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En primeur - a mixed bag and a missed opportunity, experts say

Published:  03 June, 2015

This year's en primeur campaign has been a mixed bag that failed to capitalise on the chance to reset the market, according to fine wine investment experts.

This year's en primeur campaign has been a mixed bag that failed to capitalise on the chance to reset the market, according to fine wine investment experts. 

Peter Shakeshaft, founder and CEO of fine wine investment specialists Vin-X told he had been encouraged by the early prices, but some of the later releases were overpriced, showing that châteaux still had lessons to learn.

"There are wines that have been well priced and have got the market moving, particularly the wine release early, " he said. "But chateaux have held back to see what market is like and done an initial release and then started bringing through a second release."

Chateaux that have released a second tranche include Lafite Rothschild, and Pontet Canet, yesterday whose prices were 18.2% about its first tranche on 12 May. Yesterday also saw the last of the major châteaux to release wines in the en primeur campaign. Montrose released significantly higher than expected at €88.8 per bottle ex-negociant, up 54.2% on both the 2013 and 2012 (€57.6). According to a Liv-ex survey, the average price in this year's campaign was €62.7 a bottle.

Shakeshaft said he was "astounded" by the price of some of these later releases, including Cheval Blanc, which was released on 28 May at €360 per bottle ex-negociant - around 20% more than in 2013 (€300) and 5.9% up on 2012. He noted, however, that the châteaux was offering a discount on this price, showing it will move on price.

"It is owned by LVMH, which is a fantastic retail business, so you'd have thought they would get the prices right," he said. "It is upsetting it didn't hit home."

He argued that this year's campaign had proved to be a bit of a "damp squib", despite the 2014 vintage itself being good.

"It has gone on too long and the excitement didn't capture the press," he said. "If the press get behind it, it invigorates the campaign and whole excitement builds. But buyers have not seen that excitement in the press. Things are being sold, but the phones are not ringing off the hook."

However Will Hargrove head of fine wine at Corney & Barrow said the campaign had maintained a reasonable pace, but agreed that the campaign had not only failed to ignite, had been a "missed opportunity" to reset prices.

"Maybe this is what we should expect en primeur will be like, excepting the stellar vintages," he said. "But it was a good year and the wines are pretty lovely , so I can't see there being a better opportunity to bring prices down and reset things."

He argued that there was a chasm opening between those who sell wines to drink and those that see themselves as 'brands' who sell into the distribution chain.

"I'd argue that that just becomes someone else's burden, which is dangerous to the system," he told "The whole thing becomes a broking exercise."