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En primeur: great quality, but don't hold your breath on price

Published:  02 April, 2015

First impressions on this year's en primeur seem to be that the quality is there - but don't hold your breath about prices coming down.

First impressions on this year's en primeur seem to be that the quality is there - but don't hold your breath about prices coming down

Speaking to from Bordeaux, Gavin Quinney, the English winemaker who owns and produces wine at Château Bauduc in Bordeaux, said there had been a "tentatively positive" reaction to this year's en primeur tasting.

"It's not because people don't like the wine - they do - but they are tentative as the price has not been set and there are the usual concerns," he told Harpers. "It isn't a 2009 or a 2010, but it is a very attractive vintage and the trade could get behind it if it is priced correctly."

However he argued the good quality on show meant châteaux were unlikely to drop their price.

"There are enough good wines from the big châteaux for this to be a good campaign that will support sales - but the châteaux do not seem in any mood to be generous on price. We might have to wait and see, but the track record is not great," he said.

He denied it was a "make or break year", but said the quality provided a good opportunity to make the en primeur system attractive again.

"People have to be convinced it is worth forking out for, in advance," he said. "You can look at the data in different ways, but it has not been worth buying en primeur for the last few years and people will need convincing to jump back on board. We need the feeling back in the market that prices will go up, and we're a long way from that now."

Vin-X's Bordeaux based director, Renaud Ruer agreed, noting it would be "very difficult" for owners to decrease the price. "They always make the price on the quality of the vintage, and in their heads, they can't go down compared to last year - even if last year was not a good year."

Chateau owners across the region are already comparing the quality to 2008, saying 2014 will make 'really good drinking wines'.Laithwaites

Although negociants were also guilty of a similar short-term view, he argued that courtiers understood the fluidity of the market and could put pressure on châteaux owners to take a more pragmatic stance to decrease or at worst, maintain last year's price.

"If you don't feed the market this year, whatever the price, the market will leave as they need something to play with, and the quality is very good," he said.

He added that the US market was ready to see en primeur in play, and this year there would not be 'The Parker Effect', which he argued had "considerably" affected the price. "Only the market will determine it this year," he said.

Ruer noted that although the Right Bank was "looking promising" it was a "Left Bank year" and the winemakers were likely to blend a higher proportion of Cabernet Sauvignon in the final blends. The north was presenting "fantastic" wines, he added.

Quinney's said his highlights so far included Saint-Julien, where there was some very good, "consistent wines that had reasonable volume and would work well in the UK market", and Pauillac.

Will Hargrove, head of Fine Wine at Corney & Barrow said the wines were showing a good balance and lots of fruit and were "near the top of non-exceptional vintages. "It's not legendary, but people will enjoy drinking them," he told Harpers. Margaux and Saint-Emilion were slightly variable, he said, but Pomerol and Saint-Julien were consistently good, and the whites and sweets were also showing promise.

He echoed Quinney and Ruer's views on price. "If châteaux think they can put prices up 10-20% then it just won't work. If five or six wines of the first ten released are well priced, it will engage the market. If they are silly prices or overly ambitious it won't" he said.

It is also in everyone's best interest to maintain the pace of this year's campaign, he added. "It needs to up and running by the middle of next week, and be mostly done by the first week of June. There is no interest in dragging it out," he said. "We need good prices and a good pace on wines and get them into people's cellars. We don't want a 3-4 month campaign."