Bubble bursts for vintage claret

THE SPECULATIVE bubble in prices of the finest young Bordeaux wines - which have doubled and trebled in recent years - appears to have burst.

The 1998 vintage, though generally reckoned to be one of the best for some time, has been selling in the past few days for up to 25 per cent less than the 1997 vintage, which was universally judged to be poor.

The sale of a good wine for less than a bad one goes against all the instincts and traditions of the growers and traders. It amounts to a recognition by the big Bordeaux chateaux that the steep price increases of recent years threaten to ruin the international market for high-quality claret.

"There have been abundant warnings from shippers that prices had to fall this year, however good the 1998 wine might be," one British wine trader said. "The producers have finally seen some sense."

The chateau-cos-d'estournel - the most prestigious claret in the Saint Estephe area of the Medoc - led the way by selling 70 per cent of its 1998 wine at a 25 per cent discount on last year's price. Other high- quality labels have followed suit in the traditional advance sales of "primeur" or raw, still unbottled wines over the past couple of weeks. Cos-d'estournel - one of the worst, speculative offenders - went for the equivalent of pounds 28 a bottle from the chateau last year (perhaps pounds 40 to retail customers). It sold for pounds 21 a bottle this year.

This follows a virtual stand-off in January and February when many wine traders boycotted the advance bidding. Early sales of the 1998 vintage - despite its excellent quality - were less than one third of the normal level.

The drop in chateau prices affects only the highest-quality clarets - pounds 40 to pounds 30 in the shops - which will not be drinkable for another seven years or more. It will have no direct impact on retail prices of more modest bottles of about pounds 10 but it may help to arrest the upward trend in all Bordeaux prices seen in recent years.

Retail prices for the best Bordeaux labels were driven up in the Nineties by a boom in Asian demand, a fashion for claret in America and speculative buying by City traders. Wines were being sold at up to 10 times what the chateau had originally charged.

Four years ago the chateau owners gazed at the profits being made by some shippers and traders, and asked: "Why not us?"

They ramped up the asking price for young Bordeaux (primeur) and, having got away with it one year, did it again, the next and the next.

Last year, partly because of the Asian recession, the market fell flat. Thousands and thousands of cases of the "poor" 1997 vintage remain unsold in wine traders' cellars all over the world. While these stocks remained on their hands, shippers were reluctant to pay a high price for the1998 vintage, however good it might prove to be.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
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.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Data Specialist

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are the go-to company for ...

Recruitment Genius: Search Marketing Specialist - PPC / SEO

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the UK's leadin...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This caravan dealership are currently recruiti...

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test