Confounding rumours that he might not make it this year owing to ill health, the infamous Robert Parker was most definitely involved in the 2010 tastings and as usual, the chateaux remained stubbornly silent on release prices until he had delivered his verdict.
The problem is that two months down the line from the 2010 tastings in Bordeaux, we have only a selection of very expensive Second and Third Growth wines to show for the hype. Vinexpo, the Bordeaux based annual trade event for the wine and spirits business, is in full swing and yet still no prices from the big guns.
Parker’s influence on the market remains considerable. It appears that as the market has become increasingly brand driven as a result of Chinese buying habits, his scores are more directly correlated with en primeur release prices set by the chateaux than to continued performance, at least for the moment. For now, the recurring theme is value.
In contrast to the 2008 vintage, released in the Spring of 2009 and with prices sympathetic to the catastrophic post-Lehman crash economic conditions, the 2009 vintage was released off the back of a very strong bull run within wine. This surge in demand can be largely attributed to the Chinese market, trending towards buying Lafite almost exclusively, resulting in prices that were ‘hot’ to say the least. The first Lafite 2009 traded through Liv-ex, (industry benchmark), at nearly three times the release price of the 2008.
That said, there is little doubt that the 2009 campaign was a great success, although in some respects, we believe these prices were excessive for two distinct reasons. Firstly, the Chinese market that has driven wine prices forward so quickly, has an obsession with value and secondly, as consumers they want their wine delivered and have not become involved in en primeur buying to any great extent so far. However, over time this will begin to shift, depending on release prices of course.
Will the chateaux have learnt any lessons from 2009? With scores from the top nine critics confirming 2010 as an exceptional vintage, the word on the release prices for the Left Bank wines including Super Seconds is that they may be trading at around or possibly even at a premium to the 2009’s, (read expensive). Confirmation comes in the form of wines such as Pontet Canet, released at a 37% premium compared with the 2009.
When we consider that the 2009’s, (with the exception of Lafite), have shown relatively subdued growth over the last 12 months, we have to question the merits of buying in to over-inflated en primeur wines when there is such strong demand for bottled back vintages of note, which offer fantastic value and in current market conditions, greater investment potential by comparison.