Bordeaux’s pricing of new releases has historically shown little correlation to the movements of the physical market. Release prices have instead been influenced by quality and quantity considerations and the critical view. Using the average Wine Advocate score as a proxy, the chart below shows a marked difference in the pricing of “on” and “off” vintages.
With the usual En Primeur tastings postponed this year, the trade is yet to see the direction of critic scores and prices, but early indications suggest that 2019 boasts better quality than 2018, which in turn would suggest a lift in prices when the vintage is released onto the market.
Bordeaux 500 and ex-chateau index vs Wine Advocate score per vintage
In his report on Bordeaux 2018, Neal Martin hinted at “excitement surrounding the 2019 vintage”. He wrote that “a majority of winemakers believe that their 2019s are superior to 2018 due to slightly better pH. Having witnessed the harvest first-hand, I believe their optimism is not misplaced.”
Reports by Gavin Quinney and the team behind Saturnalia further confirm that Bordeaux 2019 is a very good to excellent vintage. It also comes after two smaller harvests, affected by frost in 2017 and mildew in 2018. Although overall yields (486.3m litres) were lower than last year’s (500m litres) and below the 10-year average (508m litres), the leading appellations enjoyed abundant crop. As the chart below demonstrates, the vintage saw a return to good yields across the board in the seven most prestigious areas.
Yields per appellation
However, the abundant crop across the top appellations does not necessarily mean that there will be more wine coming to the market. As has been a recent trend, a soft physical market might prompt financially confident chateaux to withhold or cancel releases altogether rather than cut prices.
But this does not come without its downside. Within the supply chain, there is an abundance of young wines on merchants’ lists. Add to these the stocks still held by the chateaux and one can begin to understand the headwinds facing price appreciation in the secondary market: lots of great vintages, but also lots of great unsold wine.
Stock levels as percentage of Bordeaux 500 by vintage
The Bordeaux 2019 campaign, widely predicted to take place in June and July this year, promises to be unlike any other. With an abundant vintage of great quality being released into a world struck low by social and economic dislocation on a scale not seen since the Second World War, one might expect some surprises.