The pressure mounts. The Bordeaux Chateaux owners and Negociants are always asked to keep their En Primeur prices down, particularly by the UK trade, so nothing new there. However, for the 2008 campaign, there are many more voices that advocate this point of view.
It started after the release of the 2007 en primeurs. Prices did come down, but not nearly enough to attract enough buyers. In fact, there is a very large pile of unsold stock sitting at the Chateaux, the Negociants and the Trade. This is being reflected in the prices these wines attract on the open market: in most cases less than the release price.
Then of course there was the global credit crunch and subsequent recession, which have seen prices of even the best vintages come down by 20%-30%, sometimes even more. Bearing in mind that 2008 is not exactly going to be a blockbuster vintage, you would think prices would have to come down significantly in order to make 2008 sell. On top of that, there is the massive decrease in the value of sterling, roughly 20% when compared to a year ago.
The UK trade is always very vocal in arguing that prices have to be reasonable. Since the UK Trade accounts for roughly 50% of En Primeur turnover, it's rather surprising that this opinion has been largely ignored by Bordeaux ever since 2005.
This might now change. On top of the above, compelling arguments to reduce prices, none less than J.F. Moueix – owner of Petrus and influential figure in Bordeaux – has said he thinks there might not be an En Primeur campaign if prices don't come down. He says "...the classified growths of Bordeaux have been in a dangerous speculative bubble since 2005, and price drops in subsequent vintages have been insufficient. The châteaux believe they are victims of the financial crisis, but they have orchestrated the problem of excessive pricing. If négociant houses can't buy or obtain lines of credit for their allocations, the wine will remain at the châteaux. And if there are not enough takers of allocations, there won't be any en primeur sales".
Coming from an influentual insider, will this change the stance of the Chateaux? For more detail on this story, see today's Decanter article.