Which 2018 En Primeur wines should you be looking at?

Which 2018 wines should you be looking to include in your portfolio planning? The determining factors of a successful Bordeaux futures campaign are quality, price and supply. Buying wine en primeur has pros and cons as we refer to in our website and have commented on previously. In recent years there has been a mixed market response following the heights of the 2009 and 2010 campaigns. During the period between the 2011 to 2014 in-barrel releases, the UK trade increasingly took the view that excessive release prices were undermining the rationale of buying wine at this stage, as the prices were not sustainable and in fact back-vintages in bottle were offering better value.

The Prime 2015 and ’16 vintages, with higher average quality overall and priced more reasonably, improved confidence in the En Primeur system, however in the last few years some of the top chateaux have also had a changing view on volume made available for the en primeurs. Latour led the way exiting the en primeur campaign in 2012 and now a number of chateaux have reduced the supply being released at this stage to secure better prices in bottle.

So now here we are with the 2018 vintage, the key critics are starting to publish their quality scores, James Suckling has declared that it is “ An exceptional year for Bordeaux wines … Is 2018 a new benchmark for the region?”, awarding Lafleur, Mouton and Petrus the perfect 100 point score and a further eleven wines with the potential to hit 100 points in bottle.

James Suckling’s top 2018 en primeurs:

2018 Bordeaux wine Score
Lafleur 100
Mouton Rothschild 100
Petrus 100
Angelus 99 – 100
Ausone 99 – 100
Beausejour Duffau 99 – 100
Eglise Clinet 99 – 100
Latour 99 – 100
Lafite Rothschild 99 – 100
Leoville Las Cases 99 – 100
Margaux 99 – 100
Rauzan Segla 99 – 100
Dom Chevalier 99 – 100
Vieux Chateau Certan 99 – 100

Source: Liv-ex.com

Jane Anson, Decanter Magazine’s Bordeaux expert describes 2018 as “a very good vintage – maybe even great “. She cautions that it is not a universally consistent vintage and buyers need to select wines carefully – “Perhaps the closest we can come to a definition is 2009 meets 2016 on the Left Bank, and 1998 meets 2015 for the Right Bank.”

The other key critics still to publish are Wine Advocate’s Lisa Perotti-Brown and Antonio Galloni for Vinous.com. Neal Martin will not taste the vintage until later this year due to illness but his view will be eagerly awaited.

Chateau Angelus is the first big name to release before the Easter weekend and it is a big deal for such a high profile wine to release this early. We can look at relative value by comparing price and quality score – Angelus 2017 was rated at 95 points and is currently trading around £2,800, in comparison Angelus 2018 has been awarded 99 – 100 points by Suckling and is currently trading on Liv-ex (trade price 12 x 75cl) at £3,060 – 8.9% cheaper than the 2017 release price of £3,360.  At this price level the 2018 Angelus offers value compared to a number of earlier vintages. 

Jane Anson has also noted that this was the first Angelus vintage where the Chateau “worked entirely organically, with a 32hl/ha yield from the harvest” and the wine aged in amphorae for the first time as well as 100% oak barrels. She scored Angelus 2018 98 points, describing it as “rich and complex … showing dense brambled fruit with real precision of expression.”

Angelus’ strategy to be the first release may be an intelligent manoeuvre as it is currently the ‘only show in town’ and a very highly scored wine, priced at a discount to last year and other vintages. This may make commercial sense. Cos d’Estournel adopted this stance last year and it paid dividends both to the negociants and buyers at this stage. However, many merchants will want to get the lay of the land, in terms of quality and pricing, and with only Suckling’s quality indicator at this stage and no other view on pricing strategy it will be premature for many. It could be that other Chateaux will offer further discounts – it is too early to tell.

Another key influencing factor this year includes the Brexit effect, which is not as potent right now as a result of the deferred deadline to October. This could reasonably be expected to give essential breathing space for Sterling over the next couple of months, but there is no certainty on that.

Back to the original question – which wines should investors be considering? Suckling has given his view and we await the other key critics. Normally, the chateaux will start to release and announce prices during May to June and we can expect to get a real feel for the overall vintage quality and how the Bordelaise value it over the coming weeks.

Over this period we will select the wines we believe offer the best opportunity for growth for our clients. For more information contact us 0203 384 2262.