Simon Larkin MW | Apr 29, 2016
Following the publication of our 2015 Vintage Report earlier in the month, I am pleased to advise that our 2015 Bordeaux Tasting Notes are now published online.
As you will tell from the notes, we have been selective in terms of the wines we have chosen to write up; 2015 is far from a uniform success although there are some notable high points.
This week there has been a steady stream of releases from lesser-known Château, with perhaps the most notable to date being Château Gazin, which is 22% up in cost terms on last year – and that is before the Sterling exchange rate is taken into account. Similarly, a poll of Liv-ex members suggested that the ‘wine trade’ expects to see rises of between 18-24% on last year. As significant as this percentage increase might be, I would suggest that, in specific instances, quality is dramatically up on last year and some of these price increases might well be justifiable in quality terms. It would seem that the market will accept an increase over last year, but if pushed too far, it may well lead clients to sit back and bide their time. In recent years, en primeur has failed to reward those who purchased early, although the exceptions might be the 2012 and 2014 vintages where some examples are ahead of their initial release prices. Given the recent bounce in Sterling/ Euro exchange rates, I equally hope that the campaign is early this year. The looming ‘Brexit’ referendum has already led to a weaker exchange rate and before the current, slight rally we were looking at rises in cost of 20% coupled with a further 10% increase on account of the exchange rate.
I do not believe en primeur should represent habitual purchasing. I do not believe that makes sense for us in terms of the service we provide to our clients, nor does it necessarily make financial sense for clients. At Atlas, we have not really entered the fray these past five years, as we felt that even where quality was high we would have the chance to buy for less at a later stage if we think it is in our clients’ interests. This point was illustrated clearly by the market correction around the 2010 vintage.
I feel certain that we will find sufficient wines to offer this year where we are convinced by the quality on show and the accompanying price. However, it is likely that a number of wines – for which we have already written our notes – will not meet our criteria and will not be offered. To be clear, we do not operate as some merchants do and simply offer every wine from the vintage, nor do we offer every well-scored or critically acclaimed wine. We prefer to back our own judgements and relate those to the various critics’ opinions as well as to share with you our views on the quality-to-price ratio. After all, the principal benefit of en primeur used to be that you were buying early at a price that was likely to be the cheapest at which a given wine would be offered.
Additionally, we do not operate a pre-order system as I believe that a full order book for a given wine can impair a merchant's judgement. Instead, we will send emails out for any specific releases and collate orders accordingly. Having read our notes or those of a critic, should you have any specific area of interest, you are welcome to send these through. We may not choose to offer that wine widely, but we can always advise you of the price and leave the purchasing decision with you.
Even though my faith in the likelihood of fair pricing has been shaken a little by some of the early, lower end releases – perhaps fueled by the level of interest in this particular campaign – I still hold out hope that a number of fine wines will be released at levels that we are happy to endorse for our clients. The quality is there in certain pockets as highlighted in our recent Vintage Report.
I’ll leave you with two pieces of advice…
My first piece of advice is to watch your inboxes for our release notifications as I sense that availability could be constrained as stock will be held back in Bordeaux or assigned to other markets. Certainly, I have heard comments which suggest that despite being a large buyer of en primeur historically, the UK market may not be favoured with the volumes it once enjoyed. Many leading Château are happy to hold stock back for later releases at higher prices or devote greater proportions of stock to emerging markets.
My second piece of advice centres on the fact that so many parties in the chain want this vintage to work; there is considerable vested interest. There is also the customary hype with bold generalisations declared and impressions on wines glossed up for marketing purposes. Should you be tempted to buy a wine that has been touted elsewhere when you have not seen it offered by Atlas, I would suggest that you contact the team and sound out our advice first.
Please do not hesitate to contact us should you have any questions or wish to discuss the vintage and your potential interest.