The 2016 Bordeaux futures campaign has begun—quality is high, but what about value?
Bordeaux’s en primeur campaign is officially under way. Now that the wines have been presented to the trade and media, Bordeaux’s château owners are starting to formally release the prices for their still-in-barrel 2016 wines.
There is sure to be interest this year. My report on the vintage, based on blind tastings of over 300 samples, shows 2016 to be a potentially classic vintage, marked by tannic, yet racy, fresh and defined reds.
As for market factors, it depends on which market. American consumers are lucky—the dollar is strong versus the euro, making the wines cheaper in the U.S. Brexit is proving to be a headwind for the English market, weakening the pound. Chinese consumers, after betting big on futures a few years ago, have moved away from buying en primeur, favoring finished, ready-to-ship wines.
And there’s a wild-card factor—the recent frost that heavily damaged the 2017 crop. It remains to be seen how that looming shortfall will influence how château owners price their 2016s.
The early releases that trickled out show only a slight increase in price over the 2015s. The 2016s are generally better in quality, particularly on the Left Bank. But the crop is also the largest since 2006, so there will be plenty of wine to go around, meaning consumers can pick and choose as they wish.
It all adds up to a scenario where the American market could be a major player, with the quality helping to drive significant interest. On the flipside, the Bordelais can’t raise prices indiscriminately. They need to work on rekindling their relationships with American buyers after leaving the market cold during the 2009 and 2010 campaigns by blowing the lid off prices. Who blinks first?
Below you’ll find regular updates and analysis on the campaign, with prices given both ex-négoce, which means before importers and retailers add markup, and average retail price, which is compiled from Wine Spectator’s tracking of leading U.S. retailers. It’s what you can expect to pay.
May 17: Montrose Offers Value, But Not Quantity
Montrose released its first 2016 futures at 102 euros, ex-négoce, resulting in an initial retail offering in the U.S. of around $138 a bottle, or $1,656 a case. Montrose excelled in 2016, easily besting their 2015 (a weaker vintage in the upper Médoc.) Thanks to the strong dollar, the 2016 is actually slightly cheaper than the 2015 was on release, making this a green light special. While the price is right, some négociants were scratching their head at the small amount of wine released in the initial tranche. “Great price, selling fast, but very little wine. It doesn’t make sense,” said one. Is Montrose playing the waiting game for a potential hike on the second tranche? Or is it betting that prices will appreciate significantly by the time it sells the bottled wine?
Other 2016 releases of note today include Château Potensac, retailing at an attractive $25, du Tertre at $40 and Talbot at $55. The latter is especially intriguing as St.-Julien has the early lead on “appellation of the vintage” in 2016 and savvy buyers should be hitting a full range of châteaus here in 2016. The Talbot price is nearly identical to its 2015.
May 15: Pape Clément Rises
Pape Clément released its first tranche of futures at 66 euros ex-négoce, an increase of 12.2 percent on the 2015 futures. Leading retailers are offering it for about $89 per bottle or $1,068 per case, a six percent increase on 2015. Pro: The wine here is among the best Pessac-Léognan reds in 2016, and keeps with owner Bernard Magrez’s typical style of lavish toast, though the amount of new oak has been reduced a bit here in recent years. Cons: The 2015 vintage is absolutely breathtaking in the Pessac and Margaux appellations and the 2016s don’t match that level in these areas. So, any 2016 price increases over 2015 might give some folks pause.
April 24: Cos-d’Estournel Launches the Campaign
Cos opened up the campaign with an offering at 120 euros per bottle, ex-négoce, the same price as their 2015. With the strong dollar, that means an approximate retail offering of $156, a five percent drop from the 2015. The upper Médoc excelled in 2016, with many of the top wines rivaling years such as 2005, 2009 and 2010 (though in a different style.) The 2016 Cos is one of the standouts, rippling with plum sauce and currant reduction notes, backed by a lilting whiff of anise and carried by a remarkably polished structure despite its obvious tannic drive. This is a no-brainer buy for serious collectors.
2016 Futures Prices
These estates represent a selection of leading wineries. Our ratings are potential scores based on barrel samples. Retail prices are an average of trusted retailers we follow. To provide a comparison, we’re showing prices for 2015 futures and current prices for the 2010 vintage, a classic year that is currently available.
Data compiled by Cassia Schifter.
|Château||2016 Score||2016 initial futures offering at U.S. retail||2015 initial futures offering at U.S. retail||2015-2016 retail change||Current 2010 price at U.S. retail|
|La Mission Haut-Brion||NYR||$NA||$402||–||$967|
|Léoville Las Cases||97-100||$NA||$189||–||$320|
|Vieux Château Certan||NYR||$NA||$238||–||$450|
NYR means a wine has not been submitted for review yet. NA means a wine has not been released or is not sold in sufficient quantities by U.S. retailers yet to determine an average price.