Top Bordeaux wine prices drop in crisis climate

Tue Jun 2, 2009 9:58am EDT
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By Claude Canellas

BORDEAUX (Reuters Life!) - Prices for top Bordeaux wines of the most recent harvest, the so-called 2008 'primeurs', have dropped markedly as big wine buyers turn cautious in the current economic crisis.

The sale of the latest harvest on a sort of futures market -- the wine is still maturing in vats and will be delivered at least a year later -- is a unique feature of the Bordeaux wine sector and was a factor behind a long rally in prices as cash-rich international buyers and financial speculators competed for a limited supply of top growth wines.

It starts every year in April, with swarms of tasters and buyers making a tour of the wineries in the Bordeaux and wider Gironde area in southwest France.

This year, the trend was for lower prices.

"For the biggest names, the price drop has been 40 to 45 percent, which is in the end a bit more than what the market expected -- that is prices at the level of 2004 or 2003," said Allan Sichel, the president of the syndicate of wine and spirits traders in Bordeaux and Gironde.

As soon as the tastings were over, Château Angélus at Saint-Emilion said it cut prices by 41 percent to "come back to reality and send a strong signal," said owner Hubert de Bouard.

Prominent names followed such as Lafite-Rothschild, Mouton-Rothschild, Margaux and Latour in the Medoc area.

Chateau d'Yquem, the top Sauternes name, slashed prices by 59 percent and Haut-Brion in Pessac-Léognan offered the trade a price of 125 euros ($177.7) per bottle - down 50 percent.   Continued...

<p>A guest tastes red wine in Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte in Martillac, southwestern France, March 30, 2009. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau</p>