Bordeaux uncorks blockbuster vintage, eyes China

[CORRECTS to read XX futures market XX sted auction in intro] French vineyards launch the annual Bordeaux wine futures market this week, boasting a blockbuster vintage they hope will revive their flagging fortunes and lure wealthy Chinese buyers.

More than 6,000 wine professionals have descended upon the Bordeaux region, many of them from the cash-strapped Western economies that were forced to slash back imports of fine wines in 2009.

Traditional markets in the United States, Britain and northern Europe may now be starting to pick up, but in Bordeaux all eyes are on global powerhouse China, now the key customer of the chateaux.

And the 2009 vintage, which is sold this year, is reportedly very good.

Market-making wine critics Robert Parker and James Suckling have not yet released their all-powerful ratings, but experts are already confirming what the winemakers have claimed.

"Great vintage, definitely. Certainly among the best vintages ever," said world-renowned wine consultant Michel Rolland. "I think the grapes are better than in 2005 and even the technical approach is the best we have ever had.

"I think the wines are fascinating people all over the world. If this vintage is not able to bring back a good market, I think we have big trouble for the future in the wine business," he told AFP.

In a system unique to Bordeaux, wine is released for sale between April and June, more than a year before bottling, in order for the buyer to secure both a supply and a price.

Big vintages create a big buzz, fuelled by the trade-only tastings and constant negotiations between winegrowers, merchants and export clients.

The last hot vintage in 2005 sold for record prices, but subsequent vintages have received tepid interest, and last year's global recession took a massive chunk out of the market.

Now things are looking up.

"We've beaten our record which was 5,475 visitors for the 2005 vintage, an excellent sign of interest," said Jean-Marc Guiraud, president of the Union des Grands Crus, which represents the region's top winemakers.

Many estates will sell 70 to 90 percent of their stock, and for top labels like Chateau Beychevelle and Chateau Pape Clement 95 percent will change hands within hours of hitting the market - if the price is right.

For, even if the buzz is returning, traders are effectively playing on a futures market at a time of economic uncertainty, gambling that the quality of the 2009 vintage will see it sell well in several years' time.

"Foreign clients are showing a more pronounced interest than they have in recent years," said Georges Householder, head of the merchants' trade body. "In particular, China is showing signs of entering the futures market."

Don St. Pierre, chief executive of ASC Greater China, the largest importer of fine wines to China, confirmed this trend.

"I believe the demand will be strong, but if prices come out too high, i.e. near the 2005 release, it will not be well received," he wrote in an email to AFP as the bargaining began.

The price levels negotiated in the coming month will be crucial to the industry, a important source of French jobs and exports.

After lean years, winemakers are keen to capitalise on the high quality vintage, but if prices are set too high they risk scaring off buyers.

"There is beginning to be some interest, but price will be the determining factor in this still dicey economy," said Chris Adams, chief executive of Manhattan retailer Sherry Lehmann.

"It's early yet, but the few wines I've tasted confirm that this is quite special," he added.

Many British dealers sell on their stocks to Asia but, with sterling very weak, they are nervous.

"There is still a crisis. They don't know what they should budget for futures," said Sebastien Chaumet, export director for merchant Ginestet. "They have to buy and sell every day. They need cash every day."

Winemakers Jean-Michel Cazes of Chateau Lynch Bages, Patrice Hateau of Pape Clement and Philippe Blanc of Beychevelle all told AFP they would take the economic context into account as they negotiate prices.

"There is a lot of excitement, a strong demand, but one must remain serene in a complicated global context," said Blanc.

Nevertheless, at the top end of the market - legendary grand crus like Chateaux Lafite-Rothschild, Margaux and Ausone - prices are expected to soar.

"We will be in the irrational," predicted broker Francois Leveque.

News
people Emma Watson addresses celebrity nude photo leak
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
News
Boris Johnson may be manoeuvring to succeed David Cameron
i100
News
His band Survivor was due to resume touring this month
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
News
In this photo illustration a school student eats a hamburger as part of his lunch which was brought from a fast food shop near his school, on October 5, 2005 in London, England. The British government has announced plans to remove junk food from school lunches. From September 2006, food that is high in fat, sugar or salt will be banned from meals and removed from vending machines in schools across England. The move comes in response to a campaign by celebrity TV chef Jamie Oliver to improve school meals.
science
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
Life and Style
fashionPart of 'best-selling' Demeter scent range
News
i100
Sport
Tom Cleverley
footballLoan move comes 17 hours after close of transfer window
Sport
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
footballRadamel Falcao and Diego Costa head record £835m influx
Life and Style
fashionAngelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Sales Account Manager

    £15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Business Development Manager / Sales Pro

    £30 - 35k + Uncapped Comission (£70k Y1 OTE): Guru Careers: A Business Develop...

    Day In a Page

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

    US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
    Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
    Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
    Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

    The big names to look for this fashion week

    This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
    Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
    Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

    Neil Lawson Baker interview

    ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering