As we’ve explained before in our newsletter, the market in Bordeaux is upside down. New releases are expensive and often over-priced. But mature bottles — bottles that are actually ready to drink — represent some of the best values in the world of wine today. I’m not talking about First Growths, Cheval Blanc and the like. Those wines have powerful brands and you will always have to pay for that. However, look beyond the famous names and you find plenty of great Bordeaux that are just, well, great. And many of them are superbly priced.
We are finding more and more opportunities working with negociant partners in Bordeaux itself. Because release prices for Bordeaux are so high, it is rare that the Chateaux or negociants sell through all their stock right away, especially in vintages that are not over-hyped. In a wine region where prestige is intimately tied to price, no Chateau wants to underprice a neighbor just to clear stock. Better just to hold it for quiet release at a later date, often at a lower price, or at least at a price that in no way accounts for the additional cost of holding and storing stock for multiple years.
Come to our New York shop now, or browse our Bordeaux selection here, and you’ll find a very strong selection of fairly priced Bordeaux that are full mature and perfect for drinking tonight. Many of these were recently acquired directly from negociants in Bordeaux, who either sourced the wines from the Chateau’s own library of stock, or were keeping it in their own cellars under perfect conditions. These are wines that have aged remarkably well, and always seem to drink better than bottles of the same wine that first came into the U.S. back when they were first released and have since bounced around the country in the secondary market. The simple fact is that nobody knows how to store Bordeaux as well as the Bordelais themselves, and that in any case the less wine moves around the happier it is.
Sometimes you can find cheaper examples of the same wine scattered throughout the country, but in those cases you can never be sure of provenance, and even when the wine has been stored properly by U.S. collectors, it just never seems as young and as fresh as examples direct from Bordeaux. (Partly this may be explained by the fact that many of these wines were first released in an era when they were not reliably shipped to the U.S. in refrigerated containers.)
In any case, pricing for these “direct” Bordeaux can be really good. Let’s take one of my favorite wines, Cantemerle, from the 2000 vintage. Back in 2001, Sherry Lehmann offered that wine as a future for $17/bottle. I remember being sorely tempted. So let’s imagine an alternate universe where I succumbed to that temptation and purchased a bottle for $17 and drank it tonight.
How much did that wine really cost me? Well, to store the wine professionally since 2003, when I would taken possession of the wine, would have cost approximately $45. So we are up to $62. Plus, there is the time value of money. Instead of spending that $17 I could have purchased a tax free muni bond and earned interest of probably 3% per year. That adds another $10 to the cost of the bottle, and we are up to $72, or maybe $75 once you consider your storage company’s “in and out” fees and so forth.
Well, we were able to recently acquire this exact wine from a negociant who had been storing it under perfect conditions in Bordeaux. Our price for the wine? $69.99. With a case discount (that $17 futures price was only available if you purchased a whole case), you’re looking at $63. It’s quite a bargain. And an extremely delicious bottle of wine, by the way.
Here’s a list of other recent “direct” acquisitions (as of May 30):
Château Beauséjour, Saint-Émilion, 2004 $59.99
Château Beauséjour-Becot, Saint-Émilion, 1996 $109.99
Château Grand Mayne, Saint-Émilion, 1998 $74.99
Château Grand Mayne, Saint-Émilion, 1996 $52.99
Château Phelan-Ségur, Saint-Estèphe, 1996 $74.99
Château Phelan-Ségur, Saint-Estèphe, 1995 $74.99
Château Clerc-Milon, Pauillac, 1999 $122.99
Château Lagrange, Saint-Julien, 2001 $87.99
Château Lagrange, Saint-Julien, 1996 $104.99
Château Boyd-Cantenac, Margaux, 1990 $99.99
Château Boyd-Cantenac, Margaux, 2000 $89.99
Château Giscours, Margaux, 1999 $89.99
Château Malescot-St-Exupéry, Margaux, 2001 $77.99
Château Malescot-St-Exupéry, Margaux, 1999 $89.99
Château Cantemerle, Haut-Medoc, 1999 $57.99
Château Cantemerle, Haut-Médoc, 2000 $69.99
Château Cantemerle, Haut-Médoc, 2001 $52.99
Château Cantemerle, Haut-Médoc, 2005 $59.99
Château La Lagune, Haut-Medoc, 1995 $89.99
This stock is all New York stock, but Californians watch this space, as many of the same wines will soon be arriving in California.