The high performing petits châteaux in Bordeaux could be the biggest winners of the 2011 en primeurs campaign, according to a leading Bordeaux négociant. “It’s a year to seek out the lesser-known properties – I’ll be looking out for the high scoring petits châteaux,” Jean-Christophe Mau of Yvon Mau told the drinks business. Mau believes the role of the négociant in steering consumers towards the best wines of the vintage in terms of quality and value will be more important than ever this year. “The quality is not there across the board like it was in 2009 and 2010,” he admitted.
Despite being in the shadow of 2009 and 2010, Mau doesn’t think it will be harder to shift the 2011 wines: “It all depends on the prices they come out at,” he said, adding, “It will be easier for us to get hold of stock this year as there will be less speculative buyers.” Mau believes the role of the courtier (the middle man between the individual châteaux and the négociants) is becoming “less and less” important. “Only around 10% of courtiers are doing a useful job, the rest are just there to take their 2% from us and sign on the dotted line.
They serve their purpose in helping the petits châteaux find buyers, but the classified growths really don’t need them. It’s a very antiquated system,” he lamented. Mau (right), who splits his time between Yvon Mau and running both Château Brown and Château Preuillac, admitted he was going to be more selective about the châteaux he buys from this year, pinpointing the Médoc as the standout region in terms of quality.
Meanwhile, Bruno Eynard, chief winemaker of Château Lagrange, which hosted the UGC Pauillac, St Julien and St Estephe tasting during primeurs week, was pleasantly surprised at the turnout for this year’s primeurs. “We had over 4,000 people through our doors in three days, which is almost as many as last year’s UGC tasting. He noted a higher proportion of visitors from Europe and the US this year, and less from Asia, along with a “surprisingly high” number of Brazilian visitors.
Eynard revealed that his 2011 crop at Lagrange was down 20% and said it was “ridiculous” to compare 2011 with the quality of both 2009 and 2010, but that producers who got it right made “approachable, easy drinking, balanced wines with finesse.” He described St Julien as the most homogenous of the Bordeaux regions in 2011 and Margaux as the most disparate. In terms of pricing, he warned of the dangers of abusing the good will of consumers with a second year of late releases, predicting the majority of châteaux to have come out with their prices by the second week of May.