The Successful Collector – By Julian Hitner ~ Bordeaux 2010 futures – Why I’m not buying ~ Saturday, August 20th, 2011

Julian Hitner

Julian Hitner

Even collectors have limits: For almost eight years, I have bought Bordeauxen primeur (on futures) every spring. It is almost a springtime ritual: waiting for the Decanter reviews to come in, along with a few other publications, and making my selections accordingly, or even tasting the wines, my self. It is a tradition that virtually all serious collectors eagerly undertake. Even in years, such as 2007, there have always been wines, such as white Pessac-Léognan and Sauternes, worth purchasing in advance.

Vieux Chateau Certan Label

Until now.

Have (most) premium claret producers gone insane? With the 2010 en primeur campaign now in full swing, I have never come across so many preposterously overpriced futures in my life! Even the historically reasonable Château Talbot is, courtesy of the LCBO, being tagged at a ridiculous $95 per bottle. A few other examples: Pontet-Canet ($239); Léoville-Poyferré ($199); and Beychevelle ($129). Is the Asian market truly that hot?

Chateau La Conseillante

By all measures, the prices for 2010 futures are unreasonably inflated. Consider this: the American economy remains in shambles; the European Union is still fighting to keep some of its member nations afloat; and as forJapan, the largest market inAsia, let’s just say they have other problems to worry about than buying premium claret. So, aside from Canada and a few other significant buyer-nations, that really just leaves Hong Kong and China to absorb all the futures that would have otherwise been bought up by the Americans or, to an even greater extent, the British. Are the Chinese really willing to pay such exorbitant prices for their claret? Perhaps. Perhaps not.

Hence, can someone please tell me why prices so high? In short, the answer comprises a mixture of both vintage quality and speculation. Of the former, estates are playing the odds that, if the quality of the 2010 vintage is labelled as ‘one of the best vintages ever,’ the wines will simply sell themselves. And in all truthfulness, 2010 is, in fact, a superlative vintage, despite the unprecedented levels of alcohol to be found in St-Emilion. As a result, many producers are speculating that collectors shall be willing to write larger cheques in the hopes of securing their allotments of this ‘must-have’ vintage of the century.

But seeing as how most years are being labelled as ‘vintages of the century’ these days, the sheer novelty of it all is starting to catch up with collectors like my self. After all, if 2005 and 2009 were ‘vintages of the century,’ what need have I of another one at the present time? I already have plenty, either in my cellar or on order, from both of these vintages; so I might as well buy 2008, a seriously good vintage, much more realistically priced, and devoid of (many of) the trappings of speculation. After all, even serious collectors have limits.

Click here for a few gems for collectors from the 20 August 2011 Vintages Release