Pictured on the left is Reva Singh of Sommelier India, Patrick Maroteaux, President of the UGC, Serena Sutcliffe of Sotheby’s International. On the right is Georg Josef Riedel of Riedel Glas and Philippe Casteja of Chateau Batailley at the Bordeaux En Primeur dinner, April 2007.
Some say that the Bordeaux 2006 vintage could be as special as the famous 1982. Most critics however, argue that the 2006 are not even up to the 2005 let alone the 1982. While on the surface this might appear to be just wine critics bickering among themselves, huge amounts of money are involved. How the world perceives the vintage, determines how the wines appreciate in time.
2006 has been a particularly contentious vintage just as the 1982 were. Back then critics slammed the vintage except for one taster. Robert Parker believed that the wines he was tasting, would turn out to be some of the best ever produced. As the wines aged and then hit the market a few years later, his prophesy turned out to be true. The 1982 were a sellout and Robert Parker became the world’s most famous wine critic.
Back to 2006. So far the 2006 vintage has not sold well. Prices were released higher than most believed they should be. Some critics like Steven Spurrier feel that the 2006 might in fact be of higher quality than the 1982 because the wines were produced from lower yields and have higher concentration. For example only 45% of the cabernet crop made it into the Château Margaux 2006. The weather at the time of harvesting was confusing and as Denis Dubourdieu of the Faculty of Oenology said, sweet white Bordeaux benefited the most from the weather. (Yes, sweet white Bordeaux!). Berry Brothers, the influential London based wine merchants, categorically pointed out that it was a Merlot year on the Right Bank with the Pomerol being the star. In their opinion, the Cabernet’s did the best on the Left Bank and that St. Julien was consistent.
But the critical question is about the prices. When released, the prices shocked many, as they were considerably higher than the 2005. Many believed that this was an attempt by the Bordeaux Château owners to demand a greater share of the profits from the wine merchants. In a Decanter magazine article, Bordeaux proprietor Anthony Barton argued that the high prices for 2006 were reasonable. Not because the vintage was extraordinarily special but because new Asian buyers would be interested in picking up the big name Châteaux in any case.
So where does this leave you the consumer? The jury is still out on how strong the 2006 are. Prices are higher. However, there is greater demand for fine wine too. As long as you are comfortable holding onto the wines for a while, you can be sure of your investment. But to play safe, only invest in the biggest names and that too buy a little less than you usually would. The top performers over the last 40 years have been Lafite, Latour, Margaux, Mouton Rothschild, Haut-Brion, Léoville-Las-Cases. Pichon-Lalande, Cheval Blanc and Pétrus. You can’t go wrong with them. It is sensible to buy clarets from great producers in bad years and from unknown producers in good years. And remember, Bordeaux 2007 is just round the corner!
For buying En Primeur wine, take a look at Berry Brothers and Fine and Rare Wines Ltd.
The Sommelier India publishers were the only Indians from the media participating in the En Primeur tastings in Bordeaux in April, 2007.