Wednesday, June 28, 2023

LeDomduVin: Bordeaux 2022 and the En Primeur Campaign


Bordeaux 2022 

and the "En Primeur" Campaign


In this post, I'm just giving some views, opinions, and facts about the 2022 vintage and previous vintages like 2003, as well as about the "En Primeur" campaign and, more especially, Bordeaux prices, like 2022 and others like 2017 and 2021 compared to previous vintages. 

As I'm not a journalist or a wine critic, you won't find any "Bordeaux En Primeur 2022" wine descriptions or scores within this post. They do it so well; I leave that job to them. So, stop reading here if that is what you were looking for. Or continue reading if other facts and aspects of the En Primeur 2022 campaign (and other facts about Bordeaux wines in general) interest you.         

Bordeaux 2022 - An intriguing vintage

To say the least, Bordeaux 2022 is quite an intriguing vintage.

Created under extreme weather conditions, hot and dry, with high temperatures and a lack of water supply, the resulting wines display ripe fruit, high alcohol, and low pH. And, yet, they are fresh, balanced, harmonious, beautifully textured, structured, and integrated, without the typical characteristics of overripeness or jamminess associated with hot vintages.

In fact, 2022 would have probably been another 2003 if it wasn't for the cooler night temperatures and the proven ability and resilience of the vines and growers in adapting to the changing climate conditions and rising temperatures over the past two decades. These two crucial factors saved the vintage. 

Bordeaux has had hot years in the past, such as in 1982, 1985, 1989, 1990, 2005, 2009, 2015 and 2019, which ended up being superb vintages with great complexity and ageing potential, extremely successful commercially and delightfully satisfying. Hence, it is interesting to notice that, except in 2003, the best vintages for Bordeaux wines were usually produced in the hottest years. Bordeaux loves the sun. And 2022 is another great proof of it.    

The 2003 Heatwave

However, in 2003 growers were taken aback by the heat wave's severity, brutality, intensity and duration, which even the most experienced struggled to handle. The temperature rose to 40.7 °C degrees Celsius in Bordeaux. 

The severe heat wave was felt all across Europe. It began in June and continued through July until mid-August 2003, raising summer temperatures 20 to 30% higher than the seasonal average over a large portion of the continent. It was the first severe heat wave of a long series of recurring ones, covering a large area extending from northern Spain to the Czech Republic and from Germany to Italy (see map below). The latest severe heat waves were in 2015 and 2019.  

Here is a map displaying the severe heat waves across Europe in 2003 and 2015 (courtesy of   

Being the first vintage struck by such an unprecedented and intense heatwave, 2003 marked the beginning of a new era for Bordeaux (and other wine regions of France and Europe in general). It gave the growers something to reflect on. Vineyard and cellar management and winemaking had to be pondered and thought over, with changes having to be made and gradually implemented to adapt to what was about to become the "new normal".      

During the 2003 harvest, some growers aimed to preserve acidity and freshness by harvesting early, but this led to underripe fruit with green, bitter, and astringent tannins. Meanwhile, others waited too long to take advantage of ripeness, resulting in overripe fruit with high alcohol, low pH, and inharmonious wines. Some growers even attempted both approaches, blending the wines to counterbalance, resulting in overripe, scorched fruit mingling with weird acidity and poorly integrated, bitter tannins and alcohol.

As a result, during the "En Primeur" period, the Bordeaux 2003 vintage proved to be one of the most inconsistent and heterogeneous I have ever tasted during my 31-year career in the wine industry as a Sommelier and wine buyer. 

Thankfully, since then, and especially after 2009, another hot year, Bordeaux growers have adapted and significantly progressed in handling hot and dry years, allowing them to be prepared and ready for vintages such as 2022.

The Differences between 2003 and 2022

Yet, the 2022 vintage differs from previous scorching years like 2003 (and 2015 or even 2019). Unlike 2003, which was hot and dry all day and night, the heat waves in 2022 were intermittent, with cool nights in between, which made a crucial difference, especially in keeping the wines fresh and vibrant.

Along with the climate, the weather and the rise of the temperatures, many things have also changed and evolved in the 20 years separating these two vintages, including (but not limited to) vineyard and cellar management, the winegrower's goals and visions, as well as trends, practices, techniques, skills, knowledge, and tastes. 

Generations have also changed with younger growers, winemakers and oenologists, bringing a new regard and approach to vineyard and cellar management and winemaking, experiencing to find how to tackle these new challenges. These differences have led to significant differences in the quality level and expectations of wines produced now and then for the better.

In the 2000s, growers still focused on maximising sun exposure, ripeness, and concentration. And even if that particular year of 2003, de-leafing was not necessary due to the hydric stress (*) the vines suffered from, de-leafing was still common, and herbicides, insecticides and fertilisers were still heavily used. Hence, cover crops were rare, and the in-between rows were often yellow or bare. 

Sustainable, organic, and biodynamic methods and practices were still at an early stage. Although considerable efforts had been made since the 70s, 80s and 90s, and despite a few leading by example, a majority was still prioritising productivity at the expense of quality.   

In 2022, the grower's approach was different, as, over the years, with the experience of the previous severe heat waves of 2003, 2005, 2009, 2015 and 2019, they had changed and adapted their practices, tested, and adopted new ones to be prepared and better protect their vines and grapes from extreme weather conditions, ensuring they thrive even in the hottest and driest vintages.

De-leafing is only done when necessary, maximising the use of canopy to shield the grapes from the sun, and implementing cover crops, which are important for soil health as they prevent erosion, suppress weeds, and provide nutrients, while also promoting biodiversity and support natural pest predators, resulting in healthier soil and plant growth.

Vineyard and cellar management practices and methods differ as they are nowadays more natural, sustainable, and minimalistic in a way, with fewer interventions, more environment friendly, and often related to or tending toward (if not certified) Organic and Biodynamic cultures. 

Back to nature

Basically, we did not invent or create anything new. As for everything else, after decades of trials and failures of destroying the soil and sub-soil, land, environment and life with heavy chemicals, especially since World War II, due to capitalism and the result of over-production, over-commercialisation and over-consumption linked to greed and an ever-growing demographic, (and all the consequences that came with it), we're just slowly returning to more natural, cultural and agricultural ways, as it used to be before the existence and heavy use of chemicals (herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, etc...). 

For a large majority, growers' goal, now compared to 20 years ago (even to 30-40 years ago), is to embrace nature and allow it to thrive. Believing and applying more natural methods that involve minimal interference and control. This includes utilizing organic compounds derived from plants and animals, and minerals instead of relying on inorganic chemicals like arsenic, sulphur, and copper that have been (and still are) commonly used for pest control in agriculture and vines growing. These chemicals are known for their residual toxicity, which can harm the environment and human health. By adopting a more natural approach, growers aim to create a safer and healthier environment for everyone.

The use of animals such as horses, mules, or donkeys to plough the soil (amongst other things), as well as hens and sheep and/or goats to graze in the vineyards, naturally aerating and fertilising the soil, while also helping biodiversity, like it used to be before the 1940s (when tractors slowly replaced horses), is now back in fashion.

But, more importantly, it is worth noting that while growers have adapted and adopted new methods, technics, skills, knowledge, and behaviours to better protect the environment and cope with extreme weather changes (e.g. devastating hailstorms, late frost, floods, hot and dry summer, and capricious growing seasons with lots or no rain), the vines have also adapted over the last two decades and are now more resilient to Bordeaux’s "new normal".

Vines have learned to support and survive these extreme weather changes, including the increasing heat of these last few years. Bordeaux temperatures reached 41.2°C in 2019, surpassing the previous all-time high record of 40.7°C registered in August 2003. (**) 

Suffering these successive and recurring heat waves over the years allowed for the roots to reach deeper underground to find moisture and nutrients, enabling the vines to better ripen and thrive with less water, which played an important role in the quality and equilibrium of the 2022 Bordeaux vintage. The vine's newfound ability to adapt over the last 2 decades have already and will continue to prove crucial for coping with future extreme climate conditions.

In summary, based on all the reasons cited above, the 2022 Bordeaux vintage is both exceptional and controversial and will likely trigger debates and conversations for years to come. It may even attract the same level of fascination and speculation as the legendary 1982.      

Talking about speculation, let's talk first about the En Primeur 2022 campaign.  

Bordeaux 2022: another great "En Primeur" Campaign

Summer is upon us. Most chateaux have now released their prices, and as I write these lines, the "Bordeaux En Primeur 2022" campaign is ending. 

The Negociants and other wine merchants are happy as the 2022 vintage is said to be exceptional, and thus, demand was high despite low quantities (due to small yield) and high prices. Wine critics and professionals raved about it, and scores were high. The rumour goes it is probably the best vintage of the last 20 years and surely as legendary as 1982.    

As every year, the Bordeaux "En Primeur" campaign started shortly after the "En Primeur" tasting week, which occurred this year from April 24 to 28, 2023. Highly anticipated, and following the difficult 2021, a price increase for the 2022 vintage was expected. People were talking about 20-25% compared to 2021.     

By May 10th, two Chateaux paved the way for the rest of the campaign with Ex-Negociant prices respectively at 470 Euros for Cheval Blanc 2022 (a reasonable 20.5% increase compared to 2021 at 390 Euros) and at 350 Euros for Angelus (a whopping 32.1% increase compared to 2021 at 265 Euros). Then the rest of the Chateaux followed, slowly releasing their prices up until the end of June.  

Over the last 8-9 weeks, Negociants and merchants have probably sold a good part of the small allocations they got from the Chateaux to clients worldwide (I bought some for the company I work for). Yet, they surely kept some aside (***) to be sold later on as speculation is already going strong and will definitely increase within the next 2 years. The average market prices on Wine-Searcher already promise a potential margin between 8-48%, while the wines are still in barrels and won't be released from the Chateaux/Negociants until early 2025.      

Bordeaux is also a great place to live and for vacation.

As the campaign is done now, the Negociants are surely now preparing to head to the "Bassin" and spend the next two months resting under the sun on the beaches of the "Cap Ferret", "Arcachon", "Lacanau" and all along the 275 kilometres of France South-West's coast from Soulac-sur-Mer (to the north) to Hendaye (to the south) 😉😁👍🍷. 

And why not? Might as well! As in Bordeaux, like in the rest of France (and pretty much everywhere else in Europe and the world to a certain extent), nothing can be done or achieved during summer, as nearly everyone is on vacation at some point in July and/or August. 

Life is good in Bordeaux. The food is great, and the wines are "not so bad". 😉👍🍷 Both the town and the Gironde region are beautiful and ideally located with great beaches and the Bassin d'Arcachon at less than a 1-hour ride, the Pyrenees Mountains at about 3 hours, the deep forest and historical sites and caves of the Dordogne and Perigord less than 2 hours away, the forest of the Landes and the tip of the Estuary with Royan and La Rochelle in Charente-Maritime less than 2 hours away too. You never have to drive too far to completely change scenery. 

People in Bordeaux complain a lot, while they don't even know or realise how lucky they are to live in such an extraordinary environment. One day, I believe that I will go back to my hometown. "When?" is the question, as it has already been 26 years since I left Bordeaux and France altogether to live and work abroad... Time will tell.        

Bordeaux always recovers

And I must say that, once again, despite the forces of nature conspiring against the vignerons by throwing natural (and unnatural) extreme weather conditions and other phenomenons their way (hail, late frost, flood, drought, mildew, oidium, black rot, etc...), every year, and, despite the ocean of Bordeaux and Bordeaux Superieurs that have seen their sales plummet these past few years (for various reasons), generating a lot of discontents and even asking the government for help, overall, Bordeaux is still doing quite well. 

Or "really well", should I say? You know that Bordeaux is doing well when you walk around along the docks on a beautiful day, crowded by the "Jetsetters" of Bordeaux, the newly arrived Parisians, as well as the tourists and the oenotourists who come by millions to Bordeaux every year. Bordeaux is only about 2 hours and a few minutes away from Paris via the TGV, which is why the Parisians have invested so heavily over the last 5 years.  

Despite the rise of Burgundy wines in the last 15 years, Bordeaux is still considered one of France's most attractive regions for tourists and also one of the world's Top leading and most exemplary wine regions, with some of the most sought-after wines coveted by the most avid amateurs, connoisseurs and collectors around the globe.   

Also, despite a few difficult vintages in the early 2010s (2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014), which saw their sales plummet due to various qualitative, shipping and taxes reasons, as well as political tensions and economic factors, and even despite the Bordeaux bashing in recent years, more especially over the price hike of the 2020 En Primeur campaign, Bordeaux is, overall, still thriving, especially with the latest 5 great vintages (before 2022): 2015, 2016, 2018, 2019 and 2020.  

Moreover, 3 years of COVID (2019-2022) could have been a disaster. Still, in fact, the situation really helped sales as a lot of people, like us in Hong Kong and China (but not only), were cut off from the rest of the world, with heavy restrictions and curfews, leading to people being locked at home for weeks (even months), having nothing else to do than to work from home, and watching YouTube, Netflix, Prime, Disney and HBO (just to name a few), while eating and drinking delivered food and, more importantly, wine!        

That's why, overall, and for all the reasons cited above, Bordeaux is doing pretty well and will continue to do so as long as people continue drinking (****). 

More specifically, (as usual), the top 500 chateaux, the locomotives of Bordeaux, out of the 9000 Chateaux and producers in the region, are doing extremely well. No matter what people can say or do, and despite all the vagaries of life, Bordeaux, like a cat, always falls back on its feet. And thus always recovers. 

No more bad vintages in Bordeaux

Moreover, Bordeaux is surely doing well, as if you listen to the Bordelais, "there are no more bad vintages in Bordeaux", as "it is nearly impossible to make bad wines nowadays". There are only great and good vintages. Tasting certain wines might prove the opposite, but let's keep this post positive and "overall". 

So, no bad vintages, did you say? Yet, if we look at the vintage quality reports and ratings, as well as per my "Theory of the vintages for Bordeaux wines" (read it here and here), and more importantly, as history repeatedly showed us (especially in the last 4 decades with climate changes and temperatures rising), Bordeaux usually produces and benefits from

  • 3 great vintages per decade (usually ending with 0, 5 and 9), 
  • 2 good vintages (ending with 6 & 8), 
  • 3 lesser vintages (ending with 2, 3 & 4, with some rare exceptions), and 
  • 2 bad vintages (usually ending in 1 and 7).   

In short, it means that, generally, Bordeaux wines benefit from 5, usually good to great vintages, out of 10 per decade. At the same time, the other 5 are usually more difficult, even lesser or mediocre (but don't say that to a Bordelais as they do not believe that it is the case, and they usually get very upset when approached on the subject).   

As a visual is worth a thousand words, here is (again) the vintage chart of my "Theory of the decades for Bordeaux vintages".

Bordeaux 2022: a rare exception to the Rule

As you can see on my chart above, even the last few years confirmed my theory again. Bordeaux 2022 is one of the rare ("unpredictable") exceptions to the rule (like 1982), which directly follows a remarkable trilogy of ("predictable") successful years: 2018, 2019 and 2020. 

2022 Bordeaux is definitely a rare exception to the rule, as, despite 1982, all the other vintages ending in 2 since the beginning of last century have been lesser in quality, producing wines with less potential and, in my opinion, not worth the asking prices in some cases. 

Logically, in the eyes of the Bordelais, the lesser vintages are often considered and called "Classic style" Bordeaux, as they won't tell you they are lesser. They will just say they are different. And they will be right to say so, as tasting is very subjective, and some people might like or prefer lighter wines with tighter tannins, more astringence, high acidity and/or bitter nuances. 

Some of them can sometimes achieve good results after years, even decades, in the bottle and reward the most patient of us. But for most of them, time may not help...  I have been surprised before, so never say never, and always remain open-minded.   

However, 2022 is a rare exception to the rule, as the vintage was not destined to be great. After suffering a sharp frost in early April, it was then affected by the first strong heat waves in mid-June, immediately followed by storms, heavy rainfall and hail in some parts. Then it was cooked by another series of summer heat waves between mid-July and mid-August. The weather was hot and dry, temperatures were high, rainfall was low, and the vines suffered from heat and drought. Another heat wave came in the middle of the red harvest, which occurred in September for the most part.     

The chart of Gavin Quinney (*****) is surely the best to understand the Bordeaux 2022 vintage at a glance. (Chart courtesy of

Now, you better understand why I said that Bordeaux is like a cat earlier. Looking at this chart, you realize that, no matter what happens, Bordeaux always falls back on its feet and recovers against all odds. Despite a scorching sun and heat, the vintage was saved by cool nights, a minimum of water and roots that had reached further into the soil due to low precipitation, as well as, more importantly, both the vines and growers' adaptation and experience, over the last 20 years, to better handle vintages with such drastic weather and climatic conditions.    

Before concluding this already lengthy post, let's discuss...

Released prices, speculation and eventual profit 

As mentioned earlier, a price increase was highly anticipated, especially following the difficult 2021 vintage. People were talking about 20-25% compared to 2021. And on average, 20% is correct.  

By early May, two Chateaux paved the way for the rest of the campaign: Cheval Blanc 2022 at 470 Euros Ex-Negociant (a reasonable 20.5% increase compared to 2021 at 390 Euros) and Angelus at 350 Euros Ex-Negociant (a whopping 32.1% increase compared to 2021 at 265 Euros). Then the rest of the Chateaux followed, slowly releasing their prices up until the end of June.  

Speculation on this Bordeaux 2022 vintage is already going strong. While the wines are still in barrels and won't be released from the Chateaux/Negociants until early 2025, the average market prices on Wine-Searcher already show a potential margin between 8-48% (for the retailers).  It is promising as the prices will surely increase over the next 2 years and steadily continue to climb in the years after the release.  

The 2022 vintage has been compared to 1982 for diverse reasons by some professionals, the press and critics.  Hence, if it achieves the same popularity and is put at "legendary" status, and it probably will, this is very promising for the most patient buyers who will benefit from great added value and profit if/when they will resell their unopened OWC cases in the next decades. 

Look at the cost of 1982, then and now, 40 years later. It is insane! And good luck finding some that are in good condition as, as a highly coveted product of speculation, most Bordeaux 1982 bottles have travelled the world over more than once via collectors and auctions. Therefore, the quality of the wine has surely been affected and might be debatable in some cases.      

The "En Primeur" Dilemma

The logic of buying "En Primeur" is normally to be able to buy at a better price than the wine release's price and/or retail price 2 years later. And, for great vintages, to buy at lesser prices than already released vintages that have already been on the market for a few years. 

However, this is not always the case. In fact, prices can be the same or even lower when the wine is released two years later, compared to during the "En Primeur" campaign. This can make people hesitant to purchase during the campaign.

It is partly because many retailers outside Europe do not necessarily follow the European market's inflation and speculation and therefore do not necessarily increase their prices accordingly. This is often the case in the US and Hong Kong, where you can often find much better prices than in Europe in general and even France. 

In short, you will likely pay a much higher price if you buy your Bordeaux in the town of Bordeaux itself rather than if you buy it in New York or Hong Kong, for example.        

Also, as a buyer or consumer, it can be challenging to comprehend why you should purchase wine (that hasn't been released yet) at a higher price than wine already available. It does not make sense. And yet, that is the case with Bordeaux "En Primeur" (good year, bad year).  

For example, if we take Angelus (again). The released price for the great 2020 vintage was 260 Euros. The wine was released in 2022, and it is now worth an average market price of about 350 Euros (July 2023) due to speculation, quality of the vintage, etc...  Which is considered "normal" as 350 Euros is roughly the average market price for Chateau Angelus in most recent "good to great" vintages (e.g. 2016, 2018, 2019, 2020). 

And yet, the release price of the 2022 vintage was already at 350 Euros (a 34.6% increase compared to the 2020 price release, Ex-Negociant), which was not a good move, in my opinion, as there are 3 outcomes to this situation, either:
  • People will be willing to understand and pay for the increase, and subsequent speculation will further increase the price for a little while before stopping, potentially slowing down sales.  
  • People will not be willing to pay the price as they do understand the sudden increase compared to the previous 5-6 vintages (despite low quantities and high demand), and sales will surely be slow.     
  • Speculation will stop rapidly as the release price is already quite high. Therefore, instead of steadily inflating with time (generating a potential profit for those who will resell it after a few years of cellaring), the price may stagnate long-term (after reaching a certain ceiling), for example, 400 Euros, and stop there. And at the end of the day, it is completely understandable. Why pay more than 400 euros a bottle when the last 5-6 "good to great" vintages have only an average market price of 350 Euros per bottle?           

It is a real dilemma, as the Bordelais clearly take advantage of the situation by increasing their prices every year, regardless of the quality/quantity of the vintage or the economic fluctuations of the market.  

As previously mentioned, those who consistently price their wines intelligently tend to maintain their reputation and continue to thrive in terms of their followers. Yet, even those who don't, always seem to fall back on their feet (as I mentioned earlier), leaving a bitter taste to both buyers and consumers alike, tarnishing the overall image of Bordeaux simultaneously.  

Bordeaux Prices comparison

As expressed many times before in other posts, I really believe Bordeaux should set benchmark prices for their lower vintages and only increase the prices if the quality of the vintage is really good. But no, in Bordeaux, prices are revised and usually increase yearly compared to the previous year, good year / bad year (despite qty and quality factors).  

To explain my point about the inconsistency and the ever-increasing Bordeaux prices, I created the below "Bordeaux - En Primeur Ex-Negociant Released Prices Comparison Table" based on the Ex-Negociant released prices of the last 5 vintages of about 90 wines with different price points, rankings, appellations and colours. 

Strangely enough, these prices are public and accessible to all, as the source of the prices in this table can be found on the websites of Liv-EX and Decanter.  One will think that retailers would rather prefer if their customers did not know their cost prices and thus their margins, and these prices be hidden from public eyes.  However, Liv-Ex and Decanter are just two examples, yet many other wine magazines and websites display these prices to the public eye too.    

Let's look at this table (hoping you can increase the picture to be able to read the numbers, otherwise, you can copy and save the picture to zoom it).  

This table starts with 2018 being a very good vintage, and prices were "fair" to its quality and are used to be compared with the prices of the subsequent vintages. ((NB: 2018 prices were higher than 2017, which was a lesser vintage).     

The prices of 2019 compared to 2018 were about 18% to 21% lower on average, making the 2019 vintage a great value for money, as although 2018 has been rated higher overall, 2019 is more consistent and even superior to 2018 for some wines. Even though 2019 was again another hot year, the wines display more freshness, refinement, texture and structure than the 2018 vintage, with great ageing potential. Great bargains can be found in 2019.   

2020 was the 3rd good vintage in a row (2018, 2019, and 2020). Although the quality for 2020 was really good, it was not necessarily so much superior to 2019 (and definitely not as consistent) to justify the 20% price hike (on average) compared to 2019. The hike was not well-received by most professionals, critics and amateurs alike.  

Strangely enough, 2020 also presented a lot of inconsistency in prices compared to 2018 and 2019. In truth, 2020 was not necessarily better than 2019 or 2018. Still, the prices for 2018 had been set high due to 2017 being a lesser vintage (so the Bordelais could only increase their prices, as they always do), while the prices for 2019 had been drastically decreased amid the fear of COVID during the "Bordeaux 2019 En Primeur campaign" in May and June 2020. 

Consequently, the Bordelais had to increase their prices for the 2020 vintage (also due to smaller quantities than the previous vintages). Some chateaux even decided to reach the level of 2018 prices and higher, which, in my opinion, was not justified. Those who priced their wine intelligently were the ones who positioned them somewhere between 2018 and 2019 prices, or equal to 2018 at the most.  

Anything higher than 2018 sent the wrong message to professionals and buyers (like me), and therefore, 2020 did not sell as well as planned for those who increased their prices too high.          

And then again, 2021, compared to 2020, was a lesser vintage, and prices should have reflected the quality decrease compared to 2020. But no, despite a minority who understandably and logically lowered their prices, most Chateaux decided to price their wines similar or higher to 2020, which, once again, had no justification whatsoever.  

That's when you realise that Bordeaux's mind is set on "business mode" to make money and profit: 

  • 2018 is much better than 2017. Let's increase the prices by 20-25%
  • 2019 is as good or even better than 2018. Ah, yes, but we may have difficulties selling due to COVID. So let's decrease the price by 18-21%  
  • 2020 is as good but not necessarily better than 2019 or 2018, but we decreased the prices so much for 2019, and because we produced less in 2020 due to smaller quantities, we need to get back on track and compensate. But chateaux owners probably said, let's increase prices by 20-25% to return to 2018 prices or higher.  
  • 2021 is a lesser vintage than 2020 and 2019, but, yet again, they probably said: let's keep roughly the same prices set for 2020, even if it is not justified, to (again) compensate for the lower prices of 2019 and smaller quantities.  
  • 2022 is such a great vintage, and quantities are so small we can only increase the prices compared to 2021 and 2020 (which were roughly the same despite 2021 being a lesser vintage than 2020) to compensate once again.  Let's increase the prices by 20-25% compared to 2021.  

Now, you definitely better understand why I said, "Bordeaux is like a cat" earlier. Looking at this comparison table, you realize that, no matter what happens, Bordeaux always falls back on its feet and recovers against all odds. And that, no matter what, year after year, Bordeaux prices always increase with no real consistent, intelligible or logical justification or reasons, to some extent, regardless of the quality or quantity.   

Bordeaux price's ups and downs don't make sense when you look at the numbers for some Chateaux.   

I said earlier that Bordeaux should try to fix a benchmark price for their wines, and I wish it could be the case, as the ups and downs of their prices make little sense to me. 

For example, a wine with an estimated worth of 50 Euros on a good year (covering all expenses and taxes + decent profit) could be sold between 40-45 euros on lesser years and 55-60 euros for better years, which seems reasonable and justifiable and would make sense (as it is in fact in many other wine regions).  

Yet, in Bordeaux, prices always seem to increase from one year to the next. As in Bordeaux, the logic is that the price of a good vintage has to be higher than the previous good vintage. It seems impossible for them to go back to what it was previously.  And if they lower the price a little for a lesser vintage, this price cannot be less than the previous good vintage, or otherwise, if it is, they automatically compensate by putting the price higher for the next good vintage. Consequently, we can factually say that Bordeaux prices never go down.  

And to prove it, I added more comparisons in the table (there again, if you cannot see it properly, you can always save the picture, then zoom on it).  All these prices are Ex-Negociant release prices.   

Remember that I always look at the prices of the "Bordeaux En Primeur" with the eyes of a Wine Buyer and Sommelier, but also a consumer, not with the eyes of a Chateau owner or Negociant. Therefore, I may not know all the reasons for the price's ups and downs. And yet, even if I know that life is not fair, I'm still looking for a rational and fair explanation behind them.     

Obviously, it is understood that a "Chateau" is a business trying to make a profit, and that's perfectly fine. It is also understood that all vintages are not equal in terms of quality and quantity, and therefore price, due to various factors, including (but not limited to) weather and climate changes, low and/or high temperatures, lack of water or too much of it, lack of sunshine, violent storm, late frost, hail, diseases, downy mildew, powdery mildew, gray mold, anthracnose, black rot, etc... There are also some financial, economic and, to a certain extent, political factors. All of which would normally explain the ups and downs of the prices. 

Upon examining the prices listed in the table above, it appears that certain chateaux have inexplicably increased their prices. The reasoning behind these changes does not appear to be related to the quality or quantity of the product. Rather, it seems that internal politics and the need to make up for lost revenue from a weaker vintage have driven these adjustments.

To be fair, let's take some examples to see if I'm right (as I prefer facts rather than just pointing fingers). And remember that comparison with 2019 is somewhat irrelevant as the vintage was priced very low despite its quality due to fearfulness and complications in 2020, the first year of COVID.   

Let's take Chateau Angelus, for example, as it is the first chateau on the list above and one of the chateaux with the most extreme price ups and downs in recent years (which might explain all the recent controversies it has been the subject of in recent years). And one of the first chateaux to release their price for the 2022 vintage, setting up the path for the other chateaux for the rest of the Bordeaux 2022 En Primeur Campaign.     

As you can see: 
  • 2019 was priced at 230 Euros, 8.7% below 2018 at 252 Euros (COVID fearfulness)
  • 2020 was priced at 260 Euros, 13% above 2019 at 230 Euros and 3.2% above 2018 at 252 Euros (here, the price for 2020 being similar to 2018 and higher than 2019 makes sense) 
  • 2021 was priced at 265 Euros, 1.9% above 2020 at 260 Euros and 5.2% above 2018 at 252 Euros (which does not make sense in my opinion, as 2021 is a lesser vintage compared to 2018 and 2020, and should have been priced somewhere between 2018 and 2019 prices, around 235 or 240 euros maximum to mark the difference in the quality of the vintage and the resulting wine)
  • 2022 was priced at 350 Euros, a whopping 32.1% above 2021 (this massive increase can be explained by the quality of the vintage, which is much better than 2021, by far, and also better than 2018, 2019 and 2020, but the main reason behind it is to mark their position as one of the Top Chateaux of Saint-Emilion and make a point that their wine is worth more than previously priced. 
In 2006, Angelus achieved the rank of "Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Classé A", the highest in the Classification, although it was only officially confirmed in 2012. However, in 2022, Angelus withdrew from the classification along with Chateau Ausone and Cheval Blanc. This decision was a statement that they consider themselves to be at the pinnacle of their field and perhaps no longer require the classification, as they now see themselves as part of the "unclassifiable."
However, Angelus is far from the only Chateau constantly increasing their prices. If you look at the list above, you will realise that all the top Chateaux do it, as if it is some sort of a game or a competition. Each Chateau looks at and compares itself to its neighbours and peers of the same rank and above to price their wine. 

In my opinion, the problem lies in the Chateaux not necessarily pricing their wine intelligently from one vintage quality and quantity to the next. I have added 2016 and 2017 to the table above to corroborate my point.

2016 was a great vintage, so 294 Euros for Angelus seems reasonable. But 2017 was a lesser vintage (not to say mediocre), and it was priced at 276 Euros which is too high in my opinion, especially compared to 2018, 2019 and 2020, which were better and greater vintages but were all priced lower than 2017... Why? How? It does not make sense. 

I fully understand that the frost-damaged 2017 vintage was a small crop, and the Chateaux had to compensate for the lack of quantity. They lowered the price compared to the much better and greater 2016 vintage, which was a good move but not enough compared to the three subsequent vintages.   

This mistake or bad decision (call it the way you want) may explain why 2021, which was a lesser vintage, was also priced higher than 2018, 2019 and 2020, which were (once again) better and greater vintages than 2021. They had to compensate for their mistake. Compensate for the loss of earnings during these 3 vintages. I cannot think of any other reason.  

As I said earlier, I only know some of the reasons behind Bordeaux's price's ups and downs. Some are obvious and logical. Some I can easily guess, and others can sometimes be justified by low quantity (low yield due to late frost, hail, etc...). But this mistake above, I need help understanding it. From an external point of view, as a Wine Buyer, Sommelier, Wine Market Analyst and consumer, these mistakes or discrepancies need to be clarified.      
You have to realise that after 32 years in the wine industry, including 9 years in the US, I buy like an American. I only buy good vintages with good reviews and good scores and always try to negotiate the best prices or get the best deals.  And when faced with this type of price above, the choice is clear for me, I will buy: 
  • Some 2016 as it is a really good vintage, even if a bit expensive
  • Skip 2017 and 2021, as they are too expensive for lesser vintages anyway and may not necessarily improve with time (Bordeaux vintages ending in 1 and 7 are usually lesser vintages and difficult to sell. Refer to my "Theory of the decades for Bordeaux Vintages" for more details, read it here and here).  Better to leave these two early drinking vintages as backup vintages for retailers, restaurants, bars and "Cave à vin".   
  • Some and more of 2018 and 2020 as they are well priced compared to the lesser 2017 and 2021, and lower than 2016 for similar quality. 
  • Lots of 2019 as it is a bargain. A real steal, compared to the other vintages, while its quality is really good. 
  • A good amount of 2022, more for investment, as quantities are low while demand is high, so speculation is already strong for this vintage and can only increase with time.   

Voilà! I have said it. Once again, I will not make many friends in Bordeaux with such a post. And yet, I have been sourcing, buying, promoting, opening, serving and drinking Bordeaux wines for the past 32 years, over 3 continents, as a good Ambassador of the wines of my home region. And will continue to do so for as long as I can.  😁👍🍷   

To conclude, Bordeaux is such a well-oiled machine; it will always have good excuses to impose high prices, even on lesser vintages.  And, at the end of the day, why not? Why would they stop if some people are still willing to pay such high prices, even for lesser years? 

The market feeds the beast and continues to accept the situation year after year. Bordelais are just surfing on a wave that has been driven by greed and speculation for the past 4 decades and has yet to break.    

However, after having said all the above, I'm also part of the system myself as I bought some "Bordeaux En Primeur 2022". Therefore, I also feed the beast. Yet, 2022 is such a great vintage; everyone has been raving so much about it. How to resist? Especially knowing that demand is high, quantities are low, and therefore speculation is strong, prices will surely skyrocket at some point. So why not? 

Like anything else nowadays, the top Bordeaux wines have become a commodity, an investment, luxury products no longer appreciated for their drinkability but for the profit they might generate.  Fortunately, they are still an ocean of great Bordeaux at more affordable prices that we can drink without making a dent in our wallet.  😁👍🍷

Cheers! Santé!


(*) Hydric stress in vine plants is caused by a lack of water, which can negatively affect their growth cycle. This hydric stress can lead to changes in colour, loss of leaves, changes in sugar levels, and even reduced yields during periods of heat waves and high temperatures.

(**) The stats show that the heat waves and temperature changes started with the Industrial Age, around 1760, then intensified in the 1920s with the development of the internal combustion engine, which shifted the demand for petroleum products to automobiles and other transportation means. It intensified even more after World War II and gradually developed even further until the late 1970s. Heat waves became more evident, obvious and recurrent in the 80s with vintages such as 1982, 1985 and 1989. Talking with my grandfather, a winemaker and a gardener when I was young, he often mentioned that things changed and became more visible climate-wise in the 80s. Yet, the recurrence of these heat waves has increased and accelerated since the early 2000s, from being spaced by 3 or 4 years before to being every year now.  Stats also show that temperatures have increased every year since the early 2000s.  

(***) Negociants surely kept parts of their stock of 2022 aside, as they normally do with all vintages, but probably more with this particular vintage as QTY and thus allocations were small due to low yield, so speculation will be high due to the exceptional quality of the vintage and the limited quantities compared to previous years.  

(****) Yet, the future of wine (and alcohol in general) may seem uncertain when one sees all the "anti-alcohol" campaigns that have mushroomed in many countries in the past 5 years.  Not drinking seems to be the new trend under the excuse of being healthy, preventing abuse and being more in control of self. Well, it is very understandable in a way, as there is a lot of abuse due to heavy drinking, and yet, sorry to say, drinking wine occasionally and in moderation has never killed anyone. Like with anything else, excess does.  

(*****) Gavin Quinney is a running Chateau Bauduc and writer of the Bordeaux vintage reports for, Liv-ex and Harpers, as well as blogger at Bauduc Blog)     

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