This story was updated on June 14.
Bordeaux’s en primeur campaign is officially under way. Now that the wines have been presented to the trade and media, Bordeaux's château owners are starting to formally release the prices for their still-in-barrel 2016 wines.
There is sure to be interest this year. My report on the vintage, based on blind tastings of over 300 samples, shows 2016 to be a potentially classic vintage, marked by tannic, yet racy, fresh and defined reds.
As for market factors, it depends on which market. American consumers are lucky—the dollar is strong versus the euro, making the wines cheaper in the U.S. Brexit is proving to be a headwind for the English market, weakening the pound. Chinese consumers, after betting big on futures a few years ago, have moved away from buying en primeur, favoring finished, ready-to-ship wines.
And there’s a wild-card factor—the recent frost that heavily damaged the 2017 crop. It remains to be seen how that looming shortfall will influence how château owners price their 2016s.
The early releases that trickled out show only a slight increase in price over the 2015s. The 2016s are generally better in quality, particularly on the Left Bank. But the crop is also the largest since 2006, so there will be plenty of wine to go around, meaning consumers can pick and choose as they wish.
It all adds up to a scenario where the American market could be a major player, with the quality helping to drive significant interest. On the flipside, the Bordelais can’t raise prices indiscriminately. They need to work on rekindling their relationships with American buyers after leaving the market cold during the 2009 and 2010 campaigns by blowing the lid off prices. Who blinks first?
Below you’ll find regular updates and analysis on the campaign, with prices given both ex-négoce, which means before importers and retailers add markup, and average retail price, which is compiled from Wine Spectator’s tracking of leading U.S. retailers. It’s what you can expect to pay.
The 2016 en primeur campaign is approaching its end, with the last of the big names releasing this week. And prices are moving upward.
The most eye-opening new entry was Château Figeac, which released its futures at 150 euros per bottle ex-négociant, an increase of 47 percent compared to its 2015. It's showing up at leading U.S. retailers at an average of $197 per bottle, 38 percent over the 2015.
That’s the largest percentage increase of the major players, topping Pontet-Canet's 44 percent increase. Figeac earned 95 to 98 points based on a blind tasting of its barrel sample, one of the highlights in this strong vintage. Since the owners elevated Frederic Faye to general director and hired consultant Michel Rolland, starting with the 2013 vintage, Figeac has clearly made significant improvements. And since the 2010 is averaging around $308 per bottle at U.S. retail, the 2016’s big price doesn't look as shocking. But whether this is enough to warrant such a dramatic increase will be up to the market to decide.
Château Léoville Las Cases opened the week by releasing its futures at 180 euros per bottle, ex-négoce, 38 percent more than the 2015. That's resulting in a U.S. retail offering of about $242 per bottle, 28 percent over the 2015, but significantly shy of the $320 currently being asked for the 2010. One of the highlights of the Left Bank in the vintage, the 2016 wine earned 97 to 100 points based on a blind tasting of its barrel sample. Owner Jean-Hubert Delon has this second growth humming along—since 2000 it's earned a classic rating of 95 points or better in nine different vintages, and has never rated lower than 91 points during that span. It's as blue-chip as you can get outside of a first growth.
Pomerol's Château La Conseillante also made an aggressive move, releasing at 150 euros ex-négoce, up 33 percent over the 2015. With winemaker Marielle Cazaux at the helm since 2015, this property has improved its performance, earning 93 to 96 points for its 2016. The wine is hitting U.S. retail for $197 per bottle, 23 percent over the 2015.
The en primeur campaign is nearly wrapped up, and the general trend, looking at properties Wine Spectator tracks, has been an increase of 13 percent over the 2015 retail prices, with a handful of châteaus taking bigger jumps. Négociants report that most of the wines have sold well and overall the Bordelais seem happy with the campaign. The wines will be reviewed in bottle in the latter half of 2018, with stocks then shipped to the U.S. starting in early 2019.
Additional updates and analysis after the chart.
These estates represent a selection of leading wineries. Our ratings are potential scores based on barrel samples. Retail prices are an average of trusted retailers we follow. To provide a comparison, we're showing prices for 2015 futures and current prices for the 2010 vintage, a classic year that is currently available.
Data compiled by Cassia Schifter.
|Château||2016 Score||2016 initial futures offering at U.S. retail||2015 initial futures offering at U.S. retail||2015-2016 retail change||Current 2010 price at U.S. retail|
|La Mission Haut-Brion||NYR||$433||$402||+8%||$967|
|Léoville Las Cases||97-100||$242||$189||+28%||$320|
|Vieux Château Certan||NYR||$251||$238||+5%||$450|
NYR means a wine has not been submitted for review yet. NA means a wine has not been released or is not sold in sufficient quantities by U.S. retailers yet to determine an average price.
You can tell it’s a busy week in Bordeaux when châteaus release futures on Fridays. Pontet-Canet, Haut-Bailly and Pichon Longueville Lalande all hit the market today and all aimed high on prices. Château Pontet-Canet has released its 2016 futures at 108 euros per bottle ex-négociant. That’s an eye-popping 44 percent jump over the 2015—even with the strong dollar, the wine is selling at leading U.S. retailers for 38 percent more than the 2015, at $145 per bottle, or $1,740 per case.
Pontet owner Alfred Tesseron has always marched to the beat of his own drummer, surprising the market with a quick release for the 2013 vintage a few years back, for example. While the biodynamically-farmed Pontet-Canet produced a strong wine in 2016, easily the best since 2010, and the brand enjoys a strong following in the U.S. market, this price might be a bridge too far.
Château Haut-Bailly took a 27 percent increase on their 2015, also on the higher side. While Pessac-Léognan quality in 2016 is not on the same level as 2015, Haut-Bailly did turn in a very impressive one-two punch in these two vintages. A small estate with a loyal following as well, this wine tends to get bought up quickly. It’s retailing in the U.S. at about $115, 20 percent more than the 2015.
Pichon Lalande released at 120 euros per bottle ex-négociant, a 25 percent increase on 2015. It’s retailing for about $159, also a 20 percent bump on the 2015. The wine earned a preliminary 95 to 98 points in a barrel tasting.
Bordeaux has ramped up its futures campaign and appears headed for a crescendo soon. "It should all be done before Vinexpo," said one major négociant, referring to the annual trade show, which begins June 18.
Several heavy hitters joined the fray today. Château Pichon-Longueville Baron (which earned 96 to 99 points in a barrel tasting) released its futures at 114 euros ex-négoce, up 19 percent over its 2015 release, arriving at leading U.S. retailers at $150 per bottle, or $1,800 per case, up 14 percent compared to the 2015.
St.-Julien's Ducru-Beaucaillou (97-100) released at 139.20 euros ex-négoce, up 16 percent over the 2015, resulting in a U.S. retail offering of around $188 per bottle. That’s about 13 percent more than the 2015, but St.-Julien produced some of the best wines of 2016.
Château Smith-Haut-Lafitte (95-98 points) released its red wine at nearly 77 euros ex-négoe, taking a 28 percent increase, the biggest bump so far of the leading châteaus being tracked by Wine Spectator. It's selling at U.S. retail for about $102 per bottle, 21 percent higher than the 2015.
Pomerol's Château Clinet (94-97) released its futures at a more cautious price—72 euros ex-négoce, retailing for $98 in the U.S. market, just seven percent more than the 2015.
So far the campaign has gone well, perhaps even a little better than expected. "Many wines [are] selling very well this year," said another major négociant.
Among the releases on June 7 were Right Bank studs Château Canon-La Gaffelière and Clos Fourtet.
Château Canon-La Gaffelière (rated 95 to 98 points based on blind tasting of its barrel sample) released its futures at 66 euros ex-négoce, up 17 percent from the 2015, at the higher end of increases so far this campaign. But thanks to the strong dollar, the wine is selling for about $85 per bottle in the U.S., according to Wine Spectator's tracking of leading retailers, just nine percent over the current 2015 retail price. It's also one-third less than the current retail price of the 2010.
Clos Fourtet (96-99 points) released its futures at just under 83 euros per bottle ex-négoce, a notably aggressive 24 percent increase over the 2015. It's retailing for around $110 per bottle, about 13 percent more than the 2015 at U.S. retail.
Château Margaux became the last first-growth to release its 2016 futures, pricing them at 420 euros ex-négoce, a nine percent increase over the 2015 prices, the same as fellow first-growths Mouton and Haut-Brion. The wine is currently retailing at around $550 per bottle, or $6,600 per case, in the U.S. market. Lafite Rothschild raised prices higher with its release, while Latour is the only first-growth that does not sell futures during the en primeur season.
Margaux has noticeably less wine to sell in 2016, as it only selected 28 percent of its crop for the grand vin. Another 26 percent of the crop went to the second wine, Pavillon Rouge, which was released at 114 euros ex-négoce, retailing for around $149 per bottle.
Collectors of elite Bordeaux are likely to chase Margaux's grand vin down. The 2016 is the first vintage for the estate under the guidance of general director Philippe Bascaules and estate manager Sébastien Vergne, following the passing of long-time director Paul Pontallier in March 2016. While the wine is gorgeous, it likely won't match the heights of the 2015, which is an early candidate for wine of that vintage.
Other releases of note today include St.-Julien's Château Léoville Barton, which released at 63.60 euros per bottle ex-négoce, up 18 percent over the 2015. That translates to a U.S. retail price of about $88, a very square price. It's also 47 percent less than the current retail price of the 2010. The wine earned 96 to 99 points in a barrel tasting. St.-Julien was the high spot for Left Bank quality in 2016, and this estate is about as blue-chip as it gets. When its wine is under $100 per bottle, it's a very easy recommendation.
Pessac-Léognan's Château Malartic-Lagravière (92-95 points) also released, with its 2016 selling for around $57 per bottle at U.S. retail.
A busy week on the Place de Bordeaux climaxed at the end as Mouton-Rothschild and Cheval-Blanc joined the ranks of first-growths that have released their 2016 futures.
Cheval-Blanc released on June 2, offering their wine at 552 euros ex-négoce, a 2 percent increase versus the 2015. That results in $702 per bottle at U.S. retail, also 2 percent more than the 2015. It's a benchmark wine for the 2016 vintage and serious collectors will want to consider it. More than three-quarters of the crop went into the grand vin in 2016 so you won't be looking for elusive quantities as in some years.
The Right Bank also saw Pavie Macquin release. The wine, which earned a potential score of 94 to 97 points in blind barrel tastings, debuted at 58.80 euros ex-négoce, up 11 percent versus the 2015. That means it's retailing for about $79 in the U.S., a very square price for an elite wine whose hallmark is its purity of aromas and a beam of fruit.
Notable releases from the Left Bank today include Domaine de Chevalier, whose red was an eye-opener in 2016, earning 93 to 96 points. At 52.80 euros ex-négoce, a 19 percent bump versus 2015, it's arriving at U.S. retail at about $70. While the estate is best-known for its white wine, this red should not be overlooked. Speaking of the white, it has been released at 69.60 euros per bottle ex-négociant, a 5.5 percent increase on the 2015 price. It’s retailing at $93. While 2016 was not ideal for white wines, at a potential 90 to 93 points, this is one of the best.
Margaux's Château Giscours, which scored 92 to 95 points, is also out, at 44.40 euros per bottle ex-négociant, a 23 percent increase on the 2015 price, resulting in a fair $60 per bottle at U.S. retail.
Mouton Rothschild released their grand vin at 420 euros ex-négoce on June 1, up 9 percent compared to the 2015. That translates to a retail price in the U.S. of about $556 per bottle, or $6,672 per case, just 5 percent more than the 2015’s current price. By not rattling the market with a large increase, Mouton is clearly holding the line here with its fellow first-growths Lafite Rothschild and Haut-Brion. Only Margaux remains, as Latour does not offer its wines during the en primeur campaign. Though Mouton’s grand vin keeps prices sane, the second wine’s price is a bit eye-opening. It’s retailing for about $182, compared to the 2015 at $145.
Canon also released, at 72 euros ex-négoce, a 20 percent increase on the 2015. But it is being sold at retail in the U.S. for about $100, a drop of 30 percent from the 2015. The wine earned a preliminary score of 95 to 98 points. Could the château have garnered a bit more margin? Likely. Will consumers want one of the top wines from St.-Emilion in their cellar at a remarkably sane price (vis a vis its peers). Methinks yes. This is a green light. Meanwhile Rauzan-Ségla, Canon's sister property, also released, at 60 euros ex-négoce, hitting retail at $83 per bottle, a 9 percent bump over 2015.
A handful of other estates also released, all worth consideration by Bordeaux lovers, including Margaux's Cantenac-Brown, 91 to 94 points and selling for $54; Pauillac's Grand-Puy-Lacoste, 94 to 97 points and selling for $80; Haut-Bages Libéral, 91 to 94 points and selling for $47; and St.-Estèphe's Lafon-Rochet, which scored 90 to 93 points and is selling for $50 per bottle.
From the Right Bank, St.-Emilion's Troplong Mondot, which scored 94 to 97 points, was released at a lofty 102 euros ex-négoce, working its way to retail at about $139 a bottle. It's an impressive wine in 2016, but the price seems ambitious for an estate that hasn't topped triple digits at retail since its 2010, which was released at around $170 U.S. retail and is currently selling for $167, according to the Wine Spectator's Auction Index.
The Bordelais returned from their long weekend and picked up right where they left off, with a busy opening to the week.
First-growth Château Haut-Brion, along with its sister property La Mission Haut-Brion, released their first tranches of futures. Haut-Brion priced their futures at 420 euros ex-négoce, a shade under Lafite Rothschild, which was the first first-growth to release. At 9 percent over the 2015 release, it's priced at around $553 per bottle at leading U.S. retailers, or $6,626 per case, only 5 percent more than the 2015’s current price and less than half the 2010. Haut-Brion also released most of its stock, unlike Lafite, so expect that price to stick through the campaign. La Mission, owned by the same family company, released its futures at 336 euros ex-négoce, up 12 percent over the 2015. It is retailing for about $440, 9 percent more than the 2015.
Today, Malescot St.-Exupery released at 41 euros ex-négoce, up 18 percent over the 2015, and retailing for about $56, 12 percent higher. Even though the Margaux AOC is not as strong in 2016 as it was in 2015, this is still a relative steal, as Jean-Luc Zuger is making one of the best (and often overlooked) wines in the AOC. The 2016 earned 92 to 95 points for its 2016 barrel sample.
Meanwhile, a pair of St.-Estèphe châteaus made attractive offers, with Phélan Ségur releasing at 32.40 euros, translating to about $43 per bottle at retail, and Calon-Ségur releasing at 62.40 euros, resulting in a retail price of about $86. St.-Estèphe excelled in 2016, and both wines are blue chips with solid cellaring potential. St.-Julien's Gruaud-Larose and St.-Emilion's Larcis Ducasse also released, both retailing for about $73.
A flurry of 2016 Bordeaux futures hit the marketplace over the past three days as France prepares for a holiday weekend. Angélus and Pavie, the two estates elevated to Cru Classé A status in St.-Emilion in 2012, released May 23. Both of these upwardly mobile châteaus got aggressive with their 2016 pricing, releasing at 294 euros ex-négoce, 17 percent more than their 2015s. That equates to around $380 per bottle retail in the U.S., or $4,560 per case, a 12 percent increase over the current retail price for the 2015. Pavie earned a preliminary 97 to 100 points for its 2016 barrel sample, even higher than its score for the 2015, so there’s reason to buy if you’re a fan of this estate.
Also of note was Château Lynch Bages, a perennial favorite with Americans. At 96 euros ex-négoce, it's being offered for around $126 per bottle retail, or $1,515 per case, 9 percent more than the 2015. It received a preliminary score of 96 to 99 points. The 2016 vintage is in a different league than 2015 when it comes to the upper Médoc, so serious Bordeaux fans likely shouldn’t balk here. It should be noted that Lynch Bages, much like Lafite Rothschild, offered a somewhat small first tranche, so expect the price to creep up quickly when the rest of the wine is released.
As expected, first-growth Lafite released its second tranche of wine, allowing négociants to finally start selling. The wine ticked up to an average of $606 per bottle, or $7,272 per case, at U.S. retail, 7 percent more than the 2015.
Other releases this week included Pomerol wineries Gazin and Petit-Village, as well as Quintus, the property in St.-Emilion owned by Château Haut-Brion.
So far the trade seems pleased with the 2016 prices, which in general have seen only modest increases on the 2015s. Factoring in the currency shift since the release of the 2015s and many 2016s are hitting U.S. retail at nearly the same price. "A pretty good vibe in general, and especially on Lynch Bages," said one major négociant.
As expected, Château Lafite Rothschild followed up last week's release of its second wine Carruades with the first tranche of their grand vin today. The futures were priced at 455 euros ex-négoce, a bump of just 8 percent over the 2015. Thanks to the strong U.S. dollar, that works out to around $585 per bottle at leading U.S. retailers, or $7,020 a case, just 4 percent more than the 2015s. (The château did not offer the wine for a blind tasting, so it is not yet rated.)
It looks like a smart price, and the market is likely to react accordingly. But only about half the crop was released in the first tranche. A second tranche with a price increase seems inevitable. That forces négociants to wait until the following tranche comes out as they will have to reset their pricing—a move that can cause headaches down the line. So don't expect to see too many Lafite offerings from retailers just yet.
Meanwhile, you can jump all over Château Beycheville. The St.-Julien fourth-growth produced one of its best wines ever in 2016, earning a potential score of 93 to 96 points, thanks to not only the vintage but also the completion of their spanking new cellar. At 56.40 euros ex-négoce, it's a 14 percent bump over 2015. Leading retailers are offering it for about $74, or $888 per case, just 3 percent over the current 2015 retail price. I'll keep saying it: St.-Julien is ground zero for top quality 2016 red Bordeaux. This is a green-light special for blue-chip, ageworthy Bordeaux. The wine is selling well, according to négociants. "We never have enough of that one," one told Wine Spectator.
Other châteaus releasing so far today include Langoa Barton at $48 at retail and Sociando Mallet at $36 at retail. This is shaping up to be a busy week for Bordeaux lovers.
Big names have started to hit the marketplace this week, with Château Palmer releasing its futures and Château Lafite Rothschild releasing its second wine.
The Carruades de Lafite 2016 futures have been released at 135 euros per bottle ex-négociant, a 12.5 percent increase on the 2015 release price. With the strong dollar, it is currently selling for about $180 a bottle, or $2,160 a case, at leading U.S. retailers, a 2 percent increase on 2015. Lafite's grand vin will vie for wine of the vintage. Consequently, its second wine merits consideration for serious Bordeaux buyers. The price increase might herald a more significant bump for the grand vin itself, which the Château typically releases shortly after the Carruades.
Château Palmer also made an aggressive move, releasing their 2016 at 240 euros ex-négoce, a noticeable 14 percent bump over the 2015. Top U.S. retailers are offering it at $305 per bottle, or $3,660 per case, a 7 percent increase on 2015. As I noted on Pape Clément, I'm hesitant about Pessac-Léognan and Margaux wines that increased prices this year, because the 2015 wines were generally superior to the 2016s in these two appellations. But the Palmer grand vin 2016 is a blaze of purity, long and refined, and while it stands in stark stylistic contrast to it's rich and more powerful 2015, it's one of the few 2016s from Margaux of equal quality as its 2015.
Montrose released its first 2016 futures at 102 euros, ex-négoce, resulting in an initial retail offering in the U.S. of around $138 a bottle, or $1,656 a case. Montrose excelled in 2016, easily besting their 2015 (a weaker vintage in the upper Médoc.) Thanks to the strong dollar, the 2016 is actually slightly cheaper than the 2015 was on release, making this a green light special. While the price is right, some négociants were scratching their head at the small amount of wine released in the initial tranche. "Great price, selling fast, but very little wine. It doesn't make sense," said one. Is Montrose playing the waiting game for a potential hike on the second tranche? Or is it betting that prices will appreciate significantly by the time it sells the bottled wine?
Other 2016 releases of note today include Château Potensac, retailing at an attractive $25, du Tertre at $40 and Talbot at $55. The latter is especially intriguing as St.-Julien has the early lead on “appellation of the vintage" in 2016 and savvy buyers should be hitting a full range of châteaus here in 2016. The Talbot price is nearly identical to its 2015.
Pape Clément released its first tranche of futures at 66 euros ex-négoce, an increase of 12.2 percent on the 2015 futures. Leading retailers are offering it for about $89 per bottle or $1,068 per case, a six percent increase on 2015. Pro: The wine here is among the best Pessac-Léognan reds in 2016, and keeps with owner Bernard Magrez’s typical style of lavish toast, though the amount of new oak has been reduced a bit here in recent years. Cons: The 2015 vintage is absolutely breathtaking in the Pessac and Margaux appellations and the 2016s don't match that level in these areas. So, any 2016 price increases over 2015 might give some folks pause.
Cos-d'Estournel opened up the campaign with an offering at 120 euros per bottle, ex-négoce, the same price as their 2015. With the strong dollar, that means an approximate retail offering of $156, a five percent drop from the 2015. The upper Médoc excelled in 2016, with many of the top wines rivaling years such as 2005, 2009 and 2010 (though in a different style.) The 2016 Cos is one of the standouts, rippling with plum sauce and currant reduction notes, backed by a lilting whiff of anise and carried by a remarkably polished structure despite its obvious tannic drive. This is a no-brainer buy for serious collectors.