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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
tvSpoiler alert: It has been talked about for months
Arts and Entertainment
James Hewitt has firmly denied being Harry’s father
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Oliver
filmTV chef Jamie Oliver turned down role in The Hobbit
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
news
News
Sir James Dyson: 'Students must be inspired to take up the challenge of engineering'
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Man of action: Christian Bale stars in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
Life and Style
Apple showed no sign of losing its talent for product launches with the new, slightly larger iPhone 6 making headlines
techSecurity breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Arts and Entertainment
Catherine (Sarah Lancashire) in Happy Valley ((C) Red Productions/Ben Blackall)
TV
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 Money & Business

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Selby Jennings: Quantitative Research | Equity | New York

Not specified: Selby Jennings: Quantitative Research | Global Equity | New Yor...

Selby Jennings: SVP Model Validation

Not specified: Selby Jennings: SVP Model Validation This top tiered investment...

Selby Jennings: Oil Operations

Highly Competitive: Selby Jennings: Our client, a leading European Oil trading...

Day In a Page

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?