Bordeaux '17 Priced Below '16 as Perrotti-Brown Sees `Diversity'

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(Bloomberg) -- The frost-hit Bordeaux 2017 vintage is starting to be priced by growers below the more consistent 2016 wines even as critics identify pockets of excellence and underperformance among vineyards that make last year’s production particularly hard to analyze.

“I haven’t encountered anything like it in terms of diversity,” Lisa Perrotti-Brown, editor-in-chief of Robert Parker Wine Advocate, said in a phone interview from California. “It’s not an easy vintage to communicate to buyers.”

Perrotti-Brown said top wines from the vintage included Chateau Cos d’Estournel from Saint-Estephe in the northern Medoc, Chateau Lafleur in Pomerol, and the dry white Chateau Haut-Brion Blanc in Pessac-Leognan. Saint-Estephe vineyards in particular, including Cos, Chateau Montrose and Chateau Calon-Segur, “produced a really elegant style,” she said.

The London-based online wine market Liv-ex in its recent “Navigating Bordeaux 2017” report said the vintage was looking “heterogeneous” following a combination of spring frosts in some areas and an otherwise relatively good growing season. With estates now starting to price their wines, the complexity of the 2017 crop is becoming more evident.

Chateau Palmer, a third-growth estate in Margaux, priced its 2017 wine at 192 euros ($230) a bottle ex-negociant in Bordeaux, down 20 percent on the 2016 release price of 240 euros, according to Liv-ex. The estate had some frost damage last April, although the grapes affected were in the western parts of its vineyards furthest from the Gironde estuary and used for its second wine Alter Ego, according to Managing Director Thomas Duroux.

Chateau Pape Clement on the southern outskirts of the city, where vines have been cultivated since 1252, pitched its 2017 wines at 61.20 euros a bottle ex-negociant, down 7 percent from the 2016 release price, while Chateau Branaire-Ducru in Saint-Julien made its wine available at 33.60 euros a bottle, down 15 percent from 2016, according to Liv-ex.

Most of the top estates have yet to unveil prices, gauging the response of international buyers to the presentation of the vintage in Bordeaux three weeks ago. The “en primeur” futures system, by which wine is sold to merchants and customers while still maturing in barrels before physical delivery, has been under some pressure due to volatile prices and a run of mediocre or poor vintages between 2011 and 2013.

A price rally in Bordeaux over the past two years, combined with critical acclaim for the region’s 2015 and 2016 vintages, has contributed to improving buyer confidence, and there are now signs that the quality achieved by some of the top estates in 2017 should also help.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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