I spoke to more than six wine importers who are serious players in the en primeur market and their reactions were unanimous: 2012 is not a great en primeur campaign for most wines but there are a few exceptions.
One major wine buyer based in the West Coast of the United States said, “There is no interest in 2012 Bordeaux this year. A few of the wines did well like Mouton but even the reduced prices from chateaux like Rauzan-Segla did not encourage buyers. We are not making big commitments this year and we certainly don’t want to hold any stock. There is far less interest than we expected.”
Another importer based in Hong Kong who also wanted to remain anonymous said, “We thought last year’s campaign was challenging but it turns out that this year’s is just as difficult if not more so. Quality aside, the market simply doesn’t want or need to buy young Bordeaux at this price level as there are many ready-to-drink vintages with decent pricing.”
Regarding pricing, many were disappointed. A major Hong Kong based importer said, “Only a handful of chateaux such as Rauzan Segla and Canon respected the customers and came down to near 2008 level which is something we encouraged before the campaign started. Many others basically ignored our request and some like Angelus and Pavie were bold enough to raise prices over their 2011 releases, which to us was just too arrogant. Unless we have some surprises from the remaining releases, it is an en-primeur campaign which will be forgotten.”
The one person who was happy to be quoted is (surprise, surprise) Simon Staples from Berry Bros & Rudd. He says, “It’s a funny old game this year it has to be said. The early start and better pricing was a doubled edged sword. Great to see the chateaux had listened to Olivier Bernard’s wise words and got on with it however the sales team were, and most still are, in Bordeaux tasting the wines – we sent a total of 27 people this year. Prefer it this way to the usual protracted affair we usually get.”
Simon adds, “It was very clear to us this year that there are really only about 40 wines we liked enough to offer so we are deliberately not bombarding clients with every release that comes out. With the handful of chateau that we have offered, honestly, I am rather surprised they have sold as well:
- We have almost gone over the 1000 cases(x6) of the delicious, and deliciously priced Rauzan Segla 2012 (approx. 10% HK/China)and have 50 or so cases left.
- Lynch Bages which is always a BBR favorite sold extremely well, just over 3000 cs(x6) with approx. 10% HK/China. Although most was sold before the unveiling or the perplexing and bizarre Parker scores.
- Mouton went very well indeed 600 cases(x6) sold in a day and we had demand for double this amount. 30% to HK/China.
- Margaux sold as well as Mouton. Slightly more volume but again 30% HK/China.
- Lafite, which I honestly thought would struggle at that price flew. Again 600 cases(x6) sold in a day, with double that demand and 35% HK/China.
- The expensive but utterly brilliant Palmer sold far better than I hoped. I really do believe that people understand now that its making First growth quality its worth paying for it. 400 cases(x6) sold. 20% HK/China.
- The lush Alter Ego is the only second wine sold out. 600 cases. Carruades/Petit Mouton/Pavillion Rouge all struggling at present.
- Pavie and Angelus sadly haven’t even come out of the traps but Levangile sold very well as did Troplong for the first time in years and almost entirely to UK.
- Angludet (1500 cs), Du Tertre(500cs), Batailley(1000 cs) and Talbot(400 cs) all went well but small sales in HK/China.
Simon adds the following comments about what he sees for the next several weeks: “What happens next is the problem I fear. Obviously there are a huge number of properties, many with huge volumes, left to release, most with low if not woe(ful) Parker scores. So unless these are released as real bargains they wont sell through to the end consumer. I think there will be quite a lot of these and some properties will be happy to sit on their stock if they believe their wine is good.
To sum up: The 2012 en primeur campaign doesn’t look positive so far and the interest is already waning for those who have not yet released. This may be, as a few of the importers said to me repeatedly, a campaign that will be forgotten.
This is an expanded version of a news story written for Decanter.com – reprinted with permission.