7 June 2001 - Ch Latour, now with young Frédéric Engerer in charge, is the first of the first growths to divulge the terrible truth about first growth policy on selling their highly admired 2000s. A tiny tranche was released on June 6 at a price that is likely to result in a retail price increase of at least 67%. Aaaaaarghhhhh! In fact the tranche was SO tiny that the Bordeaux negociants are not even offering it to their wine merchant customers but have instead decided to wait and amalgamate it with the second tranche when it is finally released. According to Farr Vintners (who are offering Ch Clinet at £720 a case today), they expect to sell such Latour 2000 as they can get their hands on for at least £1500 a case, whereas they sold some cases of Latour 1999 at less than £900 a case. (And as if this weren't enough, there is even a rumour - only a rumour - that Ch Lafite may not offer any wine at all at this stage.)
Those who managed, usually by dint of being long-term followers of the chateau, to acquire any cases of Ch Léoville Barton at the opening price of £300 must be feeling very, very smug indeed.
4 June 2001 - If you want a laugh, take a look at www.vins-bordeaux-negoce.com, the official Bordeaux negociants' site. On it is an electronic version of a little booklet in French called "Primeurs 2000 - Bordeaux Merchants tasting hints" (no apostrophe - très trendy).
Apparently, they have studied the tasting notes of about 60 tasters and have amalgamated them to produce 'a safe and objective assessment' of '155 great wines from Bordeaux'. You may be struck by how amazingly positive, predictable and dull both scores and notes are. All of the first growths are tactfully scored exactly the same, 18-19/20. Ch Lascombes admittedly gets only 14-15, but otherwise, it would be pretty easy to guess the scores (and indeed write the notes) even if you had never been within a thousand miles of Bordeaux. Nice idea though.
21 May 2001 - And now La Lagune has followed suit (see below) with a straight 50% increase on its ex-chateau price for the 1999. There are still some bargains around in those less famous chateaux pricing their wine under 200 pounds a case. It will be the determined trophy-hunters who get their fingers burnt.
17 May 2001 - Well it is starting to happen (the shocking price increases predicted below). Ch Beausejour Bécot came out today with a price rise of a cool 52%. Expect many more to follow. Alas. Bordeaux heads for another fall...
So you've chosen what you want to buy. Now how the heck do you get your hands on it?
The prices are dribbling out slowly via the Bordeaux negociants, the most notable one to date being that of Ch Léoville Barton which has, as usual, moved up only very modestly indeed. Fine wine traders have spent a frustrating few days dealing with complete strangers who want 50 cases of this modestly priced miracle when they haven't even enough to satisfy their most faithful customers.
Anthony Barton could have doubled his price in 2000 and still have sold every case. As it is, he contines to act the true gent of the Médoc - which is great for us but rather frustrating, one suspects, for some other château owners who would dearly love to break ranks and slap on a 30% increase for this wonderful vintage. First growth prices are not expected until the end of May and who knows what will have happened in the interim?!
Stop press - I saw Anthony Barton's daughter Lilian in London recently. She expressed a combination of despair and frustration at the blatant profiteering that has been applied to Leoville Barton since its release at such a modest price. (Prices hikes of more than 300 per cent have been seen on both sides of the Atlantic.) I got the feeling that the Bartons' policy of trying to see their wine enjoyed by longstanding customers at fair prices may have been tested once too often.
As for most of the other serious chateau owners, they must be spending their days on the telephone 'discussing' pricing with every broker and merchant they can get their hands on - desperately trying to find out what their neighbours' intentions are. It's all awfully silly, isn't it? Especially when you compare all this stiff, status-conscious, self-interest with how things work in practically every other wine region in the world.
Robert Parker has ignored Calon Ségur and underrated Cos and Rauzan Ségla, so these may prove particular bargains. He is very keen on most of the new, ultra-modern right bank wines so they definitely won't be.
One of the best sites for keeping up with the Bordeaux 2000 market on a daily basis is Farr Vintners. Remember that France is open for business on Monday May 7 (a bank holiday in the UK) but not on Tuesday May 8 so you just might pick up a new release by emailing the British fine wine traders on Monday.
Best of luck!