The Grapes of Wrath

Steve McConnellWith harvesting in Bordeaux finished and the 2013 crop shaping up to be a real disappointment, Vin-X takes a look at how this may impact the market in 2014.

Vines in SnowIt’s not easy being a wine merchant. Picture the scene: the 2013 harvest is coming to an end, Christmas is approaching. You’ve had a hard year trying to sell wine from the disappointing 2012 vintage, a repeat of the equally lacklustre 2011. Stocks are piling up as you have struggled to get rid of them, and worst of all, the news coming out of Bordeaux promises one of the worst vintages for years. It’s all happening again.

Merchants (unlike wine investment specialists such as Vin-X) have conditions attached to the wine they buy: such is the negotiating power of the Châteaux that if a merchant does not take delivery in one particular year, they may not be able to secure the same allocation the following year. They are therefore forced to spend their time pushing the newest vintage, the quality of which may not be particularly good. This of course means less time to trade in the back vintages, which tends to push the market down as trading slows and prices drift. It all seems to spell another year of doom and gloom for Bordeaux’s newest vintage. However, all is not lost.

The absolutely crucial factor in this process is price. The biggest problem with the 2011 vintage was not with its quality but with its pricing strategy. In 2012, many of the Châteaux repeated this mistake and asked too much for their wine. However, some valued their allocations more sensibly, and have seen relatively strong trading in these wines as a result, such as the Château Lafite Rothschild 2012, a well-priced wine and a great investment opportunity. After two years of disappointing activity, the Bordeaux Châteaux must surely be aching for a successful en primeur campaign. With a bit of luck, they will see sense, drop their prices, sell their wine quickly, and give the market a welcome boost in the first half of 2014.