Last week Les 5 gave a substantial sign our collective good sense – none of us were in Bordeaux for the annual en primeur madness.
Many acknowledge that late March/early April after the vintage is too early to assess wines that will not be bottled for around another 18 months. Furthermore there is little guarantee that the blends tasted this last week will be the final blend. Indeed it would be strange if the definitive blend was decided this early.
Despite these well-founded doubts thousands of merchants, consultants and journalists descended on Bordeaux to taste the 2014. Many will have spent the Easter weekend writing up the hundreds if not thousands of tasting notes they took aiming to publish as soon as possible. Tasting notes are always a snap shot but these notes on unfinished wines are even more transitory than usual.
With Robert Parker now opting out of tasting en primeur, there is an added incentive for leading critics signed up for the 2015 Parker Handicap Chase to get their notes out as early as possible to have a chance of moving up the pecking order.
Christian Seely of Pichon-Baron reported that over last week he had well over 2000 visitors at the château. Surely another insanity! All these merchants, journos rushing up and down the Médoc and across to Saint-Emilion – driving trying to keep up to their crowded appointment agenda. How many litres of fuel wasted in a week?
Anyone putting together a sensible programme would arrange for all of the en primeur wines to be tasted centrally in Bordeaux thus drastically curtailing the amount of driving. Of course this won’t happen. The reverse is the case with more and more châteaux opting to oblige tasters to make appointments to taste at the château. You can see why this is so attractive to the châteaux. Impossible to taste blind and an opportunity to impress with their new stunning tasting room, new cuverie etc.. No point splashing the cash if no one notices…
All this for an en primeur system that has recently served the ultimate consumer or investor badly as Will Lyons has shown in The Wall Street Journal. A process that has thinned people’s wallets as efficiently as a 24-year Bromley scamster:
‘Let’s run through the numbers. Figures from Liv-ex, the London International Vintners Exchange, show that Château Lafite Rothschild 2010 was released at a price of £12,000 for a case of 12 bottles. Today it is trading at £5,600—a loss of 53%, or £6,400.’ More here.
Instead of Bordeaux we opted instead to have Wednesday lunch to the fine Bistrot des Belles Caves in central Tours, one of Jacky and Joelle Blot’s businesses. In Touraine there are many three-course weekday lunches for between 10-12 €. Two courses at the Bistrot des Belles Caves costs 18€ with three-courses 24€. The difference being that the cooking at the Bistrot is very good with an amuse bouche included. Six euros more for fine dining. Not that a basic menu can’t be fun and good value. Rather that six euros moves the whole experience up a number a notches.. Furthermore the wine list is extensive and excellent – strong, of course, in the Loire but also Burgundy.
Bistrot 4 Bordeaux 0