My Article: Some Exceptional Wines in 2012, But We Need Reasonable Prices!

March 27th, 2013

It’s been two days now that I have tasted in Bordeaux the 2012 vintage from barrel, and I have to say that I am very surprised. Granted, I have focused on about 200 wines from the Right Bank but a number are truly impressive, especially those originating from the legendary knoll of Pomerol: Petrus, La Conseillante, and L’Evangile.

Of course, let’s be honest. The 2012 vintage will never be a great one. It will never be 2009 or 2010. We know that. But as a winemaker told me yesterday, “Let’s forget 2009 and 2010 and start all over again.”

I agree.

I can look back on my 30 years of tasting from barrel – yes, it’s my 30th year! And I am happy to have come to Bordeaux every year since tasting 1982 to taste from barrel. It’s always a lot of work, but it’s always fascinating to taste the new vintage and evaluate the wines.

I can’t generalize about the vintage yet. I have only tasted mostly barrel samples from Pomerol and St. Emilion. But it’s well-known that the 2012 vintage was rainy during the spring and had a bad flowering. It, in fact, was rainy until mid-July. But then it was very dry. Many vineyards suffered from drought. They virtually stopped growing. Then some rain came and refreshed the vineyards in September, but the wet weather continued until the end of the harvest.

The bottom line is that the few vineyards that could cope with these difficult growing conditions made excellent, even superb wines. The rest of the top estates made interesting but not great wines. Low yields helped.

I will know more soon. I have another week to go in Bordeaux and 100s of wines still to taste.

But I keep thinking about prices and the sales of en primeur or futures with 2012. The quality is one thing. But no market exists for 2012 until chateau owners drop their prices for the vintage.

I have spoken to at least 30 owners and winemakers from the top estates of Bordeaux and they all agree that they have to reduce their prices for 2012. They know. But I am not sure they will cut their prices enough compared to 2011.

I am pretty sure the first growths such as Lafite-Rothschild and Margaux are not willing to do the right thing. They think they can sell everything in Asia at very high prices – but they are wrong.

However, it’s good to know that a few of the top names think differently. For example, the Moueix family cut prices this week about 20 percent compared to 2011 en primeur or futures. “We had to sell our wines at the price of the least expensive current vintage in bottle,” said Christian Moueix today, who owns such top names as Trotanoy and Lafleur Petrus. “We knew we had to drop prices to a reasonable level.”

They have sold everything they have offered so far.

I hope more vintners in Bordeaux will follow with the same policy. I already blogged that prices for 2012 futures should be close to 2008 but I know that it’s not very likely. Yet, if Bordeaux wants to make a lot of friends again and attract consumers, it must cut prices significantly.

I can already see that there’s some excellent quality wines in 2012, despite the difficulties with the growing season. Now it’s up to the vintners in Bordeaux to make the new wines attractive to wine consumers with reasonable prices.


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March 28, 2013

Let's hope the Chateaux are following your blog!


April 16, 2013 --- Bordeaux 2012: major releases next week
See the comment from Cantemerle -----
Philippe Dambrine, director of Chateau Cantemerle said, ‘I expect it to be a fast campaign. Prices won’t go as low as 2008, that’s a dream, but maybe close. The difficulty is that we have found if we price too low, it can harm sales. So we have to find the right level.’

I buy Cantemerle each year, and will continue to do so, but I have to respectfully disagree with this comment. In my opinion, Cantemerle won't sell a lot of wine in the upcoming futures campaign, if consumers have to pay $28 a bottle. In 2006 you could have purchased 2003 Cantemerle for $24 a bottle.

All prices are from K&L Wines
’11 Cantemerle - $33 --- Futures -- now $32 to $33
’10 Cantemerle - $38 --- Futures -- now $40 to $43
’09 Cantemerle - $33 --- Futures --- now $40
’08 Cantemerle - $28 --- purchased November 2011
’07 Cantemerle - $27 --- purchased January 2011
’06 Cantemerle - $30 --- purchased July 2009 --- now $40
’05 Cantemerle - $40 --- purchased July 2008
’04 Cantemerle - $27 --- purchased July 2008
’03 Cantemerle - $24 --- purchased July 2006

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