Cautious welcome for 2006

20 April, 2007

This year's en primeur season is expected to offer less wine than last year, at marginally lower prices, and with less buying and selling on the secondary market.

Some 5,000 buyers and journalists were in Bordeaux to taste the new vintage. Many said it had been a good year for early-ripening Merlots - particularly from Pomerol and some parts of Saint Emilion - and some later-ripening Cabernet Sauvignons on the Left Bank.

The 2006 vintage in Bordeaux was always going to have a hard time, following on the heels of the "vintage of the century " 2005 - and the astronomical prices that accompanied it.

"I've been pleasantly surprised - there are some good wines here," said Farr Vintners' purchasing director Stephen Browett . "But unless the prices are much closer to the 2004 levels than the 2005 levels, I'm not who's going to be buying. Whatever the quality of the vintage, we are concerned about selling the stuff. Many clients who bought last year spent twice as much as they had wanted to, so this year, collectors will stay away."

John Avery, director of Averys Wine Merchants, said: "We will buy as little as we can get away with to keep our allocations."

Sebastian Rowe, director at wine merchant Bordeaux Index, was more positive. "I really believe that the traditional clients will come on board again in 2006. No one could have predicted just how big the market was going to be last year, but there were a lot of people who stayed out because they couldn't afford the prices. This year, they can come back in."

Château owners are remaining tight-lipped about prices, but there are rumours that many are going to stay high - possibly keeping back up to 50 per cent of their stock to artificially maintain prices on the bottles available for purchase. Many have low stock because of good sales last year, and are cash-rich after a successful 2005 campaign, and therefore less pressurised to sell.

Speaking of the top growths, Jean Luc Thunevin, owner of Château Valandraud and also a wine merchant, said: "I would imagine that the first growths will come out between €150 and €160, where in 2004 they were around €80, and in 2005 they averaged €300. So perhaps a 40 per cent drop. But I spent €14 million on the 2005 campaign, and have perhaps €1.5million left in stock. This year, I'll be very happy if I turn over €7 million in total."

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