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Bordeaux negociants say demand for 2013 wine is 'dead'

Published:  07 April, 2014

Wholesale wine merchants in Bordeaux were underwhelmed by a rapid burst of 2013 en primeur price releases Monday morning, describing current demand as "dead."

The 2013 vintage, which was dogged by bad weather, is seen as a hard sell in a soft market and merchants have said prices must fall by 25% to 30% to raise interest.

As of early afternoon, the best of the Monday bunch was Château Pichon Longueville Baron, down almost 17% compared to the 2012 vintage to €54 per bottle, ex-Bordeaux - the price Bordeaux merchants, known as neogciants, sell to international merchants. Smith Haut Lafitte meanwhile dropped the price for its 2013 red by 6%, to €38.40 per bottle, while its white is down 4% to €55.00.

Negociants generally welcomed Pichon's cut, but said that overall secondary market sales to international wholesalers and retailers had not yet come to life. 

"The truth is that for now the market is dead, apart from a few French supermarkets calling about the lesser wines," said the director of negociant house, Vintex, Philippe Larché. "These price cuts are far from what's needed."

"Pichon made a good effort," said the buyer for negociant house Yvon Mau, Jean Christophe Mau. "But I hope we don't see so many all at once for the rest of the week. It's not too much yet, but at that pace it could be." Including the smaller châteaux about 10 wines released their prices on Monday.

"The prices for these wines are down, yes, but it's not certain there will be buyers," added Grands Vins de Gironde buyer, Louis Henry Kressman who also described Pichon's price cut as a good effort.  

On the plus side, said another negociant, as well as being lower in price than 2012, both Pichon and Smith Haut Lafitte are cheaper than current previous vintages from the same estates, meaning the estates were at least "playing by the rules of en primeur." 

Although much depends on the vintage quality and demand, the two traditional advantages of buying en primeur wines - which are still in the barrel and won't ready to drink for a  minimum of two years - are lower prices compared to in-bottle ones, and a secure supply of harder to find wines.