Burgundy continues its slide, but Bordeaux might be coming into its own.
In the same way the media in March was completely dominated by Brexit, so was the wine market. Instead of squabbling and jostling for position, however, the main players in the House of Wine continued to sit on their hands.
UK merchants remain, unsurprisingly, risk averse; some are just not buying anything for stock, so the market has continued to ease. The good news is that this easing is a result of apathy rather than volumes of stock hitting the market.
Unsurprisingly, the Burgundy Index (one of our fine wine indices that benchmark a representative basket of the world’s greatest and most traded wines) continues to slide from its Himalayan-style peaks. What is really interesting is the performance of Bordeaux, especially the First Growths. This sub index gained 2.8% in March and is the only one of the indices above to be positive in 2019.
Other than the rally inspired by weak sterling after the European referendum in 2016, the First Growths have been in the doldrums for nearly a decade – is this the turning point? Market commentators have been saying that Burgundy was making First Growths look cheap again for a while now, yet so far there has been little stirring of the sleeping giant.
We have just returned from Bordeaux, having tasted some, but not all, of the 2018 vintage. A bad outbreak of mildew and a drought later in the growing season led to severely reduced yields in some properties (two thirds in the case of Pontet Canet) which could easily mean some aggressive pricing in some quarters – yes, again!
As usual, les Bordelais were not to be found suffering from modesty or understatement, many claiming another incredible success. The heat from the end of July onwards resulted in small, thick-skinned berries delivering highly concentrated juice, resulting in well-above-average alcohol levels. There are few wines coming in at less than 14% alcohol by volume – Mr Parker must be punching the air!
It almost goes without saying but those who managed their vineyards well, picked in time and maintained acidity have performed the best. At a time when winemakers and consumers are reverting to fresher, more elegant styles the timing of this vintage is somewhat ironic. If Mr. Parker’s influence was still intact we might have been looking at Bordeaux ’18 being declared the first ever Port vintage outside of Portugal!