Essential highlights For En Primeur 2015

Geoffrey DeanInvestors mulling over which of the 2015 en primeurs to buy have considerable food for thought, with prices ranging from palpably over-priced to fair value. There may even be a bargain or two to be had, but the obvious place to start is Chateau Margaux, widely regarded as the wine of the vintage…a fitting epitaph to the estate’s much respected head, Paul Pontallier, who sadly died of cancer in his late fifties earlier this year.

Chateau Margaux

Chateau Margaux

“Value” is always, of course, likely be interpreted differently, and there are usually several issues to consider (not least currency fluctuation, which is especially topical with a possible Brexit). As a guide, though, and at a risk of repeating myself, it is surely worth following Farr Vintners’ insistence that an investor (or indeed mere drinker) should be aiming to buy these 2015s at a 30% discount to the current value of the last great, ‘mature’ vintage, namely 2005. Margaux, as the champion Left Bank wine of the vintage (and maybe of both banks), is going to have a premium attached as a result, its release this week of £4260 representing a discount of a little under 20% of 2005’s selling price today (£5,250). Given its rave reviews, and the possible Pontallier sympathy factor, it looks like a buy – if you can get it.

A snoop at other Left Bank release prices reinforces that view. For, some classed growths have minimal discounts or, worse still, are more expensive than the 2005s. Pichon Lalande, for example, is priced at £995 per case when Farr will sell you a case of 2005 for £850 and Montrose 2015, at £1140 a case, is £180 more than the 2005. Pontet Canet’s release price is only £40 less than the current cost of buying a case of 2005 (£940).

Chateau Pontet Canet cellar

Chateau Pontet Canet cellar

There does, however, seem to be better value on the Right Bank. This is somewhat ironic given that weather conditions were more favourable there, but that’s Bordeaux for you. Cheval Blanc and Ausone have yet to release, but Pavie and Angelus have done. Interestingly, there was some divergence of opinion among key critics as to the quality of these last two wines. Neal Martin and James Suckling rated Pavie as marginally better (awarding between 96 and 100 points), but significantly perhaps, Jancis Robinson and Tim Atkin gave it only 16.5 and 90 points respectively. 

Both Pavie and Angelus released at £2680, but the latter’s discount to its current 2005 price is 26%, while the former’s is just under 10%. Moreover, Angelus’ average returns over the last decade are significantly higher than those of Pavie (despite the fact it won 100-point ratings from Robert Parker for both 2009 and 2010). Angelus, therefore, merits a stronger ‘buy’ recommendation.

Chateau Angelus

Chateau Angelus

Another ‘buy’ is surely Troplong Mondot, a chateau in which Vin-x has a strong belief. The St- Emilion estate’s mark from Neal Martin looks too low at 92-94 (and may yet of course be revised), and its release price of £880 is almost exactly half what the 2005 is going for: £1850. When I talked about possible bargains in my introduction, Troplong looks the number 1 candidate. Valandraud, a few miles down the road, also appears value at £1125 compared to its 2005 price of £1850 (especially given Martin’s 95-97 rating). Likewise, Clos Fourtet which he marked the same, is £715 compared to £1250 for 2005. Another 95-97 Martin-pointer, Smith Haut Lafitte in Graves, also looks a ‘buy’ at £625 (its 2005 being £1000).

Despite the over-pricing of primers by certain chateaux, therefore (something that was not unexpected), there are plenty of attractive options for investors to consider. We await the final tranches of release prices from the other first growths and top Right Bank estates. It looks, though, as if the best ‘bargains’ may already be out there.