The Successful Collector – By Julian Hitner ~ Bordeaux 2008 – Great clarets ~ Saturday, September 17th, 2011
Prices are high (but not ridiculously): Right now, the 2009 and 2010 Bordeaux ‘en primeur’ (futures) campaigns are in full swing. And you know what? Even for the most well heeled collectors, prices for both of these vintages, especially 2010, are ridiculous, plain and simple. Never in my wine-buying life did I ever imagine that a bottle of Château Talbot would cost more than $85, or its oft-quoted Gruaud Larose counterpart fetching more than $90. But here we are, basking the dog days of summer ’11 (when this column was outlined), courtesy of the surprisingly sultry St. Lawrence Lowlands, with no reasonably priced claret of ‘classed growth’ standing to purchase, at least not via any current futures campaign.
Or are we? What about 2008? How did this seldom-sung vintage perform? Turns out rather well, in fact, judging by the many wines from I’ve been privy to taste. In large part, the reason for this lies in the pricing of the vintage preceding it: the rain-soaked ’07 vintage, priced at such ludicrous levels that estates were forced to bring prices back down to some sort-of echelon of sanity with the ’08 vintage, otherwise consumers would have been highly unlikely to part with their money.
Even more important, in terms of overall quality, 2008 was actually a very good vintage throughout both the Left and Right Banks. Granted, the year started out fairly damp and unquestionably rainy, with uneven flowering and variable fruit set; yet vines were once again saved by an extremely sunny September and excellent harvesting conditions. In the end, the best producers were largely able to craft wines of serious structure and quality. Make no mistake, however: 2008 will hardly be remembered as a ‘legendary’ vintage, yet one that was (more or less) a vintage of truly great quality.
For collectors, by the way, 2008 has already been bottled; so don’t bother trying to seek out futures prices. That time has already passed. Even so, prices will probably only slightly increase when they reach LCBO shelves. Another thing to remember: while quality was fairly uniform among the best of estates, a few of the finer names really didn’t perform to their usual status. And while such châteaux shall remain nameless, your best bet is to stick with established commentators for the most accurate reviews. Shall I pay voluntary heed to the task?