15/07/2010 - 00:00

Wine -with Scott Taylor

15/07/2010 - 00:00


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Wine -with Scott Taylor

EN Primeur is a yearly campaign launched each spring by the producers and ‘negociants’ of Bordeaux to drum up interest and sell the wine from the previous vintage as futures, two years before it is ready and available for distribution. The idea is to generate cash flow for the chateaus.

To get buyers interested in shelling out for wine that isn’t going to be delivered to them for at least two years, the chateaus invite the world’s wine writers and negociants to come and pass judgement on the vintage – the more hype, the higher the price for the wine. A curious situation results where a small group of individuals, many who will benefit financially from high prices, tell a worldwide audience how this vintage compares to others and whether the wine should be bought En Primeur.

Invariably the result is a gushingly positive one convincing the wine buyers that while the price is quite high it’s a great vintage, so buy now before it gets released in two years at an even higher price. Often, at the next En Primeur campaign, the previous year’s vintage and prices get downgraded and this current vintage is proclaimed as better. The result is the same wine from different vintages having remarkably different price points.

The En Primeur campaign for the 2009 wines has just come to a close. The hype and excitement for this vintage was deafening with one pundit proclaiming the vintage to be easily the best vintage for 60 years, since 1959.

The result? Stratospheric pricing. Chateau Ausone, a superb St Emillion producer, is available from the 1997 vintage at around $600 retail per bottle, the 2004 will be sitting around $1,200 per bottle and the 2009, based on En Primeur pricing, will be available for the hair-raising sum of $3,200 a bottle.

I certainly don’t begrudge anyone that considers this to be an interesting investment. Well done; you must be very good at what you do.

But let’s get some perspective here. Margaret River had a shocker of a year in 2006, quickly followed by the ripe and generous 2007, the classic, slightly cooler 2008, and the promising duo of 2009 and 2010.

There is no dramatic difference between the prices for the 2006 and 2008 wines. The prices for these wines are worked out based on what they cost to produce, not how well the vintage is represented in the media.

But as these wines get more exposure globally and demand for them rises, will we start to see an En Primeur-like fluctuation in price? Probably, but certainly not for the next few vintages.

The great producers of Margaret River have either just released their premium reds from 2007 and 2008, or they will do this year. They all retail for between $50 and $150. There is an opportunity here to support our struggling local wine industry while making an astute investment at the same time.

My advice is to buy 2007s for five-10 years’ cellaring, 2008 wines for twice that – cabernet-based wines are the way to go.

The usual suspects of Cape Mentelle, Moss Wood, Leeuwin Estate and Vasse Felix are safe bets, but also look at newcomers Fraser Gallop, Flametree, Arlewood and Forest Hill, as these guys are starting to challenge the stalwarts for supremacy.

And the prices on all of the above wines make buying a single bottle of Chateau Ausone look rather ridiculous.



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