Bordeaux, France

Bordeaux En Primeurs 2010

BordeauxReflections on 2011 Wine Trends, continued.

The story of 2010 Bordeaux is Chateau Batailley. 

Yet, as the Wine Doctor says, there is something of the “blustery tweed jacket” about Batailley.

During the Georgian period, tax was determined by the number of windows in a building and many were, and still are, bricked up (incidentally, this is where the term “daylight robbery” comes from).

I thought about these windows a lot when I worked in Belgravia (Central London) when I delivered Bordeaux and Champagne on a trolley around Eaton Square.

We had a customer, a mad 79-year-old customer from Mayfair, who liked to drink Batailley from a fine white china tea cup at his parties.

Batailley was a practical claret, nothing too serious. I have always found it always a bit solid and predictable, a bit four-square (only if not served in a tea cup, then it was fun), and a bit old-school retro.

This is why the rate of sales in the UK in 2010 is so interesting. On 1 June, the real 2010 Bordeaux campaign finally commenced. Emails offering Batailley at about £300 per dozen IB ex VAT skidded into my inbox like drunk carrier pigeons.

This was one of the fastest-selling wines of the 2010 campaign in UK and sold mostly on the back of Neal Martin’s note, “Quintessential Pauillac” 93- 95 points.

It shows there is a demand for Bordeaux En Primeur for drinking but it has to be reasonable value. It also shows people are looking for something rock steady in a difficult and tumultuous European economic environment.

For serious En Primeur buyers, this was the position that used to be occupied by the Second Growths (Baron and Comtesse) but now have become a bit punchy – even to the people who are comfortable spending money and cellaring wine for future drinking.

2010 showed a distinct improvement in this cardboard and dust style of claret. It pulled out some distinctly Pauillac pyrotechnics.

Graphite, crafted symmetry and pure black fruit.

This is because the quality of all Chateaux is generally moving upwards since the 1990s because of technology and better sorting of grapes in the vineyard. The extremely strict sorting of the grapes at Pichon Baron is a case in point.


Batailley captured the attention of the traditional Bordeaux market and a few younger people who want to get their foot in the door of En Primeur allocations.


I’ve noticed a few Bordelaise are questioning their decision to alienate their traditional audiences for a shaky Chinese market which has the potential to tank the whole fine wine market.


Or not. As Alfred Tesseron noted, “There is Brazil”. Although I would argue Pontet is a new breed of Bordeaux, a bit outside the traditional system, with a distinct story about the land.


The story of the land is the real story of wine, and that includes Bordeaux (!), and where I think the future of the region lies if it does not want to become completely retro in the next 20 years.

Better than the one that leads to a closed world of daylight robbery.

Previous post: Reflections on 2011 Wine Trends: Part 1 – Natural Wine


    • Juel Mahoney says

      Batailley wasn’t always this price. It is traditionally bought to drink, not usually as an investment to trade.

      • Even at £295IB a case this is still a claret to drink. I bought my first Batailley at £120IB a case and 2010 will be my last case. The brothers wanted this released at £325 a case to break the £300 mark, but the merchants baulked at such as thought. It is funny about Neal liking this wine as he was always cool on Batailley.

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  2. Juel, thanks for the interesting take on the year, a good addition to the other round-ups I have read (jancisrobinson, Bordeaux-Undiscovered and Wine Yields). I’ve been back in Britain a year after a good while abroad, but it certainly seems to have been eventful to me – I don’t know if you feel it has or if this quite normal for the British wine trade!?

    Bordeaux en primeur has certainly been the most controversial, headline grabbing and time consuming event of 2011. It’s only 5 or 10% of production though, with quality and climate more favourable than ever the region has much to offer.

    Consternation at pricing policy remains tremendous, but it’s the system really, en primeur is by definition a speculative affair.

    The chateaux fix their release prices by looking at current prices for back vintages on the Place de Bordeaux and wider negoce, principally London and Hong Kong wholesale and retail prices.

    These are sky high, why, because speculation (buying to sell to China later) put them there as much as China itself. As those who make the wine, one could hardly expect chateaux to sell at a discount to what they know it will soon fetch, as the difference would only go to speculation, not them nor save wine drinkers money.

    In the end, en primeur is always a trade off between a buyers and sellers market.

    With a good quality vintage in Bordeaux (the new norm), but certainly one that will be cheaper, the prospect of India entering the eye of the storm, more merchants starting to focus on Brazil and who knows what else, it looks like it’s going to be another interesting year!

    I look forward to seeing your interpretation of it.

    Hope I haven’t abused this message box by writing so much, it got me going!


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