Good afternoon good people and hope you are all well. These are trying times and somehow the importance of Bordeaux en primeur seems to pale in importance compared with the events that are shaping our World.
The terrible event from last Saturday stopped me in my writing "tracks" (hence this update is a bit late) but, we have to try and keep going on as usual. They can't win!!! By the time I started thinking about Bordeaux again, the Election was here and I thought, let's see how that show ends... All fun and games but, no winner... "Play it again Sam". Still, we have to keep going and hopefully find a solace in sharing a decent glass of wine with decent people.
So, let's have a look at what happened in Bordeaux in the last couple of weeks:
First of all, thank you all for your orders; actually, mainly provisional orders since most of the prices were not released at the time of my initial report. Also, I do apologise to anyone whose pre-orders were not confirmed by now. The combination of events around us and the levels at which the prices were released in Bordeaux had left me "speechless" at times (some would say that would be impossible but, there is first time for everything). The situation seems to have developed more or less as I predicted. The high ratings and serious frost damage has resulted in very much reduced quantities on the market and price increases in pretty much all the wines released after the frost . (This, by default, is now making the wines released before the frost real "bargains").
In most cases, the increases were well beyond my highest price estimates and I am seriously concerned if it makes any sense to buy any of these wines, which is the reason that your pre-orders for things like Calon Segur, Lynch Bages etc have not been confirmed. I thought you might want to reconsider these orders in light of the actual release prices. Of course, I am a wine merchant and I make my living from you buying the wines that I select, but...at these prices???? Let's discuss.
The wines are very decent, and in some cases excellent or even the best ever produced by an estate but, do they really justify 20, 25, 30% + price increases? One [obvious] view is that they are just too expensive and that we should either buy physical (mostly cheaper) vintages or drink something else. The other way of looking at it is that, despite the fact that the prices look silly, combination of increases in middle class population across the World and reduction of the available stock in Bordeaux, might still make this the last time we can buy some of these Chateau at these price levels (especially with these ratings). I don't know; time will tell but, I seem to remember thinking/writing similar things about the 2000 and 2005 vintages and they have proven me wrong.
That being said and, in terms of what I would suggest as most complete wines, my original selection has not really changed much. If there is any difference, it would be the emphasis. There is very little that can been seen as an immediate investment opportunity so, time to focus on quality, drinkability and value.
One thing worth adding to the initial report is that the whites and the Sauternes are looking exceptional and one might want to put aside a case or two of halves for a rainy day. On to the wines:-
1. Everyday drinking wines (sub £360 per case) - these now look as real bargains: This kind of vintage is the one where one can/should stock up on "drinking" wines as there are number of properties which have over delivered in quality terms but, historically, cannot raise the prices to the quality level that the wines have achieved. Here are my top picks:-
Ch. Fourcas Dupre, Listrac - £112.00 per 12 bott IB
(ZR - 16;)
Classic claret drinkers claret. The deal of the left bank in 2016. This is the one to fill up your cellar, or any other available space, for the next 5- 7 years of everyday drinking; and I would suggest halves, magnums and jeroboams.
Ch. le Thil (Comte Clary), Pessca Leognan - released at £190 - a bargain estimate was £200 IB
(ZR - 16+)
This is 100% Merlot (1000 cases production) owned and run by Cathiards (owners of Smith Haut Lafitte) and is a real rare little beauty. Drink from 2020 for 5- 10y. Very limited though - first come first served.
Lalande Borie, St. Julien - £230.00 per 12 bott IB
(ZR - 16+)
Second wine of Ducru Beaucaillou for the lovers of St Julien - less than a half a price of likes of Lagrange, St Pirere, Gruaud Larose etc., and better than them. Classy and sophisticated. A bargain when you consider that Ducru was released at £1700.00 - a no brainer.
Ch. Labegorce, Margaux - £240.00 per 12 bott IB (very limited)
(ZR - 17)
I declared Labegorce as the future of Margaux back in 2011 and am pleased to see that it is gaining the recognition it deserves. Very tight allocations but, I do have few bottles left.
Ch. Ormes de Pez - £250.00 per 12 bott IB
(ZR - 16+)
Those of you who have ordered this are welcome to it and I will be happy to deliver. However, in retrospect and having re-tasted them, I would say that Lalande Borie makes more sense as a buy or, you should spend a penny or two more and get Lafon Rochet. Over to you.
Ch. Saintayme, St Emilion, - £125.00 per 12 bott IB (very limited)
(ZR - 16)
It is impossible to give enough praise to Denis Dourantou, both on quality and pricing policy for this little gem. I have managed to buy some more stock, so first come first served for what is still left. It won't last long.
Ch. Daugay, St Emilion Grand Cru - £180.00 per 12 bott IB (limited)
(ZR - 16+)
This is for those with a keen eye for a deal. Chateau is nestled between Quintus (owned by Haut Brion) and Angelus (Dagay is actually owned and made by the same team as Angelus). Ok, it's not Angelus, but it is a real beauty in its own right and all at less than £20 inc all taxes. Where is the downside? Again, perfect for halves, magnums and Jeros, for every occasion. This is (as well as Croix Cardinale below) why St Emilion is famous and so much loved. Soft, round and happy wine. Impossible to find this quality and style anywhere else in the world for this money.
Ch. Croix Cardinale, St. Emilion, Grand Cru - est £200.00 per 12 bott IB
(ZR - 16+)
Ok, Croix is a few pennies more than above, but it is worth it. This is as fine, hedonistic and happy as Daugay but, there is a certain aspect of sophistication and finesse that makes is worth that extra penny or two. 30% of Cab Franc gives Croix fine backbone that will provide support for the fruit for 10 - 15 years and add complexity. One to open when you want to feel good about you self. Quite gorgeous.
Ch. Quinault l'Enclos, St. Emilion, Grand Cru - £285.00 per 12 bott IB
(ZR - 17-)
Owned and run by Cheval Blanc, Quinalut punches way above its' weight, displays intensity and power that you would expect from the bigger brother. There has been serious improvement in quality here since takeover by Cheval team and, if you are thinking of an investment potential with no downside risk, you will not find many better options. A bargain and a beauty to boot.
Ch. Clos de Oratoire, St. Emilion, Grand Cru Classe- £350.00 per 12 bott IB
(ZR - 17+)
I don't get impressed by this every year and don't buy recommend it every year but, when they get it right, it is a real gem. There is density without thickness, intensity without appearing overpowering, with really finely polished tannins in the background and complex summer and autumn fruit in the mid palate. Will drink fine from 2022 but, if you can wait till late 20's you are in for a real treat. Great deal at less than £360.00. Limited.
2. Old classics/fine wines with investment potential (£360-£1200 per case). Here is a selection of well established properties that I believe are still worth buying despite the price increases, as they have produced either excellent wines and in some cases the best ever. You can't go wrong with these, although, they might not grow at the rates we are used to.
Ch. Lafon Rochet - £390.00 per 12 bott IB
(ZR - 17)
Lafon has been improving steadily for the last 10 y under the stewardship of young Basile Tesseron and they seem to be coming of age together. There is classic St Estephe tannic backbone here with solid wood frame but, it is all in balance and working well. Will need 5-6 years after shipment to start drinking but, will go on for 20. Very masculine, it feels quite wild and untamed from barrel but, there is everything there. A serious and noticeable effort. Well done Basil!
Ch. Langoa Barton, Grand Cru Classe, St. Julien - £420.00 per 12 bott IB
(ZR - 17; WA - 91-93; Dct -94; JS - 94-95; WS - 93-96; JR - 17.5)
Right on my estimate. Classic, properly made St Julien. To be honest, I can't see it growing fast from this price level but, there is still something that tells me it's a good buy. If you are more concerned with what is in your glass than investment, then a case of 16 Langoa should be there on your list.
Ch. Talbot, Grand Cru Classe, St. Julien - £490.00 per 12 bott IB
(ZR - 17)
What can I say about the Talbot that has not been said before? Not much other than the 2016 is one of the best that I have tasted at the Estate. It is classic St Julien but, in 2016, there is a certain level of extra complexity, finesse and intensity that is often missing - certainly the best since years since 2010. For those of you with Investment in mind (as well as drinking), this should be a part of any sensible portfolio; no downside risk and serious option for growth.
Ch. Grand Puy Lacoste, Grand Cru Classe, Pauilac - release price £735.00 (my estimate £600.00 IB per 12 bott ib (the best ever!)
(ZR - 17+; WA - 95-97; Dct -94; JS - 96-97; WS - 94-97; JR - 17)
Hmmmmm, what to say here, the best ever. Refined and sophisticated, a real beauty... but, at more than 20% above my (high) estimate... This is kind of situation like when you book a luxury holiday that makes no financial sense but, you say: "Ooohhhh, what the hell!!! You only live once."
Ch. Duhart Milon, Grand Cru Classe, Pauilac - £640.00 per 12 bott IB
(ZR - 17+)
This is the one where you have to decide whether you trust me or the critics. I think that it is far better than they would give it credit. Perhaps due to the fact that it is normally tasted with Lafite it did not shine for them. Or, whatever the reason might be but, this is one great Duhart (possibly best ever) and at this price, a serious value for money. Yes you can buy some mature vintages for less money but, I guarantee you, not of this quality. And, yes, it might not double in value in 5 years time but, this is serious value for money. I am definitely getting some for myself! Over to you.
Ch. Leoville Barton, Grand Cru Classe, St. Julien - release price £ 750.00 ( my estimate £720.00 per 12 bott IB)
(ZR - 18-)
Again, a bit over the estimate and possibly bit overpriced but, the mature vintages of this quality and ratings are selling at about 20 +% more than this, so it is a good risk. You will need to be patient though; 10 y + before drinking.
Ch. Calon Segur, Grand Cru Classe, St Estephe - release price £ 750.00 (my estimate £690.00 per 12 bott IB (the best ever!)
(ZR - 18+),
Well, what can I say here! Allocations reduced by 50%, price up by 30% and I still bought whatever I could. Unfortunately, that was only 6 x 6 bott and the priority had to be given to those who bought in 2015. One of those that makes no sense but you say: "Ooohhhh, what the hell!!!...."
Clinet, Pomerol - release price £850.00 (my est. £750.00 per 12 bott IB)
(ZR - 18+)
And, at the risk of sounding repetitive "Ooohhh, what the hell!!!...." I can't call it a good deal but, mature Clinet(s) with these kinds of ratings are selling for well over this price. Believe or not, it is on allocation so, if you don't pick yours, it might be gone.
Canon, St Emilin Grad Cru Classe - release price £440.00 per 6 bott - IB
(ZR - 17+)
Not a property I usually buy but, a very decent 2106. Very tiny allocation - 4 x 6 bott . First come first served.
Rauzan Segla, Margaux Grad Cru Classe - release price £360.00 per 6 bott IB. (ZR - 17)
Not a property I usually buy, but a very decent 2106. Very tiny allocation - 4 x 6 First come first served.
3. Well, I was right here in the first report. A selection of those well known properties that have made decent wines... and, have great ratings (over 95 on average), and are/will be priced with collectors in mind. The availability is going to be minimal and the prices will be high but, if you fancy some, I am pretty confident to get some as long as you let me know as soon as possible. You can expect all of these to be at around 90 - 100 (as it turned out more like £100 - 120) per bottle and will be available in 6 bott cases. Based on the release of Montrose, they will probably come in 2-3 tranches and the final price will be the average but, if you fancy it for a collection, or a Christening present, there is no substitute. I will not be going into detailed tasting notes or analysis of each individual chateau, you know them too well:-
Ch. Pichon Comtesse, Grand Cru Classe, Pauilac - £710.00 per 6 bott ib
(ZR - 18+)
Ch. Pichon Baron, Grand Cru Classe, Pauilac - £675.00 per 6 bott ib
(ZR - 17+)
Ch. Pontet Canet, Grand Cru Classe, Pauilac - £675.00 per 6 bott ib
(ZR - 18)
Ch. Lynch Bages, Grand Cru Classe, Pauilac- £675.00 per 6 bott ib
(ZR - 18-)
4. The real collector's items. All of these are heading towards 100 points and are now released in such small quantities that insuring the correct provenance seems to be licence to print money. I will have to repeat that I was not as impressed with them to create all these 100 pointers (other than VCC) but, I am sure that you can make up your own mind. If you fancy some you will need to let me know as soon as possible.
Ducru Beaucaillou - 750.00 per 6 bott ib
Leoville-Las Cases - est - still not released but, I can't see it below 1100 per 6 bott
Vieux Chateau Certain - est still not released, but I can't see it below 1200 per 6 ib bott
Angelus - £1750.00 per 6 bott ib
Palmer - £ 2850.00 per 12 bott ib
The first growths (Margaux, Mouton, Haut Brion etc) are coming out at £2600.00 per 6 bott except Lafite, which has released so little in the 1st tranche that none of the negotiates are offering any to the market. We are all expecting 2nd tranche but, don't expect it to be any less than £3000.00 per 6 bott. Register your interest as soon as you can if that is what you fancy.
Cheval Blanc is out at £3200.00 per 6 bott. I can't see the value here, but if you can... (this of course makes Quinault at £285.00 per case of 12 a free wine).
As it is unlikely that any of the top wines will come out over the next 2-3 weeks, as they normally wait for the Bordeaux VinExpo to finish, I will send the full tasting notes in the second review.
All the best,
City Wine Collection