01438 741177         thewinesociety.com

[LIVE] AMA: Bordeaux EP with buyer Tim Sykes!



Hi everyone!

Welcome to our LIVE ‘Ask Me Anything’ Q&A with buyer Tim Sykes, talking all things Bordeaux EP plus a bit of sherry and Beaujolais. :slight_smile:

We’ll be going live at 1pm. We’ll start by answering your excellent advance questions, but feel free to chip in with live questions or followup questions and Tim will answer as many as he can during this hour.

Who’s here today? Say hello while we get ready to go live. :wave:


I’ll only be able to join half way through - as will be in a meeting, but looking forward to reading Tim’s answers! :+1: :grinning:


Hi Tim…one more question from me: Do you think the long-term outlook for the Bordeaux wine market is for price increases or decreases taking into account emerging markets both for the supply and demand of fine wine?


A quick question on hidden gems on the left bank, do you have any recommendations for key producers in Listrac and Moulis? Have heard that as they are away from the main D2 motorway they can sometimes be missed in terms of other regions like Saint Estephe, Saint Julien and Pauillac etc.


Our new laptop isn’t playing ball :see_no_evil: so I’m just loading up the answers to your advanced questions on a different computer - @SykoWino is going to start answering your live questions for a few mins! :slight_smile:


I think that in the long term, continued price rises are inevitable. There may be shorter term volatility but as new markets emerge demand is going to increase, putting pressure on pricing.


Apart from Fourcas Borie and Fourcas Dupré in Listrac and Dutruch Grand Poujeaux in Moulis I haven’t got any hot tips for less mainstream estates. It’s an area I need to do some prospecting in.


The more you do it the easier it gets! Once you have a few vintages under your belt you build up a picture of how wines evolve in time.

I am gradually building up stocks of wines like Beaumont, Cissac, Sénéjac, Caaronne Ste Gemme etc. but it takes time for them to be ready to drink. So there will be more to come in future. I’m also always on the lookout for mature parcels of these kinds of wine, but it’s difficult to find the volume. Spoiler alert: I have bought a very large parcel of a 2001 left bank claret that we will be offering by email nearer to Christmas (c£18 per bottle).

You’re in luck! We will be doing our first ever en primeur Beaujolais offer later this month – 5 different 2018s from Château des Jacques (including some magnums and a jeroboam). The wines are fabulous.


Part of my job is to preach the wonders of Sherry – I would love to see the category become more mainstream and I see The Wine Society at the forefront of this push.


So as a general rule, the higher you go up the price spectrum the more volatile the pricing. Unlike Burgundy, where prices of the top wines go up incrementally each year (they never go down!), Bordeaux release prices are very much related to the quality of the vintage. Wines like Beaumont, Caronne Ste Gemme, Nectar de La Grave, Pey de la Tour Réserve might edge up or down annually, it’s generally by a few percentage points. At the top end, it’s quite the opposite, so for example, here’s what has happened to the cost price of Figeac between 2014 and 2018 vintage:

2015 +70% (vs 2014)
2016 +47% (vs 2015)
2017 -20% (vs 2016)
2018 +45% (vs 2017)

So the cost price has almost tripled in 4 years. This is an extreme example, but you get the picture.

For the mid-level wines the situation is somewhere between the 2 extremes. Of the wines that you mention, prices have increased (between 2014 and 2018) by:

Angludet 78% - this is partly related to having zero production in 2017 and only a tiny crop in 2018
Chasse Spleen 25%
Puy Blanquet 9%

Exchange rates also play a part of course.


Hi Tim,

With the trend of producers keeping large amounts of stock, what do you think will be the trigger point to see these released (or will these be drip fed) and when this happens what do you think will be the impact on the market.




This is one of the most frustrating things I have to contend with during the en primeur season. This year the first prices started to come out on 17th April and the last was VCC on 17th June. We can only release our printed offer once all the prices are confirmed, so we are at the beck and call of the châteaux.

I think a lot of the delays are due to châteaux waiting to see how strong demand is for the new vintage to gauge how much they can get away with charging! The mentality goes something like this: “my neighbour’s wine is selling for €X per bottle. My wine is obviously better, so I’m going to charge €x plus 15%!” A cynical view maybe, but probably not far from the truth.


Hard to say Mike, as the chateaux are notoriously secretive about how much stock they hold and when they release them. I suppose though that if the market is strong the producers are more likely to release stock onto the market.


I’m a real fan too, particularly for dry whites that include a decent proportion of semillon. I’d love to sell more dry white Bordeaux over £10 but sadly it’s a bit of a minority sport. I only have limited room in our list for these wines (1 page) and when we put wines in the fine wine lists the volumes we sell are very small.

That said, I am trying to build up some stock of more upscale dry whites that we can offer with some bottle age. I’m hopeful that as a category dry white Bordeaux will expand, but it’s going to take a while.

I don’t think we’re quite at that stage yet, but I’d love to make one if the demand was there!


All very good wines, Avi! Re alcohol levels the wines do have higher levels than normal in 2018 due to the climatic conditions, but the wines I selected for the offers are balanced. So you don’t perceive the higher alcohol. Drink windows are obviously a guide only. If you like your wines young, vibrant and fruity, then you’ll get plenty of enjoyment if you start drinking them at the beginning of the drink window (assuming you can wait that long and are not on your last legs!).


Definitely a demand over here :raising_hand_woman:‍♀:raising_hand_woman:‍♀:raising_hand_woman:‍♀


Nice idea. I suppose that The Society’s Côtes de Bordeaux might be considered such a wine (although maybe it’s not that funky!).

This is made at Pitray, with my input. I’ve also toyed with the idea of doing a Claret under a Society label with an oak element, rather like the house clarets of some of our competitors.


Excited!!! :grin:

Oooo lovely - I will certainly be interested in this!


We still have a bit of stock of this available:

But we also have what we call the Museum Bin which we dip into occasionally if we have an important supplier visiting for lunch. We have a bottle each of 1961 Palmer and 1961 Talbot – only to be opened with a VERY important supplier!!

Nothing older than 2003, but keep a lookout later this year for our Christmas Sauternes – half bottles of a 1999 Sauternes, and our Christmas Claret – a 2001 left bank claret. I bought these recently from Bordeaux. No names mentioned but they’re both lovely wines.


Thanks Tim,

Sorry another question just came to me. What do you think are the strongest appellations of 2018 in contrast to previous vintages. I am thinking with reference to St Estephe 2014 being potential better than “better” vintages of 2015 and 2016. Does the same argument work with the highly rated Margaux 2015? Is this better than the 2016 and 2018? Or have some of the wines qualities this year gone to the new levels their prices have gone? (I am thinking Rauzan Segla for example here)

Thanks again.