Adam Brett-Smith on Bordeaux 2008, with some advice
Just received this interesting viewpoint on the 2008 Bordeaux from Adam Brett-Smith of Corney & Barrow. It seems that 2008 is creating quite a bit of interest for all sorts of reasons.
"The Problem with the 2008 is the 2007…
The culture of en Primeur purchasing in the UK is very strong. On the whole, for good reasons; it allows customers to buy at the best price, to have a good chance of securing rare and in demand wines and in the bottle format that is required. They might also benefit from spotting a latent ‘star’ whose true value has not been recognised in the market. These are the compelling en Primeur ideals – I stress ideals.
Bordeaux’s problem is that it is frequently incapable of pricing according to intrinsic quality and market strength. It often uses either one or the other and on the rare occasion it uses both, it usually does so in the wrong way. So it was with 1984 – a bad vintage with a strong US market and therefore grotesquely overpriced. The result? UK Merchants who were forced to buy in order to ‘maintain their allocations’ couldn’t even sell them at cost and they hung around like a bad smell (literally in some cases!) for more than a decade.
Likewise with 1997. A perfectly decent, moderate year priced hugely more expensively than the very good 1995 and 1996. So, a hot market with average quality. The result? See above. Likewise in 2007; a decent year and overpriced. See above again…
In fact, the problem with the about-to-be-offered 2008 is not 2008 itself (likely to be pretty, even very good) but 2007. 2007’s pricing allows significantly less room for manoeuvre on price reductions for a much better vintage (2008) because of the greed shown by most producers with their 2007’s. Factor in the devaluation of Sterling (and the overvalued Euro), a very sticky market and you can appreciate the
But it is difficult to weep for the Chateaux owners. They have made a lot of money whilst the Bordeaux négoces and the UK Wine Merchants have had their margins squeezed and squeezed again. The balance has shifted but the consumer has not benefited.
That’s the extent of the problem and, of course, the opportunity. My advice to the Bordelais? Be dramatic, even inspirational. Use 2001 opening prices as a reference, or 2002, or even 2004. You can afford to and you really, really need to make some
friends. We all need them in these times do we not?