2014 Duhart-Milon was released last week. Working on margins that make a wine merchant wonder why they didn’t work harder at school, it is offered in the UK at £400 per dozen bottles in bond. Which is €42 a bottle off the negociants. Even with well-bought euros the margin struggles to get into two figures. I speculate that those who actually have buyers for a case or two of 2014 Duhart-Milon may be of the mind to short sell it. Apt.
I didn’t taste the wine too well myself and tasting at Lafite is always a little tricky to boot: the grand vin is invariably very hard to judge in its youth, whilst Carruades and Duhart-Milon have had prices so detached from their intrinsic quality for so long that tasting the wines – looking for that intrinsic quality – has been academic at best. For what it’s worth, though, I reckon 2014 Carruades to be the best Carruades in years.
The thing about Duhart is this: whilst the price reduction on the 2014 is welcome, and something that will hopefully be followed by their neighbours, Duhart is wrongly-priced in the first place. It still hasn’t found its “post-China” price. A few might make the relative value argument: that 2014 Duhart is the cheapest available vintage on the market (just), and that the 2014 is better than the other vintages that can be found at close to the £400 – £450 per dozen mark. All this may well be true. The point is that you can buy better wine for less money in Bordeaux. And for £400 – £450 per dozen you can buy some absolutely superlative wine outside of Bordeaux.
“Pre-China”, 2005 Duhart-Milon was in the region of £250 per dozen on release and an excellent wine to boot. It was one of my vintage picks. And, just for a while, had to be hand-sold, recommended. I sold it to clients who were going to drink it. Then came the “Lafite effect” and Duhart started to fetch prices that had little connection with its intrinsic quality. And Duhart is still in the “post-China” correction. Or at least that’s what I reckon.
For years I’ve listened to, or read, the “en-primeur is dead” brigade. They’re sort of the usual suspects. And I thought, and said: humbug – you don’t know what you’re talking about. I’ve been doing this for years. Actually doing it, selling it rather than just waffling a few words on it. Coalface, that sort of thing. But I’m beginning to wonder if they have, or had, a point.
2014 is still a vintage that can save the en-primeur market. The men and women who are going to make the decisions that count are not stupid. But en-primeur is about cashflow and there is little to suggest that the leading chateaux of Bordeaux are short of cash (largely on account of en-primeur sales, which should be noted.) We will see.