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Atlas Fine Wines EC3V 9DL

2013 Bordeaux Update: All dressed up and nowhere to go

by Simon Larkin | Apr 11, 2014

Well, I am still standing at the edge of the dance floor and my feet aren’t even tapping…
There have been a steady stream of releases so far from Bordeaux and nothing has offered a truly compelling reason to purchase.
Moreover, many properties have released their wines at levels that show no vast understanding of the current market conditions for Bordeaux nor the appetite for this middling vintage. It is as if the Bordelaise are operating in a vacuum which is the real problem: 2013 should have been a great opportunity to re-connect with the market, re-gain some lost credibility and offer some attractive deals on a light, vibrant, early-drinking vintage. The lack of understanding is illustrated beautifully by comments from one Technical Director from a classed growth Château  (who will remain nameless). When asked about his thoughts on release pricing, he said that he was in a quandary. When quizzed further, he answered that he was unsure whether to hold last year’s price or apply a small increase given the dramatically lower yields. There was no acknowledgement that there might be a third option! This reticence to do anything significant on price has been echoed in the press with numerous defensive comments from proprietors and château directors. Some have maintained that they will never release their wine at a level lower than the 2013 vintage. Others have downplayed the importance of the UK market and have only reported on successes in markets outside the UK, US, and China. I wonder which obscure market is stepping forward to pick up the considerable slack? A very curious pronouncement given the volume that these three major markets would invariably absorb.
From what I hear across the UK market, sales are very, very low – if not non-existent – although many merchants are carrying on with business as usual; they continue to offer every wine with full-flowing tasting notes out of habit and a hope for sales, but with no real conviction. That said, there were some almost positive murmurings about the release of Château Lynch-Bages yesterday, which did at least ensure its release represented the lowest available price for a recent vintage in the market.  It came in at a price which would equate to £550 per 12 bottles in bond to the client. This makes it cheaper than both the 2012 and 2011 which are currently the two cheapest vintages available in the market. I would argue, however, that this comparison is pointless as neither 2012 nor 2011 represented a particularly strong buy in their respective vintages and there is plenty of stock of those two vintages caught up in the supply chain.  For the 2013 to be compelling, the price would have needed to be between £400 to £450 per 12 to the client and then we may have sold some stock to regular buyers as the wine is one of the better examples of the vintage.
Of the wines released to date, I should add that I did rate the Château Smith Haut Lafitte Blanc. Whites are harvested far earlier and therefore missed the problematic late season conditions that have dogged the reds. Given the cool year, the whites retained good acidity and this was an exceptionally fine white Graves. Château Smith Haut Lafitte Blanc is priced at £300 per 6 bottles in bond and I may well consider purchasing this wine once the full range of releases is known.
We will continue to keep you up to date on any topics or releases of interest. It will be fascinating to see how the news of low sales affects the later releases. Will they be brave enough to drop prices further to incentivise sales? The early releases must surely have done a great deal to cool any bullishness that proprietors may have harboured regarding their release price. Time will tell.  

For more commentary on the vintage, please read our Bordeaux 2013 Vintage Report which was published early last week. As ever, please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions or comments on the vintage. 

We aim to keep our clients up to date with the latest industry news and share with them our own opinions. This section covers all things wine: producer interviews, market movements, auction results, tasting notes and vintage updates. Our intention is to be incredibly selective and only provide commentary on areas which we believe are relevant to our clients and their interests. Should you have any questions about the content , please contact Hannah on or +44 (0) 20 3017 2293. 

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Atlas House, 1 King Street
London, EC2V 8AU
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