With no trade to speak of, Bordeaux is currently going through a rough patch that some do not hesitate to compare to the 1972-1973 crisis– around 20% of the 2010 trade volume and less than 10% of the 2009.
Faced with such a bleak market, the Bordeaux merchants cannot afford to refuse the terms dictated by the estates for fear of losing their future volume agreements. To keep their heads above water, some cut their margins to a strict minimum and sell on below the recommended price.
Such an attitude impacts on the traders wishing to remain faithful to the agreed terms with the estates. Prices are utterly disorganised.
On the international market, the drop in the euro value has not encouraged people to make a stand. Why buy now if the euro is to fall further? Vinexpo Hong Kong has closed without triggering the jolt we all hoped for. In the general haze, the merchants find it hard to understand how the machine got jammed. The market is at a stand still and nothing proves that even very low prices could jumpstart it again.
In such a context, it is not in the consumer’s best interest to rush to stock up on the 2011s - bar a handful of rare exceptions. I have in mind the Coups de Coeur and the wines that are bought for enjoyment rather than as an investment.
We will have to wait to know more about the burgeoning 2012 vintage to get a clearer picture on the 2011 status. A more modest 2012 would help the 2011 pick up, a more flamboyant year would bury it – momentarily at least.
WINE MERCHANTS AND JM QUARIN'S GRADES
Many of you this year have voiced their concern to wine merchants who do not quote my grades – I am very grateful. Remember an excel file with my grades, both out of 20 and out of 100, along with the wine reviews in French and in English, is available to wine merchants on demand.
Whilst recently taking part in a tasting session at a Bordeaux estate, which incidentally I do think highly of, one of the participants expressed his surprise at not seeing any of my grades mentioned on the château’s official brochure. “Why Decanter and not Jean-Marc Quarin?” he asked. The reply was surreal: "You’re right, Jean-Marc Quarin has a greater impact on our sales - but Decanter is good for our image".
2009 VERSUS 2010
I have just finished tasting the 2009s and 2010s again. Often enough the 2010s outshone the 2009s. They are more detailed and fresher on the nose, and even if they are as fat as on the palate, they show less slack on the mid-palate and more refine tannins on finish - particularly cabernet sauvignon based wines.
In a word, they are more typically Bordeaux - a very good surprise the end of the elevage had in store for us. (jm.quarin)