write off the wines before having tasted them. As for whether anyone will buy them, that’s a different matter.”

Jancis Robinson MW tweeted: “Can’t summon up much enthusiasm 4 ’13 bdx campaign. Wines will be even more embryonic than usual”, while Atkin encouraged other critics to delay scoring wines.  But American wine writer James Suckling tweeted: “I am going to taste as usual. Done the same thing for 30 years.”

Writing on his blog, Christian Seeley, managing director of AXA Millésimes, which owns Bordeaux’s Château Pichon-Longueville Baron, said: “It would be futile to try to pretend that 2013 is a great or outstandingly good vintage: any such attempt would just lack credibility. On the other hand, to dismiss the year and its wines as “a bad year” would be equally, and completely, wrong.”

But he called on the “sensational commentators” who expressed doubt as to whether the wine should be presented en primeurs, or whether it was worth coming to taste, to come along. “Do you like wine? Then come and see what we managed to make in a year like 2013.”

Richard Brierley of luxury drinks merchant Vanquish, told Harpers: “The big question is what price will merchants be willing to entertain for a vintage that will perhaps drink early and not be suitable for longterm keeping.

“We know the vintage is not stellar, yields are down significantly, so will some of the great chateaux choose to make a grand vin? Or will some be bold enough to not declare? At the top end that’s their prerogative and they have the finances to do that, but it’s the knock-on effect on the petits chateaux.

“It could certainly be a damp squib, but that decision lies with the Bordelais. They can stick to their guns and try to produce a wine of some quality and at a fair price, or they can give the consumer something to think about and come in at a super-attractive price. That may kickstart a rally in the global fine wine market.

“Perhaps we could do with a year off. It would let people know that making wine in that climate is not always perfect or easy.”

Brierley said he’s like a “quick, cheap vintage” that would bring Bordeaux back to the everyday consumer. 

Readers' comments (2)

  • I think Journalists should visit as they have done in the past and report the vintage. Additionally the Borderlais should develop a better relationship with their markets

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  • I agree with Christian Seely. When the chips are down, more bright sparks can emerge than you might have thought...Surely serious wine critics should be curious to see who triumphed in adversity in such a vast and varied wine region as Bordeaux. I have me tquite a few producers (even among the smaller estates) who were actually quite pleased with their 2013 offerings. In a country like France, sorting the men from the boys - and more recently - the women from the girls, is always an eye opener!
    Maxine Colas.

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