Bordeaux 2018: Gallop to the finish

With the release of Cheval Blanc, Figeac and La Conseillante – all at…ambitious prices – the finish line of the 2018 en primeur campaign is well and truly in sight.

Aside from the first growths, attention this week has been on the leading Right Bank estates and how they intended to see this campaign out.

Pricing strategies, whether or not they have ‘worked’ or been ‘fair value’, have been aiming high but pretty even-keeled this campaign, with no pricing crescendo as has been seen at other times.

Figeac, to some extent, spoils this narrative, its release price of €174 a bottle ex-négociant is 45% higher than its 2017.

With a retail price of £2,172 per dozen it’s clear from Liv-ex’s chart that it’s the most expensive vintage currently on the market – definitely a statement in what Wine Lister calls a “repositioning exercise”.

It’s definitely a brand on the move and its 2018 is clearly an excellent wine. Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW (97-99) said it was, in her view, “the finest Figeac ever produced” while James Suckling (98-99) said it “harkens back to the great wines of the 1950s and the 1940s” while Antonio Galloni (96-99) said it was “brilliant. That’s all there is to it”.

If you’re unmoved by any of that then the 2016 and 2015 with 100 and 98 points respectively from Neal Martin and at decent discounts will look attractive in comparison.

If you think this is not only a great wine and the start of a surging brand, then there are more expensive ways of spending your money.

La Conseillante’s release was also a big step up from 2017, 35% up in fact to €162 per bottle and £2,019 per dozen – the estate’s highest ever opening price.

It’s also the most expensive vintage currently available with the 2005 and 2016, which are in the same ballpark scores-wise, both adrift at under £2,000 a case.

Scores are good; 96-98+ from Perrotti-Brown, 97-98 from Suckling and 95-98 from Galloni.

Volumes are down 15% and it has a strong following so should sell. The wine also has a small 3% component aged in amphora for the first time.

And finally, the last St Emilion grand cru classé ‘A’ – Cheval Blanc. Ausone was out yesterday at £7,000 a case and Cheval isn’t quite as expensive at £6,588 which is 22% up on the 2017.

Liv-ex’s members voted it the second-best wine of the vintage behind Lafite (which was out yesterday) and it was one of Galloni’s six (potential) 100-pointers.

Critically there’s nothing wrong with it but Cheval Blanc and the secondary market have a tricky relationship.

Despite being cheaper on release than the 2016 that vintage has sunk back to under £6,000 a case in the interim so the 2018 now sits behind only the 2005, 2009 and 2010.

Wine Lister points out that there are “precedents” for ambitiously priced wines succeeding en primeur and this has been quite an ambitious campaign but given the estate’s track record just how compelling is today’s price really?

If it were a runner at Cheltenham or Ascot would you back it?

Just Petrus, Le Pin and Vieux Château Certan to go.

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