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Wine Spectator: Bordeaux Prices Drop, But American Wine Lovers Yawn

May 13, 2015

Bordeaux wineries hoped this would be the en primeurs campaign to woo back Americans. The potential quality of the vintage on sale, 2014, is the best in four years. And while most of the château owners who have released their futures so far have raised prices over last year’s, U.S. stores are offering the 2014s for less than recent vintages, thanks to a strong dollar and a weak euro.

But after more than two weeks of releases, leading retailers tell Wine Spectator they are seeing lukewarm sales. “There is far more interest in 2014 than in ’11, ’12 and ’13 put together, but overall it is a very quiet campaign,” said Ralph Sands, senior wine specialist at California’s K&L Wine Merchants.

Barbara Hermann, wine buyer for Illinois chain Binny’s Beverage Depot, reports that the U.S. market is flush with moderately aged Bordeaux, ready to drink tonight. “There is a lot of wine out in the market from just about every château,” she said. “These past couple of years, I’ve been buying older stock, not too much high-end, but well-reviewed wines from 2000 to 2009 that sell for $20 to $70. We have a lot of customers that love to drink Bordeaux, don’t buy futures and don’t have a cellar.

“I am buying some ‘blue chips,’ especially if our stock of older vintages are low. I bought as much Lynch Bages as I could, Beychevelle, and the Mouton group,” said Hermann. “And I’ve bought a couple of lower priced wines that have always sold well for us.”

Other wines leading retailers expect to sell are Léoville Barton, Duhart-Milon and Montrose—depending on the pricing. Well-known wines like Clerc Milon, d’Armailhac, Branaire-Ducru, Brane-Cantenac, Rauzan-Ségla and Talbot might offer top quality, but “the general public is not racing to suck up these wines,” said one retailer.

For now, the most opportunity seems to lie in châteaus that traditionally haven’t sold many futures. “There are some petits châteaus, that aren’t really en primeur wines, that we’ve tasted and loved and are offering to our customers, like Capbern-Gasqueton at $17.99,” said Sands. “People are ordering cases of it.” To keep up-to-date on Bordeaux en primeurs prices as they are released, check back frequently at Wine Spectator’s 2014 Bordeaux Futures Chart.

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