Liv-ex: Bordeaux 2021 En Primeur "Worst Campaign" of Last Decade

The Bordeaux 2021 En Primeur campaign has been one of the least successful of recent times, according to Liv-ex.

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The Bordeaux 2021 En Primeur campaign has been one of the least successful of recent times, according to Liv-ex.

© Shutterstock

Liv-ex, a global marketplace for the wine trade, has released its annual En Primeur closing report, describing Bordeaux 2021 as "predictable chaos." It said while 2021 was not one of the great vintages, it had potential and could have been offered at accessible prices.

"Comparing sales of the 2021s to the 2020s, feedback from merchants is that most sold far less than last year, with volume and value sales down by as much as 60%. In some instances, sales of usually bankable wines crashed to almost zero," Liv-ex says in the report.

En primeur is a system devised by the wine trade in Bordeaux, giving customers the opportunity to buy the most sought-after wines while they are still maturing in barrel, before they have been bottled and put on the market. 

Few wines offering relative value

The overall trend was estates releasing their 2021 wines at the same price as the 2020s. On average, the 2021s were scored two-points lower than the 2020s by UK critic Neal Martin (92-points versus 94-points) "yet the average release prices of the 2021s were 1% less than what the 2020s had been – and many 2020 wines remain available at their release price," Liv-ex said.

While it noted there were some reductions, with Château Léoville Las Cases delivering the biggest price drop of nearly 15% compared to last year’s release, this still appeared to be poor relative value.

Some also raised their prices. Clos du Marquis had the biggest price rise among the red wines, up almost 13%. "Most of the big increases though came from the white wines, with producers counting on tiny volumes and high critical acclaim to drive demand."

2021 scores similar to 2014 but not in price

In terms of average score, Liv-ex says the 2021 vintage is better compared with 2014 rather than 2020. Yet the 2021s were priced in line with the 2020 vintage.

With the average market price of the 2014s being £1,646 per case (12 ×75cl) – 20% lower than the average release price of the 2021s (£2,080) – many buyers found better opportunities in back vintages.

Best releases of the campaign

The campaign had a few successes, according to Liv-ex. "The First Growths (some second labels too), Lafleur, Calon Ségur, Les Carmes Haut-Brion and Cheval Blanc were all names mentioned frequently in feedback from merchants," it said. Cheval Blanc in particular went from being ‘a hard sell to the darling of the campaign,’ it quoted one respondent as saying.

However even among the better judged releases there was a continued restriction on the amount of stock being released, with most down 20%, 30% or even more on the last year. 

While 2021 was a relatively small vintage, some estates that were not greatly affected by frost and mildew problems still cut their release volumes by 30%.

"This is a vintage that was destined for the dining tables, not decades in cellars. Now it is destined for discounts," Liv-ex concluded. "Even before the end of the campaign, offers were appearing on the market up to 15% cheaper than their opening price. It would not be surprising to see higher discounts over the coming months and years."

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