A nose for a fine profit

THE TIPPLING sophisticates of Britain and the United States, along with wealthy investors from the Far East, are holding their breath about the imminent release for sale of what is expected to be a phenomenal 1995 vintage claret. At perhaps pounds 50 a bottle for top-of-the-range wines which cannot be drunk for years and are still of uncertain quality, that takes some nerve.

The big noses of Bordeaux make no effort to conceal their glee at what they see as a dramatic turnaround from only average years in 1991, 92 and 93, when difficult summers created small volumes and demand was weakened by the world recession. So confident are the vineyard owners that this year there is even talk of punishing disloyal customers - those who stayed away in the lean years - by restricting their access to the golden harvest which is promised.

In the past few weeks, the hotels in Bordeaux have been full of merchants, including the British chains, tasting the product and jostling for their share. The wine is sold by the producers through a courtier, a broker who adds a margin of perhaps two per cent, to the negociants, who are the wholesalers. There are about 40 main firms and their margin is typically 10 per cent. They deal in ordinary wines and the class growths and sell to wholesale and retail merchants, who add their own mark-up of 10-20 per cent. The aristocrats, who boast first to fifth growth classifications, similar to Michelin stars, account for about five per cent of the total production and there is only a limited amount of that wine available.

Jonathan Stephens, of Farr Vintners in Pimlico, feels it is this basic conflict of supply and demand which is pushing up prices and persuading the producers to keep back some stock, instead of selling at prices lower than they believe justified.

In the 100-metre long cellar at Chateau Mouton-Rothschild, 1,000 barrels of wine sit silently fermenting. The contents of these oak barrels represent a huge influence on the wine-drinking world. The vineyard is just 188 acres and produces about 12,000 cases a year - just 1 per cent of the wine being sold with the Baron Philippe de Rothschild name on the label. But, as one of the first-growth princes, along with neighbours Lafite and Latour, it sets the benchmark for prices.

No-one wants to make firm predictions, but when the price is set for the en primeur, as it is called in its pre-bottled infancy, the 95 is likely to fetch pounds 600 a case, compared with pounds 375-pounds 450 for the 94 - and that vintage is well respected in its own right.

There is nothing but optimism in Pauillac. Cellar master Michel Bosq, when asked if the 95 Mouton-Rothschild was formidable replied: "No. It is much, much better than that. It is une annee exceptionelle."

But a note of caution is sounded by Chris Gilbey of Nadder Wines in Salisbury. Many people have been burned over the last few years, he says, as prices have dropped. And there is always the threat of paying now, at a time of an artificially strong franc, for something that will be delivered in 1998, when the franc may have been devalued.

But, considering that the price of the 82 vintage recently nearly doubled from pounds 1,700 a case to pounds 3,000, and 45s, which are still drinking superbly, are pounds 2,000 a bottle, the pressure to be in on something as apparently special as the 95 is keeping fax and telephone activity at fever pitch.

peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Gabriel Agbonlahor, Alexis Sanchez, Alan Pardew and Graziano Pelle
footballAfter QPR draw, follow Villa vs Arsenal, Newcastle vs Hull and Swansea vs Southampton
New Articles
i100... she's just started school
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
New Articles
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
New Articles
i100... despite rising prices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Senior BA - Motor and Home Insurance

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: **URGENT CONTRACT ROLE**...

Market Risk & Control Manager

Up to £100k or £450p/d: Saxton Leigh: My client is a leading commodities tradi...

SQL Developer - Watford/NW London - £320 - £330 p/d - 6 months

£320 - £330 per day: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group have been engaged by a l...

Head of Audit

To £75,000 + Pension + Benefits + Bonus: Saxton Leigh: My client is looking f...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam