US merchants call for lower prices in Bordeaux 2013 en primeur campaign

As the trade gets ready for the annual 2013 en primeur tastings an increasing number of leading wine merchants  around the world are calling for lower prices in this year’s campaign, including key players in the United States.

“Pricing can make or break a vintage,” warned Michael Sands of Calvert Woodley, an importer-retailer in Washington DC.

Like other US importers, Calvert Woodley bought few if any 2011 Bordeaux en primeur because the  vintage was deemed to be generally overpriced for its overall quality, added Sands. The situation was repeated across the US and whilst you can find a large number, if expensive, wines from the 2009 and 2010 vintages, there are far less from 2011.

There remains, however, strong interest in 2011 wines. A recent tasting of over 60 2011 Bordeaux wines by Calvert Woodley in Washington attracted 200 sommeliers, restaurateurs, merchants and private wine buyers.

Here buyers agreed that whilst the 2011 vintage does not fall into the “great” category, many estates produced outstanding wines. Many named the dry whites from Graves and Pessac Leognan and the late harvest Sauternes as the best appellations.

“The whites are gorgeous, they have great acidity,” said Cyrus Hazzard of Total Wines,  the largest wine retailer in the US, with some 100 stores across 15 states. “Domaine de Chevalier is the perfect package and I liked the richer style of Pape Clement better in a vintage like 2011, because it struck me as more precise than in 2009, for example.”

Hazzard found many reds to have “hollow” mid palates with tight finishes – “lacking depth and weight” – in spite of initially “pretty” aromatics. Among the reds, he preferred the Graves and the Right Bank to the Medoc, and found some good deals for his customers.

 “For some wines, pricing is really, really interesting,” added Hazzard. Take Pavie Macquin, which cost $150 in 2010. The 2011 is very good, but at about one third the price, which is an incredible value.”

But many in the US trade feel disillusioned about Bordeaux pricing in recent years.

Hazzard likened the continued demand for high prices from Bordeaux was like trying to draw “blood from a stone” and that prices need to come down in 2013, which is not expected to be a very good vintage.

Other consumers are seeking quality back vintages with comparable pricing to new releases. Following on from the UGCB tasting hosted by Calvert Woodley, over 35 sommeliers, merchants and private buyers enjoyed a first-ever comprehensive tasting of Château Calon Ségur with a representative from that rather reclusive estate.

The former owners of the Capbern Gasqueton family shied away from the press and did not hold promotional tastings. But since Crédit Mutuel Arkéa (Suravenir group) and the wine merchant Jean-François Moueix (of Petrus) acquired Calon Ségur two years ago, new general manager Laurent Dufau has opened the door for such tastings.

Ranging from 1982 to 2010, many participants found much to admire in the 1996, 1998, 2001 and 2008 vintages in terms of both quality and pricing.

“With recent Bordeaux [high] pricing, why should I buy new bottles when older ones of similar quality, that are ready to drink and cost less money, are readily available on the market,” said Chris Bublitz, a private wine buyer who attended the Calon Segur dinner.

  • You can read Kakaviatos tasting notes from the Calong Segur dinner here  and his notes from 2011 tastings here
  • You can stil take part in the Harpers poll on whether there should be an en primeur campaign this year in the poll section on the home page of   


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