Thursday, September 21, 2006

Super-Hyped Vintage 2005 Bordeaux

The October 2006 issue of the Food & Wine Magazine features Robert Parker’s take on the ultra-hyped vintage 2005 Bordeaux wines long after the first futures was offered. It is akin to an updated review on the vintage. Commentaries like Parker's are relevant to wine collectors in order to get a sense of perspective; have we been sucked in by the senseless frenzy of the market? It serves to calm down buyers’ anxieties.

Here is the article in Food & Wine Magazine, issue October 2006.
(If the link is broken, the PDF version is available here)

3 years ago in 2003, still reeling from the disappointment of missing the 2000 en primeur boat, I decided to get into the excellent 2003 Bordeaux en primeur market. I only purchased 3 cases, one of which is a Sauternes sweet wine. By that time, the recently released vintage 2000 Bordeaux had reached stratospheric prices in the stores.

We are seeing this 2000 mania again with the “BEST EVER!” 2005 vintage Bordeaux. The market for 2005 wines is super-hyped left and right, up and down by everyone from the producers to the retailers, as well as by wine writers. All these have helped drive futures' prices for the 2005 vintage to become the highest ever in the history of Bordeaux.

I’ve decided to forego the 2005’s overpriced futures for something that I love as much: 2005 pu’er teas and 2005 German Rieslings. They are both as ageworthy as fine Bordeaux, and maybe more so.

What is en primeur / futures?
It is basically buying your wine in advance, before it’s even bottled. The grape juice is practically still inside the oak barrels at the Chateaux when you buy it. Major critics and buyers travel to Bordeaux to get a first-hand taste on the juice and evaluate their potential. Then the wines are offered to the consumers by the importers/wholesalers/retailers. This is why consumers rely heavily on their favorite [supposedly] independent wine critics/writers/publications, such as Michael Broadbent, Steven Tanzer, Robert Parker, Decanter Magazine, Wine Spectator Magazine, etc. as guides.

It is also, basically, an educated gamble. Depending on subsequent news and critics’ reviews, a wine produced by a particular Chateau may appreciate or depreciate in value before it even hits the retail floor. Therefore, it can be said that if you buy a futures for $30/bottle and this particular wine hits retail at $40/bottle, your investment has appreciated by 33.33% or you have saved 25% off retail price (not taking into account future value of present dollar, etc). However, the opposite may also happen. Some win, some lose.

Read The Wine Doctor’s excellent article about en primeur to learn more.


Stephane said...

I also didn't purchase any 2005 primeurs, even if, like you, have 1 good and growing reason to buy some. The prices are just too high and therefore risky. I'll probably wait next fall during the first wine fair they are available to taste.

The conclusion of Parker's article is consistent with his general rule about good/bad years:
- in a bad year, focus on the top wine estates. They are then less expensive, but always retain a higher quality level,
- in an excellent year, you can buy from almost any estate and get good wine. A good time to try little known estates then.

So, one strategy for 2005 is to keep paying the same price per bottle as before and see if you get as good a quality than from another year.

I just checked the prices on (A French site, but with no delivery in the USA). Actually it's the great names that are inflated: Chateau Margaux 2005 at 650 euros! (I paid 100 in primeurs for 1999 - and you can still find previous years below 300).
On the other hand, the cru bourgeois I usually buy, Chateau Citran, is at 11,9 euros. That's more than normal, but the increase is still reasonable if quality is really that good.

~ Phyll said...

Exactomundo, Stephane! Cru Bourgeois is where Bordeaux lovers on the budget (such as myself) should spend their $$$ on. It's still overpriced, but the quality should be excellent for just a fraction of Cru Classe wines. The Cru Bourgeois I would like to get are Ch. Sociando Mallet and/or Ch. Chasse-Spleen. I also have a soft spot for Ch. Gloria.

Stephane said...

I've often tasted Sociando Mallet and Chasse-Spleen. Excellent choices! (The comments for Sociando are excellent and it seems it has influenced the price).

I also have some hope for Ch Cantemerle, a 5th grand cru, but not too expensive. (I bought a case of 6 in 2002. I'll see how it ages.)

~ Phyll said...

Stephane, do you know how Alsace did in 2005? I haven't read much about '05 Alsace. None of the publications I rely on (Parker, BBR, Decanter) has rated '05 Alsace's vintage condition. Everything 2005 in France seems to have been overshadowed by Bordeaux. Any insider information from its native?


Stephane said...

I don't know, but I plan on finding out in November when my parents come to Taiwan and bring me some French wine.