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2021 Bordeaux! Let the smart talk begin!

Everything you’ve said here about Bordeaux is entirely true about Burgundy too, and vice versa, barring the timeline (I’d argue 2004 and Sideway’s search for the perfect Pinot also did a lot for Burgundy too). The flip side to the critics arriving later is that Burgundy kept itself as more of an “exclusive club” which also helped prices rise, just is a different way to the democratised Parkerised Bordeaux (for better or worse Parker made Bordeaux much more approachable in a way Burgundy still isn’t).

I think it’s possibly just that there’s not been a 2013/2021 equivalent in Burgundy recently (or that the Burgundii are even better at the spin than the Bordelais). The press/merchants have not had to do these sorts of gymnastics to sell the wine, especially as prices in burgundy have increased faster than in Bordeaux and supply/demand issues kick in a lot quicker.

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Can I offer a very slight antidote to the apparently fairly widespread cynicism here, directed at both the wines and the merchants? Firstly, even wine merchants have to make a living, and for those operating at the higher end of the market, the Bordeaux EP season is hugely important, so you can’t blame them for making the best of things. And if they don’t want to lose their place in the queue for the good stuff in the good years, they need to keep vignerons (or perhaps the big corporates that own most of the top chateaux nowadays) sweet - or at least not piss them off by public criticism of their product! I’m getting emails from five or six of the major players in the market, and all of them are open about it having been a challenging year, and not the equal qualitatively of some recent years.
As for the wines, I do find it credible that the major houses (the classed growths and the better known CBs) have the resources, skills and experience to produce some wine at least that is of a quality they are happy to put their name to. It would not be in their interests to put their label on some reputation-tarnishing filth, and they always have the option to declassify and sell in bulk - I suspect there will be no shortage of supermarket generic “Bordeaux Rouge 2021” in the next few years!
So an EP campaign that offers a much reduced quantity of perfectly acceptable if less than stellar quality seems quite reasonable to me. Those of us who have been around a while can reduce our buying, or give it a miss altogether, and newbies (who perhaps would be more vulnerable to the creative writing of the more excitable merchants) will still be buying a source of considerable future pleasure.
It would be nice if prices came down a bit, but the trend (and it’s early days of course) seems to be to hold the Euro price from last year, giving, thanks to exchange rates, a few coppers off the UK£ price. And even that, in these inflationary times and with much reduced crops, doesn’t seem unreasonable.

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While I agree with you on a lot of this. I’m not with you on the pricing.

In even slightly above average years (there’s no way 18, 19 and 20 will all be as lauded in the future as they were on release) prices go up by WAY more than inflation. Every below average year every single chateau seems to have ‘beaten the odds’. The prices being asked are for exceptional wines, these wines are not exceptional. We have to ride the ups with them so they should ride the downs with us.

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Yeah, the general principle is fine, and I’m sure if you’re charging a handful of €’s a bottle, then I can see that ultimately margins are already fine, and therefore a non-increase is a nod to a less stellar vintage. Indeed, I had a vigneron complaining to me only the other week that he wasn’t a businessman, and was tired of the need for top vintages in every vintage, because nature didn’t operate that way. But then his base bottling is an absolute (I’m not sure absolute even covers it) steal in top vintages, so it’s still a bargain in lesser ones.

But I’m afraid sympathy for the ‘top’ Chateaux in Bordeaux is in short supply for me. When you’re paying hundreds for cases in top vintages, I expect hefty reductions in lesser ones. Moreover, the supply-and-demand manipulation by the Bordelaise in order to control market prices is well-documented. So I’m afraid they’re a little hoist by their own petard here.

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Thank you - that’s interesting.

I wonder how much of the difference is that the Bordelais have largely ratcheted prices (or had demand ratcheted for them as the case may be) on selling the “vintage of a lifetime” every year, whereas the Burgundy (or Burgundy buyer’s) mantra of “producer, producer, producer” produces much less cognitive dissonance in a less successful vintage.

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Odds I win, evens you lose.

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Does this merlot smell of farmyard aromas or of bullshit?

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Unlike Burgundy, the volumes produced by Bordeaux mean that there are plenty of back vintages available, even of some of the more popular wines. I took a quick look at all the obvious sites - this was just one example https://www.justerinis.com/fine-wines/?refRegion=8&pageSize=200#wines
If the Chateau are not willing to adjust their prices down in a vintage like 2021, it suggests that they now have to much power in the market and over the Merchants that rely on allocations. There are plenty of other parts of the World producing Bordeaux blends. I might look at the white wines but doubt I will buy red wines EP from 2021.

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I was particularly taken with this one…

And may save my 2021 EP budget for that :grinning:

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I wonder if we will look back on these cool vintages as something rare and to be savoured in the heat of climate change vintages. We certainly seem to get less of the ‘sombre bite’ of claret these days.

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Neal Martin says: with the potential to become, at least at its best, the most intellectually-stimulating to drink
Translation: They might age and possibly get some complexity, but they won’t ever be nice to drink

Antonio has stuck to the BBR line though classically built wines that will absolutely thrill readers who appreciate freshness and energy
Translation: These wines are a bit weedy

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Readers, not drinkers…

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Good spot. I’d entirely missed that one.

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Looking at numbers rather than emotion I wonder how much yields against a decreasing world wine drinking consumption will play out. Looking back 2011 came after two praised and escalating price years. Wine Spectator of 2011 used similar references to “a wildly heterogeneous qualitative mix”.

In 2016 I bought 2011 Chateau Saint Pierre at £19.99 a bottle in Aldi which TWS sold after tax to get equivalent prices at just under £38 in the 2012 EP campaign. I would say it’s sister Chateau Gloria 2009 is nicer but it cost me £33 a bottle when I bought it in 2012.

If they over charge for 2021 and they have loads of left over stock it will come out in some shop somewhere and quite possibly cheaper as happened in 2011. It won’t be as good as it’s preceding years but who knows it might be worth a punt 4 or 5 years from now when an Aldi wine buyer snaps up the 2026 posh Christmas wine offer.

As others here have said I should have enough of the 18/19/20 the community encouraged me to buy to sit this one out🫣.

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Just about to have a ganders but highly likely to sit out this particular campaign En Primeur - Bordeaux 2021 Offer | The Wine Society|

Perhaps a rather telling sentence in Tim’s summary of the vintage: “ Many châteaux also incorporated a proportion of late-ripening petit verdot in their final blends, adding body to the wines.” Part of the art of winemaking but perhaps only necessary if the wine maker thinks their wine a little ‘thin’,

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I was looking at the Château Pavie on BBR (£700 per 3 seeing as you’re asking) and they seem to have a total of 15 bottles of it for sale. Other volumes seem low too, this can’t be just due to reduced harvests can it? I thought it might be another sign of low confidence that they will sell through. Or is it just a tiny speculative first tranche?

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I’d guess this. It’s never in their interests for it to not sell out, especially at this extremely high end. Attempting to fabricate scarcity to justify the price?

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£232 for one at L&W. Who also have L’Extravagant de Doisy-Daëne by the bottle at £144.
Not exactly bargain of the century…

Not sure, but Chateau’s release in Tranches so a “bit” at a time, sometimes to test the market to see what the market will pay, there can be a price difference between the first releases and the subsequent ones. Not sure if that has anything to do with the low stock numbers though at BBR.