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’09 Bordeaux Futures May Provide Opportunity in Older Vintages

While many of the entry level 2009 Bordeaux wine futures prices have been released over the last few weeks, wine collectors are holding their “collective” breath for the cream of the crop, those elite that live in the 1rst growth tier.  From what I read and hear, it appears as if futures prices of these wines will be released sometime over the next several weeks.  That’s the good news.
The disappointing news to me as a Bordeaux wine lover, is that rumors have it that the 1rst growth prices may approach and in some cases exceed the last surge in 2005.   In light of the fact that the US just dodged the worst economic onslaught in 80 years and Europe is now struggling (witness the plunge of the Euro), it would seem to me that discretionary monies for high end wines would be limited.  Somehow, I can’t imagine that we are going to return to the good old days of funding our leisure lives through home equity and credit cards.  So from where is the fuel coming to support higher futures prices? 

Well, one is the Asian continent, fueled by China.  Hong Kong wine auctions have been very well attended and highly successful in selling most the auctioned lots at asked for or higher prices.  As well, Bordeaux merchants believe that the US will step up for another Bordeaux vintage of the decade, the half century or century.  Recall that we heard the same praises uttered for the stellar 2000 and 2005 vintages with 2003 just a smidge behind, but that was another era.  With all this said, where should Bordeaux lovers look to start or add to their high end collectibles.

One corner that I’d be eyeing are the 2000, 2003 and 2005 vintages.  These are all outstanding and proven vintages with most wineries producing between five and ten thousand cases per vintage.  If you believe, as I do, that not all of the top wines from these vintages has been soaked up, what do you think may occur if the ‘09 futures prices come out at record highs?  If it were me, I’d look at the pricing of the earlier vintages to see if I can pick them up at a more reasonable cost. 

Are you going to see a 2003 Chateau Lafite Rothschild in the wine section of your local supermarket or liquor store?  No, but if you’re  lucky, you might catch some of these earlier vintage wines at lower prices than listed below, at least initially.  I guess that if wine lovers stampede for the ’00, ’03 or ‘05’s in mass, current pricing will hold.  Somehow, I don’t expect that to occur.  While it’s suspected that the ‘09’s will be superb, final judgment as to their place in the realm of wine history must be reserved for at least the next 5-10 years while they age in bottle.  As well, remember that you’ll be plunking down money for wine that will not be delivered for another year or more.  And will the wine be noticeably better than its brethren to justify higher prices?

Finally, don’t overlook the outstanding wines at the 2nd through 5th Growth tiers, wines such as Leoville Las Cases, Cos d’Estournel, Ducru Beaucaillou, Malescot St Exupery and Pontet Canet that are a fraction of the top guns such as Chateau Lafite Rothschild and Chateau Latour.  Some of these approach 1rst growth quality such as the ’03 Cos and ’00 Las Cases.  With all the ’09 Bordeaux coming on to the market, first as futures and later (2011) in bottle, my antennae is up for any weakness in proven prior vintages.
As a frame of reference, here’s some average pricing for first growths and selected 2nd through 5th  for the years 2000, 2003 and 2005.  I’ve also thrown in the ’06, 07 and ‘08’ prices.  These represent vintages with more challenging growing seasons, a small step down in quality and correspondingly “more affordable” pricing, in some cases a half to a third of the top vintages.

Yr   ($)Marg  Lafite Mouton Latour H Brion 
         1rst      1rst     1rst    1rst     1rst   

2000    800    2000   900    1000    550  
2003    600    1000   350    1100    350    
2005    900    1000   650    1100    750   
2006    500     750   600     570      425   
2007    430     600   450     450      430   
2008    330     830   450     600      400   

        ($)Las Cases Cos d’Estournel Ducru Malescot PCanet

            2nd                     2nd     2nd      3rd         5th

2000     370                     180      160     90-150     90     
2003     175                      225      160        70        95
2005     150                       200     225       150     120
2006     170                       90        135       55        80
2007     170                      120       100        50      80
2008     140                       140      100        40      85

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