random ruminations

I almost made it before the summer solstice, but clearly this report is a little tardy; real life and ad-hoc projects sometimes have to take precedence; yet, Burgundy-report finally makes it into it’s ninth year of reports!

Of-course, my apologies, yet I think it will be worth your wait, though it will be February before the ‘fruits’ of that work become visible – but as a palliative you will find many new names in the round-up of barrel and bottle tastings – I hope you will enjoy them.

The market
I really don’t have too much to add, but I think there are two things worth pointing out

  1. Premature Oxidation
    Sadly I can’t bring notice to you of any break-through, it is even possible that the malaise is spreading through a wider selection of producers – my advice remains unchanged: drink before the bottles are aged six, which for most enjoyment really means drink in the first three years for grand crus. It’s a shame but it would be unprofessional of anybody to suggest otherwise. I have a few lines where I’m letting the bottles age longer, but they are cuvées I buy each year and (so-far) have had no worries.
    Of particular import I now see some of the most professional merchants starting to stand behind their bottles in writing – if you have a problem, they will replace the bottles. This will cost them plenty, they are anyway not the cheapest sources but in the end, the best service comes at a cost – to both buyer and seller.
  2. The Burgundy market in context
    Burgundy is not the same as Bordeaux but it would be ridiculous to assume that they do not influence each other. Bordeaux has garnered much criticism for its 2010 en-primeur campaign, but let’s be clear, would reducing the price of 2010 below the great but perhaps inferior 2009 make any logical sense? You can make a case for ‘yes’ if you want to invoke the global financial climate, but then you would also have to acknowledge that a significant segment of buyers have seen no erosion of their finances – actually quite the reverse. There has been much talk of the Asian and in-particular the Chinese market underpinning new price-positions, and you only need to see the explosion of market communications and auctions focusing on that region for confirmation, but some merchants see another reason too. Pricing could have as much to do with the relationships of the Châteaux with their banks; for their own good regulation the banks have now to be a little tougher with their rules but if a Château sells a 20% tranche of their 2010s for (eg) €3,000 per case – then the other 80% can be legitimately valued at the same price. Hence the Châteaux (theoretically) have quite sufficient reserves to cover their bank loans – it is only a bubble if the Châteaux can’t sell their 80%(s)… Hmm!

    If we move to the Burgundy 2010s – my early indicator is a Swiss EP offer I receive each year in about March. Some of the wines can be seen in the context of the same time in previous vintages. (Note the Swiss franc is stronger now, but was less so when these prices were calculated in January.) Not too much to be drawn from the table, except that the vast majority of wines remain below their 2007 peaks – of-course this is (early) EP and the general market is a little more polarised for certain wines/producers; the UK 2009 EP offers in January had some frankly ridiculous pricing so I said adieu to a number of domains. Here there is also some connection to the wider (Bordeaux included) market – “all the serious investment wines have been hoovered-up from the UK market in the last 6 months” a well-connected merchant told me last week. He also told me “DRC is in the vanguard – one Chinese player with two of his friends spent $1 million on DRC in the last two months.” These comments fit very well with others I received about the next destination of a significant proportion of ‘top-wines’ in theory destined for the UK market…

    Polarised prices and lack of availability of some wines is pure and simple down to demand and supply, yet there has always been another route and that’s having a standing-order at particular domaines, regardless of critical comment. It’s not always easy to get your first order, but I note the amazing prices achieved by a certain producer’s wines in a recent auction in Asia; his ex-cellar prices to me have not changed since I bought my first case in 2003…

Thanks and cheers
Sunday 26th June, 2011.

2 responses to “random ruminations”

  1. Eric Cheng

    For the auction in Asia, guess you are referring to the cellar wines & vertical of Comte Liger-Belair?

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