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Editorial

As I two-finger type this in July, whoever you speak to, there seem to be just two main topics of conversation. The weather and prices.

The weather currently has all the vignerons on edge and people like me checking the forecasts for Dijon. There is plenty of sun, but there are regular downpours too – and without a strong breeze to dry the vines. Normally at this time of year that would be a very dangerous combination as it is the breeding ground for rot. They are spraying like hell their copper solutions and ‘preparations’ to try and head-off the outbreaks, but in this time of suspected climate change they have an unexpected ally – the temperature – it’s rather cool for rot to take hold. Daytime temperatures have been hovering around the low 20’s instead of the typical mid-30’s. This in itself shouldn’t be a problem for ripening and for two reasons: luminosity has been almost good, and we are anyway far ahead of the normal schedule due to the precocious arrival of ‘spring’. They have plenty of extra weeks to wait in September – unless it rains some more of course!

Prices – a favourite subject, but with a new twist. “Don’t blame us” chorus the producers, and on the face of it, they have a point. The ‘season’ started like any other. Merchant offers in January for wines to be delivered before the end of the year – in Europe anyway. Prices were typically +/- 10% vs the last vintages, no sacrifices, but some restraint vs the early vintage hype. Then it started to go wrong. The later offers were about 20-30% higher – and these were from some well-regarded ‘maisons de négoce’ – then the market went bad, in the US anyway. Markets are not always rational – or perhaps they are, maybe they just react in unanticipated ways; I well remember a colleague in a partnering business that had a raw-material shortage, his production capacity was anyway full and he had a growing list of back-orders. Simple he thought, “I’ll increase my prices by 40% and less people will order”. Wrong. The market took it as a signal that the product would no longer be available – so everybody and his dog ordered – he was overwhelmed! 2005 burgundy pricing for any producer of repute had a similarly unconventional ride in the US in June and July, perhaps it was that signal from the ‘maisons de négoce'(?) Prices of $1,200 were quoted for hard to find cuvées – but not per case – per bottle! Clearly there will be some deep discounting later in the year as those with unsold stock, perhaps already bought at an inflated price, will start unloading or maybe dumping – but that’s not the real concern. The real concern is that even at $1,200 per bottle, all the (now) ‘trophy wines’ were sold in a flash. That will be quite a dilemma for producers that sell ex domaine for €70 per bottle and see the wines selling for more than €700 – what should they do with their 2006’s?

Clearly there was overwhelming hype – maybe even a ‘bubble’ – for the vintage, but does this signal a step-change in the demographic of burgundy buyers. If only for the selfish, filling my own cellar reason – there are many more reasons – I hope not.

Due to a number of cancelled visits because of illness or other committments, the content for this issue is obviously a little ‘lite’. Thanks to David Lester for stepping into the breach. I have a backlog of interesting appointments that would be the basis of a bumper Autumn ‘issue’, but I’m planning to try and avoid future ‘lite issues’ by inviting a small cadre of ‘names’ to make an occasional contributions. Should make an interesting extra dimension to my rambling…

5 responses to “Editorial”

  1. Alvin Seah

    Hi Bill,

    Thank you for your contributions to further the interest in Burgundy. Your article on Gevrey Chambertin is fantastic. I have always waited eagerly for your latest updates and this issue was no different and it did not disappoint. Please keep up your great work!

    Alvin

  2. Greg Sweeney

    Your content is first class and timely with a comprehension and straight shooting jargon unheard of in recent times. A salute you and will definatly keep in mind your comments when i cast my shadow accros the offer sheets this year.

  3. Ned Hoey

    Re: Pricing
    The US “market” seemed to start rising alarmingly with Burghounds 05 scores. This was the “grey”
    market. Suddenly, wines I’d bought for years were doubling, tripling and more! They weren’t all that easy to get or affordable before. Now… The official sources will start appearing this fall, I expect
    these to be more fairly priced, but GCs from favored producers will be impossible to find.
    You europeans are lucky to be closer to the source.

  4. mark thomasseau

    Bill,
    Thank you for you work keeping this website going! I work in a wine shop in Seattle and the pricing for the ’05 are nuts! So much so we have had to adjust are Premier Cru buying because the prices are so steep! Will the adage ‘what must go up must go down’ eventually apply to Burgundy as well? For your pocketbook and mine I hope so.
    Mark

  5. Borge Storkersen

    Re: Pricing
    I am afraid premium Bordeaux price levels very soon can be common in Cote-d’Or for more than DRC’s. Hope I am wrong but I do not want to take the risk and is stocking up.
    Borge

Agree? Disagree? Anything you'd like to add?