Since September last year the word has been circling that the 2009 Bordeaux vintage is going to be a rather good one. Fruit scientifically examined (levels of acidity, potential alcohol, &c) and, more poetically, tasted at harvest time was rather good. Even the pips tasted good. You can read Bill Blatch’s impossibly good vintage report here.
As the release of these wines approaches, the noises are getting louder. The merchants and the critics will be tasting the wines in March and April, and the wines will hit the market in May and June. This is when the fun begins. As far as the tasting is concerned, there’s only one man that counts: Robert Parker. I might think the wines shite but if Big Bob thinks they are the donkey’s then they’ll sell. And vice-versa. Comparing Mr Parker’s notes with my own once published in April is always an interesting exercise (last year we were almost exactly in tune on Chx Cos d’Estournel, Ducru-Beaucaillou and a few others, and wildly out of sync on Ch. Margaux for example). But if we assume that we have the third vintage of the century on our hands, and I think that this is a given, it’s all about how much they cost.
If there is one wine that you can do the numbers on, it’s Ch. Lynch-Bages. Sometimes referred to as “poor man’s Mouton-Rothschild”, Lynch-Bages is one of the Medoc’s most consistent properties. Consistently excellent. I have never tasted a bad Lynch-Bages and, to me, Lynch is the epitome of Pauillac. If you want to know what Pauillac is supposed to taste like, buy a bottle of Lynch-Bages. This consistency of performance is reflected in the wine’s value. Buy a case of Lynch-Bages at opening price in a good vintage and it will generally appreciate in value by about 10% per year. The 2000 vintage opened at about £450 per case in 2001 and now sells for £1250 per case. 2005 opened at £480, now £780. 1996 £360, now £960. You get the idea.
So how much will the 2009 be?
My theory is that the Bordelais price their wines in relationship to the next youngest comparable vintage, so in this case 2005, which was sold to the negociants at 42 euros a bottle: 504 euros a case. The negociants sold to the merchants at 594 euros per case, about £422 at the time. The merchants then sold at £480 per case, and it was a very good buy. The same numbers but with today’s exchange rate would suggest that 2009 Lynch comes in at £600 to £650 per case in bond to the customer. I hope £600, which would still be a good buy. Half the price of the 2000, a third of the price of a case of the 1989 or 1990. Whether or not the consumer agrees with me is another matter, though. We will see.
First growth pricing is another matter. Ch. Lafite-Rothschild can probably get away with what they like. Latour also. It gets tricky with Margaux, Mouton-Rothschild and Haut-Brion. Pride (can a chateau have an ego? Why not: they have character) will interfere here (Mr Margaux thinks his wine as good as, if not better, than Mr Lafite’s, and will want to price accordingly). On reflection though, I’m not going to speculate, even though speculation is the key factor here. Put it this way: if I want a case of Latour I will probably have to sell the Boxster.
No doubt there will be all manner of whining from “forumites”, old-fashioned merchants and various oenophile malcontents on the avarice of the wine trade as a whole, the greed, &c, &c, &c. Bollocks to it is what I say. Another belter of a vintage means more beltingly-good wine. Which is good news. We need more good wine. There is not enough of it.