Skip to content

Plus ca change…


Anthony Barton recently sent me the following:

The 2008 “en primeur” campaign is now drawing to a close and I thought it might be of interest to quote an extract from a circular I wrote to our U.K. customers.

1. Before prices came out we received warnings that the market was very quiet and only really keen prices would incite any interest.

2. A hesitant start to the campaign taking little heed of the warnings but still at prices not too excessive.

3. An over-enthusiastic reception to first offers which only encouraged succeeding prices to escalate – as though we need any encouragement.

4. A strange mixture of frantic buying and lack of confidence which resulted in high prices at many properties but in many cases small profits by negociants and importers in order to pass the goods on as quickly as possible.

5. When the campaign had died down there followed the habitual complaints that prices were too high and that once again “Les Bordelais have conned us into buying at excessive prices.”

These comments might well refer to the 2008 vintage but in fact they were written almost twenty years ago with reference to the 1989 vintage. If ever there was an example of “Plus ça change, plus c’est la meme chose”!!

Before the start of the 2008 campaign the Wine Trade contacted chateaux and negociants warning them that as the financial markets were so bad there was unlikely to be an En Primeur campaign unless chateaux released prices at a level not seen since the 2004 vintage. The chateaux listened and the opening prices of the First Growths and a number of other top chateaux, including Leoville Barton, were reasonable.

What no one had anticipated was the Robert Parker effect. His report on the 2008 vintage had an electrifying effect on demand. Chateaux that hadn’t opened leapt onto the RP bandwagon and released their wines at price levels that were previously unthinkable. In 2008 there were two price levels – BRP and ARP!

Our concern is whether the Bordelais will ever listen to our entreaties again. I certainly don’t think that Anthony will!