Setting an en primeur price has always been a difficult task for the châteaux of Bordeaux. Available quantity and perceived quality are the main determinants for setting a price where supply and demand come together. In this year's en primeur report, the Liv-ex trading platform suggests that this challenge has become even more complex, as a result of changes to the framework conditions of the en primeur trade.
Wine critics are an important external factor. Historically, the industry was fixated on Robert Parker. Since his retirement none of today's top critics come close to his significance, and a single top rating therefore also has less influence.
Asian market halved
There has also been a massive change in buyer groups. Liv-ex concludes that the value of the share of Asian purchases has more than halved from 23.1% in 2020 to 11%. Today, continental Europe (46.8%), with France in particular, are the largest buyers, ahead of the U.S. (21.4%) and the U.K. (20.8%).
Liv-ex observes that buyers have also become more cautious. This is due to the performance of past vintages when wines have at lower prices several years after being released en primeur. Without a financial incentive, why buy wine that is far from ready to drink?
Châteaux hold back wine
The Bordeaux trade has changed too. Traditionally, the chateaux were supposed to offer almost all of each year's vintage en primeur, leaving the Bordeaux negociants to handle subsequent sales. Now, Liv-ex notes, they are increasingly holding back wine in an attempt to maximize prices.
High quality and low volume
As for the quality of the vintage itself, Liv-ex quotes experts who are already calling 2022 a 'vintage of the century', or certainly one whose red wines are at least as good as the 2018, 2019 and 2020. In terms of volume, Liv-ex projects 410m liters, more than 15% below the ten-year average of 487m liters. However, compared to 2021, at 377m liters, the volume represents a significant increase.
The vintage was characterized by extreme heat, drought and partial storms with hail. It was the region's hottest year on record. In June, temperatures rose regionally to over 104° F (40° C), atypical for Bordeaux, which is dominated by the cool Atlantic climate.
There was no rain from winter into summer - except for the thunderstorm front at the end of June. While irrigation is not normally allowed in the Bordeaux region, winemakers in Pomerol and Pessac-Leognan received a late exemption from the INAO (Institut national de l'origine et de la qualité) in 2022, allowing them to irrigate their vines under strict conditions.
Despite the difficult conditions, the vines have held up well in most of the regions, according to some of the winemakers quoted by Liv-ex. Most of the harvest took place in September, at similar times to 2018 and 2020. The benefit of the drought: a healthy crop of grapes. ITP/CG