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Wine Spectator: What 2013 Bordeaux Futures Campaign?

April 30, 2014

Another Bordeaux futures campaign is here, but you might not know it by clicking over to the homepage of your fine wine retailer of choice. In past years, sellers would typically display their offerings prominently. But the en primeur game has changed, and some U.S. retailers wonder if it will ever be the same.

Leading retailers tell Wine Spectator that they believe futures prices for 2013 are, by and large, no better than in-store prices will be two years from now, just as happened with the 2011s and most 2010s. Some retailers are buying some wines to offer their customers the option, some aren’t. “I don’t think anybody’s pretending there’s an imperative to buy now,” said Michael Glasby, senior buyer for Berkeley-based Premier Cru.

There are “bright spots,” said Chuck Hayward, Bordeaux buyer for online retailer J.J. Buckley. Retailers are seeing interest in wines that dropped prices from their cellars by a fair margin over last year while maintaining quality, like Mouton-Rothschild, Lynch Bages and Calon-Ségur.

“At the end of the day, it all boils down to price,” said Chris Adams, CEO of New York’s Sherry-Lehmann. “You [the château owner] did what you had to do and made good wine. The fact that you made very little of it is not really the consumer’s problem.”

Some retailers are still focused on selling 2009s and 2010s, while others are finding 2012s more attractive a year after that campaign has passed. “I’m not buying almost anything in this vintage,” said Barbara Hermann, wine buyer at Chicago-based Binny’s Beverage Depot. “Ironically, when I was [in Bordeaux] two weeks ago, I placed orders for probably 1,500 cases of wine, a combination of good-value petit Bordeauxs from the ’09, ’10, ’11 vintages, and a lot of things that are bottled—2003s, ’05s.”

After two anemic campaigns, and with little interest being shown by buyers in Asia or Europe, négociants can no longer effectively threaten retailers with a lack of access to allocations in the future. “Over the years you’re always told, well you’ve got to buy to be able to get,” said Daniel Posner, owner of Grapes, The Wine Co. in White Plains, N.Y. “But knowing that we passed on all the 2012s, getting the 2013s does not appear to be a problem.” Some négociants have been quietly discounting certain wines, even though they risk losing their allocations from châteaus.

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