Vine Talk: How to navigate the 2009 Bordeaux vintage

Tue May 25, 2010 9:34am EDT
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(Robert Whitley is the publisher and managing partner of wine website Wine Review Online and the host of an online radio show "Whitley on Wine." He also oversees several international wine competition. The opinions expressed are hid own.)

By Robert Whitley

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - It may come as a surprise to those who don't live and die by the (famous wine critic Robert) Parker scores that vintages of the century are rather common in Bordeaux, where the most collectible and thus the most expensive wines in the world are produced.

Since the harvest of 2000, we've had three. I kid you not.

It isn't clear whether the phrase was first uttered in jest or, more likely, to promote sales within the Bordeaux wine trade. What's important to know is that when, on those rare occasions, the Bordelais harvest fully ripened grapes, they are likely to celebrate another "vintage of the century."

So as the grapes were gathered in the fall of 2009, they partied like it was 2005. Something akin to what happened in 2005, when they partied like it was 2000.

It is a vicious cycle for anyone who collects or invests in Bordeaux, for it inevitably means a price spike is on its way. To soften the blow, serious wine collectors and merchants with deep pockets often purchase Bordeaux en primeurs, using what are commonly called Bordeaux futures.

The buyer thus enters into a contract to purchase the latest vintage of Bordeaux at the earliest (and theoretically the lowest) price for delivery of the wine in two to three years.

As the price tends to rise on a great vintage between the time futures are offered and the wines reach our shores, historically they've been a good investment. In a normal world, 2009 would be no exception. Bordeaux from this vintage is outstanding across the board.   Continued...

<p>Barrels of wine in a cellar near Bordeaux, southwestern France, October 28, 2008. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau</p>